Bad Checkout Pages: Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

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There is one thing that every customer who arrives at your checkout page wants to do: checkout.

They (probably) don’t want to sign up for your newsletter; they (usually) don’t want to fill out a detailed survey about the choices they made while they surfed your website; they (mostly) don’t want to have to scroll up and down; they (really) don’t want to press a whole lot of buttons; they (100%) don’t want to mess with pop-up ads and last-minute reminders/advertisements.

THEY JUST WANT TO LEAVE, OKAY!

And guess what? Any website that doesn’t do everything they can to let that happen is the  living manifestation of e-commerce FAIL.

As we’ve told you before, something on the order of 80% (80 PERCENT!!!) of shopping carts are abandoned. That means customers are looking for any excuse to take their money elsewhere. Don’t give them that excuse. Follow our simple rules to a clean, barrier-free, beautiful checkout page.

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1. They’ve Already Said Yes; So Stop Asking.

The first and most important responsibility of an effective checkout page is to remove every conceivable barrier to checkout. Yet many online retailers, in their eagerness to learn more about the customer experience or to fatten an already well-laden shopping cart, use the checkout page to ask customers questions, alert them to other products they could buy, or otherwise distract and annoy. Don’t be that site. If you have questions you want your customers to answer, put those on the front end (and only if they’re genuinely important and lead to a buying decision). If you want to get them to come back and keep your products on their mind, that’s what email marketing, paid search, and re-targeting campaigns are for.
Every good salesperson knows that when a customer has said yes, you shut up. In the world of online retailer, getting a customer to the checkout page is the digital equivalent. The shopper has already answered your biggest and most important ask in the affirmative; so stop asking.

2. Full Faith and Credit

The greenbacks printed here in the states are guaranteed by, quote, “The full faith and credit of the United States Government.” That’s it. Not a mountain of bullion in Fort Knox, nor a cavern of diamonds neath the White House. Don’t believe? Check your wallet. The same is true of online retail. The essential thing that separates a legitimate, trustworthy site is the shopper’s belief that the site is legitimate and trustworthy. Creating and maintaining that trust is key to effective checkouts.

From the first second an online shopper lays eyes on your website, they’re making critical judgments about it. Does it seem legit? Does it seem current? Is it responsive? Does it have what the French call a certain…I don’t know what?

The most important critical judgment being made by customers as they attempt to check out is whether or not they trust you. You’re asking them to put their credit cards (i.e., their identities) in your hands — they won’t do it if they don’t trust you. Trust Icons should be all over your site, and they should be on the checkout pages as well. But it’s also important to make the transition from your regular website to the checkout page seamless.

Have you ever been shopping on a high-gloss site and, when it came time to check out, suddenly the color scheme, the web design, and the language of the text was all different? Or, even worse, more basic and obviously from a different source? If you have, I bet you had some major hesitation before checking out (if you checked out at all).
A jarring switch between typical pages (product pages in particular) and check out pages spooks customers and gives them a reason not to trust you. Don’t go from one color scheme to another; one style to another; one language pattern to another (imagine if the tone of this article suddenly switched to bloodless techno-babble; you’d probably suspect that there were two authors). Make the transition butter-smooth

3. Follow the Bouncing Ball

Have you been to an amusement park lately? Crowded, right? And did you notice, somewhere in the 3rd hour of standing in line for the Log Flume, the helpful signs the parks post letting you know approximately how many minutes it will take to get to the front from where you’re standing? Those signs are there to keep you calm and to let you know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. You need to apply that same principle to your checkout pages by letting customers see, dynamically, how far along they are in the process.

If for example, your checkout process requires three steps (registration, billing info, and shipping info) add a dynamic bar at the bottom of the page that shows the customer where they are in that process, and how far they have to go, or how many more steps they must complete.

4. Take Only What You Need

If a customer is checking out for the first time, many online retailers require that they create an account and register themselves with the site. If you must do this (and if you mustn’t, then you shouldn’t), then don’t ask for more information than you need.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in its petty pace from day to day, and many an endless user registration survey has lighted foolish online retailers the way to dusty death. (Trust you’ll get the allusion without me, a part time player, having to name the play).

When you’re building your registration field, think about it this way: for every question you ask, you will lose a certain (not insignificant) percentage of your potential sales. There’s a reason that 80% of carts are abandoned; this is one of them.


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