Checkout conversions can be a very fickle process.

There are few things as disheartening for eCommerce merchants than seeing a massive exodus of buyers who are right on the fringe of turning into revenue in your shopping cart. It makes you start to question things such as your site’s ability to convert, the quality of your traffic and marketing efforts, and even if your site is functioning appropriately at a technical level.

Well, if you find yourself in this situation or are just simply concerned that your checkout conversion tactics may potentially drive your buyers away, it’s important to approach the situation with a cool head and not panic. Small tweaks in the checkout process can have exponential results in terms of the revenue your site ultimately makes.

This guide is designed to help you make sure that you are aware of any checkout conversion tactics that may be hurting you in the long run.

Checkout Conversion 101

Checkout conversion is essentially the Super Bowl of digital marketing. All of your marketing efforts, site design, and product selection come down to the ultimate showdown: Will your site make money?

When it comes to checkout conversion, it’s very easy to get swept up in the excitement and data. Merchants may see specific signs that a tactic is providing an increase in sales in the short term, but, eventually, end up experiencing a rude awakening when they realize the long term isn’t as peachy.

There is no “one size fits all” for checkout conversion. Many merchants make the mistake of using someone else’s strategy (maybe even their competitors in the same industry), only to find that it doesn’t work for them.

Roughly 60% of buyers abandon their shopping carts. The causes for shopping cart abandonment vary, with surprising shipping costs and shipping times topping the list. There is also a significant chunk of shopping cart abandonment that happens due to no fault of your own; it’s just that the shoppers aren’t quite ready yet or got distracted.

Even then, it’s important to utilize an effective ad retargeting strategy to get another shot. However, for the scope of this guide, we want to focus on some of the most popular checkout conversion tactics that are causing your buyers to jump ship and how you can ensure your checkout conversion process is moving as smoothly as possible.

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To make sure your checkout conversion strategies aren’t driving your buyers away, you need to be exceptionally good at understanding how your buyers behave on your site. To do this, you can utilize tools such as Google Analytics to see the flow of visitors on your site or get down to a granular level with tools such as Hotjar, which will show you exactly what visitors are clicking and viewing.

Let’s take a look at 6 examples of checkout conversion tactics that many merchants are adopting, only to find out they are causing more harm than good to their checkout conversion process.

1. Unexpected or Surprising Shipping Costs

The big glaring mistake on this list that drives buyers away, which many eCommerce merchants still either knowingly or unknowingly make, is introducing their shipping costs to their buyers during checkout or focusing their promotional efforts elsewhere when they could offer free shipping.

Your site’s checkout area is a place of heightened decision sensitivity, meaning that any minor factor that’s introduced plays a much bigger role in the customer’s mind than elsewhere. This is where all the pressures of completing a purchase and spending money add up.

Many shoppers have already made peace with their items’ prices before checking out, but even just seeing them again in list format can stress them out. Add in a surprise “$4.99 SHIPPING” fee, and it will force shoppers to tip the scales in their heads from YES to NO.

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Be sure you are being absolutely clear about your shipping costs on your product pages, and you will see your shopping cart abandonment rates start to decrease. This will be due largely to the buyers that are surprised by your shipping costs, and this helps to make sure the rest of your checkout conversion optimization strategies are working effectively.

To take things up a notch and put shipping on your side, try to incorporate free shipping into your promotional strategies. Roughly 61% of people said they would cancel a purchase if they weren’t offered free shipping. Many merchants will spend a chunk of their marketing budgets to attract customers that would otherwise not convert due to shipping costs when they could potentially subsidize the cost of their shipping and boost their conversions.

If you can’t offer free shipping, it might be worth looking into using shipping as a way to leverage more sales. For example, Amazon gives users free shipping if their cart order value reaches a certain amount. This is an excellent way to get shoppers clicking around your site and buying more of your products.

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2. Pushy Registration

Customer retention is an incredibly important aspect of your digital marketing strategy and, if done effectively, you can retain a much higher percentage of your customers in your checkout.

However, many merchants lose sight of the fact that not everybody wants to sign up or register for your store. Up to 25% of shoppers will abandon their carts if they are forced to create an account. So, while your account registration may get three out of every four users to make an account (because they have to, not because they want to), you will be losing 25% of your potential sales.

There is a variety of reasons why this could be the case:

  1. You haven’t outlined your value proposition well enough. There are so many eCommerce merchants that try to push registration on their visitors for no good reason other than having it. You need to be able to communicate exactly why your shoppers should register on your site, or you will merely be providing another obstacle for them in the checkout.
  2. They view your products or service as transactional. It’s important to understand the LifeTime Value (LTV) of your customers before attempting to create a member program on your site. If your customers are only shopping for a particular product once, and this product has an especially long life cycle, they probably don’t see the value of becoming a member. This is where you can make a difference in how your customers perceive your business in the long-term—if, of course, it’s worth it to create a registration program based on your current customers’ LTV.
  3. They just don’t want to. Not everyone needs a reason to not want to give out their information to yet another website or become a member of yet another business. These people will be especially warded off if they feel that your registration is overly pushy and slows them from achieving their immediate gratification goal.

Keep in mind that just because someone doesn’t want to immediately sign up for an account, it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t want to shop with you again in the future. Many first-time buyers want to see if you can deliver on the value you advertise before considering registering on your site.

There are many other ways to go about retaining your customers that are way less intrusive to the checkout experience. Email, for example, is a much simpler opt-in. Just be sure you are communicating the value you will provide and what your shoppers can expect, and then deliver on it.

3. Requiring Too Much Information

Similar to how forcing account registration can make your buyers drop off, requiring too much information on your site can yield the same negative results.

The checkout experience should be seen as a series of hurdles your shoppers have to jump over in order to become customers. You can’t really avoid having hurdles such as credit card information and address, but you really start to push your luck when you start to ask for more information than is necessary.

Checkouts present a conundrum for many merchants: It’s the best time to ask for information because people are already giving it out, but it’s also the worst time to ask for information because most people just want to complete checking out. It’s an excellent time to ask for a simple email opt-in, but this minuscule pop-up or page could end up losing you revenue in the end.

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This is why it’s very important to really understand your customer base. Some businesses attract customers that don’t really mind giving out information, provided it’s for a good reason, and other businesses attract the opposite. Whether your marketing efforts are bringing in a certain type of customer or your site is communicating a certain type of value or lack thereof, it’s crucial that you test to know what you’re working with.

Savvy merchants know to ruthlessly test everything down to the way they ask for information in order to streamline their checkout process and bolster their retention strategies. Go through a few iterations of A/B testing and see what works best for you.

Sidenote: You may find that introducing your email signup at different points in the checkout process may yield different results. Keep in mind that you want to make things as simple and easy as you possibly can for your users.

4. Subtle Shopping Cart Button

When designing your shopping experience, it’s important to never lose thought of how distracted and forgetful the average internet shopper can be. While you’re reading this, you’re probably headed toward double-digit tabs in your browser and might be fighting the itch to check your email or Facebook.

As a rule of thumb, the majority of your shoppers are shopping with only a fraction of their attention. They might add something to their cart one second—and, thirty seconds later, they’ve forgotten about it. Such is the way of online shopping.

This is why it’s important for you to take proactive steps to ensure you are keeping your shoppers engaged, aware, and eager to complete their checkout.

If your shopping cart logo is obscure or hidden, shoppers may forget that they have added items to their cart and could forget about the entire transaction altogether.

Instead, use a shopping cart that is dynamic and shows a pop-up every time your shoppers add another item. At a bare minimum, your shopping cart shouldn’t be hidden from plain sight. Utilize a contrasting color to your site color scheme or a color that captures attention, such as red and yellow. You can even make a small animation or pop-up appear that shows the current contents of the cart, as well as a call to action that reminds your shoppers to check out.

Every time your visitors add things to their cart, it should be completely obvious. These fixes could be as easy as downloading and installing a shopping cart plugin to your eCommerce platform or hiring a developer to tweak your cart CSS/Jquery/Javascript code.

5. Promotional Ultimatums

Some merchants can get so overzealous with their checkout promotions that they end up warding off their shoppers.

For example, an extremely popular way to encourage cart checkouts is by utilizing a countdown timer pop-up that offers visitors a discount or incentive on their order if they check out before the clock runs out.

While this may be effective for nudging those on the fence, it could be seen as an ultimatum to the discount. If shoppers that receive the pop-up don’t check out in time, for whatever reason, they might be left with a bitter taste in their mouths and an unwillingness to pay full price for an order that was discounted just moments ago.

Promotional ultimatums aren’t just limited to countdown timers. There are dozens of on-site strategies that merchants utilize with good intentions but, ultimately, which end up dispelling some of their shoppers.

However, it’s important to understand the value of your promotion and how much you could be losing because of it. This comes with a sound understanding of your profit margins and other relevant KPIs at a foundational level. Next comes A/B testing to see data-backed evidence of whether or not your promotions are doing you more harm than good.

You may find that even though your promotion, such as a countdown timer, is slightly increasing your bounce rate, it’s skyrocketing conversions. You might also discover that many of these conversions are so thrilled with the deals they just got, they chose to subscribe to your email list. In situations like this, you would want to continue using the promotion as long as it is helping you make sales and retain customers for the long-term.

6. Slow Shopping Cart

Every second your cart takes to load, you risk losing your customers. Even if you don’t lose your customers due to a small delay, you’re only setting them up to become more impatient with the rest of your checkout process.

That’s why it’s exceptionally important to make sure that the most important element of your checkout process, your shopping cart, loads as quickly as possible. Having a dynamic shopping cart that updates information automatically and creates a seamless shopping experience is something that will help ensure that you are keeping your buyers engaged with your site.

It is silly to be losing your customers to something as negligible as a technical issue in a world where there are phenomenal developers, plug-ins, and hosting services that make your site run as quickly as possible.

The standard for online shopping today has been primed by the need for instant gratification. Any slowdown in the process is met with a disdainful backlash. Pioneers in the eCommerce field, such as Amazon, have created the general expectation that the shopping experience should be completely seamless and relatively quick.

If your shopping cart setup is clunky, consider moving on to one that works without error. If your site is running slowly, contact your hosting provider to see what the holdup is.

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Get a Second Shot with Ad Retargeting

By minimizing or eliminating the damage from the above 6 tactics, you will be able to increase your site’s ability to convert and make more revenue. However, that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear just yet. Optimizing your conversion process is an ongoing mission and, by utilizing an efficient ad retargeting strategy, you can ensure you are getting the most out of your marketing efforts.

Retargeting ads typically see a 10x higher conversion rate of traditional display ads (.7% vs. .07%), with a conversion rate upward of 60% higher.

Simple tactics, such as specifically targeting users who have placed an item in their carts, can be an extremely effective way of getting a second shot at closing the deal. This way, you will even be able to make a second and third impression on buyers who left your site for whatever reason, whether intentional or due to distraction.

Final Thoughts

When trying to improve your checkout conversion rates, view your site as a science experiment with a list of different variables. In order to get accurate results, you need to make sure you are only testing one variable at a time. This way, you will know exactly how small changes impact specific parts of your site with data-backed evidence to support your claim. If you’re trying to test multiple variables at once, even the most talented conversion rate optimization specialist will have difficulty helping you make sense of everything.

View each checkout conversion tweak as something that approves or rejects your hypothesis. Let’s say you want to increase your average cart order value. You install a “related products” plug-in that suggests related and complementary products on every one of your product pages. Your average cart order value increases by $45.

Based on this information, you can make the assumption that the addition of your related and complementary product plug-in helped to increase your average order value, and you integrate it into your day-to-day. Then, you move on to the next step.

Additionally, take note of any variables that appear linked. For example, if you find that a decrease in your bounce rate generally correlates with an increase in shopping cart abandonment for some reason, you will want to figure out why. Each separate conversion rate test brings about its own set of issues, which is what makes conversion rate optimization such an exciting, albeit complex, process.

The checkout process is one of the hardest parts to optimize for maximum revenue. Each minor tweak can result in a drastic change in user behavior and willingness to convert. However, if you focus on minimizing the many mistakes that can be made, you’ll be able to, at least, experience a lift in your revenue by keeping buyers who would otherwise be driven away.

We hope you like the article. Tell us your ideas and opinion in the comments section.

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About the author

Rahul Setia

Rahul Setia as Digital Marketing Head works for Contentmart.com. As an Digital Head, he enjoys building marketing strategies, delivering into website data analysis, and writing content., On twitter @rahulsetia007 and Facebook.

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