7 Deadly Sins of eCommerce Checkouts

Abandon all carts, ye who enter here. 


Picture it. Millions of abandoned shopping carts across the globe. Filled, forgotten, and forsaken. It’s not just the shopping carts strewn about in your local grocery store parking lot either. It’s the countless online shopping carts at the mercy of poorly optimized checkouts. 

According to Baymard Institute, approximately 69.8% of people abandon their e-commerce shopping carts. They released a chart of the top reasons people abandon their online checkout process.

According to this chart, the top four reasons for abandonment during checkout are:

  • Extra fees (shipping, handling, tax) too high
  • Website required shoppers make an account
  • Delivery windows offered too slow
  • Checkout process was too complex

As an e-commerce site owner, there are ways to optimize your checkout process for fewer cart abandonments. However, cart abandonments can never be entirely prevented. For this reason, we still recommend setting up an abandoned cart email campaign.

The way we see it, there are seven main factors — or rather, seven deadly sins — that cause people to leave an online checkout process.


The Seven Deadly Sins


There are a few mistakes we most commonly see in poorly optimized checkouts, and most of them are a fairly easy fix. Any of the main e-commerce platforms (WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Shopify) will have simple solutions to the following problems. The key is to notice them first. 


Hidden S&H Costs 


Any sort of hidden extra fees that are sprung on a customer at the last moment are bound to diminish their experience. Hidden shipping and handling costs account for 49% of e-commerce cart abandonments, making it the biggest contributing factor. 

One way to minimize these kinds of abandonments is to be as transparent as possible with these additional fees. Add some sort of text in the cart preview saying “shipping & handling costs will be calculated on the following page.”  

Use language such as “Subtotal” or “(Price) excluding shipping & tax” in the pre-checkout for clarity as well. 

To prevent customers from refusing to move onto the next step entirely, consider adding a shipping cost calculator in the pre-checkout. This allows customers to estimate their shipping by zip code, and increases the chances they’ll continue on to the actual checkout. 


Source: SendCloud

If you can’t avoid high shipping costs, factor some of this amount into the price of the actual products to eliminate shock factor in the checkout process. Or, better yet, establish a minimum purchase threshold for free shipping. This is becoming one of the more popular solutions to offsetting high shipping costs. 

Per Baymard Institute’s chart, however, it’s not just shipping costs that are a problem. Shipping times are also a dealbreaker for many. Slow delivery windows account for 19% of cart abandonments. This can be resolved in a number of ways, however: 

  • Full-service fulfillment: Companies like Deliverr integrate with your e-commerce platform and handle all aspects of shipping and handling in a timely manner. 
  • Shopify Shipping: Enrolling in Shopify’s built-in shipping service lets you: print labels on-the-go; arrange pickups with USPS, UPS, and DHL; and fulfill orders in bulk.
  • Local warehouses: Partner with a local warehouse to store your inventory and send automated notifications when orders are placed through your site. 


No Guest Checkout 


Mandatory account creation will cause most people to bail on their purchase. It should be an option, but not a requirement for buying. Always offer a Guest Checkout option and you’ll do a much better job at checkout retention. 

If you want to capture emails, give customers an incentive to opt-in when they receive their order confirmation email.

Always offer a social sign-in as well, as most people are already signed into their social media accounts on their devices, so this makes for easy account creation. 


Overcomplicated Checkout Forms


Forms that are too long, with too many fields, are easily viewed as overwhelming and time-consuming. Get rid of unnecessary fields, such as: 

  • “How did you hear about us?” If you want to know how customers are finding your website, the best way to do so is the Acquisition tab on Google Analytics. 
  • “Would you like to refer a friend?” You can offer an incentive if they refer a friend, but make this as part of a separate email drip campaign. 
  • “Who assisted you today?” Unless your company operates on a commission basis, this is unnecessary — especially considering most online sales are made autonomously.

Image: GitHub

Even just the sight of too many fields is enough to make customers leave, so making them “not required” could still impact conversions. 

Similarly, make sure there’s always a checkbox for “Same as Shipping Address” under the Billing Address section. Making customers fill out all these fields twice is frustrating at best. 


Too Many Steps


The polls are in and a single-page checkout is still the best way to go. Various studies show that they convert 10-20% higher than multi-page checkouts. All in all, they allow customers to proceed more quickly through the checkout process. 

However, if your website template only allows for multi-page checkout — or if a single-page slows down your site too much — you can still make it work. In this scenario, adding a progress bar at the top of the checkout so that customers know what step they’re on can be crucial. 

Be sure to consolidate the steps as much as possible to minimize the total number of steps (i.e. by again ensuring you have a “same as billing address” option for delivery address).


Ambiguous Error Messages


Make sure that your form fields are coded to provide specific error messages to customers who fill out the fields incorrectly. For example, if a customer uses improper formatting for the phone number field, the error message should specify what exactly they did wrong. Should they include hyphens? Exclude area code parentheses? Leave out the spaces? 

Image: UX Planet

Don’t just add a red highlight to the cell or an error message that says “Oops! Something went wrong.” Customers will probably try again, but most likely give up after receiving an error notification for a second time. 

Another important thing to note is placement of the error message. Insert it right underneath the field in question, or it could go unseen if it’s at the top of the page — particularly if they need to scroll back up in order to see it. 


Hard-to-Find Promo Code Box


If you’re going to make your promotion code box super conspicuous, you’re better off not offering discounts at all. Oftentimes, promo codes are what bring your customers to the site in the first place, so making the promo code box easy to find will increase the likelihood of a conversion.

The best place to put it is usually in the sidebar where the order summary is, or where the customer inputs their payment information. 

Even better, set up sitewide promotions to automatically apply for customers in checkout so they don’t have to do any work at all. 


Too Many Distractions


Minimizing the number of visual distractions at checkout will make it less likely for customers to click away or get overwhelmed in the middle of the process. Some common distractions in checkouts including overbearing headers or footers, especially those with too much text or flashy imagery. 

Removing the main site navigation and other non-checkout elements from the checkout page can increase checkout conversion rate by 3-10%. 

Source: Xola

Some minor distractions, like upsells and cross-sells, are okay — mostly because they are likely to boost that customer’s average order value. They should be displayed with a “Quick Add” option, however, so as to decrease the likelihood of them clicking away to those product pages and forgetting to come back. 

Another distraction is a lengthy shipping and return policy. Don’t include all of this on the checkout page. Instead, simplify it with a link to read more. 

And finally, don’t waste time with embedded checkouts. An enclosed popup that fades the screen behind it to black is the most distraction-free way to present the checkout process. 


Seeking Repentance


What makes these seven sins “deadly”? They kill conversions, and therefore profits. If your checkout suffers from one or more — or all — of these, the good news is that there’s still hope. Most e-commerce platforms have built-in tools that can right these wrongs. It can still be massively helpful to work with your marketing agency or web developer too. 

In summary, less is more with checkouts. No matter how tempting it is to get as much info as possible about your customer at this part of the process, you must resist. 

And, even when you think you have your checkout where you want it, don’t just set it live and hope to watch the sales roll in. Test, re-test, and test again. Make sure your checkout runs smoothly on desktop and mobile. It can look good at first glance and still be broken. Some common problems to look for are: hard-to-click dropdowns, text too small for mobile, etc. 

In other words, view your checkout through an objective lens. Is there anything that would turn you away as a shopper?

Most importantly, keep a constant eye on the rate of checkout abandonments so you can determine whether this process needs to be optimized and whether your changes are working. If you have e-commerce tracking set up on Google Analytics, you can find this data by navigating to the Conversions tab, selecting Ecommerce, and then selecting Shopping Behavior or Checkout Behavior.  

About Ellie Batchiyska

Ellie is a PR & SEO Outreach Coordinator for Conversion Giant with three years of experience in digital marketing, social media management, and client relations. A former journalist, she is committed to delivering content with integrity and transparency.