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Guest Blog, Pete Youell: Checking out the checkout…

In today’s highly competitive retail environment, it’s commonplace for shoppers to vote with their feet, or more likely the click of a mouse. As the Internet has reduced the barrier to entry, there are now more brands than ever vying for business. And with an array of options and different ways to make a purchase, it’s no surprise that many consumer decisions come down to a combination of two key factors: loyalty and convenience.

The challenge for online retailers, of course, particularly new market entrants, is that the first factor cannot be achieved without the second. It takes several positive brand experiences to build loyalty, so convenience – and the entire customer journey from initial site visit to final purchase – has therefore become one of the biggest consumer trends having a bearing on a retailer’s bottom line.

The convenience factor

In the world of eCommerce, where convenience plays a more important role than with brick-and-mortar stores, it’s understandable for brands to live and die by analysis. Those responsible within a retailer’s team for managing the customer journey will spend hours trawling through Google Analytics and other site behavioural tools to try and get a better picture of how shoppers think.

Often, there are nuggets of information hidden within these data sets that will help retailers to streamline the checkout process. However, while these tools can certainly explain the who, what, where, and when of an issue such as shopping cart abandonment, they can’t always answer the most important question – why?

Despite the countless advances in analytics platforms, machines aren’t very good at reading people’s minds. Sometimes, the only way to find out what a potential customer is thinking is by talking to them directly. Contrary to popular belief, it’s a brand’s customer base, and not the retailer itself, that are the true eCommerce experts. It’s only by speaking with consumers that it’s possible to find out what works and what doesn’t; thereby making it possible to identify new ways of configuring the checkout process to maximise sales.

It could be something as small as lack of support for a certain payment platform that’s hindering a retailer’s conversion rate. But without explicitly asking potential customers what’s preventing them from completing a sale, it’s often impossible to find out. And when you consider how a single percentage point reduction in shopping cart abandonment can have a hugely positive impact on a retailer’s bottom line, it’s a no brainer to use all the information available to help drive this change. After all, empirical data is extremely important to any retailer, but so too are direct customer feedback and experience.

The five main strategies to checkout success

Granted, there’s much more that goes into managing the overall sales funnel, and convenience alone cannot guarantee success. In total, there are five main strategies that must be taken into account when responding to current consumer trends in order to improve the checkout process. However, once the issue of convenience has been tackled, it’s then much easier to address the other ingredients that are required to optimise conversion rates and greatly enhance the consumer journey.


Pete Youell is currently the technical director at Astound Commerce. He has more than a decade of technical implementation and eCommerce software development experience, and a long history of working with some of the world’s biggest retailers. Prior to joining Astound, Youell held senior positions at Oracle, Tryzens, and InventCommerce. As Technical Director, Youell has a key role to play in enhancing Astound’s delivery capabilities and introducing advanced functionality for its international clients.