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Friday, Jun. 4, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Getting Through Your Checkout Is Supposed To Be Easy

By Melissa Burdon
June 4th, 2010

Have you ever waited in line at a cash register and then had the employee at the register ask if you’re already a member of the store’s loyalty or member program?  They usually will ask for your membership card, but very few of us actually carry those around in our wallets, so they usually have another way to look up our accounts: name, phone number, etc.  In most cases, the membership info isn’t needed to make the purchase anyway, only to secure some sort of discount or “points” toward a reward.

With nearly every offline and online business offering membership, do you really carry all those cards with you, or remember every password you create for every shopping experience you’ve gone through online?  Do you even remember all the places you’ve created accounts?  I definitely tend to forget when I already have an account at an online store, and I’m often guilty of forgetting my password, if not my entire login!

Victoria Secret shopping cartI recently was shopping at the Victoria Secret web site. Having added a few items to my cart, I then was asked to choose between these two calls to action in order to move forward; “sign in & check out” or “proceed to checkout.”  I couldn’t recall whether I had registered previously, much less what password I would have used if I had registered, so I clicked on “proceed to checkout.”

Upon filling out all of my billing info, I was asked to “create an account” at the bottom of the checkout page.  I actually didn’t see that it was ‘optional’ at this point.  I filled out my email address, created a password, and then clicked “continue.”

Insvictoria secret checkouttead of moving me forward in my buying process, I was presented with this error message (see left), telling me that my email address already was registered and that I needed to sign in by clicking a link at the top of the page.  I felt myself becoming mildly frustrated, but what occurred next nearly stopped me in my tracks.  The next stumbling block I experienced was not being able to find the indicated “sign in” link at the top of the page.  My expectation (and a reasonable one at that) is that after asking me to jump through a hoop like that, they will present the requested action to me prominently and clearly, making it as painless as possible for me to get to the step where I give them my money.

What they could have done differently to make their checkout more friendly

If a visitor clicks “proceed to checkout,” they are telling you something about how they want to continue: that they don’t think they have an account with you already, or that they don’t remember the info required to sign in.  Keeping this in mind, make it easy for the visitor to checkout without having to sign in at all.  If the visitor does attempt to “create an account” with an email address that is already listed in your database, consider…

1) an option to send a temporary password to that email address, or an option to answer a security question, so they can get access to their account info without creating a potential threat to financial or billing info.  Or…

2) an alert that an account already exists, and that presents a clear and easy call to action to bypass sign in and go directly to checkout anyway.

Just as an employee at a cash register wouldn’t make you give your account information in order to purchase items, don’t make the visitor have to sign in or try to figure out what password they used three years ago when they created an account with you.  After all, isn’t the point of having an account (from the customer’s perspective anyway) one of being able to conveniently populate checkout forms and get the sale done faster?  How convenient is it to the customer to have to take twice as much time as if they didn’t have any account just to figure out the login mess?!  This is frustrating and it may result in loss of sales.

Lastly, if you do decide to require the visitor to sign in at any point, present the visitor with a sign in box that is easy to locate.  Think of the employee at the cash register who asks the client if they have a membership: the option comes at a moment that cannot be avoided, it’s staring them in the face, and it presents itself to them so they don’t have to go looking for it.   While they won’t make you use a membership card, they may ask for your name or phone number to locate your file. Similarly, you should make it easy for the visitor to easily sign in.

So, the take-away rules about logins and your shopping cart are:

1) Don’t make login or account creation a requirement for purchase.

2) If you decide to require sign in or account creation, make it painless by giving at least one alternative, secure option for accessing the account in the event that the customer can’t remember their sign in info.

3) If a purchasing customer attempts to create an account that already exists, give them options to go directly to checkout.

4) Make sure any required or indicated actions are visible and clear to your visitors, so they don’t struggle to find them.

Have any other pet-peeves about logins and the shopping cart?  Let us know about them in the comments section!

Add Your Comments

Comments (106)

  1. I agree with you. Shopping online is supposed to be easier than actually going to the store but it does get frustrating when all you want to do is purchase the item, instead they have you sign in and update all of your information. Very frustrating, online shopping really needs to be easier.

  2. hoo! melissa, you really found and dig deep on this specific checkout problem. Thanks for these suggestion we never thought about before.

  3. [...] View full post on Conversion Rate Optimization & Marketing Blog | FutureNow, Inc [...]

  4. I completely agree with you Melissa. These advices are simple but really useful to anyone working on an online store.
    Then, for the customers side, I could advise to use a service like TrashMail (Google’s your friend). It offers to create temporarily email adresses that redirect to your mailbox.

  5. This is actually really helpful to our business, thanks for the insightful post! Also, I love your job title haha–

  6. I agree – it’s often a hassle to go through unnecessary long checkout process. I wish sites paid more attention to that crucial part of the shopping experience.

  7. Full agreement. When someone is at checkout, they are prime for closure. Although you want to cross sell, up sell and do whatever you want to increase revenue, the prudent thing to do is to make sure there is no barrier to them submitting their credit card for payment and closing the deal.

  8. #

    Full agreement. When someone is at checkout, they are prime for closure. Although you want to cross sell, up sell and do whatever you want to increase revenue, the prudent thing to do is to make sure there is no barrier to them submitting their credit card for payment and closing the deal.

  9. Once the decision to purchase has been made, the battle is over. From there on there should be as little resistance as possible.

    Constructing obstacles during a monetary transaction is irritating and frustrating. 2 thing I never want my clients to feel after we have agreed on a price.

    Jay Jetty

  10. Great article…

    GoDaddy probably has the worst checkout system I’ve ever seen. Makes you click through like 3 pages of advertisements to actually finish the order. WTF. lol

  11. Just like landing page navigation is supposed to be easy, and the rest. Good post…

  12. Totally. I even had some online shops where I changed my mind during an annoying registration and didn’t buy the product.

  13. [...] Getting Through Your Checkout Is Supposed To Be Easy Published: June 6, 2010 Source: Conversion Rate Optimization & Marketing Blog | FutureNow, Inc Have you ever waited in line at a cash register and then had the employee at the register ask if you’re already a member of the store’s loyalty or member program? They usually will ask for your membership car… [...]

  14. thank’s melissa, good post…

  15. Great read thanks for sharing. Doesn’t really matter how much traffic or how good you convert to the checkout, if the checkout doesn’t work lol

  16. Nobody really focuses on the back end like this. Good post.

  17. This was really great information, made me think about some of the problems I’ve had when checking out. One of my biggest pet peeve is when I’m ready to check out. Example is when there’s a mistake and it kicks me back and I lose some if not all of my personal information that I just typed in.
    Thanks for the great suggestions, I’ll use them.

  18. Interesting, I’ve never read an article that focused on this before. I’ll bookmark this to help if I ever create an e-commerce site.

  19. Very good post Melissa.
    You clearly spotted a big problem a lot of sites have. I think getting lead should NEVER BE prioritized over a sale.

  20. This is a really good issue you’ve pointed out. I’ll remember these points you gave so that I would avoid that kind of mistake when I get to create my own shopping cart someday.

  21. In my opinion a good idea to avoid all this frustrating steps is to have the same username and the same password for all your online accounts. It is simpler this way, than expecting for the site’s owners to do something to make it easier.

  22. @Jenny, sometimes you need to use at least a fixed number of characters, a number, a weird figure (@, #, $ and so on) or at least one capital. So… you cannot use always the same username or password.

    If I would have got a webshop, I would not let people sign in. Just give your street and zip is not too much work. Forcing people to make an account is very anoing.

  23. [...] Getting Through Your Checkout Is Supposed To Be Easy [...]

  24. Everything in this article makes sense. As always, whether offline or online, the user should be treated like a king and the process should be as simple and painless as possible.

  25. Thanks for this useful information.Because this expression is the work of a study.

  26. Yeah, shopping online is a lot of time a pain… You know the … means. I thinking they surely lost some customers.

  27. Nice article. Webshop employees should visit their own site as a customer. Just make up some different shopping situations and test the checkout!

  28. Great article.. Very useful information. Godaddy is has one of the worst checkout systems..

  29. greay article and some good ideas, i think practical implementation will be difficult however due to entrenched business practices when it comes to online security

  30. I have a guy that came to me the other day to help him with PPC, and we sent him over 300 visitors and not a single sale. His site wasn’t too bad, and I had made the mistake of forgetting to take a look at his shopping cart. BIG MISTAKE. Don’t do PPC unless your shopping cart doesn’t have a 100% abandonment rate!

  31. When someone is on Checkout, they head to stop. Although you want to cross sell, sell, and to which you want to increase revenue, prudent thing to make sure there is no barrier to them and send their credit card transaction to pay off.

  32. Yep, this is what happens when usability decisions are made based upon the requirements of the underlying technical system rather than the requirements of users. Thanks for calling them out on it!

  33. I totally agree with you! Shopping online is supposed to be easier than actually going to the store, but it sucks when you encounter so many problems =( Good job on blowing the whistle on them!

  34. I’ve experienced the same thing many times. I’m sure there are people who get frustrated and abandon their shopping cart.

  35. that’s really I absolutely agree with you Melissa. These advices are simple but We always igored it, for the cuostomer side, simple have more attractive and got more good shopping experience.

  36. [...] Source:Getting Through Your Checkout Is Supposed To Be Easy [...]

  37. I couldn’t agree more. If I have to login to buy a product I might leave the website without buying anything.

  38. Great article.. Very useful information. Godaddy is has one of the worst checkout systems..

  39. verything in this article makes sense. As always, whether offline or online, the user should be treated like a king and the process should be as simple and painless as possible.

  40. Yeah I have worked on websites that use systems like prestashop as a checkout system, which don’t have a fast checkout process. You add all your items to the basket, then you click go to checkout, then you have to create an account etc. All I want is a secure system that allows me to add my products, give you a postal address and enter my credit card details.

  41. yup, every navigation on our online store must be custumer friendly, and give comple information to make sure the cunsumer.

  42. R4dsgame.com has the best assortment of R4 Cards and Nintendo R4,the R4 card for the Nintendo DS is a third-party device that can allow you to back up your R4 DS game library to a single cartridge.

  43. הלוואה ניתן לקבל מבנק או הלוואה חוץ בנקאית

  44. Webshop customers should visit there own sites as shoppers. Anyone need a grade please let me know. I will evaluate the site for free.

  45. I agree. I can think of several sites where I was in the middle of buying something but I bailed because of error messages and other problems.

  46. Yes checkouts are supposed to be easy, but you never know what happens once they get there.

  47. Also I agree with OC attorney, you only get one chance at it. Kinda like the previous post about credibility, “yours to lose” I think was the name of the post here. So true, and it applies to shopping carts as well.

  48. Melissa, I whole hardly agree with your conclusions and recommendations. Shopping online is becoming more and more frustrating. It use to be easier than actually going to the store but for some sites that is not the case anymore. I get frustrating signing in and then having to update all my information. Online shopping really needs to be easier than it is.

  49. The majority of my shopping is done online, so it is important this is as easy a process as it can be. If the check out link is difficult to find, then I don’t even bother continuing the process – I search for a site that offers the same product but has a better process.

  50. This is actually really helpful to our business, thanks

  51. these checkout systems really annoy me at times they need to be simple,great article enjoyed the read

  52. The registration I think it is the cause of lots of zeros in sales, down! Good advices Melissa, thanks.

  53. I Think a lot of people only want to buy an item quickly and it is no problem for them to enter their homeadresse every time. It is much more complicated to remember all the Usernames and Passwords from all the different shops. Sure, there are also people that love this thing with username and password. Therefore the user shuld be able to choose if he wants to buy with login and password or without registration.

  54. Check Out Just Seems to be easy, But this is hard enough.Thank for your advice. I will keep in mind all the things you told

  55. I think the whole checkout process shows how good a store is in general and how far they’re willing to go towards customer service. The better stores will generally have easier checkout pathways.

  56. Online shopping is much better than ordinary shopping but there are also some hassle in online shopping.usually we forgot our password and some time even account.

  57. I agree and i try to keep my checkout as succient as possible although there is a certain amount of information that you can’t do without and there will always be more questions than in a shop

  58. I have the same problems when buying from an online store. I think that most stores are caught up in getting your information so that they can continue to promote to you.

  59. Optimizing web forms can be a great boost in terms of conversion. You can lose so much money with a bad, long, hard to understand form.

    Some points to always keep in mind:
    - Make the layout simple and easy to understand
    - Ask only for the minimal information required
    - Warn the user immediatly in case of mistake
    - If possible, offer even non-registered people to check out

  60. I’ve got a password sheet about 20 pages thick. Very annoying trying to keep track of all the usernames and passwords I use, but it is never smart to use the same password on multiple sites.

  61. not being able to sign in once i’ve created an account has caused me to abandon numerous shopping carts and make my purchase elsewhere online. many times this could have been resolved by simply making the sign-in button more visible like you suggest.

  62. I agree with you. I often experienced that and I hope they would think of a better ideas to avoid those hassles. Thanks for sharing this informative article!

  63. I can think of several sites where I was in the middle of buying something but I bailed because of error messages and other problems

  64. OMG I know! I hate when that happens. I have got so upset with a few sites and didn’t buy anything.

  65. Nice article, very interesting and i understand where are coming from as i dont always have my membership card on me and the process of bringing up my details is so time consuming.

  66. Wow finally someone else finds this as annoying as I do. Beth I know exactly what you mean, it’s bad enough getting stuck on one page but having to input the same information again can be very frustrating.

  67. This happen with me every time when i try to bye something from some complicated website .i just get stuck at check out window or the system of check out is a long and really long process

  68. verything in this article makes sense. As always, whether offline or online, the user should be treated like a king and the process should be as simple and painless as possible.

  69. I prefer shop online in website with better user interface and better use ability rather than just look at the price. They seems more convincing

  70. When I removed the compulsory registration process i an ecommerce site, the conversion rate increased from 0.8% to 2%!

  71. well nowadays user want some thing too easy and too simple if not then user will left your site

  72. Whether its offline or online, the user should be treated like a king and the process should be as simple and painless as possible.

  73. I am just about to start up a checkout – thanks for the useful insight.

  74. I guess all of your recommendations need a good AI programming. Oh well, it can be achieved though.

  75. I agree with you, it’s so annoying having to remember loads of different passwords for all the online shops I’ve ever bought from. Great tips on how to make it easier for the customer. Thanks!

  76. Totally agree. Buying online and specially when it comes to fysical products, can often be quite a process. It should be excactly as easy and hazzle-free as going in to an actual store… Just without the lines

  77. Very good post Melissa.

  78. i appreciate it too

  79. i appreciate it too

  80. i do agree that godaddy is probably the worst i have ever heard……

    Soon i will also write an article about this….

    Thanks for writing….

  81. Thank you! I believe that a huge part of SEO is site usability – think about it, what’s the point of your site ranking if so many users are becoming so frustrated that they bounce right off?

  82. I agree with this, good post. It’s like being told to go somewhere in a physical store and getting lost :( Escaping from a website is much easier though!

  83. I agree with you that the experience described can be frustrating and may lead to bailed carts, reduced turnover and lost customers and thus has to be adressed. Fortunately, modern ecommerce shops like magento have solved those issues i think.

  84. albertsons has done away with their membership card discount program.. now everyone gets the sale price regardless of cards.

  85. There is a lot of webshops where is your experience terrible. At last time Barnes and Nobles didn’t want to download a paid book by me to Europe. Why? Why they write it after spending x minutes ordering it, paying it, etc.when they had my address in the very begining.

  86. This is so true. Sometimes these checkout blockage, out of frustration, would turn sure customers away. Online transactions should be easy as a breeze and not as complicated as actually lining up in a store.

  87. Great article, Melissa. I completely agree with you.

    As a frequent online shopper myself, I know how frustrating it can be to get stuck during the checkout process.

    I’m a big fan of being able to checkout as a guest and bypass the log in step.

    Your ‘take away’ advice is invaluable and spot on.

  88. I used to run an e-commerce website and nearly all my competitors did the same thing as you mentioned. Making everyone create an account before you could buy anything.

    I went the opposite way and just let everyone go straight to checkout. Only after they had paid did I offer them the chance to sign up to our newsletter. (one yes/no button to click)

    I did this purely based on my own shopping preferences.

    I actually love Amazons 1 click purchase option as I’m so lazy it suits me just fine!

  89. More popular website are practicing advertisements even on the checkout pages. This bothers me a lot especially when you need to finish the payment in a hurry.

    Thanks for evaluating this issue Mellisa :)

  90. Whenever I buy something online I always prepare myself for trouble. The whole login thing can be so frustrating.

    The other thing that bugs me with online purchases is not posting shipping costs. Some sites make you wait until you give them your billing info before you’ll know how much shipping charges are. Frustrating!

  91. This makes sense. Why can’t they just give us all the discounts? Why produce a card?

  92. I agree and I feel that a difficult check out can deter a membership or sale but, I have some extra steps in place to deter charge backs. I guess you have to decide as a business owner what steps are necessary and make those as pain free as possible

  93. You have to be so careful online now, make sure you read everything before you submit and creating an alternative e-mail address helps with spam.

  94. I totally agree. How inconvenient is to have to somehow retrieve your password and user name and then risk that the page will time out and you lose all you stuff in your basket. Personally if I have think too much while shopping I will just get bored and either start fresh another day somewhere else or if I’m determined maybe I’ll stick around. Either way they sure risk losing my business. Something that in this very tough economy, a business owner sure can’t afford.

  95. Thanks for posting this Melissa, I’m also an online shopper like you and i also dont want to risk my personal informations that’s why i only choose to buy at the reliable and hassle free online shops here in the net.

  96. These are precisely the kind of things that I try to ensure on all my e-commerce websites. Whilst I do implement a login/membership feature, it is quick, easy and in no way would I ever kick the customer back a step in the checkout process. That’s almost like burning money to me! Spot on post.

  97. Nice article. Webshop employees should visit their own site as a customer. Just make up some different shopping situations and test the checkout!

  98. HI,

    Thanks for such article.
    Yes I am agreeing with Hover Coupon goDady has the cheap checkout systems I have experienced with. And yes, I have such bad experience during online payment for buying Eset Nod 32 antivirus. At the credit card payment systems it shows an error while money has been credited.

  99. Okay did you just mention it was Victoria’s Secret for the sex factor? But seriously the reverse of this is also true. I have seen the login purposely hidden to make people click through a few more screens for ad exposure purposes.

  100. Melissa, it is so frustrating– you are right. I do recommend a program like 1Password (mac) which makes keeping track of your accounts much easier and automated.

  101. I actually tell this to many of my clients.

    It’s just people are just so ridiculous unaware it’s hard to create an ecommerce for anyone.

    Only problem is most people want to create members and repeat customers–they do this by REQUIRING an annoying registration process, rather than offering customers a quick way to buy the products they want.

    I always tell the client “What do you want when you shop online…”

    Only problem is most people are too scared to shop online these days (well atleast the people with money)

  102. Never make it difficult for a customer to give you money! This includes formatting your checkout page so that automatic form-filling will work!

  103. This is poor usability and lack of thinking the process through. Always “get the money upfront” and push on the back-end for additional actions.
    I still see websites out there with big red letter in checkout advising of all the special hoops you have to jump through just to buy something.

  104. Good point. I agree. I also do some online shopping and what I hate about it is getting more information which is not necessary at all. Although there are some really good online store who only asks for your billing and shipping address. Another problem will be the shipping days. Some of them take months before you can actually use your product.

  105. In my opinion, there is not much sense to require user to create account unless you’re offering them some benefit with this account – discount for regular customer or something else. Yet, the majority of sites require account creation without a really good reason.

  106. Today the shopping through online is better way for both buyer and seller.

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Melissa is a Senior Persuasion Analyst at FutureNow.

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