The Ultimate “A/B Test” Guide for your Ecommerce Checkout

No matter what you sell, if your eCommerce Checkout is terrible, you won't sell anything. And if you are not A/B testing your ecommerce Checkout to improve it, you are losing money every day.

So there is no denying the fact that the ecommerce checkout is the most critical step of a selling process.

No matter how much traffic your ecommerce business is receiving, it is not going to get any real revenue if the users are not completing the checkout process. And most likely, you are losing a large number of potential customers due to leaks and flaws in your checkout process.

You're not alone… With the average shopping cart abandonment rate of 69.57%, ecommerce businesses are losing billions of dollars of revenue every year.

While there are multiple factors that contribute to a high abandonment rate, complicated and/or poor checkout processes are the major contributing factors.

According to research, 47.5% of potential customers abandon the carts at checkout. This means, businesses can significantly reduce their cart abandonment rate and increase their revenue just by fixing leaks in their sales funnel.

According to Baymard Institute, improved checkout design and flow can help the e-commerce stores in the US and EU to recover $260 billion worth of lost sales/revenue.

While these statistics have made clear how important it is for ecommerce stores to work on and improve their checkout designs, it cannot be done without knowing the reasons for cart abandonment during the checkout process.

Reasons for Abandonment during Checkout 

According to the Baymard Institute, here are the top ten reasons for cart abandonment during checkout, in the US:

Why Should You A/B Test The Checkout Flow Of Your Ecommerce Website?

The Checkout is the final step of the buying process or the sales funnel.

Only the users that are highly qualified i.e. have identified needs and have made a buying decision, reach this stage.

As a marketer, your goal should be to take every possible measure to make this final step easy for the users. This requires you to minimize distractions and simplify the checkout process.

A/B testing helps you do just that!

By allowing you to test every single change in the checkout process before actually implementing it on your website, a/b testing enables you to take measures that are known to help improve your conversion rate.

As I have discussed earlier, in other A/B testing articles about product pages, category pages or your home page, digital marketing has very diverse trends, and is uncertain and continuously changing.

What works for others may not work for you and what works for you now may not provide similar results after some time.

Therefore, every ecommerce business has to do their own research and testing to find out how their customers react to a particular change and how it affects their conversion rate.

Furthermore, you'll have to continue testing and updating your sales checkout flow, to ensure that your store evolves with changing customer behaviors.

To sum up, a/b testing the checkout process helps you remove confusion, mistrust, and friction from it, which then leads to improving your conversion rate.

My Top 5 Tactics for A/B Testing Your Ecommerce Checkout

Although there are a wide range of elements that can help improve your ROI or conversion rate and hence, need to be A/B tested, here are some of the most important ones to help you get started:

1. Display Extra Costs on Product Pages to Eliminate “Price Shocks”

As identified by the Baymard Institute, high additional costs are the primary reason why customers abandon their cart during the checkout process. The underlying factor behind this phenomenon is the price shock that customers get when they proceed to complete the checkout process.

Most businesses do not display the extra costs (for shipping, taxes, or other fees) on product pages. Believing that the displayed price is the total amount they will have to pay, customers add them to the shopping cart.

But, as they reach the checkout, they often discover that the displayed price did not include the tax, shipping charges, or any other fee.

This “price shock” throws off many potential buyers as it is often perceived as an attempt to deceive customers.

To avoid losing customers and revenue because of this, you should declare all additional costs during the initial stages of the buying process.

Take a look at how Sephora clearly displays its shipping policy on the website’s homepage:

A/B test ecommerce clear costs

Any customer who plans to order anything from Sephora would know from the very beginning that they will have to pay extra for shipping if their order amount is below $50.

(Many visitors will miss the top bar, however, so it's a good idea to repeat the same message on product pages closer to the main CTA. See below.)

Also, they should clearly see that they will receive their order within 3 days, so there won’t be any surprises during the checkout process.

To further reduce the chances of price shock, the company continues to display the shipping information throughout the buying process, from product pages to the cart summary page.

A/B test ecommerce checkout shock

Lastly, Sephora also makes it clear in the order summary that the price doesn’t include tax and shipping and handling charges and they will be calculated during the checkout process.

To further reduce the chances of losing customers due to unexpected costs, the beauty company has created separate pages to provide the detailed shipping and billing information.

There are two ways to remove the friction that price shocks create in the checkout process – declare all the additional charges from the beginning or, at least, tell the customers that there will be an additional cost in terms of shipping or tax. Do not make your customers go through the entire checkout process and then tell them about the extra cost(s) at the last step.

Test different display methods to find out the one that best works for you i.e. improves your conversion rate.

2. Offer Guest Checkout

A whopping 31% of customers leave an ecommerce store after initiating the checkout process because they are forced to create an account.

This, when coupled with the Salesforce Commerce Cloud data that 85% of checkout processes are completed by using the guest checkout option, makes it necessary for all ecommerce stores to test the guest checkout option.

As a marketer, your goal should be to make the checkout process as simple and easy for your potential customers as possible. Forcing them to create an account only creates friction, which then leads to cart abandonment.

There’s a reason why even the most reputable businesses offer the guest checkout to their customers. After all, conversion is more important than getting sign ups.

A/B test ecommerce checkout as a guest

3. Shorten/Simplify the Checkout Form

Just like all other steps in the checkout process, this one needs to be short and simple as well. Not only people do not have time to fill out long forms, but they also do not like to share unnecessary details.

Here are a few proven ways to eliminate frictions from this stage and simplify the form:

  • Keep the form as short as possible and only ask for details that are required for completing a transaction.
  • Have all the input fields in a single column – this allows customers to move through the order form quickly.
  • Place the labels or names for input fields above them. While this may seem insignificant, it has been found to make it easier for customers to scan through the form.
  • Incorporate an autofill feature in the form. It has been found to improve conversion rate by making it easier for people to fill out details and reduce the chances of errors.
  • Avoir vague or misleading CTAs and/or messages. For example, rather than writing ‘Checkout’, in the first step of the a multi-step form, write ‘Continue to Billing’. Do not leave the customers in doubt. They should clearly know what comes next.
  • Make it easy for customers to track errors in the form.  Most businesses just rely on marking the field red. But, this is not enough; you have to consider the fact that some of your customers could be colorblind and can miss out the colored marking. To make the missed sections or fields with an error more prominent and easily detectable, display a message along with the red marking.
  • Give customers the option to use shipping address as the billing address to eliminate the need for filling out the details again.

Test different variations of the order placement form by using different combinations of elements to figure out the one that best works for you.

To give you an idea, here are two examples of the checkout form from Nike and Marks & Spencer. While both these companies are industry giants, there is a room for improvement in the order placement on M&S website.

The fields marked as ‘title’ and ‘select country’ are unnecessary because the first one doesn’t make any difference in the order and the second one only has one option – United Kingdom.  

Also, Marks & Spencer doesn’t display any message alongside missed fields, like Nike does. The form on M & S also appears to be longer than the form Nike uses to take orders from its digital buyers.

4. Display Trust Icons

This is a no-brainer. Your customers are going to provide you with their sensitive information, so they want to be sure that their information is safe with you.  

Studies show that 17% of the digital buyers abandon their carts during the checkout process because of the lack of trust.

Knowing the importance of reassuring customers that their data would be safe, even the most reputed and trusted companies ensure customers that their checkout processes are safe and secure. There are a few ways to do this.

Marks & Spencer uses tabs saying ‘checkout securely’ to reaffirm its customers.

Movavi (a software company), on the other hand, displays security badges on the top of the checkout page to reassure its customers about the company’s credibility.

A/B test ecommerce checkout trust builders

You can create variants of your checkout page with different trust symbols to see which one your customers trust the most.

5. Offer Multiple Payment Options

Not providing enough payment options is another leading reason that people leave an ecommerce website after initiating the buying process. This is why almost all the successful businesses offer multiple payment options and display them clearly on the checkout page.

Checkout the following examples to get an idea:

While Nike has a great overall checkout process, it misses the mark here. The leading multinational corporation doesn’t display accepted payment methods on the checkout page.

Since Nike is already an established brand and enjoys the trust of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, it may not suffer much by missing this important element. But, the same mistake may cost a lot to other ecommerce businesses that are not as big as Nike.

Successful Examples of A/B Testing the Checkout Flow

Still not sure if a/b testing the checkout process of your ecommerce site is worth the time and effort? Take a look at the following example to get an idea about how optimizing the checkout process can help improve your conversion rate:

ASOS

ASOS, a digital fashion and cosmetic retailer, was able to increase their conversion rate by 50% just by including the ‘guest checkout’ option in their checkout process.

Offer Simplified Checkout Experience

Remember, the reason why people shop online is because it is convenient. As a business owner, your job is to make sure that your website offers the convenience the customers expect from an online business. Do not unnecessarily complicate your checkout process as it directly impacts your conversion rate and revenue. Keep it as simple as possible!

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Finally, you can also check out my other articles on funnels and ecommerce.   
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