Today’s e-commerce checkout experience has become very complex.
Among other factors complicating checkout, consumers can choose from a plethora of payment types including credit cards, PayPal, Google Pay, Apple Wallet, Bitcoin, store credit, gift card, and buy now, pay later options such as Klarna and Affirm.
At face value, a large number of options might seem to be good for the consumer, but too many choices creates friction in the checkout process, adding to a still-too-high average e-commerce cart abandonment rate (which, according to the Baymard Institute, still hovers around 70%.)
A simplified checkout model can help reduce the number of potential shopper “bounces.” Forward-thinking online merchants can take a few steps to make sure their checkout pages are as frictionless as possible, thereby increasing the number of shoppers who successfully complete their purchase.
Be choosy with tender types
Online retailers must be constantly testing, especially at the critical point where a shopper has put items in their cart and are ready to buy, to determine whether offering too many payment tenders is decreasing conversions. Ongoing testing and evaluation of the additional payment options must be conducted to ensure that the additional options are useful to the customer.
If less than 5% of checkouts use a newly-added payment method, a merchant must decide if that method is worth keeping – even if it took a lot of time and resources to add a new tender.
To make a data-based final decision on removing a payment option, a retailer should run tests to determine whether the removal of that option negatively affected the conversion rate vs. the shoppers who still had the option available.
Are we compatible?
With an eye on the bigger picture, merchants must also ensure their e-commerce sites are viewed through a bigger-picture lens. That means keeping a site’s checkout flow uncomplicated. Constantly adding new tender types and switching up the process has the potential to break the checkout flow for shoppers who might be using new tools, like digital wallets, intended to make their checkout experience simpler. The same can happen if a merchant experiments with a new shopping cart journey that is degrees of separation removed from most mainstream cart experiences.
Keeping it simple and consistent will ensure a merchant’s site will continue to be compatible with future shopping and payment solutions.
Payment options through alternative vendors
Savvy shoppers are already on to the next evolution of shopping tools, and the most ubiquitous among these are shopping companions that offer e-commerce rewards. These companions are typically browser extensions, and they often have payment types baked-in so the shopper doesn’t need to be presented with every possible payment option on every site they visit.
As long as the brand’s site “plays nice” with the browser extension, these savvy shoppers will be able to use whatever payment option they want.
Fortifying affiliate programs
If a retailer doesn’t already have an affiliate marketing program in place, they’re missing out on new opportunities, including these shopping companions. Because shopping companions and their rewards programs are built upon the existing tracking infrastructure of affiliate networks, a merchant’s lack of an affiliate program means they’re already not benefiting from new incremental sales opportunities.
But running an affiliate program is just the first step. A retailer must also make the conscious decision to allow their affiliate program (e.g, its site and products) to be available to shopping companions/rewards publishers. As a category, browser extensions are also referred to as “toolbars,” and some merchants do choose to completely exclude their program from participating in this category.
Allowing an affiliate program to extend to toolbar publishers isn’t completely risk-free, but thousands of highly-rated legitimate browser extensions do exist. With a watchful eye, a merchant can still participate in the toolbars category and benefit from the increased reach and sales resulting from these publishers. More importantly, merchants can help shoppers who wish to use companions by ensuring that the toolbars work well on their site.
Data feed and privacy considerations
A well-structured affiliate program means these shopping companions present opportunities to keep shoppers engaged throughout the checkout process. To this end, merchants can make sure the data they put into their affiliate program is accurate, up-to-date, easily readable, and is as complete as possible.
In effect, retailers should think about their affiliate program data being used by software to power the next generation of shopping tools, and not just social media influencers or bloggers.
In addition, merchants should continue paying close attention to their affiliate program to ensure their site and program is compliant with new privacy initiatives and the forthcoming removal of third-party cookies from the Chrome browser. To ensure that an affiliate program is available to as many publishers as possible, retailers must keep programs compatible with these data protection initiatives and new browser releases.
Refining, streamlining, and optimizing the checkout experience requires consistent effort to make the customer experience as seamless and frictionless as possible. The retailers that offer shoppers the right tender choices and offers at the right time, will be two steps ahead of the competition.