Ecommerce businesses have a unique set of advantages over physical retail stores. Online shops are accessible 24/7/365, there’s no travel time needed to get there, no hassle in finding a parking space, and no long waits in a line of customers to checkout, just to name a few. However, the online checkout process itself can significantly affect the customer experience, influencing their overall level of satisfaction and impacting long-term loyalty.
One of the biggest challenges that online retailers face is how to reduce instances of abandoned carts to increase conversion rates. It’s not always easy to identify the exact reason why a potential customer would add one or more products to their cart and then simply leave the site. It could simply be due to the customer being distracted by something else, but it may be the result of an inefficient or awkward checkout experience. To this end, it’s important for ecommerce businesses to always be looking for opportunities to improve the checkout process in order to reduce cart abandonments and increase customer retention.
In general, most ecommerce checkout flows incorporate the same types of steps, such as entering customer details, selecting shipping options, and confirming payment methods. However, the exact experience the customer has can vary significantly depending on the system the business uses, the design of the interface, and the configuration of each step. So, what are the kinds of things that can occur during the online checkout process which would detract from the satisfaction of a customer?
How Does the Checkout Experience Impact Customer Satisfaction?
There are many potential sources of friction that can occur during the checkout process on an ecommerce website. These include the visual design and layout of the checkout interface, availability of various payment options, how information on shipping details is conveyed, and other customer-facing elements. In addition, back-end technical functions are also factors to consider. While these may not be directly visible to the customer, they still play an important part in determining the level of customer satisfaction. Let’s start by exploring two of the technical elements in a bit more detail.
Speed – It’s no secret that customers do not like waiting. Every second that ticks by while they wait for a screen to load or for the next step in the transaction process to complete simply serves to weaken their satisfaction. It’s important to have fast checkout systems that load quickly and reliably, with an interface that can be navigated easily and efficiently. Many studies have been conducted on the effects of page load time on abandon rates, with average results from 2022 showing that even a 2 second delay in site load times can increase abandon rates to as much as 85% or more. Buggy checkouts, on-page errors, and slow load times are all signs of system instability, and will leave customers frustrated.
Security – Data theft is a real threat that affects businesses and consumers alike. Providing a secure, encrypted checkout for customers is of the utmost importance in delivering a positive experience. Modern ecommerce payment portals utilize the latest in encryption and tokenization technology. This helps ensure that each and every payment is encoded with a unique one-time signature that renders the data useless for the creation of any fraudulent transactions. Customers are savvy enough to look for assurance during the checkout that the merchant uses secure encryption. If this is not clearly conveyed, there is a high risk that purchases will be abandoned if there is any doubt that customer information will not be sufficiently protected.
As you can see, the technical side of the online checkout flow has a notable effect on the overall customer experience. However, even if your online payment process runs fast and securely, it can still fall short on customer expectations in the areas of user experience. Let’s look closer at some of the prominent user experience elements in the online checkout process.
Simplicity – Keeping things simple is often easier said than done, but it is definitely worth the effort. All too often, businesses unknowingly allow their online checkout and payment process to become needlessly complex and convoluted. What starts out simple often evolves to include additional steps to incorporate purchase options, add-ons, repeated verifications, and other steps that may not even be entirely necessary. Long, drawn out checkout flows can make customers frustrated, and lead to an increase in cart abandonment rates. In addition to keeping the number of steps to a minimum, simplicity should also be top-of-mind when crafting the verbiage and visual design of the checkout. Clean design, clear descriptions, and a super user-friendly and intuitive flow make checkouts much faster and easier for customers to navigate, helping to improve overall performance.
Flexibility – One other critical element of the checkout process that certainly affects conversion rates and customer satisfaction is the flexibility to handle multiple different types of payment methods. Online checkouts that are only capable of processing credit cards are very limiting for customers who prefer to pay with digital wallets or other methods. Being unable to use their preferred payment types will impact conversion rates, and push users to competitors. It’s essential to have an ecommerce system that’s flexible enough to offer a wide range of payment options for customers to choose from.
Businesses who succeed in delivering a fast, secure, simple, and flexible checkout experience for their users will realize the benefits in the form of strong conversion rates and higher customer satisfaction. However, there is more that can be done to enhance the overall experience and strengthen customer retention even further.
Enhancing the Checkout Experience with Added Value to Strengthen Customer Loyalty
During the various steps of the checkout flow, there are key moments where additional value can be incorporated for the customer. For example, when the customer enters their digital shopping cart to review their product selections, cross-sell options can be presented to them. This is particularly relevant for product types that depend on having certain accessories or hardware to work with them, such as HDMI cables for TVs and video game systems or protective cases for smartphones.
Other types of upsells and cross-sells can be offered during the checkout as well. Some examples of this include offering customers extended warranty protection, on-site setup or assembly services, recurring subscription options, and other types of upgrades that customers may find appealing. The key here is to present valuable options that are highly relevant to the items being purchased and do it where it actually makes sense. The more closely these are related or tied together, the more effective these cross-sell and upsell strategies will be.
Customers can also be presented with the option to sign up for exclusive rewards programs during the checkout so that they can start accumulating points even with their first purchase. Loyalty programs work to boost the likelihood of repeat visits to earn more rewards, and can be an incentive for customers to opt-in for direct marketing communications through email or SMS. Using these tools, you can deliver highly targeted communications and special offers for these customers, driving them back to your online store and strengthening their affinity for your business. It’s been proven that direct marketing through email lists and SMS messaging can work to re-engage customers that have become dormant, as well as increase the visit frequency of the most active shoppers.