Breaking Conversions: 3 Checkout Mistakes of Big Ecommerce Brands

By Tim Ash

October 23, 2013

One of the issues with the checkout process, at least in the realm of online marketing and conversions, is that it can be viewed as an IT problem rather than a marketing problem. Sure, marketers tend to be savvier with technology now, and can tweak page code pretty much on demand. But determining optimal session length? Creating workflows for secure transactions? That’s the technology team, right?Checkout Cart

Wrong. Leaving that completely outside the purview of marketing can be tantamount to sabotaging the conversion funnel, by neglecting user experience on the way to checkout. It’s a big enough problem that some of the largest brands are still wrestling with it. Learn from the mistakes these brand names are making; their loss could be your gain.

Clearing Shopping Carts

Wiping out your visitors’ carts after they’ve left it idle is counterproductive. Consider these two things:

  • According to Baymard Institute, an independent web research company, an average of 67.44% of shopping carts are abandoned.

  • Forrester Research shows that 27% of “abandoners” want to compare prices, while 24% want to save the cart for later purchase.

This means that the last thing want to do is discourage customers from going back to their cart mere minutes after they’ve left it. But that is exactly what TheBodyShop-usa.com, a popular beauty product store, is doing: it clears your shopping cart when you leave the website idle for a few minutes. And unless you are signed in, there is no way to retrieve the cart, and you have to start the shopping process from scratch.

This practice can be exasperating for visitors who don’t like to register on websites to make a purchase. Even those who register may be annoyed by the constant need to sign in to their accounts, or be confused when they are greeted by an empty cart only after comparing their prices against other web sites.

Nebulous Payment Policies

There might have been a time when online shoppers were willing to put up with minor hassles demanded by ecommerce transactions. Nowadays, your visitors have little tolerance for inconvenience. Yet many popular ecommerce sites still make customers rummage through credit card bills for their accurate billing information. This, despite the existence of smarter secure payment processing technologies that are more forgiving of tiny discrepancies between the address entered by a customer versus the one on their credit card billing statement.

Then there are sites like Walmart.com, which promise to accept alternate payment options like PayPal, only to turn down user with unverified accounts (most of whom would presumably be first-time users who have just created their accounts). It is understandable that stores would be hesitant to accept payments from unverified PayPal accounts, but the least you can do is save customers the frustration by making your payment policies clear right off the bat.

Canceling Completed Transactions

It’s one thing to lose visitors who don’t complete the transaction—some visitors simply aren’t ready to make the purchase right there and then. It’s another thing to lose customers after they’ve gone through checkout and have given you their money. Imagine how you’d feel if, after you’ve completed paying for an order from a website, you receive this:

Tim Ash

Security is important. But securing sites this way tells prospects that you don’t want their business.

How do you remedy this without sacrificing safety measures? A good way to start is by letting customers know beforehand if they’ve done something that would void their order. Another is by eliminating whatever it is in your checkout that’s causing customers to either get stuck—or worse, making them send invalid orders. If, for instance, you automatically cancel orders when the customer’s billing address doesn’t match the shipping address, then why not just disable the option to ship to another address? Don’t mislead your visitors into thinking they can ship to a different address when you actually don’t allow it.

Avoiding Checkout Mistakes

Towards the bottom of the sales funnel, leaks cost a lot of money. Saying this is a technology problem doesn’t cut it. The usability problems here affect marketing and sales, and they are problems that online marketers should solve with whatever resources are available. Prospects will leave if you empty their carts after their session times out, they will not tolerate unclear payment policies, and they will take their business elsewhere if your security measures get in the way of a sale. Make sure you address those areas, and your prospects will be more likely to transact with you.

Tim Ash is the CEO of SiteTuners, a leading conversion rate optimization agency that has helped over 850 clients worldwide. He is chairperson of Conversion Conference, the first conference focused on improving online conversions, and is a highly-regarded presenter at SES, eMetrics, PPC Summit, Affiliate Summit, PubCon, Affiliate Conference, and LeadsCon. Tim is author of the bestselling book “Landing Page Optimization” and is a contributing columnist to many publications. You can connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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