CX 101: How to optimize your checkout experience

You’ve researched products, added them to your cart, and you’re ready to checkout. But then you get to the checkout process and the site asks you to create an account first, or there’s a seemingly endless list of steps to complete checkout. 

And just as quickly as you clicked “checkout”, you’ve left the site altogether! 

Just because a customer has made it to your checkout doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to order. That’s because there’s a lot that can go wrong during the checkout process that can turn a great experience into a frustrating one. 

Today, let’s review the checkout experience and simple ways to optimize it. 

What steps are involved in the checkout process?

Checking out sounds simple - right? You click “checkout”, enter your details, then just wait for your order to arrive. But there’s actually a little more to it than that. Let’s review the basic steps for the checkout process:

  • The experience starts when the customer has added everything they want to their cart, and proceeds to initiate the checkout process
  • There may be a step here where the customer has to sign-in to proceed, or can opt to checkout as a guest 
  • Billing and shipping information is added
  • The customer will then usually select their preferred shipping method
  • The customer can preview the order details, check everything over and make any changes
  • Finally, they can complete checkout 
  • From here, they’ll get an order confirmation email

It sounds straightforward but there are a lot of points during that process that could cause friction and even lead the customer to abandon checkout. However, if you take each step and optimize that experience, you’ll be more likely to retain those customers.

Why customers abandon checkout

In order to optimize, we need to understand why customers abandon checkout in the first place. This is slightly different to when they abandon their carts, as there’s more commitment to the order if they’ve clicked “checkout”. Customers who abandon their carts often are shopping around, or maybe they want to do more research. By the time they’re clicking through to checkout, they’ve made their mind up to purchase. So abandoning at this stage is something we really want to avoid. 

Here are the top reasons why customers abandon the checkout process according to Baymard Institute:

  • Extra costs are too high - taxes, shipping, fees.
  • Site required account creation to checkout 
  • Delivery is too slow
  • Didn’t trust the site with their payment information 
  • The checkout process was too long/slow
  • Couldn’t see the total order cost up front

The good news is that these are all issues which are easily resolved through better communication ahead of checkout, and optimizing the steps required. Addressing these common mishaps in the checkout process will add to the customer’s overall experience, making retention all the more likely. 

5 ways to enhance your checkout experience

#1 - Keep it simple

The best thing you can do to keep customers happy throughout checkout is to make things as simple and straightforward as possible. One of the primary reasons customers abandon checkout is because the process is too long or complicated. That makes for a poor customer experience, so the fewer steps they need to take to complete their order the better. 

Start by reviewing how many steps are involved in your checkout process. That includes the number of form fields required at each stage, as this counts as another step. Look at each step, and determine which could be cut or optimized. For example, to minimize the number of form fields required, allow those to be auto-filled. You can also set up auto-save at checkout so if a customer does leave checkout to add more items, their information is saved. 

#2 - Show all costs up front 

There’s nothing worse for customers at checkout than seeing a bunch of unexpected costs on top of what they had in their cart. In fact in the data from Baymard Institute, this was the primary reason for abandoning checkout for 49% of customers. Communicating additional costs before checkout is essential to a smooth experience. 

Consider displaying additional costs on product pages or on the cart page. For example if displayed prices aren’t inclusive of tax or certain fees, indicate this somewhere on the product page. You can also allow customers to calculate estimated shipping costs on the cart page, so they have an idea of what to expect when they reach that stage at checkout. 

#3 - Make sure it’s mobile friendly

Did you know that 42% of ecommerce sales in 2022 were on mobile devices? More and more customers are opting to shop using their smartphones, which means having a speedy mobile checkout is important to their experience. Just as you optimize and adapt other pages of your site for mobile, you can do the same for checkout. 

The best way to optimize your mobile checkout experience is to reduce the number of steps even more so than on desktop. It should still feel similar to the desktop experience, just adapted to the smaller screen size and capabilities of a mobile device. Buttons and other interactive elements should be clear and large, making it easy for customers to tap them. If you spread out checkout steps across more pages than on desktop to accommodate the screen size, provide customers with a progress bar so they aren’t left wondering how much longer it will take. 


#4 - Allow customers to check out as guests

It’s understandable why merchants may want to encourage customers to create an account. After all, it can help speed up the checkout process in the future as all their details including payment will be saved. It will also allow you to gather more data about customers, and save their preferences for marketing. However, not every customer will want to create an account for your store. Sometimes, they just want to checkout quickly as a guest without going through the account creation process.

Offering a guest checkout makes the process faster, and more convenient for all customers. It’s a simple thing to do that can make a big difference to your customers. That being said, you can still encourage account creation. When it comes time to checkout, be sure to detail the benefits of creating an account. That might include enhanced order tracking, the ability to earn loyalty points, or cheaper shipping options.

#5 - Offer express checkout options

Want to really speed up the checkout process for your customers? Then it’s time to implement express options. Customers can use options such as Shop Pay, PayPal, Apple Pay etc. to skip the steps requiring them to add shipping info and enter payment details. This is especially helpful if they’re looking to quickly buy a single product directly on the product page. It can also help with improving trust in your site’s security, as customers don’t need to enter payment details in order to checkout. It’s all handled by their trusted payment method. 


Your checkout is the last hurdle to turn a casual site visitor into a happy customer. By understanding why your customers abandon checkout, you can turn common issues into opportunities.