Make Online Checkout Easier

9 Jan 2013 | written by Dan Garfield for the web site marketing strategies section(s)

MakeOnlineCHeckoutEasier

The online checkout process should be very familiar to all of us by now, and yet every site seems to have their own methods and ideas for how the checkout process should work. Plain and simple: the easier the checkout process, the more sales you’ll have. Here are a few tips for things to do and things to avoid.

Don’t make customers fill out useless info.

I can already hear you protesting, “I don’t!” But chances are there are a few things you’re missing. For one thing, you should never have to ask someone what type of credit card they’re using. Credit card numbers have a defined structure, so you shouldn’t have to ask what type of card customers are going to pay with. Here’s a quick look at the differences of credit card numbers. (If you’re a developer you can even find the regular expression to find each type at this link).

  • Visa: 16 numbers long with a prefix of 4. (ex: 4000-0000-0000-0000)
  • Mastercard: 16 numbers long with a prefix of 51-55. (ex. 5100-0000-0000-0000)
  • American Express: 15 numbers long with a prefix of 34 or 37. (ex. 3400-0000-0000-000)
  • Discover: 16 numbers long with a prefix of 6011. (ex. 6011-0000-0000-0000)
  • Diners Club: 14 characters long with a prefix of 30, 36, or 38. (ex. 3600-0000-0000-00)

Live copy between billing and shippingMany checkout forms ask for both a billing name and a shipping name. If you have to have a billing address and a shipping address, add an option to copy the data over. Or with a little bit of JavaScript, you can have the billing fields filled out as users type info into the shipping fields. This is pretty easy to achieve using jQuery. I threw together a quick example on jsfiddle. Feel free to snag it.

Limit checkout to one page.

If you’re selling a single product this is an especially great option. Panic.com has a great example of a single page checkout. They outline the process, so it’s easy to digest and they use simple language on the ‘order’ button. “Process my order” can only mean one thing. When a user clicks that button Panic will charge their credit card. Another great feature of that page is that if a user changes the quantity, the page live updates, so no page refreshes are necessary. A dead simple checkout process makes a big difference.

Include a sales phone number.

When someone is thinking about making an order, they want to make sure that what they’re ordering is what they are looking for. Having a phone number on display makes it easy for users to call if they have questions. But what if you don’t want customers making phone calls? That’s okay, but having the number there will reassure people and make them more likely to buy, even if they don’t use the phone number. People want to feel that if something goes wrong, they can get in contact with the company. Other options could include live chat, but a live chat button isn’t as reassuring as a phone number.

Make account signups optional.

In landing page optimization, we call anything that makes users less likely to buy ‘friction’. Requiring someone to create an account is a huge piece of friction. Users want to buy something; they don’t want to form a relationship. They want a straightforward process: pay and get goods, done. I personally have left dozens of checkout processes because they required account creation. If you want to give people the option, that’s great. Customers can decide if they want to form a relationship, but don’t force it. You may drive customers away.

Dan Garfield
From the world of startups, Dan Garfield is the Senior Brand Manager at OrangeSoda, and author of The 5 Stages of Online Marketing. P.S. He's beat Super Mario Bros 3 without using a warp whistle.
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