Improving Your Website to Improve Sales Part 3

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Your online store’s checkout is a critical point in the sales process. The design of your checkout can make a big difference to the success of your store.

It’s very common for shoppers to happily browse an online store and add products to their cart, then abandon their purchase when they reach the checkout page. Often, between 50% and 75% of shoppers give up during the checkout process.

So how can you reduce your checkout abandon rate? Fortunately there are lots of things you can do to improve your checkout process and increase sales. Here are 10 helpful suggestions.

1. Don’t require registration

Many online stores require shoppers to register before they can checkout. This usually involves supplying a lot of personal information, an email address, and a password. Some shoppers are put off by this — for one thing it’s extra hassle when they just want to buy something, and for another they may not like the idea of being put in a “members database”.

Some off-the-shelf ecommerce software requires users to register before they can purchase. If yours does this, and you think that the registration process is putting people off, then you could try another ecommerce solution. If you don’t want to change software then at least see if you can reduce the number of fields that the shopper has to fill in, and make your privacy and security policies very clear at the checkout stage.

2. Be upfront with shipping costs

Shoppers like to know the total cost of a product before they buy it. They don’t want to wait until the checkout process to find out how much it will cost to send. Even worse is the situation where shoppers are forced to register or login before they can see these costs! Many shoppers will abandon the checkout process at this stage.

Include your shipping costs — or at least a link to a shipping cost calculator — on your product pages.

3. Be upfront with product stock levels

As with shipping costs, don’t wait until the checkout process to tell customers that the product they want is out of stock! Shoppers don’t like nasty surprises. If a product isn’t in stock, tell them so on the product page, and give them an option to pre-order the product if they want to.

4. Include product details in the checkout

People like to be reassured that they’re buying the correct product.

When showing a shopper their cart, don’t just use product names, SKUs, and prices. Include the manufacturer name. Model number. Product photo. A link back to the product page (open it in a new window if you have to).

Give them all the information they need to confirm that they’re buying the right thing.

5. Don’t ask for unnecessary information

Some checkout forms read like tax returns. Don’t overwhelm the shopper with lots of unnecessary, confusing fields to fill in. Make fields optional if possible. If you do require something other than the bare essentials, explain to the shopper why you require it (such as “We require your phone number so we can contact you to verify your order”).

Common examples of unnecessary checkout form fields:

  • Fax number (who uses a fax these days?)
  • Title (“do you really need to know if I’m a Mr, a Mrs, or a Miss?”)
  • Company name (OK for B2B sites, but shouldn’t be required for B2C)
  • Date of birth (“excuse me!”)
  • Credit card type (“work it out yourself from my card number!”)
  • How did you hear about us? (great for marketing, but not if it puts the shopper off)
  • Separate “shipping address” fields, with no “the shipping address is the same as the billing address” option (“I really shouldn’t have to copy and paste between fields. Make life easy for me!”)

6. Keep the checkout process short and simple

As well as simplifying your checkout form (see above) there are some other things you can do to make the checkout process smoother and easier:

  • Have a single page checkout. If possible, place all your checkout and payment fields on a single page, so that the shopper doesn’t have to wade through lots of steps in the checkout process. If this results in a cluttered form you may need to go to 2 pages, but try not to go beyond 2.
  • Use a progress indicator. If you do have to have a multi-page checkout, always include a progress bar so the shopper knows how far they are through the checkout process, and how many steps remain.
  • Remove distracting page elements. Eliminate anything that isn’t relevant to the checkout process, such as global navigation or search boxes.

7. Use a secure checkout

If possible, make your checkout form use SSL/TLS (https) so that the customer’s details are encrypted when they’re sent to the server. This reassures customers that you take their privacy and security seriously. You should always encrypt payment information such as credit card numbers.

8. Offer more payment options

Most shoppers have a preferred payment method (for example, credit card or PayPal). Some shoppers don’t have a credit card but they can do a bank transfer.

Make it easy for your customers by providing a wide range of payment methods so that they can use the method they’re most comfortable with.


  • Visa/MasterCard/American Express/Diners/Discover (details entered online, faxed, given over the phone, or sent in the mail)
  • PayPal
  • Bank transfer/wire transfer
  • Cheque

9. Prominently display reassuring information in the checkout

Adding a product to a cart requires very little commitment — it’s easy to walk away. However, when a shopper starts moving through the checkout they’re committing themselves to purchasing. Because of this, they want to be reassured that you’re trustworthy, reliable, and honest.

Place reassuring information on the checkout page to encourage your shoppers to commit to buying:

  • Your physical address. Shoppers want to know exactly where a merchant is located.
  • A contact phone number. This should be toll-free if possible. It gives shoppers the reassurance that, if there’s a problem with their purchase, they can always pick up the phone and call you.
  • A money-back guarantee. If possible, offer a 100% refund, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee on all purchases. Not only does this reassure the shopper that they can get their money back if there are any problems, but it also shows them that you’re committed to the quality of your products and service.
  • Links to your privacy statement and security information. This reassures the customer that the information they enter in the checkout is safe.

10. Tweak, measure and test

Last, but by no means least: Test everything! Although you can make educated guesses as to what changes will improve your checkout conversion rate, nothing is certain. For example, adding more payment options might result in a cluttered checkout page that actually harms sales. Test every change you make to see if it’s having a positive or negative effect.

A great way to test changes to your checkout is to use a testing tool such as Google Website Optimizer. This lets you test multiple sections of a page at the same time to see which combination produces the best result.

You’ve now looked at 10 useful ideas for improving your checkout’s conversion rate. Hopefully this list has sparked off even more ideas in your head. There are always hundreds of improvements you can make to your checkout and store — some small, some big. Why not start making some of these changes today, and see what happens to your sales.

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