ecommerce checkout optimization Blue Stout Black Friday

How to Optimize Your Checkout for the Busiest Shopping Day of the Year (And 5 Optimization Tactics to Copy)

by Allen Burt
October 10, 2016

We all know Black Friday as the opening of the Christmas shopping season and one of the craziest weekends to be a shopper and/or a store owner.

Last year’s Black Friday saw 74.2 million shoppers.

That’s like multiplying New York City more than 9 times, giving those people money and releasing them on your ecommerce site to buy.

OK, you probably won’t experience 74 million in a traffic spike (unless you’re Kylie Jenner), but your ecommerce store will undoubtedly see more visits Black Friday weekend than you normally do.

This post is going to focus on the most important part of your ecommerce website – especially on Black Friday weekend: your checkout.

You have ample time to prepare and optimize your ecommerce checkout process, so I’m going to give you a 5-step guide to making sure your process is clean and simple for the biggest shopping weekend of the year.

1. Start Checkout Optimization with Reviewing Your Analytics

The first step in optimizing your checkout process is to understand where it’s broken.

Fortunately, your ecommerce analytics solution will give you the crystal clear roadmap of where your shoppers are “falling off” in their purchasing journey.

If you don’t have a dedicated analytics software, Google Analytics can get pretty granular with this data just as well.

To understand where your users are falling off in their purchase journey:

  • Review each step of your conversion funnel
  • Filter your results by relevant segmentation (ex. Browser type or device type) – Do more people abandon on mobile? Then you may have a mobile checkout problem…
  • Identify patterns on common abandoned steps

To understand how to complete this analysis in Google Analytics check out their guide on users abandoning conversions here.

ecommerce checkout optimization cart abandonment rate

[image source]

Act on Your Analytics Data

After reviewing your funnel, you should have an exact map of your customer purchase journey and what steps are failing.

The steps that are underperforming are your first focus.

Are the majority of users abandoning from the actual checkout?

Are they abandoning from the product page itself?

Do you have a high abandonment rate from mobile on your checkout page?

By determining what step has the highest abandonment rate you can choose where and how you want to implement the tactics we’ll discuss below.

Get educated first. Then start optimizing based off data, because data doesn’t lie!

2. Make Your Free Shipping / Returns Offer Clear to Incentivize a Completed Purchase

You don’t always have to offer a discount on Black Friday to increase conversions.

A strong conversion tactic is actually just being very blatant and obvious about your “free shipping” and/or “free returns” offer during the customer checkout process.

Once a customer has added their item to the cart, it’s a very smart play on their psychology to display the “free shipping” and/or “free returns” messaging directly in the preview or pop-up checkout summary.

This subtly reiterates to the customer that they are getting some sort of a deal OR that you are taking on the cost. Many customers naturally feel that since they are buying your products, you should pay for shipping.

In a 2014 study from comScore, they found that 58% of US online shoppers have added items to their shopping carts just to qualify for free shipping.

In that study, there is obviously a threshold to qualify for free shipping, but the underlying concept is the same: people LOVE getting something free. (Ever see someone do anything and everything to get a free t-shirt?)

So since people love freebies so much: remind them. Show them. Make it obvious.

Check out how iconic NYC retailer, Century 21, uses an exit pop up to incentivize the shopper to purchase with free shipping on their order:

century 21 popup ecommerce checkout optimization

This is a pretty low-difficulty optimization tactic you can use to prepare for higher traffic on Black Friday.

3. Squash Purchasing Doubt With Trust Elements In Your Checkout

The increased traffic you’ll receive on Black Friday means you’ll be getting more visits from people who aren’t familiar with your brand.

Since they don’t know you, it’s crucial that you display trust elements in the cart and checkout to squash any last-minute doubt your customer might receive in the final steps of conversion.

Check out how Isle Surf & SUP, does it:

isle surf sup ecommerce checkout optimization

They do a great job of squashing doubt by displaying 4 trust elements on their cart summary page:

  • 30 day money back guarantee
  • 100% customer satisfaction
  • Free shipping
  • “Google Trusted Store” verification (See the bottom, right corner? That badge is sticky.)

You may take a look at some larger ecommerce retailers and notice that many of them do NOT employ tactics like this – so why should you?

The folks over at VWO, an A/B testing software solution, suggest that larger brands may not have to employ these tactics because users already know who the brand is and therefore don’t need as much “help” building up trust.

Solidifying trust in the cart and checkout is something that you should approach as a long-term investment. Though I’m writing about it, today, as a recommendation to prepare for a high-traffic weekend like Black Friday, it is absolutely an ecommerce user experience (UX) design practice you should take into account as a “best practice” design for converting more.

4. Make Checkout Steps Visual to Encourage Completion

In Step 2, I talked about displaying your free shipping / free returns offers in an obvious way to encourage checkout. A second way to introduce an “obvious” element in your checkout process is by utilizing progress indicators.

Progress Indicators help people see where they are and how much work they have left to accomplish before the order is complete.

When introducing a progress indicator to your checkout process you should try to make it:

  • Clearly visible.
  • Simple wording.
  • Bold, stripped-down design.
  • Visuals that fit your brand.
  • Obvious which step user is on, which have been completed and how many are left to go. (source)

Let’s take a look at another example from SkinnyMe Tea:

SMT breadcrumbs ecommerce checkout optimization

They use a breadcrumbs-style progress indicator to visually communicate to their customer what steps they have left before their purchase is complete.

As a customer, seeing that I only have 2 steps left is a relief and reduces the chance that I’ll abandon my cart.

Another example can be found from Shwood. They’ve created a checkout progress indicator where you can actually see all 3 steps on the screen, but the ones you haven’t completed yet are “grayed out”:

schwood checkout process ecommerce checkout optimization

By clearly highlighting the active step in gold and having the second and third steps visible, the customer can visually understand how much time they have left before their purchase is complete.

If you want to take it a step even further, you can strive to achieve a one-page checkout. Some brands have seen increases in checkouts by almost 65% by simplifying to one page! (source)

Though many times it’s not that easy to trim your process down to just one, single page (though the arrival of Apple Pay for web may change that…) If that’s the case for you, in preparation for Black Friday, just make sure that your checkout process visually communicates to your customer how many steps are actually in the checkout.

Including this one, simple feature can drastically improve checkout completion.

5. If Customers DO Abandon, Offer Cart Regeneration via Email

Perhaps you have all of the above recommendations already implemented in your checkout process, but you are still seeing users abandon their carts.

This Black Friday, you can take advantage of your customers’ psychology: they’re already in the mindset to purchase.

Even if they abandon their cart!

In your abandoned cart recovery email campaign, send out an email the next day with a sense of urgency: one more day only to purchase the items they left in their cart (one day only because you want them to take advantage of the Black Friday weekend).

Perhaps you offer them an additional (minimal) discount to sweeten the deal.

When they click the CTA in the email, they are immediately taken back to your site with all the items they’ve previously added to their cart still waiting for them – ready to purchase!

This is cart regeneration and it’s been proven to improve conversions from email up to 35%!

Chubbies, a brand who is absolutely killing their email marketing in general, also does a great job of recovering sales with cart regeneration. Check out their email below:

chubbies cart regeneration email ecommerce checkout optimization

[image source]

With a bit of witty copy and a giant CTA, the customer becomes motivated to click on the one, obvious button.

When they do, they’ll return to with their items waiting for them in the cart ready to purchase!

If you don’t yet have cart regeneration setup, you can contact your email service provider to see if they offer this as a feature.

Two solutions we recommend that have cart regeneration are Rejoiner and Bronto.

For this Black Friday, make sure you have an abandoned cart recovery strategy in place, and if you can implement cart regeneration beforehand you’ll increase your chances of capturing those lost customers.

How to Make This Black Friday Profitable

I’ve just covered 5 steps for you to make this Black Friday profitable for your ecommerce business. Here’s a quick recap of how to optimize your checkout:

  1. Check into your analytics, first, to see where your customers are abandoning during the checkout process
  2. Implement obvious “free shipping” / “free returns” offers in your checkout or cart preview
  3. Add trust elements to your checkout pages and cart preview page
  4. Add a progress indicator to your process to visually communicate checkout steps
  5. Boost abandoned cart recovery email campaigns with cart regeneration

You have more than enough time to consider these steps BEFORE Black Friday gets here. So if you found any of this information helpful, share it with your team to kickstart your checkout optimization strategy for the holiday season.

This post originally appeared on the Justuno blog.

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Allen Burt Allen Burt is the CEO & Founder of Blue Stout. A design and development agency that builds applications to power commerce and drive user engagement. Follow him on Twitter.
  • Excellent advice. Of course, having a reliable logistics partner is also crucial to your success. One weak link in your supply chain, and everything can come tumbling down