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The importance of ecommerce businesses carrying out a checkout audit and the key issues merchants should look out for

High peak shopping periods such as Christmas present great opportunities for ecommerce businesses; consumers are eyeing a bargain and many are attracted to new sites as they desperately search for the perfect gift for friends and family. 

While the pandemic has forced many businesses to improve their digital marketing efforts, one fundamental weakness lots of merchants still have surrounds high checkout abandonment rates. 

Not only do high abandonment rates harm conversions, in many cases they go on to impact the number of returning users as well. 

With Black Friday signifying the start of the Christmas shopping season for many, Josh Guthrie, UK country manager at payment processor Mollie, discusses how carrying out a checkout audit can ensure ecommerce businesses are well-placed to capitalise on an increased number of visitors in the build-up to Christmas and beyond. 

Josh also uses his extensive knowledge of payment platforms and consumer behaviour to provide simple, actionable tips on how businesses can address the key issues which a checkout audit is likely to identify.

With recent research revealing almost 90% of online shopping orders are abandoned by consumers, it is clear many ecommerce businesses struggle to optimise their checkout processes.

That said, lots of merchants are unaware of how to identify the issues they may have, let alone understand how to go about addressing them.

Thankfully, the majority of solutions are straightforward and it all starts by carrying out a checkout audit.

What is a checkout audit? 

To put it simply, a checkout audit is an in-depth review of the journey customers take in order to complete a conversion on your site. While this sounds simple, it’s surprising how many ecommerce businesses fail to self-audit their user experience (UX).

By failing to do this, it’s difficult for merchants to identify and then rectify any issues which may be harming conversion rates down the line.

The key to an effective self-audit is being thorough and putting yourself in the shoes of your customers. It’s important to remember if you spot anything that doesn’t quite suit your eye, your customers are probably thinking the same as well.

One thing to bear in mind is that if you have multiple checkout experiences – such as a checkout for physical items that require delivery versus digital items that don’t – you’ll need to go through all of them. With a checkout audit it quite literally pays to be as thorough as possible!

Common issues relating to checkouts and how to fix them 

Although carrying out a checkout audit may sound like a daunting task, there are a number of common issues which appear on websites that can be used as a basis for your review. Here’s a run through of four frequent pitfalls alongside my advice on how they can be addressed:

1) Lack of clarity around delivery costs and shipping times

With research finding delivery costs are the most common reason for shoppers abandoning a cart, it may be tempting for businesses to try and hide their shipping costs until the checkout in order to increase the chances of a conversion. Unfortunately this often has the opposite effect and consumers end up getting frustrated when they are hit by previously unmentioned costs. Because of this it is important to try to make customers aware of delivery rates as early as possible.

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Equally if you’re a company who offers free shipping it’s imperative that you advertise this on all of your product pages as it is a big draw for shoppers and can help you to stand out against your competitors. If you aren’t able to offer this incentive for all products then it’s well worth considering it for when orders reach a certain value.

Failing to be upfront about shipping times is also a big bugbear with consumers so make sure you let them know what the expected delivery date is before they load the cart wherever possible.

2) Lengthy checkout forms

Completing an order can be a time-consuming process so anything you can do to reduce the length of time it takes to convert really will make you popular with your customers. When you’re analysing your checkout forms ask yourself whether all of them are necessary.

A couple of ways to reduce the time people have to spend at checkouts are to offer a tick box so people can use the same address for shipping and billing as well as offering auto-fill for saved customer information such as their name and postcode.

Providing shoppers with the option of using the checkout as a guest rather than having to ask them to create an account is also a good way of streamlining the process.

Although these may seem like simple alterations, it’s surprising how big of an impact these can have on improving your checkout abandonment rates.

3) A checkout that isn’t optimised for mobile users 

With almost half of all ecommerce sales being made through mobile devices last year it is imperative that you have a site which is mobile friendly. Of course, the easiest way to do this is to ensure you have a dedicated mobile site but in some circumstances this isn’t possible.

If you haven’t tried placing an order on your site through a phone it’s something you should definitely check. Common issues include key checkout actions being too small to read and the inability to move onto the next page.

While you may not be able to fix all of these issues yourself a mobile developer will certainly be able to address any standout problems.

4) Unclear payment options

Building up trust with shoppers is key for all ecommerce businesses especially when it comes to improving conversion rates. If consumers aren’t confident your payment options are secure then they’ll be reluctant to make a purchase.

While you’re carrying out your checkout audit you should analyse how clearly your payment choices are being presented. Consumers love familiarity so including logos of well-known payment options such as PayPal and Apple Pay before users get to the checkout is a great way of increasing consumer confidence.

Implementing a security symbol such as a ‘lock’ when people are submitting their payment information is also a nice way of building trust as it demonstrates to shoppers that you are handling their payments with care.

Since the pandemic businesses have been forced to adapt and shift their focus online; investing in their digital platforms to attract new customers and boost sales. However, competition is fierce and merchants can’t afford to put a foot wrong when it comes to the users’ shopping experience online. By carrying out a successful check-out audit and following these important steps, ecommerce businesses will secure customers that are loyal long after this key sales period.

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