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Optimize Your Company's Online Checkout Process

Posted by: Today's Tip Contributor on July 6, 2011

If your e-commerce site isn’t performing as well as you’d like it to, go through your checkout process and make sure your site is optimized to successfully lead people through the payment process without them abandoning their purchases.

1. Install funnel tracking. Before you even start improving your checkout process, you should have a clear idea of where abandonment occurs most frequently during the checkout process. Use your Web analytics software to track it and identify what’s going wrong.

2. Don’t require an account. Every single one of us has more online account logins than we can possibly remember. The last thing anyone wants to do is create a new one just to buy a pair of shoes or a throw pillow. Allow users to continue as guests by simply entering an e-mail address. Forcing people to create an account can cause them to abandon their cart at the first step.

3. Keep the process as short as humanly possible. It can be tempting to try to grab as much information as possible from users when you have them at the checkout, but you should resist this urge. Require only the information needed to complete the order.

4. Clearly outline checkout steps. Don’t let the final step of the checkout process come as a surprise to customers. Include a progress indicator bar so users can easily identify where they are in the checkout process and avoid ambiguous button text such as "Continue." It’s better to include descriptive button text such as "Continue to Shipping" for the shipping info step and "Make Payment" for the final step of the process. This eliminates ambiguity among users about what they should expect and makes them less hesitant to continue to the next step.

5. Allow for easy backtracking. Make it easy for customers to backtrack to previous steps of the checkout and allow them to easily modify their order without leaving the checkout page. If customers can’t modify orders, they may simply abandon them instead.

6. Eliminate other means of navigation. As mentioned above, it’s good to make it easy for users to backtrack through the checkout process, but don’t make it too easy for them to become distracted and leave the checkout without completing their purchase. Eliminate side navigations on checkout pages so users are not tempted to abandon the checkout process.

7. Make help easy to find. Display contact info or "Contact Us" buttons prominently on checkout pages. If a customer has a question that isn’t answered on the site, and she can’t find your contact info, you are most likely going to lose the sale.

8. Confirm and follow up. When users complete the process, send them to a clear confirmation page and set their expectations for what will come next. Tell customers to expect an e-mail from you further confirming their order. Doing so reinforces trust and credibility.

Alanna Francis
Marketing Strategist
Blue Fountain Media
New York

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