Have yourself a frictionless Christmas
How can merchants keep friction to a minimum and encourage more customers to go through with their purchases?
With Black Friday officially kicking off the Christmas shopping season, this is one of the busiest times of year for merchants. Last year, Christmas sales were valued at $3.19 tn in the US alone. According to Techcrunch, this year's Black Friday racked up $5.03 bn in online sales, and just under half of that was on mobile alone. But despite these impressive numbers, many merchants aren’t seizing full sales potential because cart abandonment rates are high, at an average of 67%. It looks like many are missing out on conversion to sales.
So, what can merchants do to be better prepared this Christmas shopping season? And, more to the point, how can they keep friction to a minimum and encourage more customers to go through with their purchases?
How to optimise your checkout flow
A complicated checkout process is one of the major causes of buyer friction. In a survey conducted by the Baymard Institute, 35% of respondents said they didn’t go through with a purchase because the website forced them to create an account at checkout. A further 27% said they didn’t complete their purchase because the process simply took too long.
As it happens, these issues can be easily resolved with some careful design changes.
Registration as an option
Aside from being tedious, customers tend to perceive registration as unrelated to the task at hand — making a purchase. It may also prove off-putting for those who aren’t yet ready to commit to becoming repeat customers.
User experience specialists recommend presenting registration as an optional step, after checkout is complete. This puts customers in control, allowing them to decide whether it’s worth registering for themselves and, more importantly, to postpone that decision until after they’ve finished doing what they visited your website for.
Too much information?
The average checkout procedure involves filling in 14.88 form fields, a length many consumers find intimidating. Even optional fields can cause unnecessary friction. People tend to scan web pages rather than read them, which means they’ll only realise a field is optional once they get to it. By that time, potential customers may have felt daunted enough to walk out.
The length of a checkout form can be cut by as much as half with some simple tricks:
- Substituting separate “Name” and “Surname” fields for a single “Full Name” field
- Reducing the number of address lines
- Making the shipping and billing address the same by default and hiding the “shipping address” fields
Automating what you can
Automation can dramatically speed up form completion. Ways to do this include:
- Implementing an autofill API, such as the one offered by Google. This allows customers to automatically populate fields with information they’ve used before, for example on other websites.
- Pre-filling fields using geolocation and other information you may have already gathered from the customer, such as billing and shipping addresses from previous purchases.
- In-line validation. Because nothing is more aggravating than submitting a form only to have to start again from scratch because you’ve accidentally missed a field.
Offering a range of payment choices
According to our own research, 19% of cart abandonment issues happen specifically because preferred payment options aren’t available. Increasingly, customers would rather walk out than be forced to use a payment method they aren’t comfortable with. Which means that offering alternatives to cash and card is a must.
Picking the right mix
It may not be practical to offer every payment method under the Sun. In fact, implementing certain payment methods may not produce enough return on investment to justify the expense. So, the trick is to offer a range of payment options that can keep costs in check whilst ticking most of the major boxes customers want in key markets.
In continental Europe, where traditional cards are still a preferred payment method, products like Skrill and Neteller can offer customers a seamless payment experience by linking to their favoured card or account. They’re also secure, work across different channels and are relatively easy and cost-effective to implement thanks to simple, yet powerful REST APIs with robust support.
By contrast, for merchants looking to capitalise on the Chinese e-commerce market — Chinese New Year, which follows the January sales, has a long tradition of exchanging gifts — it’s worth considering China Union Pay, the country’s state-run payment network. Last year, China Union recorded $68 bn in online payments during the holiday.
In North America, where smartphones are expected to account for 54% of e-commerce traffic this year, implementing Apple Pay and Android Pay is well worth the investment. Incidentally, Paysafe has recently partnered with Google to offer Android Pay APIs to merchants in Canada, where Android is the most popular mobile operating system.
Finally, payment methods such as Payolution allow merchants to offer their customers the added convenience of buying now and paying later, or spreading the cost of a larger item into a number of installments. This can boost both the size of single transactions and the likelihood of return business.
Hidden fees and charges are by far the most common reason for cart abandonment. Our own research found that 42% of people would rather go elsewhere than pay charges they weren’t aware of or didn’t expect — a trend that cuts across demographic and geographic lines.
Once again, a lot of the friction caused by this issue can be reduced or eliminated by implementing strategic design changes.
Show any fixed fees, such as handling or payment processing fees, on the product page in a clearly visible location. That way, customers will see them right from the get go and won’t feel surprised or cheated.
For variable costs such as shipping fees, it’s worth considering integrating a real-time calculator into the product page flow. This empowers customers by allowing them to estimate the product’s overall cost, including shipping, upfront. Alternatively, consider flat rates based on weight and order total, or even free shipping if a customer’s overall spend exceeds a minimum amount.
The need for a unified multi-channel experience
Many people no longer distinguish between online and offline shopping. They look up products online but complete their purchase offline. Or, they browse for bargains on their phone while they scan the aisles at their local store. Inevitably, they’ve come to expect the same experience, whether they shop online or offline.
A lot of friction points caused by a divergence between merchants’ online and offline environments can be addressed by having the right systems in place. For example, Paysafe’s mPOS enables merchants to accept the same range of payment methods across all channels.
The system also integrates with back office reporting, making it easier to stay in control of inventory. Seeing as 28% of cart abandonment issues happen because the product is out of stock or delivery time is too long — an especially big deal at Christmastime — this is a not insignificant advantage.
It’s also worth considering offering in-person collection as a fulfillment option. Aside from giving them the added convenience of collecting their goods at their leisure, bringing customers in-store can also increase cart size and boost loyalty.
Looking ahead: reducing friction through personalisation
Streamlining the customer experience across channels also fits into a wider picture. One in which consumers increasingly expect a personalised service from end to end.
Offline, leading brands such as Apple are doing this by reimagining physical stores as brand showrooms that offer online conveniences as well as opportunities for engagement, value and community building.
However, in a world where customers are more fickle than ever, personalisation is important online, too. Even seemingly minor problems such as difficulties locating the right product can contribute to a negative user experience, create friction and lead to cart abandonment.
For most merchants, tailoring the online environment to the individual will be an ongoing process. There’s no quick fix or one-size-fits-all solution.
That said, website traffic data, behavioural analytics and the personal information submitted by customers during registration will all have a role in enabling merchants to create a simpler, more relevant and, ultimately, more enjoyable shopping experience for every individual.