The checkout process is one of the most important parts of a successful ecommerce site. It goes without saying that once a visitor adds an item to the shopping cart and commits to checking out, this portion of your site is the only thing stopping them from putting money in your pocket. There are various styles of checkout processes, including single page checkouts and multi-step checkouts. There are arguments as to why one is better than the other, and all points are well taken. The fact is, it doesn't matter which style you choose if you lack the necessary elements to convert that shopper into a customer.
What we're looking to accomplish is to decrease the abandonment rates and increase conversion. Now, just because your checkout process contains the elements mentioned in this article, that does not mean you should expect a 100% checkout rate. Inevitably, you will have shoppers abandon their cart for one reason or another. This can't be stopped completely. The goal is to reduce abandonment to the lowest levels possible, to capture more sales.
In order to maximize your site's ability to convert a visitor into a successful sale, the checkout process must possess at least the following elements:
Customer points of assurance.
Points of assurance are items that help answer pre-sale questions the shopper may have with regard to how your company handles their information, and what they can expect if they elect to buy. In short, customer points of assurance help build confidence, and confidence leads to more sales. Offering these at the right moment and in the right locations is essential to increasing conversion.
Points of assurance include items such as links to privacy policies, guarantee information, return policies, etc. Oftentimes, links to these are displayed in boxes labeled, "Shop with confidence." "Shop with confidence" boxes let the shopper know why to choose your company over the competition. The best "Shop with confidence" boxes show the information listed here, as well as UVP (unique value proposition) in a bullet point fashion.
Clearly display security seals.
Some store owners feel that merely listing a secure seal in the footer is enough to assure shoppers, and this may be true at other points of the shopping experience. However, during checkout it is wise to bring secure logos up within the user eyeflow, preferably near the points of action (POA's). One specific point of action that should clearly display a secure logo is the point at which you ask the shopper to enter their payment information. It is at this exact moment that the customer is going to naturally ask the question, "Is my transaction secure?" Answering it definitively when they ask will go a long way toward winning them over.
Another good practice is to include some additional text underneath the seal itself, to reinforce the meaning of the seal. The best choice of words for this is usually, "Your transaction is 100% secure."
Clearly display shipping costs.
Display shipping costs early and often. Do not wait until the final steps of checkout to inform shoppers know how much it will cost to ship their order, as doing so will most certainly leave you with frustrated shoppers and lost sales.
Use visual progress indicators for organization.
Indicate how many steps are in the process, which step they are working on, and how many more steps there are. It is not enough to just list the words, "Step x of x." The use of a graphical indicator in conjunction with the proper text describing the position in checkout is best.
Be available to help.
Even if your website is doing its job to clearly provide the customer with information needed to make an informed buying decision, there will be times (especially as your customer base grows) when a shopper needs help during checkout. When these occasions arise, you must provide a reliable and visible means for them to contact you. Two ideas are phone and live chat.
Do not make this information hard to find, and don't make them contact you via email to get answers. The idea is to give the customer a means of contacting you right away during the exact moment they are having the problem, so you can help remedy it and close the sale. Asking them to contact you via email is not only impersonal and untimely, but a sure way to lose the sale.
Offer multiple payment channels.
Don't limit your ability to capture sales by minimizing the payment channels you offer. Some customers prefer to order online, while others may prefer ordering via phone, and in rare cases, even by fax (it does happen). Give your customers the opportunity to complete the order over the phone by clearly displaying the customer service phone number they need to contact in order to do so. A common and effective way of presenting this is to list a heading that says, "Prefer to Order by Phone?" and list the actual phone number they can call to do so. Although you may not receive a lot of phone or fax orders, making this option available (as well as any others you may find useful to your business) will help develop a checkout process that closes sales.
Offer multiple payment methods.
Whether you sell domestically or internationally, providing multiple means of payment is critical. Credit card, Google checkout, money order, checks and PayPal are just a few examples of providing shoppers multiple ways of paying for their products. Determine what works for your business, but at the very least, the options of credit card and PayPal should be offered at all times.
Remember, once a shopper enters your checkout process, the sale is yours to lose. Shoppers who enter the checkout process can typically be considered highly qualified and interested. They are telling you they want to become your customer, but that doesn't mean they will. You must do the right things in order for this to happen, and make their job of getting out the door with your product as easy, friendly, and painless as possible.
Eric Leuenberger is an ecommerce conversion marketing expert and author of a leading Ecommerce blog at www.TheEcommerceExpert.com
. He coaches store owners using his online coaching system, www.EcommerceAmplifier.com
, teaching them how to increase website sales using his proven six step process. He can be contacted at 1-866-602-2673.
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