You’ve put a lot of time, money, and effort into setting up your online store, adding products, and attracting potential customers. And then…
Nothing really happens. Not many customers, no repeat purchases, nada.
Sounds familiar? It might signify that your online checkout process leaves a lot to be desired.
What is an optimized checkout?
Your overall checkout experience is the key to driving conversions, revenue, and customer loyalty. Typically, it revolves around specific steps that a potential customer has to take to finalize their purchase.
You might have heard of an e-commerce checkout process that looks like this:
- A consumer lands on a product page - either directly, through your home page, or via search result page
- They add the product(s) to the cart
- They review the product(s) on a shopping cart page
- They provide their billing and shipping information
- They make the payment
- They receive an order confirmation
The harsh truth is, though: it’s rarely that linear. These days, a lot depends on the context: The checkout flow will look much different if an online shopper knows the brand and goes directly to the homepage to find a product they’ve already seen around, or they are simply using a search engine to look for something specific, not in any particular store.
Not to mention that they might be on vacation, might be just browsing, or might be in desperate need of a certain product. Everything counts towards their current needs and expectations from the overall shopping experience.
That’s how online shopping works these days, and there’s not much we can do about it. Apart from checkout process optimization, that is.
The key is offering multiple, well-optimized touchpoints along the way, allowing your customers to drop out and return to their carts as they please. For this to work, they should always have their cart with order details handy, ready to be finalized - which is rarely the case.
Even a tiny mishap on the way can contribute to shopping cart abandonment, which is why conversion optimization is always a work in progress. On the other hand, even the slightest improvement can make a difference to your bottom line, especially with a large volume of orders. Here’s the ultimate e-commerce checkout optimization guide to help you get started.
How to optimize your checkout process
With all touchpoints being crucial to a seamless checkout experience, here’s what you can do to optimize your checkout flow at each and every step consumers might take to finalize the purchase.
- Homepage optimization
- E-commerce site search optimization
- Product page
- Shopping cart page
- Checkout page
- Address form
- Payment options
- Delivery checkout
- Thank you page
E-commerce checkout guide: Best practices for homepage
From the moment a potential customer lands on your home page, it should be clear to them what e-commerce website is it, how to navigate to find whatever they’re looking for, and how to proceed with the purchase once they do.
Pay attention to the design
This probably goes without saying, but paying attention to a clean and appealing design is an absolute must when aiming to optimize your checkout flow.
“Avoid clutter, asymmetry, and inconsistencies on the e-commerce website. If it is off-putting to look at, generally people will not be willing to part with their money.” - Jenna Scott, Owner of Funkeyzz
The main reason why a clean, less complex design works better is that it simply doesn’t require much effort from consumers to decode and process the presented information. It also seems less distracting, more professional, and trustworthy. Plus, it’s more likely to look good on mobile devices.
Take a closer look at SOFT GOAT, for example. Here’s where the modern, yet minimalist design works perfectly with the offered products and doesn’t give consumers practically any reasons to abandon their carts. Quite the opposite - the ability to “quick shop” (AKA add products to cart) straight from the home page is a nice touch that makes shopping easier.
What’s also interesting about the option to “quick shop”, is how the CTA (Call-To-Action) stands out, even without any bold colors or fonts. Since CTA is probably the most important element on every page, including your e-commerce homepage, you should always make sure it’s included and visible to web visitors.
Highlight new products
Your homepage is also a great place to feature your best sellers, new arrivals, seasonal items, and products on sale. If you do them justice, such products are likely to get more attention and drive purchases.
Take NAGO, as an example. The brand places new collections above the page fold, making them difficult to miss out on.
If you don’t have an established brand just yet or you battle with high checkout abandonment rates, there are at least a few things you can do to become more trustworthy in the eyes of potential customers.
Given that 17% of consumers abandon their cart due to a lack of trust, according to Baymard Institute, proving that you’re a legitimate e-commerce store is well worth the effort. To do just that, make sure to provide contact information, be clear about delivery & return policies, and display trust signals, such as well-known payment providers' logos - as Zalando does.
E-commerce checkout: Best practices for site search
Let’s face it: cramming all your products on a single homepage might be a little challenging (and not very user-friendly, when you think about it). To help your customers check out the whole product assortment, you need a powerful search feature in your store.
Recommend relevant products
Some might say that adding a search bar can increase conversion by up to 50% (!). But, if the search bar is not visible and returns irrelevant results, boosting checkout conversion rates is highly unlikely.
Needless to say, you want your customers to find the product they are looking for (and gently nudge them to buy it).
The thing is: the better your e-commerce search engine is at returning accurate results, the more likely your visitors are to make the purchase. Especially since 43% of website visitors go straight to the internal search bar when they open a website, according to Forrester’s report.
But, what’s also great about such a search engine is the ability to set smart rules and show off products of your choosing - such as more eco-friendly options.
“You could consider using search to make sustainable products more visible to customers. For example, when they are searching for ‘hand cream’, you can choose to show relevant products that are made of organic materials on the top of the list, which helps to nudge customers in making an ecological purchase.” - Robert Wallis, UX & Visual Designer at Columbus
Ensure autocompletion and error correction
Don’t expect web visitors to know your product names, nor the exact spelling. Not to mention that when browsing your store, many of them might not even know what they’re looking for - and that’s perfectly fine.
Your e-commerce search engine should adapt to the shopper, and become their personal assistant. This involves anticipating where the search is headed, “fixing” spelling errors, and listing suggestions while they’re still typing (or even before they do, just like Weekday’s search bar does it).
Oh, and one more thing about smart search: Always optimize it for the terms your customers use, not for your specific product names or (confusing) industry terms.
Offer different filtering and sorting options
When it comes to returning search results, there are two pretty bad scenarios that can ruin the party for everybody: no search results, or way too many of them.
Featuring related searches and linking to store categories can help you fix the first issue (no matter what you do, just make sure the search never hits a dead end), while the second can be resolved by offering different filters and sorting options that make finding relevant products much easier.
Sportamore, for example, lets customers filter products by department, category, sport, brand, size, and color.
How to improve product pages
Detailed product pages serve multiple purposes - they are not only an important part of an optimized checkout but can also help you minimize the chances of your products being returned.
To optimize your product detail page, consider the following tips:
- Include high-quality images that show every product from a variety of angles and help customers grasp its scale
- Allow users to zoom in on the images
- Show the products “in use” (e.g. worn by a model, featured in a video)
- Provide exact measurements
- Write a detailed description that explains the purpose of the product and how to use it
- Highlight customer reviews and photos
- Share more details about the materials and components (and how to take care of them). Hint: Use drop-down tabs, overlay boxes, content on hover, and ‘Further reading’ options - this way you won’t crowd the product page with too much information
- Make sure it’s easy to add the products to the shopping cart - it should be the most obvious action on every product page. Heads up: Don’t try to get innovative with the CTA here - a common “Add to cart” or its similar variations will do just fine
- Provide information about delivery alternatives and returns before checkout. Knowing the shipping costs, times and options ensures more transparency and creates significantly less frustration at the later checkout stages
Tips for shopping cart page optimization
If you’ve followed the advice up to this point, chances are that your customers are adding a lot of products to their shopping carts right now. And that’s pretty great, but your shopping cart and checkout pages are crucial for them to actually convert and finalize the purchase. Here’s how to make yours more convincing:
Go for the mini cart
A mini cart that pops up and is updated in real-time is a great addition to a traditional, full-sized cart page. Together, they provide quite different, yet equally useful shopping experiences.
A traditional shopping cart page provides an order summary right before proceeding with the checkout. The mini cart, on the other hand, is where your customers can keep tabs on what they have already added to their order, without having to go to another page to see the summary.
Here’s the thing, though: mini cart should be available from any page in your store - and when done right, it can even help you increase the average order value, as well as speed up the whole checkout flow.
Take Nudient, for example. The mini cart actually serves as an e-commerce checkout page, making it easy to double-check the order summary, choose from delivery options, and place the order in just a few clicks.
Sum up order details
No matter how fancy your mini cart is - don’t forget that the majority of online shoppers will use your shopping cart page to review the order and check how much they have to pay for it in the end.
Here’s what to deliver a proper checkout experience at this stage:
- Provide a clear order summary, including thumbnail, quantity, size, color, price, and delivery information (mentioning the return policy can also be a nice touch at this stage)
- Allow your customers to change the number of any given item in the cart - give them the ability to add/remove items without going back to product pages
- Avoid adding extra costs - “hidden” costs are one of the main reasons behind checkout abandonment, which is hardly surprising
- Show off the savings - if there are any discounts, special offers, or free/low-cost delivery options, make sure you make them visible and clear
Add upsell and cross-sell opportunities
You might not think about it at first, but the shopping cart page provides a great opportunity to encourage customers to buy more. Related items, matching accessories, or popular products (“People also buy”) can easily be shown when summarizing the order, either on a full-sized version or the mini cart view like in Your Kaya store:
By recommending additional products that go along with what’s already in the cart, you can easily increase the average order value. Interestingly, another incentive for upselling is also free shipping or additional delivery options. Setting the delivery price points is not always straightforward, though.
To address the challenge, IDEAL OF SWEDEN has entered the initial phase of A/B testing delivery price points in each market, starting with the Netherlands. With Ingrid Delivery Upsell Widget, they were able to set the free shipping criteria to a cart value of 45 EUR or above to experiment with consumer preferences in the Dutch market.
The assumption behind a free delivery offer was to raise the average order value and transaction conversion rate, while also boosting the number of upsell products —displayed underneath the free shipping indicator — to be added to the initial cart value.
The results? 7.81% increase in the transaction conversion rate, and a 7% boost in the average order value. The company is currently testing and scaling this option up for our other markets. If that sounds like something you’d like to do as well, book a demo to find out more about Ingrid.
Save the order details for later
Another checkout optimization tip is to let your customers shop on their own terms. The chances are, they are just browsing and adding the items to their wish list - make it easier for them to save the items for later, and give them some time to finalize the purchase.
Some e-retailers add a sense of urgency to whatever is saved in the cart, nudging customers to buy the items within, for example, 24 hours, before the shopping cart goes empty again. You can easily experiment with the tactic, as well as other cart abandonment techniques, including email or SMS notifications.
Checkout page optimization: Best practices
Single page, multi-step, accordion. They might sound strange, but they all describe different checkout types that you might have seen around, without even realizing it.
No matter how your e-commerce checkout page is actually designed, you can further optimize it by doing the following:
Set expectations and show progress
For many online shoppers, the overall experience is pretty great. Until they reach the checkout page and have to fill in forms and make all these decisions regarding payment and delivery options.
By setting expectations from the start, you can streamline the cart and checkout process for your customers. Consider designing a one-page checkout, mark all the steps clearly and use the progress indicator to show how far they’ve come and how much effort is still needed to finalize the purchase. Whatever happens, don’t overcomplicate the checkout page! It’s already pretty difficult as it is.
"We’ve implemented several changes to optimize our e-commerce checkout page and improve the overall user experience, and they resulted in an 11.52% increase in checkout conversions between 2020 and 2021. One of the major changes was implementing a single-page checkout since we found out that navigating to the next page to complete a transaction actually led to increased cart abandonment." - Sruthi Krishna, Senior Website Development Manager at Custom Neon
Let shoppers jump between stages
If you go for a multi-stage checkout, make sure your customers can jump between the stages to edit the order details. The worst thing that can happen is hitting the browser back button only to find out that all the filled-out forms have disappeared. Ouch.
Ideally, all the touchpoints should have to option to be revisited and adjusted if needed, without losing any data along the way. If you care about the overall shopping experience, that is.
Introduce guest checkout option
From a customer perspective, equally bad as losing the inserted data is being forced to create an account. Plenty of online shoppers don’t like having numerous accounts - even though the reasons might vary, you’re still missing out on a large chunk of potential customers here.
The best way to go about it is by offering guest checkout options as an alternative to account creation, and here’s why:
"Yes, it is good to try to expand your database and encourage repeat shoppers, but you may be doing this at the expense of huge numbers of one-time shoppers. Plus, if you sell larger, top-shelf items like laptops, macbooks, and computers like we do, your customers are not buying new ones every month - they’re more of a once every 2-3 years (if not longer) purchase. Make it easy for people to purchase your product, you can always reach out again afterward." - Eloise Tobler, E-commerce Supervisor at Wisetek Store
Recognize returning customers
When shopping online, there’s nothing better than having the ability to place an order with a few clicks. That’s precisely why offering one-click checkout is a great way to keep your returning customers happy.
At Ingrid, we’re currently working on a personal Address Book solution that can save essential information like address details and preferred delivery options, which then can be used by consumers in any online store that’s powered by Ingrid Checkout widget. Pretty cool, huh? Follow Ingrid for more product updates!
E-commerce checkout page: Best practices for address forms
Here’s the thing: nobody likes sharing their personal information, especially all over again when shopping online in different stores. The least you can do to make things easier for your customers is:
Reduce form fields
Keep things focused on the purchase and avoid asking for any information that’s not necessary. Keep it simple - you could, for example, use a single field for the customer’s full name (rather than separate first and last name), and make the shipping address the same as the billing address - unless the customer requests otherwise.
Use data validation and autocompletion
Research shows that most missed delivery attempts are caused by address mistakes, and fixing even the smallest errors costs your business (and carrier companies) a lot of money. Make sure you’re on top of things and use available tech solutions to validate forms and autocomplete address details.
Take Ingrid Delivery Address Form feature, as an example. It makes collecting and handling customers’ delivery addresses easier - without any manual work, duplicates of the same data, or errors when entering address details. Everything is verified and saved, which ultimately speeds up the checkout. Book a demo to see it in action.
Tips for payment options
The next tip is not exactly original, but here it goes: offer multiple payment options, and then increase trust by featuring different providers and credit card companies.
Plus, if you run an international e-commerce business, try to offer a personalized experience based on the IP location, with the right currency and “local” payment options.
“The checkout is of great importance for the e-commerce experience and should be characterized by security, simplicity, and freedom of choice. When we at Jula change the checkout based on that, customers responded immediately.” - said Margareta Boström, Business Developer at Jula AB in an interview with iBoxen
Adidas, for example, offers 7 (!) different payment methods, including VISA, PayPal, Klarna, and Apple Pay.
How to improve delivery checkout
Delivery checkout is by far the most important (and probably the most complicated) part of the whole process. When you think about it, there are plenty of obstacles that can cause checkout abandonment at this stage: unattractive delivery costs, lack of options, long delivery times, unclear tracking details….And the list goes on.
Here's the harsh truth: No matter how great your products are, a bad delivery experience will surely affect the general feeling consumers have toward your brand. Consider the following tips to elevate your delivery strategy:
Rethink free shipping
“The best optimization that we ever made to our e-commerce checkout page was to offer free shipping. The first year we offered free shipping our revenue grew 286%. When you offer free shipping, it lowers the barrier for consumers in the final stages of the checkout process and significantly lowers the risk for them when buying something online.” - Jennifer Greenlees, Founder/CEO of Sydney So Sweet
It’s true, free shipping is a no-brainer since plenty of your customers expect it from you. But here’s an unpopular opinion: it might not be the best option for many e-commerce businesses right now, including yours.
The current economic climate is tough. Among other things these days, inflation is driving up transportation costs, and supply chain disruptions affect the shipments of goods. Sooner or later, shipping companies will be forced to increase prices even more - especially since many of the rising stars in the industry are venture capital-financed. In this “new normal”, profiting from deliveries suddenly sounds like a pretty good idea.
"Imagine if paying for delivery could be translated into an income that can not only cover the shipping costs but affect the bottom line as well. Interestingly, there is a “sweet spot” where paying for delivery might mean selling fewer products, but still earning more.” - points out Anders Ekman, COO & Co-Founder at Ingrid
One of Ingrid’s customers started experimenting with paid delivery options instead of offering free shipping for all orders. Once they began to charge 10 SEK more for the delivery, the conversion decreased by 2.5% but the value of an average shopping cart increased by 4.2%.
At the end of the day, revenue from deliveries alone increased by 11% and the profit margin increased by 5.5%.
Pretty impressive, right? If you’re still skeptical, you can start small - A/B test your delivery checkout alternatives and offer different delivery options and prices based on what margin you have on the product (for example, a high-profit margin item should have a lower delivery cost and vice versa), or the order threshold.
Whatever you decide, don't be afraid to start charging customers for deliveries. Experiment with your delivery strategy and different software solutions like Ingrid Checkout - the results might truly surprise you, despite the current economic climate. Book a demo to find out more.
Be transparent about delivery options, costs, and times
Delivery cost is an important factor when buying online, but it’s not the only one. Research also shows that increasingly more customers want access to delivery timelines at checkout, and pay close attention to estimated delivery times before purchasing.
Being fully transparent about delivery costs and times seems like a great opportunity to win over and retain new customers these days.
“Lack of clarity around shipping loses sales. In the last year alone, 32% of the customers we surveyed have abandoned their shopping carts because “the estimated shipping time was too long,” and 22% because there was no guaranteed delivery date. Even brand loyalty won’t stop them from walking away.” - as stated in Shopify’s Future of Commerce Report
You need to be focusing on when, not how soon, as well as help your customers feel in control of the process by letting them choose a preferred method of last-mile delivery.
What’s important to add, though, is that a proper delivery strategy doesn’t necessarily mean offering as many options as possible - it’s more about knowing what your customers need, and finding the right balance between those needs and what’s viable for your business.
That's where an end-to-end delivery platform like Ingrid can prove useful, making it possible for online retailers to tap into the long-term benefits of an optimized delivery checkout.
"Through Ingrid's checkout optimization we are able to create the best possible delivery experience for all customers while benefiting from both conversion uplift and lower net delivery costs." - Nicklas Törnqvist, Supply Chain Manager, Adlibris
Offer relevant tracking information
Making accurate delivery promises and providing relevant tracking information is a great way to ensure a predictable delivery experience and establish trust. It’s definitely been on the merchants’ radar these days, and rightly so.
Rumor has it that consumers are increasingly open to supporting brands if, and only if, they provide accurate information about expected delivery time and its current status.
But, the main problem is that when optimizing the e-commerce checkout experience, online retailers often forget about the big part that happens post-purchase. And this part is equally important to the overall shopping experience.
Don’t expect your customers to know the difference between order processing and order shipping, and don’t force them to constantly check their tracking numbers on a carrier site to know what’s up. Instead, send them relevant (and easy to understand) tracking information via email or SMS.
When it comes to e-commerce order tracking, there’s no such thing as “over-communication”. Your customers shop online to make their lives easier, and it's the proactive tracking updates that help them sync deliveries with their lives — not the other way around.
From the merchant's perspective, though, advanced order tracking can be pretty challenging to provide.
Also, don’t forget to involve your customer service team in the process. What’s great about transparent tracking information is that it’s capable of keeping customers informed and reducing support issues - but your e-commerce business still needs experienced support reps to handle unexpected issues, like delivery delays.
We've managed to reduce the number of customer support tickets from 37% to just 4%. It has been a joint effort where Ingrid’s brand new Tracking page played a big role.” - Adam Gudmundsson, Head of E-commerce at IDEAL OF SWEDEN
Best practices for the “thank you” page
Probably the best advice for the thank you page you can follow is to… have one. It turns out that many online retailers miss out on order confirmation, or just massively underuse the opportunity it provides.
Show order details once more
If you pay close attention when shopping online, you will rarely see a detailed overview of your order after finalizing it. At best, there will be a note saying “thanks for the order”, a referral link to share with your friends, and maybe some social sharing buttons (for whatever reason).
What if you made a mistake when filling in the address form, or chose the wrong parcel locker? As already mentioned, such mistakes cost e-retailers and carriers some serious money.
The solution? Show a detailed order confirmation page with ordered products, address information, payment method, and chosen delivery option. If you’re able to, offer the possibility to introduce last-minute changes to delivery instructions, before the order is processed further. This way, you can provide an optimized checkout experience and save yourself some trouble.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to follow up with a confirmation email as well!
Ask for feedback
While the checkout process is not the best place to distract potential customers from making the purchase, the thank you page is where you can actually ask for some information and get feedback about the shopping experience.
It might not seem like much, but surveying customers is a great way to assess their overall satisfaction with your store, and further optimize the checkout flow. The worst that can happen is they will just ignore the online survey. No hard feelings!
If you need some help with implementing the thank you page, take a look at Ingrid Receipt Widget. It gives your customers full transparency and makes it possible to double-check the order at the very beginning of the post-purchase journey. It’s customizable and really easy to integrate with your store, especially if you’re already using Ingrid Checkout. For more details, have a chat with our team.
Start improving your checkout process
Ultimately, checkout conversion optimization comes down to reducing friction, offering transparency, and gently nudging potential customers to place orders - without distracting them from it.
If you’re struggling with cart abandonment, make good use of online store analytics and figure out why your shoppers are leaving. With the right tech solutions, gathering relevant data and acting upon them should be pretty easy to handle.
Keep in mind that delivery platforms like Ingrid can help you offer a better shopping experience and profit from it in the long run.
“E-commerce must adapt to the consumer, not the other way round. The e-retailers who have optimized their delivery experience are the ones who will be the winners.” - Anders Ekman COO & Co-Founder of Ingrid
We believe deliveries are an important part of the whole customer journey, and soon will dominate the checkout process. With smart solutions like Ingrid’s, online retailers like yourself can tailor the shopping experience to any customer, product, and context at hand - and it’s just the beginning.
Book a demo to see how your e-commerce business can benefit from Ingrid.