Practical Ecommerce

6 Checkout Changes to Minimize Abandonment

The average site’s cart abandonment rate this year was over 70 percent. That means, on average, less than 30 percent of shoppers who start to check out complete the process. While analytics can show you exit pages and actions, some things require user feedback, which doesn’t come easily.

Listrak Abandonment Rate

Listrak, the email marketing firm, provides daily reports on cart abandonment rates from its client base. The abandonment rates for Listrak’s clients exceeded 70 percent throughout 2014.

While exit and feedback surveys may provide some insight as to why shoppers leave your site before completing the purchase, the majority of those users will leave quietly, never telling you exactly why.

Here are six changes you can make to the checkout experience to help soften the blow when it comes to asking for information and prompting them to pull out their credit cards. As with any site changes, you’ll want to pay close to analytics and conversion rates to find what works for your online store.

1. Don’t Require a Phone Number

Merchants often think that they need every customer’s phone number in case there is a problem with the order. However, the bulk of that data just sits there, without any need for access. Unless you’re selling B2B items, or your product line is expensive, custom made items, it’s better to give customers the option of being contacted by email or phone.

Online shoppers are becoming stricter about the information they want you to have, especially when there is concern over personal data being used for marketing purposes. If you’re concerned about losing a sale because you cannot contact a customer by phone, think about how many shoppers stop and ask themselves why they need to provide information you’ll likely never need to use.

Are you asking for two phone numbers? Some stores ask for a daytime and evening number. Consider why you need anything other than a number that will reach either a person or an answering machine.

2. Drop the Fax Number Fields

Some shopping carts, by default, insert a fax number field in the contact information. Ninety-nine percent of online stores do not need to collect this information (which the bulk of online shoppers don’t even have). It’s a wasted input that takes time for shoppers to skip over.

3. Say No to CAPTCHA

If your checkout process includes a CAPTCHA field, you’re more than likely losing orders as a results. If your system is looking for human confirmation to help combat the store becoming a testing ground for credit card thieves, there are other options, such as rejecting cards with mismatched CVVs and addresses, or locking out users after a certain number of attempts.

4. Display Only Applicable Shipping Methods

If customers need to read a list of shipping options to determine which ones apply to them, you’re creating confusion. U.S. customers should only see options for U.S. Customers from outside the U.S. should only see methods for their specific country. And none of these shoppers should ever see an option for “Gift Certificate Purchase – $0.00″ unless they’re actually purchasing a gift certificate.

If this applies to your store, look to a plug-in or customization to filter shipping methods or consider using shipping gateway plug-ins to handle all the work for you.

How many shipping options should they see? Don’t make customers think too much. If there is a free option, the bulk of them will not even look at other options, but when there are real choices, try to limit the available methods to five or less.
Help them decide. By including an estimate of delivery times you can help shoppers choose the right method.

Guitar Center methods.

Typically shoppers should see 3 to 5 shipping options, including ground and expedited options. If you offer methods from two or more carriers, consider which ones are ideal from each. Source: Guitar Center.

5. Simplify Credit Card Entries

The average customer has to complete 4 to 7 fields for payment.

  • Selection of card type.
  • First name and last name (which may be two fields or a single field).
  • Credit card number.
  • Expiration date (typically two menus).
  • CVV or CID.

The configuration of these fields is usually controlled by the payment gateway, but some gateways offer options. Ideally the shopper shouldn’t have to select the card type because it will be validated once the number is entered, and the name on card should be pulled from the billing address on the order.

Guitar Center Payment

Some gateways require the method be selected so it can populate the proper fields for cards and other methods (like PayPal). Check to see if yours does. Source: Guitar Center.

6. Eliminate Distractions, Including Navigation to More Products

If you have ever fallen victim to what I call “the YouTube trap” — when you click a link to a single video but all those recommended videos after the initial play suck you in — then you understand how important it is to minimize distractions during the checkout process. Be wary about offering upsells and add-ons that do not add real value to the order. Any prompts to “buy more” should be necessary accessories, highly discounted add-ons, or low-cost items so the order qualifies for free shipping.

While shoppers should be able to see what they’re ordering — and be able click a link to edit the shopping cart — this final process should be void of cross-promoting ads, category navigation and product spotlights.

When analyzing the checkout, remember, less is more. The less information you require, the more apt one is to place an order. And fewer distractions make for a speedier process.

Pamela Hazelton

Pamela Hazelton

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  1. Andersen December 8, 2014 Reply

    Some good ideas. Any insights as to whether testimonials in the cart / on the checkout page are a good idea?

    • Pamela Hazelton December 12, 2014 Reply


      Testimonials should be used to promote adding items to the shopping cart. By the time one reaches the checkout, he/she shouldn’t need to be further “sold” on buying – the work of “selling” should already have been done at this point.

  2. Aurelie Chazal December 9, 2014 Reply

    Great article. I kind of disagreed when I read about getting rid of the CAPTCHA but now that I think about it, I don’t remember ever filling one when ordering something. As you said, the credit card security code confirmation can be good enough to limit fraud. Most banks also have pretty tight system in place with sms codes and so on. This is the way to go to make sure payments are secure. It’s actually something that’s thought to protect the customer as well and not only your business.

    • Pamela Hazelton December 12, 2014 Reply

      Hi, Aurelie:

      Thanks for your feedback. Even though CAPTCHA isn’t a part of the typical shopping cart checkout, I’ve seen several smaller stores implement it, usually because it’s “cheaper” than per-transaction fees via fraud systems.

  3. Amelia December 10, 2014 Reply

    Cart abandoned rates are just alarming for the retailers, as they are losing a lot of sales. I am using PrestaShop as my shopping cart and came to know that customers abandons the cart on my store due to 6 page lengthy checkout process, I finally decided to shorten my checkout process to one page and I used one page checkout out module [ ] on my store and now abandoned cart rates are less as compared to the past. Readers here can also use this type of strategy to recover their sales.

    • Pamela Hazelton December 12, 2014 Reply

      Hi, Amelia:

      While a one-page checkout can help some sites, it can hurt others. This is dependent on the product line, the type of information required during checkout, and whether or not someone is shopping via desktop, tablet or smartphone.

      It really boils down to what works for each particular store.

  4. Amelia December 18, 2014 Reply

    Hi Pamela!
    It is a general phenomenon that customers usually wants a simple and short checkout which only requires some basic information from them and then checkout.
    A lengthy checkout process always confuses the customers whether they are using a tablet, desktop or smartphone. Pressing the next step button in checkout multiple times irritates the customers. Thats why I am using above mentioned plugin and satisfied with it.

  5. Mocking Fish April 21, 2015 Reply

    Shopping cart abandonment is undoubtedly the most serious concern for an eCommerce

    website and if you don’t take strict measures it is definitely going to spoil your business.

    This post is information-rich and the best point explained to which anyone would agree is

    point number 2 (Drop Fax Number Fields). It is an optional field and you need to remove

    it visually. There is no need to display any validation as well. Okay, one point which we

    felt was missing is implementing social logins which provide quick and safe login options

    to customers and reduces shopping cart abandonment rate to a great extent.