How to optimize the checkout page to avoid losing sales

online payment

I have already written a lot about the importance of each part of an online store to get more sales, either by improving the sales funnel, reducing loading times, or using artificial intelligence to increase our chances of selling and selling more.

But all of it will be useless if, on the checkout page, something fails, or is not absolutely and specifically studied to ensure that the customer makes the payment smoothly, that the payment process ends with the satisfaction of your customer having bought what he wanted, and yours for having sold your products or services.

If something goes wrong at the moment of payment, no matter what you have done before, it has been time and effort wasted.

For this reason, and based on both my great successes and my resounding failures, today I want to share with you some conclusions I have reached about how to optimize the checkout experience, and specifically the checkout page, to ensure that your sales reach their natural end: that the customer pays for what they have added to the shopping cart.

Do not ask for information that is not necessary

If you do not pay attention to the data protection legislation and the GDPR, which remind us that we should not ask for any data that is not essential for the process to be performed by the visitor to our website, listen to ME, and hide everything that is not essential to complete the purchase, make the payment and, if necessary, the subsequent follow-up.

Do not settle for the default settings of WooCommerce, because it asks for too many data to finalize the purchase, and some of them unnecessarily mandatory.

Analyze if, in your specific online store, for the type of products or services you offer, you need any of the available fields or not, or even if you need any more, but that’s another question.

What I consider to be the 5 golden rules are:

  1. If you are not shipping products or invoicing don’t ask for addresses.
  2. If you are not going to make a phone call, don’t ask for it.
  3. If a field is not mandatory, surely you should not ask for it.
  4. The only field that is always mandatory in an online store is the email, the rest are always optional.
  5. If you can automate something do it.

In order to customize which fields to show and which not to show you have to do it in parts.

Hide fields in the WordPress customizer

The WordPress customizer, regardless of the active theme, includes a special page from which to customize the checkout page, although its settings may vary somewhat depending on the theme.

What you will always find is the possibility to decide whether some fields are required or not, or whether they will be hidden or not.

About the possibilities of making which fields are mandatory or not, by default, it does not let you change it, but you can use this trick to decide which fields will be mandatory and which optional.

Hide other fields

For the task of hiding the rest of the fields, which by default you cannot hide in the customizer, the easiest is to use a plugin like Remove Checkout Fields, which gives you the list of all the fields and you can decide with a click which ones will be seen and which ones will not.

Or, if you prefer, Checkout Manager, where in addition to hiding fields, you can reorder them and add as many as you need.

Avoid distractions on the checkout page

When a customer arrives at the checkout page, what do you want them to do?

  1. Navigate through your online store menus?
  2. View the offers, highlights, reviews and other resources in the sidebar?
  3. Visit your about us, contact, privacy, etc. pages linked in the footer?
  4. Paying?

Are you with me in that the best option is the 4th? and that everything else is unnecessary?

Well, let’s get to work, because it is easy to avoid those distractions.

Remove the sidebar

One of the priorities when choosing a WordPress theme for online stores is that it allows you to decide if there will be a sidebar or not.

I recently showed you what I consider to be the best free themes for WooCommerce, and all the ones I recommended meet this condition.

If the theme you have active is not one of the ones I recommended, you can still check to see if it offers this feature.

Many themes will offer you some option in the editor to specify whether you want a sidebar or not.

Others will directly offer you a full-width template, which is the same thing.

Remove menus, footers and any links that may cause cart abandonment.

This would be the second part, also important, when it comes to achieving a payment page without distractions, a kind of closed page, where the only thing that generates a possible action is to finalize the purchase by paying for the products or services.

Call it a trap if you want, but isn’t it supposed to be what your customer wanted to do? Wasn’t it your customer who clicked the checkout button?

Well, no one should bother to get to a checkout page with no distraction or multiple ways out.

To achieve this you will rely on that your WordPress theme has some template or settings that allow you to hide menus, footer or everything.

Some good examples are Divi, which allows you to choose the Blank template, which makes everything (header, menus, sidebars, footer) disappear.

Another fantastic theme to get distraction-free pages is Astra, where you choose on each page what is displayed and what is not, and even how it is displayed.

Remove other distractions at checkout

There are also other elements that can act as a distraction when paying for an order, such as coupons, or asking the customer if they are already a customer.

Any of these questions can cause your customer to abandon the payment and leave you with an abandoned cart, which you will later have to try to recover.

Regarding coupons, you should not activate coupon management until you have a clear coupon strategy defined. In other words, you should not encourage the customer to use a coupon if he has not had the chance to know that it exists and that you are offering it.

Otherwise, disable the coupon functionality until you have a clear strategy. You have it easy, in the WooCommerce settings.

The question of whether you want to log in with your account can be disabled in the WooCommerce account and privacy settings.

Don’t worry, if you use an already registered email WooCommerce will detect it and ask you to login.

Another very distracting setting is the one to send to a different address, displayed by default.

It seems as if it is mandatory to re-fill lots of fields, when you have a checkbox to disable it if the customer doesn’t need it.

I have found this to be active by default in lots of online stores, and I assure you that the typical customer, who tends to fill in everything that is shown to him, will not be particularly happy, even less so if he realizes that it was not necessary.

To deactivate that box active by default you have to do it in the shipping settings of WooCommerce, in WooCommerceSettingsShippingShipping Options (it never ceases to amaze me that, with how hidden this setting is, and that by default is not active, how many store manager activates it by mistake).

The above screenshot shows you the default settings of WooCommerce, leave them as they are, they are the best.

You should also consider as a distraction any step that is not absolutely necessary or that you can automate, such as the checkbox if the customer wants to create an account, and then ask for username and password.

All customers will want you to automatically create an account for them, even if they don’t know it yet.

Why? For the simple reason that they will be able to make faster purchases later, track their orders, easily download invoices, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.

So the best configuration for this is not to ask, and always create account and password by default, something you can easily achieve with a couple of WooCommerce settings.

Offers sufficient payment methods, not too much and not too little

Another element that can cause a purchase not to be finalized is that you do not offer enough payment methods for your customer.

Keep in mind that there are all kinds of customers and the most practical gateway for one will be the one that another would never use.

Thus, a customer accustomed to buying online will always prefer PayPal, because of the special buyer protection, while a customer with no experience in buying in Ecommerce will always prefer the security of cash on delivery or bank transfer, and will never give his credit card details in an online store.

You must give payment options to everyone.

So, when in doubt, always offer as many payment methods as possible. Over time you will see if one of them is not really used by anyone and you will be able to deactivate it, or not.

Watch out for price surprises!

Another factor, often not sufficiently valued, that can be causing you to lose sales is when the customer is looking at a price while browsing the store, adding products to the cart, etc., but then when going to checkout, at the end of the purchase, discovers that the price has grown, that there are additional lines that – apparently – make the purchase more expensive.

To avoid these scares, and the resulting abandoned carts = lost sales, here are a few simple tips.

Transparent taxes

I won’t tell you whether you should show the products with or without tax in your store, but if you decide to show them without tax, at least add a suffix that indicates it, to avoid major scares.

Transparent shipping costs

Also shipping costs can give more than one scare to customers, and you should warn as soon as possible that shipping costs will be applied, even on the product page.

To avoid surprises in many tutorials I have read that it is good to geolocate the user, and we even have a setting in WooCommerce for it, but in my humble experience it is a mistake, because …

  • Geolocation sometimes fails, and can show disproportionate shipping costs.
  • A customer can buy from one location but want you to ship the products to another.
  • It’s always better if the shipping cost is the result of something the customer selects/chooses, it makes them more aware that it’s an additional cost “for something.”

For this, I recommend that you do not enable geolocation, but choose the option of not defining default location for the customer, to avoid any automatic shipping calculations.

But, on the other hand, I do recommend that you activate the shipping calculator and hide shipping costs as long as the customer does not enter their address.

In this way there will be no additional shipping costs, until the customer voluntarily enters his address, and thus clearly perceives that it is an additional cost subject to a specific service, the shipment, not something that appears there for the sake of it.

Another interesting option to consider is the free shipping option.

Single payment page, no steps

Although it may seem attractive to you the payment pages in several steps, it is fully demonstrated that the conversion, the completion of the payment, in this case, is much higher in the single payment pages, without steps.

Why is this?

The main problem with step-by-step checkout pages is the customer’s discomfort at the slightest error.

While on a single payment page, if there are errors, they will all be shown in a list, and you can solve them all at once, on the step-by-step checkout pages the errors appear at each step, and the customer’s annoyance increases as the errors occur in completing this or that data, ending up abandoning the payment.

Admit it, we are like that, we accept to be told once that we have made some mistakes when filling in some field, but it bothers us enormously when we are being told at every step that “you have made a mistake here too”.

The result is that you will have more customers abandoning the cart on multi-step checkout pages than on single pages, where all the fields are in the same place.

Then, as we saw at the beginning, it is your responsibility to ask only for the essentials, to avoid that completing the fields to checkout is a huge task.

Offers secure transactions

Yes, as customers we are becoming more and more aware of the security of online purchases, and if not, the traditional media are already there to remind us from time to time by scaring consumers.

Being aware of this, we must offer security in transactions to our customers, and the more visible the better.

The fundamental base is that we have an active SSL certificate and working correctly, so that our web is shown as safe.

Equally important is to have our online store correctly updated with the PSD2 and SCA regulations:

And, in addition to this, it never hurts to remind the customer as many times as you can.

For example, adding on product pages something like this

Or in the description of the payment gateways.

Something very easy to customize in WooCommerce:

Conclusions

In an online store, no matter how good your products are, how well designed, even how optimized it is for search engines, if you fail at the time of final purchase, at checkout, it is a failure.

Review the points in this guide and apply, with common sense and knowledge of your potential customers, those strategies that, in the end, improve the conversion rate in finalized sale.

A sale is not finalized until the money enters the bank.

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