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For online retailers, closing a sale can be a tricky process. From attracting a would-be customer to your site to fulfilling an order in an efficient manner, there are a lot of potential points of failure.

One of the biggest such points is the checkout process, which gives customers plenty of opportunities to rethink their purchases.

Unfortunately for retailers, getting the checkout process right can be challenging, and there are numerous mistakes that can produce a less-than-optimal result.

Here are 10 pitfalls that should be avoided when designing and implementing checkout processes.

1. An inadequate confirmation page

Before the checkout process has been completed, the customer should always have one last opportunity to review her order. This confirmation page should include crucial details about the order, including the items it consists of, billing and shipping addresses, the shipping method used, and the total cost inclusive of tax and shipping and handling.

2. 'Back' problems

What happens if the customer clicks on her browser's back button during the registration process? If you've designed your checkout process well, she will be able to return to the previous page, already populated, without incident. But if you have, for instance, implemented your checkout forms to use the POST method, a click on the 'back' button can send the checkout process into immediate jeopardy, particularly with less tech-savvy customers.

3. Error handling and repopulation issues

Between the entry of addresses and credit card information, there's a lot of room for error during most checkout processes. When the customer enters something incorrectly, two common mistakes are often made: poor error handling and repopulation issues.

The former can range from error messaging that is not highlighted well enough, or is placed in a poor location; the latter forces the customer to re-enter information that was entered correctly the first time around.

4. Making order modification difficult

Few things can kill a checkout faster than requiring the user to abandon the checkout process to go back to modify an order. For this reason, it is absolutely imperative to allow modification of an order, including details like shipping method, during the checkout process itself.

5. Not providing breadcrumbs

Checkout is a multi-step process and at each step. If your interface doesn't provide a breadcrumb of some sort, the customer will not only be left to wonder where she is in that process, she'll be left to wonder just how long that process is in the first place. In some cases, the latter could result in a lost sale.

6. Asking for registration too soon

When dealing with new customers, it may be tempting to get them to register before the checkout process is finished. But inserting a registration process (itself an often-complicated interaction) into the middle of the checkout process is a great way to lose a sale. A better approach: offer new customers the ability to create an account following the completion of their order.

7. Putting too much on one page

A lot of information is presented to customers during the typical checkout process. While minimizing the number of perceived steps from clicking 'Check Out' to 'Complete Order' is a worthy goal, displaying too much information (or asking for too much information) on a single page can make the checkout process seem more daunting than it really is.

8. Forgetting to offer checkout customer service

A lot can go wrong during the checkout process and sometimes, a customer may need immediate help from a customer service representative.

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Whether you provide customer service over the phone or through live chat, failing to make it easy for a customer stuck during checkout to communicate with you is failing to give yourself the opportunity to save a sale.

9. Poor copy

For obvious reasons, all copy displayed during the checkout process should be clear and concise. Copy that is poorly written can not only increase the possibility of confusion, it can diminish your credibility with a potential customer at the very moment you need to maintain trust.

10. Poorly designed gift card number and voucher code entry

If you offer gift cards and voucher codes, it is important to make it easy for customers to redeem them during the checkout process. Generally, gift card numbers and voucher codes should be requested before or alongside payment information. In the case of gift cards, the checkout process should make it clear to the customer how much she will be charged if the gift card balance is less than the total amount of the order. This break-down should also be displayed on the aforementioned confirmation page.

Cart image credit: sachab via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 25 July, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2407 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

Sean Owens

Sean Owens, MD at Willows Consulting

11. Not being up front about shipping and tax, possibly the biggest reason for shopping baskets being abandoned.

12. charging extra if your customer is on a mac

13. charging extra if your customer is using IE6

about 4 years ago

Albie Attias

Albie Attias, Ecommerce Director at King of Servers Ltd

Reserve a portion of checkout pages to show a summary of the basket contents plus the details the customer entered on previous checkout steps. This cuts out the need for one final summary step and also shows the customer what information they've given at every step rather than just at the end.

about 4 years ago

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