According to a ComScore report titled ‘UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper’ which surveyed more than 14,000 online shoppers in Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada, and US, global consumer satisfaction with online shopping is at 66%. One factor that contributes to customer satisfaction is the ease of the checkout process. At 81%, US customers are the most satisfied with the checkout process; at 58%, Asians are the least satisfied.
In the checkout process, online shoppers attach importance to the following aspects, among others: free shipping options, variety of payment options, estimated or guaranteed delivery date, providing order history, a login that remembers the customers’ purchasing preference, convenience in selecting delivery locations, ‘remember me’ options on the site, and expedited shopping options. Customers are likely to abandon shopping carts when these options are not available on the website.
According to Huffingtonpost.com, a lengthy checkout process is also a deterrent for online shopping. An under performing checkout process usually: asks for registration, takes time to load, might include hidden costs and high shipping charges and will not display return policies. Addressing these issues appropriately can help companies to increase product sales.
Some pointers to create an optimal and best practices in e-commerce checkout process are described below:
1) Providing a Short and Simple Checkout Experience
E-tailers should only include relevant fields in the checkout process and condense the entire shopping payment method into one cohesive page. The fewer fields the website requires the customers to fill in, the more improved their shopping experience will be. Some successful practices that e-commerce companies should follow in their checkout designs are:
- The same information should not be asked in multiple pages of checkout.
- Pre-filled data for certain fields like address, can make shopping convenient for frequent visitors.
- Form fields should be clearly explained to the user, with simple descriptions.
- The website should offer the option of checking out as a guest, and should not force the user to register. It should also allow users to make payments without an account.
According to Econsultancy.com, some of the online retailers who get this aspect of the checkout process right are Walmart, , and John Lewis. Amazon.com too only asks for relevant registration information from new customers, making the process quick.
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2) Offering a Variety of Payment Methodologies
According to a yStats report titled ‘Global alternative payment methods 2014’, digital wallets are the largest alternative payment methodology used by consumers in North America. In the US, alternative payment methods continue to expand both in online and offline retail, and digital currency is also used. In Canada, PayPal was mostly preferred by consumers next to credit cards.
Offering a variety of payment options on checkout pages is one of the ways to offer the convenience of choice to online shoppers and enhance their purchase experience. For instance, online jewelry retailer Blue Nile offers five different payment methods for customers – credit card, bank wire, Blue Nile Preferred Financing, Bill Me Later, and PayPal.
Besides these payment methods, Google Wallet, Dwolla, Amazon Payments, V.me and MasterPass are also popular.
3) Providing Security Assurance
As customers share their personal and financial information during the checkout process, having stringent security measures in place to protect this data is of primary importance.
An article on ecommercepro.com advises that online retailers should have a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which can encrypt critical data like credit card information. This will ensure that when the data is exchanged between the browser and a connected site, the information cannot be read, deciphered or decrypted by third parties. Companies can also think of offering 3D secure verification to customers, which provides an additional password protected layer of security. It is also important that companies that take critical information from customers have Payment Card Industry Data Security Compliance (PCIDSS), ensuring that data is stored in a secured manner.
4) Assisting Shoppers through the Checkout Process
It is essential that ecommerce companies assist customers in case they make mistakes in filling out the web forms. An article on Entrepreneur.com reports that some of the common mistakes that users make are forgetting ‘@’ in the email address or overlooking the zip code.
When customers go wrong in filling fields, the web application should spot the error and highlight it. Error notification should be displayed prominently to shoppers and explained as far as possible.
5) Ensuring Linear Flow in Checkouts
A non-linear checkout process can confuse the customer. Sub-steps in the process should guide the user to the next stage of the checkout process, without redirecting them to a new page or one they have already seen. A redirection could also lead shoppers to assume that there is an error in the checkout process. Baymard also advises that a high caliber e-commerce site should be able to offer new customers with an alternate linear checkout process, while optimizing the design for repeat customers as well.
As is evident from the above mentioned points, having a robust web application and IT systems in place for the e-commerce website can greatly enhance the user experience. Outsourcing this IT requirement to a specialist IT service provider can help ecommerce companies to offer an optimized experience to users.
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In conclusion, according to an estimate by RJ Metrics, an analytics platform provider, there were 110,000 websites generating revenue of a meaningful scale in June 2014. As the industry expands, customer expectations are likely to grow as well.