A beautiful, well-branded website is one thing, but providing a seamless purchase experience and a high-performing online store is quite another.
E-commerce merchants often know their brand guidelines and have a pretty visual design on their DTC site; however, this is not always enough to drive users to click the "buy" button. Guiding users through the checkout journey and increasing their likelihood of converting takes an optimized UX — not only when the visitor first lands on the website but also when they get to the PDP and the cart.
Why Checkout UX Matters
The average cart abandonment rate across e-commerce stores is roughly 70%, according to several recent studies. This statistic shows merchants that shoppers are getting as far as the last step of the buyer’s journey and still not choosing to click the purchase button. A user making it all the way to the cart indicates a qualified sales lead, yet many of these shoppers are not taking the plunge. So, what gives?
Research also tells us that the average large-sized e-commerce site can gain as much as a 35.26% increase in conversion rate simply through better checkout design. What does this mean? The way to successfully move these abandoning buyers through the funnel is to ensure that their online experience is positive.
How To Optimize Checkout UX For Conversion
The first "gatekeeper" of the checkout journey is typically the homepage. Optimizing your content and headlines to connect with potential customers at this stage can make a massive difference in conversion rates. The next gatekeepers are usually PDPs, which are often cluttered with CTAs (call-to-actions) that distract from what merchants really want to drive: clicking the buy button.
Once potential customers have landed on the PDP, they need to find their way to checkout and start filling out order information. Optimizing this stage can lead to a much higher conversion rate by removing obstacles that might pop up on the way to checkout. Brands need to ensure that they’ve optimized this stage of the buyer journey when it comes to well-executed UX.
Optimal checkout UX/UI is not just about creating an appealing visual design (as nice as that would be!). As with everything in e-commerce, it’s essential to perform regular UX audits and continually test and reconfigure based on what you find works for your particular offering. Quality UX design involves creating a convenient, memorable, and seamless purchase experience for anyone who visits your website.
Here are six tips for optimizing your online checkout experience:
1. Simplify Purchase UX
The purchase experience should be simple, explanatory, and intuitive, making it easy for visitors to become customers.
Deliver a smooth purchase experience that handholds the visitor from add-to-cart to the checkout. No extra fluff is needed here. While some bonus features (like suggesting complementary products based on a user's existing cart) are effective sales devices, we must keep in mind that we’re optimizing for conversions. Examples of unnecessary features include superfluous headers and footers, requiring registration (i.e., not offering guest checkout), and unclear or competing CTAs.
2. Avoid Paradox of Choice
You want your customer to feel confident enough to make the final call to purchase a product. When customers experience a paradox of choice or feel unsure of which purchase will benefit them most, they may choose to abandon the cart or wait longer to buy. Incorporating features like “Customers Also Bought” and “Similar Items” in the checkout can erode customer confidence. We can’t always be certain of the impact these have, so a merchant must validate that they’re driving, not diminishing, purchases.
3. Retain & Engage
Keeping the checkout convenient and engaging is paramount to moving a customer through the buyer's journey. For example, incorporate a subtle and intentional progress bar to set users' expectations for the fit-finding process while also adding a sense of accomplishment and gamification as they complete each step.
Another opportunity to creating an engaging checkout is increasing the average cart value. Incentivize shoppers to drive cart value higher with promotions such as free shipping or a "complete the look" button that adds an additional accessory to the cart.
4. Smart Reviews & UGC
It’s no secret that social proof and positive customer reviews have become the lifeblood for many DTC brands in recent years. Merchants should provide relevant customer testimonials on automatically selected topics according to their prominence in reviews and showcased on the site in a dynamic display to increase first-time buyer conversions.
We've also seen success in populating the home page with a handful of curated, high-level reviews — often one that matches each potential persona — and the product page displaying all reviews relevant to that specific product. Leveraging a solution like Okendo to showcase customer experiences and reviews is essential for any e-commerce store to compel buying action.
5. Urgency & Scarcity Tactics Actually Work
We’ve found that things like countdown timers and scarcity tactics work when trying to increase conversion rate. Although your goal shouldn’t be to encourage visitors to make impulse purchases, you do want to try to get people who procrastinate to act faster. One way to do this is by communicating a product inventory or time shortage.
- Offer timed shipping offers: “Order within X minutes and get free next-day shipping.”
- Add a clock: “Time left to buy at 30% off," accompanied by a countdown timer.
- Try a flash sale: “Limited time only: take an additional 20% off your purchase.”
- Advertise a limited quantity available: “Only 2 left in stock!”
6. In-context Upsells & Subscriptions
Build upon shopper intent with relevant up-sells and cross-sells. As noted earlier, this type of feature needs to be implemented thoughtfully to not overwhelm or annoy the customer. By personalizing the checkout experience with highly relevant suggestions, you can raise AOV.
Another great tactic for increasing conversion and customer lifetime value (CLV) is offering a discount for enrollment in a subscription program. Make clear if they are enrolling in subscription or not — users will not return if they feel they’ve been tricked into a subscription program because of an unclear UX at checkout.
About the author
BVA is a commerce agency that incubates and grows the direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands that people love. With the largest and most versatile client roster in the industry, we’ve launched more brands on Shopify Plus than any other agency and currently manage a client portfolio that generates nearly one billion dollars annually in gross merchandise volume (GMV). Through a customer-centric approach, we create measurable and executable commerce strategies that drive brand awareness, immersive customer experience, high conversions, profitability, and customer lifetime value.