How to continuously innovate your checkout
One of the most impacting areas of ecommerce operations is the checkout. It's where the consumer becomes a customer.
The checkout requires a focused strategy to continually invigorate its flow and usability.
Many fast-moving retailers want to innovate their checkout technology, especially when they hear cart abandonment rates can be as high as 78 percent. But what exactly can retailers do to upgrade this vital stage of the customer experience?
Goodbye to barriers
While retailers need no reminder to remove any barriers to purchase, it’s worth underscoring just how crucial this is in the checkout process, urges Rich Kreitz, Lead Product Manager at Bold Commerce.
“When you have one more step or barrier in place that can block someone from checking out simply, you’ll increase your cart abandonment rate,” he adds.
He cites the best practice of expanding payment methods beyond credit card and PayPal. “Look at how many people are using Apple Pay or other methods, and when you make something like payment very flexible for customers, they won’t see an obstacle to checkout,” he adds.
Even more constructive, is reducing form fields, which can layer on more steps than what a customer needs — or wants.
As a UX specialist wrote, “The average site can have up to 15 form fields that the shopper has to populate before they complete a purchase…. most sites can reduce form fields to 6 or 8 fields, which makes it easier for the shopper. Defaulting form fields such as billing address to the same as the delivery address can help reduce the number of input fields.”
Neglecting flexible delivery options could also impede the customer experience at checkout. Close to two-third of sites don’t present ‘Store Pickup’ within the shipping selector interface, a survey found, even though BOPIS is quickly on the rise.
And is it clear to customers how much each shipping option will cost them? Burying that information, or only presenting it at later checkout stages, can frustrate customers who expect up-front details about the cost of each order.
There’s another barrier some websites may be foregoing intentionally. All ecommerce sites want customers to create accounts, but “Guest Checkout” should always be available to visitors, despite this option rarely delivering the kind of customer data retailers want, says Kreitz.
“When ecommerce sites only want full members to join and disallow guest checkout options, that will decrease their conversions,” he notes.
Or, sometimes a site will make the guest-checkout option hard to find, squirreled away in a corner box. But hurting site navigation isn’t the answer to any checkout challenge.
The power of one-click and mobile smarts
According to a 2021 report from Retail Systems Research (RSR), Retail ecommerce in context: the next iteration, one-click checkout is a high-value technology among 40 percent of the retailers surveyed. While Amazon may have patented and normalized the option, similar frictionless order confirmation methods can benefit retailers seeking to innovate the checkout experience.
Leveraging the option of one-click payment, customers don’t face long checkout processes, and their speed-to-confirm time may be higher because they have less fields to fill in.
When convenience is the norm, anything else could be seen as painful.
Krietz recommends retailers ensure their ecommerce assets are optimized for mobile, too. “While purchasing products on mobile isn’t as popular as buying off desktop, brands want to give customers a great mobile experience,” he says.
The past 18 months accelerated retailers’ efforts to upgrad their mobile experiences, as ecommerce sales skyrocketed during the heavier lockdown periods. A McKinsey report found that around half of the retailers they interviewed had plans to prioritize a mobile app or point-of-sale experience in 2020.
Learn you’re A/B testing
“How do you improve checkout flow? A/B testing is the way to go,” Kreitz says confidently, and for good reason: A/B testing allows retailers to experiment with various design or processes of their checkout experience, segmented to different customers visiting their site.
They can track the performance of this or that change, and analyze which should remain within the checkout flow. Kreitz says that changes can relate to, say, placing a buy button in a different area than it usually sits, or limiting the checkout flow to one page from three.
As for measuring results, an insightful Forbes report writes, “There are many metrics you can use to gauge how your content performs — for instance, bounce rate, open rate, exit rate, engagement and number of conversions. Choose one or two that align best with your main goal, and see which version performs better.”
Data-driven decisions retailers can make using tools such as A/B testing can shape the continuous improvement of a checkout. This more informed strategy of determining the direction of an ecommerce operation focuses on the information available, as opposed to a C-suite executive making the call based on gut instinct or external advice.
Headless adds flexibility to checkout
Without valuable customer data, brands are hamstrung, writes Bold Commerce CEO Yvan Boisjoli in a recent report. Many channels now exist for shoppers to engage with brands, but are retailers ensuring they’re everywhere at once?
And are retailers personalizing the experience for shoppers at every touchpoint?
Boisjoli explains the challenge via an example: “An apparel brand offers in-store and online style appointments for customers. Ideally, information about a customer’s buying history, billing information, payment methods and more would be accessible in either channel ready for the stylist to use in the consultation. However, this is often not the case. If the same customer is shopping online, they typically have to re-enter their client and billing information at checkout.”
That kind of channel communication and data sharing is often made easier through a headless commerce architecture. Built on an API-based model rather than hard-wired and channel specific, retailers can move customer data seamlessly between in-store and online channels.
To generate positive customer sentiment and increased conversions from checkout, retailers must dive into this kind of innovation work, which can turn the checkout part of the shopping journey from great to flawless.
Download “Retail ecommerce in context: the next iteration,” sponsored by Bold Commerce.