eCommerce tipsWith the holiday season rapidly approaching and with more people taking to the Internet to buy for their shopping list, taking the time to review a checkout process is essential as it helps to reduce the reasons for people to leave your site without making their purchase.

E-commerce companies expend significant amounts of time and money promoting their products and driving traffic to their website, yet often fail to examine the purchase process that customers encounter after arriving at the site. If a consumer beings the purchase process, chances are strong that they already determined your products is of value to them, they have money, and have an interest in purchasing the product—all of which are critical when converting a potential customer into a purchasing customer. However, many e-commerce companies have the potential to increase their sales "close" rate and reduce shopping cart abandonment by making simple improvements to their purchase process.

1. Reduce Steps
The order process should require as few clicks as possible. Take the time to reduce the number of steps required to complete an order. Think of it this way—every additional click in the order process increases the risk of losing some customers. In other words, the fewer clicks required, the more orders will be completed.

2. Secure Form
The website order form should clearly indicate that it is secure; now most online shoppers are aware of how to check for such security. Website security will instill confidence in the buyer.

3. Remove Redundancy
This goes along with tip #1 in reducing the steps to check out. Do not require the customer to re-enter information in the order form. For example, the order process will often require the customer's delivery address, and then the billing address to complete the transaction. Provide an option that will let the customer copy the data from one section to the other if both addresses are the same, so the customer does not have to retype the same information.

4. Communicate
Clearly communicate how and when the order will be shipped. If you display a box shot but the product is delivered digitally, be sure to clearly indicate that the customer will receive an email with a registration key or download instructions, but not an actual box and program on disc. (You could consider offering these as an add-on up-sell!)

5. Guarantees
Include information about any money-back guarantees on the order form. This will provide the buyer an additional reassurance that they are doing the right thing in making their purchase.

6. No Options
Remove all other navigation options from the order process, so that customers are not sidetracked into clicking away before completing the order. Once the customer enters the purchase process, they should be guided toward completing the order, and nothing else. Remove any distractions or extraneous links.

7. No Surprises
Do not add any additional handling or shipping fees in the final steps of the order. Clearly display such costs on the website, so there are no hidden charges that surprise the customer right before they purchase. These additional fees that are added in the final stages, even when they are legitimate, will often frustrate customers, and may cause them to abandon the order and walk away with a very bad taste in their mouth.

8. Payment Options
Offer a wide variety of payment options. The last thing you want to happen is for the customer to decide to purchase your product, but then be unable to pay with the options they have available. Provide customers with a variety of mechanisms and payment methods.

9. Professional Design
The order pages should be professionally designed and use quality images. An unprofessional web design in your order pages will make potential customers hesitate before spending their money. Countless suspicious websites exist on the Internet; presenting your site as professional as possible can help distinguish your company from the less reputable. If possible, design and brand the order pages to match the rest of your website. Not only will this reassure shoppers, but will also help to reinforce your brand.

10. Do Not Rely On Scripts
Many web browsers now turn off JavaScript and lock their systems down. Stick to the basics when it comes to order pages. Avoid forcing shoppers to use any scripts or browser add-ons to complete an order. Internet shoppers are wary of having to utilize components from unfamiliar websites. Eliminating these should help people feel more comfortable with their purchases.

Reducing the number of customers who abandon your shopping cart will increase your bottom line. With the busiest shopping season quickly approaching, now is a crucial time to review your checkout process and do whatever is necessary to help keep people buying from you and not your competition.