How to optimise checkout conversion rates in eCommerce

Imagine that you’ve managed to attract plenty of strong leads to your site, but only a few of them actually complete a purchase – what can you do? Your conversion rate is a key metric for measuring the success of your online business. In terms of sales, it shows how many leads ‘convert’ (which means they become actual paying customers). Read on to learn about the underlying causes of cart abandonment and what you can do to increase your online business’ conversion rate.

What conversion rates mean

Conversion rate is a key performance indicator (KPI) that is widely used in online marketing. It expresses the percentage of visitors to a website who actually convert. ‘Conversion’ refers to the transformation of a potential customer (or ‘lead’) into an actual customer. However, conversion may also refer to actions other than completing a purchase. You might have other conversion goals, like getting leads to sign up for your newsletter, or to download your content.

What conversion rates mean for sales

It’s important to begin by clearly defining what conversion means for your company. This will help you to learn more from your conversion rate, so you can improve your strategy going forward. For example, if you want to use your conversion rate to track sales, you should track that separately from other forms of conversion, like newsletter sign-ups. In terms of sales, conversion means transforming from a potential customer into an actual, paying customer. 

It may be useful to distinguish between micro-conversion and macro-conversion:

  • Micro-conversion: A potential customer actively engages with your company; for example, by following you on social media or signing up for your newsletter.
  • Macro-conversion: A potential customer becomes an actual customer by purchasing one of your company’s products or services.

What this means is that your marketing and sales teams should track different conversion rates to determine which areas of your sales funnel need optimisation.

Negative conversion rates in sales: factors that influence the checkout process

There are many factors that can have a negative influence on your conversion rate during the checkout

process. Here are some of the main reasons why potential customers might abandon their carts and cause the conversion to fail:

  • your website takes too long to load
  • the registration/login process is too lengthy or overly complicated
  • payment options are too limited
  • buttons or teasers get in the way and distract the shopper
  • shipping costs are too high
  • links don’t work, or something goes when when redirecting the customer to your payment provider
  • Captcha verification questions
  • the payment process seems unprofessional or non-secure (for example, it does not use https protocol)
  • texts contain errors (either incorrect information or grammatical errors)
  • the page design is too hard to read (for example, due to a poor choice of text sizes and colours, cluttered appearance or confusing layout)
  • inappropriate advertising tactics (for example, when an ad leads your customer to expect something that the checkout process does not ultimately fulfil).

How to calculate your conversion rate

Here’s how to calculate the proportion of overall website visits that result in successful checkout conversions (sales):

Conversion rate = (Number of purchases ÷ Number of visitors) %

For example, say that 200 potential customers visit your website during a set period of time. 10 of these visitors actually make a purchase. That means your conversion rate is 5%.

An e-commerce website owner and an e-commerce manager are discussing the best way to optimised their checkout conversion rate to drive more sales.

Developing the right strategy for boosting your conversion rate

Your company needs a good strategy in order to optimise your conversion rate . There are many tools that you can use to reach the overarching goal of turning more visitors into leads, and ultimately converting those leads into customers. Of course, macro-conversions are more important to any eCommerce business than micro-conversions. That’s why you’ll want to develop a strategy that encourages leads to make a purchase.

Start by analysing the strengths and weaknesses of your current approach. You’ll definitely want to consider factors like:

  • loading speed
  • view times
  • bounce rate.

By understanding these analytics, you can take concrete steps towards improving your page’s performance—and boosting your conversion.

Keep seasonal changes in mind

You will definitely want to account for seasonal differences when developing a conversion rate optimisation strategy for your online business. For example, the holiday shopping months of November and December are the peak sales period for online retail, which means they have the highest conversion rates. 

Depending on which market you operate in, you can use popular seasonal sales (such as end-of-summer or end-of-winter sales) to boost your conversion rate even further. It’s important to understand your industry and your target groups so that you know what to expect. Moreover, the average conversion rate per industry can vary considerably.

There are various tools you can use to identify and keep track of online search trends. This helps you to plan your conversion rate optimisation strategy in greater detail, and take advantage of seasonal fluctuations.

What a good checkout conversion rate looks like

Checkout conversion rate is the most important metric in eCommerce. Numerous studies have shown that cart abandonment rates are extremely high, often reaching between 50-70% or higher still in some industries. Begin by focusing on how to optimise your shopping cart if you want to improve your checkout conversion rate.

Average conversion rates for different shop systems

As an eRetailer, you can choose from various eCommerce platforms when setting up your online shop. The most popular eCommerce platforms in the U.K. are BigCommerce, Magento and WooCommerce, just to name a few. The shop platform you select actually influences your conversion rate. That’s because each of these systems offers various plugins that you can use to optimise your conversion rate in different ways. 

These include options such as:

  • buttons that let your customers share their shopping carts on social media (Facebook, WhatsApp, etc.)
  • activating a pop-up side panel for the shopping cart
  • one-page checkout

The following table shows how conversion rates can vary from one online shop platform to the next:

PlatformAverage conversion rateAmong top 20% of online shopsAmong top 10% of online shops
Magento1.1%> 3%> 4.6%
WooCommerce0.4%> 2.6%> 4.2%


10 tips for optimising your conversion rate

Like most eCommerce retailers, you’re probably wondering why so many potential customers simply abandon their cart in the middle of a checkout. There are many reasons that this happens. The tips below will help you ensure a better shopping experience for your customers, so you can boost conversion and increase your sales.

Tip 1: Make logging in super easy

Fast, easy login is essential for boosting your online shop’s conversion rate. If your customer is already logged into their account, then all their information (delivery address, etc.) should already be filled out when they go to checkout. This saves your customer time, which makes it more likely that they will complete the purchase.

Tip 2: Allow customers to order as a guest

Consider allowing customers to place orders on your site without creating an account. Some users may prefer to order an item as a ‘guest’ without registering as a customer. 

You can also include a fast, easy option that enables guest users to create an account if they wish. 

It’s also a good idea to offer the option of logging in using social media accounts or a Google account, for example. This saves time, and many users prefer this login option.

Tip 3: Build trust

Building trust among potential customers is one of the most important things you can do to optimise your conversion rate. Be sure to inform your customers during the checkout process that your site is SSL-encrypted to protect their data. It’s also a great idea to display your ratings or certifications from online consumer trust agencies, such as:

  • Trusted Shops
  • Trustpilot
  • Shopper Approved.

Your store must undergo an audit in order to become certified by some online consumer trust agencies.

When displaying links to your shop’s trust ratings, be sure that these links work correctly and direct your customer to the relevant site. It will cause your customer to doubt the authenticity of your trust ratingIf these links do not work, or if they direct to the wrong page.

Another great way to instill trust is to display ratings and reviews from past customers. Also make sure your site uses a professional, easy-to-navigate design. 

Always include the following elements:

  • An ‘About us’ page
  • A trustworthy introduction to your company
  • Easy-to-find contact information
  • Transparent pricing
  • Easily accessible information about shipping prices, returns and order cancellations.

Tip 4: Offer lots of payment options

All shoppers have a preference when it comes to payment options. That’s why you’ll want to offer as many different options as possible. This helps raise your conversion rate by making sure that no potential customer feels left out. 

Of course, you’ll want to include the usual payment methods, such as credit card, bank transfer and PayPal. But remember to include popular new payment methods, such as Apple Pay too. 

Mollie helps you to integrate all these various payment methods into your online shop, so you minimise the risk of customer abandonment during the payment process.

Tip 5: Fix technical problems

Technical problems can be another common driver behind cart abandonment and low checkout conversion rates. These problems may include broken links or errors when redirecting to the payment provider. 

Continually check for these kinds of errors and always fix them as quickly as possible. You should also do everything you can to make sure your website loads fast. Improve your load speed by:

  • compressing images
  • minifying CSS files
  • reducing the number of redirects

Also, consider whether a Captcha question is absolutely necessary. Users often find this step annoying, and it might even prompt them to click away from your site.

Tip 6: Tweak your page design

You can also optimise your conversion rate by tweaking your product description pages. Be sure to include a detailed description of the benefits that each product offers your customers. Use high-quality images or even videos to show your products in action. Give your customers total peace of mind by offering them free shipping.

Your website should also be easy to navigate and visually appealing. Make sure that the text sizes and colours are easy to read and that the information is presented in a clutter-free way. Include buttons that help direct the customer towards placing an order. When designing buttons, remember to:

  • use contrasting, attention-grabbing colours
  • include clear labels (such as ‘Buy now’ or ‘Continue shopping’)
  • make them easily visible
  • position them strategically on the page.

See also our article on improving the user experience of your website.

Tip 7: Optimise the ordering process

There are plenty of options for optimising your checkout process even further to boost conversion. These include:

Google AutofillLets customers automatically fill out forms.
Breadcrumbs during the order processThese show the customer exactly which stage of the purchase process they are in, which motivates them to complete the order. It’s a good idea to keep the checkout process as short as possible. Limit it to no more than 5 steps.
One-page checkoutThis displays the entire checkout process on a single easy-to-read page. Remember to make the voucher/discount code field easy to find. If you use multi-page checkout, it’s important to include a visual guide that helps the customer easily move through the process.
Contact detailsOffer a direct line of contact (such as live chat) in case the customer runs into any difficulties.

Tip 8: Save the shopping cart between sessions

Online shoppers often add items to a shopping cart and then navigate away from the page, only to return later and continue the purchase. If your shop does not save these items in the shopping cart, then your customer will have to start shopping all over again. That’s why saving customer preferences and items in the shopping cart between sessions helps boost your conversion rate.

Tip 9: Optimise for mobile devices

More and more people now shop online using their mobile devices. That’s why your entire website, including the checkout process, needs to be optimised for mobile viewing. You can adjust your page’s contents for viewing on a smartphone screen by:

  • using larger buttons.
  • keeping the checkout process as short as possible.
  • reducing page loading times.
  • replacing dropdown menus with mobile UI elements.

Tip 10: Boost repeat business

If a customer abandons their cart during the checkout process, try using sensible remarketing tactics to lure them back to your shop. For example, automatically email them a personalised cart abandonment notification after a certain period of time. This helps boost your conversion rate among customers who leave your site without completing an order the first time. 

You can use these notifications to:

  • remind customers that there are items waiting for them in the shopping cart
  • offer them help in case they ran into any problems during checkout
  • encourage them once again to complete the purchase
  • successfully attract them back to your shop with call-to-action buttons.

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