November 29, 2011
With buyer conversion rates averaging less than 10 percent, customer abandonment is an important issue for every online merchant.
Yet many online stores overlook the role that their payment process plays in customer abandonment.
The payment pages – that delicate point where consumers are asked to fully commit to a sale – are a key variable that significantly influences a buyer’s decision to complete a sale.
Many buyers, however, are forced to needlessly suffer through a cumbersome and ill-designed payment process that leads them to abandon their shopping cart.
A well-designed and intuitive payment process should be transparent, accommodate each buyer’s purchasing preferences and remove all unnecessary hurdles to a sale.
Merchants that are able to achieve this quietly inspire buyer confidence and create a smooth path to a final sale.
Keep it simple, streamlined and straightforward
Buying data shows that online shoppers generally do not abandon their shopping cart because they lose interest in a product.
Instead, poorly-designed payment pages are often the culprit.
The longer a buyer remains in payment processing, the more time she has to reconsider her purchase.
Knowing this, merchants must help buyers proceed through the payment processing as quickly and seamlessly as possible.
Merchants that evaluate their payment process should begin by examining every keystroke and page the buyers go through to complete a sale.
Be ruthless in your analysis.
Is more information requested than is actually needed to complete the sale? Are buyers asked to fill in the same information more than once? How many pages are there from start to finish? Do you provide an automatic data fill-in feature for repeat customers?
The ideal payment process involves only one payment page and only request information that is essential to complete a sale.
If your process does not meet this ideal, remove all unnecessary or repetitive pages and fields then go to work on site layout and navigation.
The payment pages must also integrate seamlessly with the rest of your site.
Every color pixel, field, and facet of your payment system must appear to be fully integrated with the rest of the site. This is especially important with hosted payment pages, where merchants are often locked into their payment vendor’s layout.
Select a hosted solution available that offers full flexibility for customization and site integration.
If a payment solution does not allow for easy and full customization – colors, copy, promotion codes, payment types – consider other solutions. Anything less will raise red flags for buyers and lead to higher abandonment.
Information buyers need, when they need it
Purchase patterns show that buyers often use the shopping cart to find information that is not available on other pages.
Customers that bounce between the shopping cart and product pages have a higher rate of abandonment.
So make it a practice not to hide the information that buyers need, but to give it to them when and where they need it.
Answers to common questions such as “Is the product in stock?” and “What are the refund policies?” should be clearly available throughout the site.
Answer questions about shipping options and cost before customers have the chance to ask them.
Provide clear, large product images throughout the checkout process so they can easily see what they are purchasing.
Being upfront and transparent increases buyer confidence and allows them to confidently proceed to check out.
Local payment methods are key
Online buyers may shop globally, but fundamentally they like to buy locally.
Payment preferences vary significantly by region and country and are an extremely important for higher conversion rates.
In many markets such as the United States, Britain and Canada, buyers do prefer credit cards. Outside of these markets, however, payment preferences range widely.
For example, only 18 percent of German customers use credit cards. Merchants that do not offer a local payment solution in Germany are essentially ignoring 82 percent of their potential customer base.
In South America, installment payments are very popular and buyers like to spread their payments out over time.
Merchants that do not have a strong grasp of the geographic payment patterns and offer a variety of payment options are less likely to succeed with global customers and, as a result, have higher abandonment rates.
Clearly display your security features
More than half of all online shoppers indicate that clearly displayed security information would have prevented them from abandoning an online transaction.
Yet with every sale, merchants ask customers to share sensitive financial information, without clearly displaying their own contact information and protection features.
Merchants that do not convince potential buyers that their online store is trustworthy will not easily improve buyer conversion rates.
The answer to this is simple: be transparent. Tell your buyers who you are and how they can reach you. Clearly display company contact information on each page.
Consider an online chat feature so that buyers can immediately reach customer service or let them know exactly when they will be able to reach you.
Make it easy to learn about and follow your return policy so that customers understand their options for product return.
Similarly, it is essential that the payment pages clearly display all security and PCI compliance protections.
Many hosted payment solutions provide these security protections for you and it is important to display the security logos clearly throughout your site.
It is your job as a merchant to proactively convince customers that every step has been taken to protect their online security.
Test and re-optimize
Successfully optimizing your payment process will be an ongoing effort that changes as you learn more about your buyers and their purchasing patterns.
An important part of any effort to improve conversion rates will include a strong analytics and testing program.
Analytical technology has advanced significantly and monitoring technology is readily available that allows merchants to learn about their traffic flow.
Take advantage of data that shows in real time where their buyers are coming from, how they maneuver around your Web site and, most importantly, where they abandon a sale.
Once you have an accurate picture of how, when and from where users are accessing and leaving your site, you will be on the way to better conversion rates.