Retailers aren’t nailing the checkout process. Here’s what they can do

Shoppers abandon carts at a 70% rate, and just under 50% complete when reaching checkout.
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Francis Scialabba

4 min read

When shopping in a store, customers often care about the checkout process—whether the transaction went smoothly, if they were offered a discount, or even if the cashier was friendly and asked about their day.

While this kind of personalized experience can’t directly be replicated online, there are many pitfalls merchants fall into when constructing their checkout process. Largely speaking, retailers employ one checkout experience regardless of who is shopping or where they are coming from, which is a mistake when the e-commerce experience can be so varied depending on a number of variables, Jay Myers, co-founder of checkout platform Bold Commerce, told Retail Brew.

  • The average rate shoppers abandon carts is just under 70%, according to the Baymard Institute, and the percentage of those who reach the payment section of a website but don’t actually complete a purchase due to extra costs is just under 50%.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, Myers said.

“There’s no one perfect product page; there’s no one perfect homepage,” he said. “There are companies…like an automotive company and a fashion company, but once you get to the checkout, they have the exact same checkout.”

Divide and conquer: Myers categorized checkout experiences in three different “generations”:

  • Generation 1: A checkout system that simply collects payment and shipping information but can’t be modified and, surprisingly, is still used by many Fortune 500 companies.
  • Generation 2: “A lot of” retailers, according to Myers, are at this level, which entails a very tailored experience but tailored to the brand, not the customer.
  • Generations 3: This is the next level where checkout experience varies depending on who the customer is—newcomer or very loyal—or how they’re shopping your site, Instagram ad, or directly on the website.

That third generation is where retailers should head, Myers said, because repeat customers who are familiar with a brand should be upsold, cross-sold, or offered more perks throughout their process, as opposed to newbies who you might want to get through the process as quickly as possible.

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“There’s hundreds or thousands of different product page layouts,” he said. “There could potentially be the same for checkout and, and each one is optimized for not just the brand but [also] for the different customers.”

Strike a balance: E-commerce shoppers want more options, particularly in the checkout process. Look at the buy now, pay later space, which has many different options, but Myers said a lot of merchants typically offer one option among the several different players in the space.

Myers believes this is the wrong approach.

“Brands only having one option for buy now, pay later, to me is the equivalent of saying, ‘We have an exclusive deal with Visa; we’re only accepting Visa.’ You want to accept Visa, Mastercard, [and] American Express,” he said.

  • He added the same could be said of one-click wallet pay options such as Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, and Shop Pay.
  • But Myers warns not to go too hard in the other direction and not tailor the experience at all.

“Ultimately, it’s the customer’s relationship with the payment method that matters, not the brands, but the way it’s being sold is completely backwards,” he said.

The big picture: When optimizing the checkout process, most brands focus on conversions, Myers said. While that’s an important metric, it’s not the only consideration. A retailer can alter the checkout process to maximize conversion rates, but that might come at the cost of the average order value.

Myers said it’s important to consider both components, depending on what you sell, who your customers are, and what they want from their experience.

  • “People think that checkout is checkout; it’s just there to collect payment and that’s all it does,” he said. “I believe that the checkout is, maybe, the most important piece of real estate in your store.”
Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.