A guide to payment optimization
How to improve your customer buying journey
On average, two out of three people never hit ‘pay’ when they’re buying goods online. As ecommerce merchants are all too aware, that’s a huge 69% of potential customers who give up mid-way through the buying journey.
Independent ecommerce research institute The Baymard Institute has been tracking cart abandonment annually for several years now and unfortunately that percentage rarely waivers. That could be about to change.
What is a customer buying journey?
The customer buying journey is the sequence of interactions and experiences that shoppers go through from the moment they first become aware of a product or service to the point of purchase and beyond.
In an ecommerce setting, this journey can involve multiple touchpoints and channels, including online search, social media, customer reviews, and more.
In essence, the customer buying journey is a roadmap that defines how a potential customer becomes your actual customer, and outlines the active role your business should play in that process.
What are the steps in the customer buying journey?
Though the specific steps can vary depending on the nature of the purchase and the individual customer, the customer buying journey can typically be broken down into the following stages:
The customer becomes aware of a need or problem that they need to address. To solve the problem, they’ll conduct some informal research, which could involve looking for information online, asking friends, or reading relevant customer reviews.
Some sources also define the awareness stage as the moment the customer becomes aware of your business and how your product or service could meet their needs.
As an online merchant, you can play an active role in driving this awareness through social media and email marketing campaigns, and optimizing your website to include keywords that are relevant to your ideal customer’s queries and pain points.
Having discovered a range of brands or products, the customer will now evaluate each one to decide which offers the best solution to their problem.
Your role here is to demonstrate the value of your product and build trust with your potential customer. This can be achieved through detailed product descriptions and helpful content, and by prominently displaying reviews from existing customers.
After a thorough evaluation of the merits of each offering, the customer will feel confident in making a purchase. If your efforts have been successful, hopefully, they’ll buy your product. But the journey isn’t over yet…
Retention and advocacy
The customer uses your product or service and, because it’s the best solution, it meets their needs or solves their problem. They can then act as an advocate for your brand through word of mouth or writing online reviews.
You should encourage this advocacy by sending an email prompt that contains a link to leave a review. You can also ensure retention and actively drive repeat sales by reaching out with other relevant products, services, or offers, in the future.
Why is the customer buyer journey important for online merchants?
As an online merchant, understanding the customer journey is important for a number of reasons, including:
Boosting conversion rates
Taking the time to understand your customer’s buying journey will inform effective conversion rate optimization strategies. You should identify the exact point that a consumer is likely to first interact with your brand, and the subsequent steps they’ll take. That way you can remove any bottlenecks and fine tune every point of engagement to maximize the chances that they’ll continue to the point of purchase.
This has a cumulative effect. The more customers discover your brand, the more traffic you’ll drive to your website; the more customers that use and love your product or service, the more great reviews you’ll get, the higher you’ll rank, and the more consumers will discover your brand.
Knowing how customers will discover your brand helps you to use your advertising and marketing resources more efficiently.
You can learn which of your strategies most effectively drive engagement and then refine your approach. You should also take the time to conduct research into your competitors. In a crowded marketplace, you need a unique selling point to stand out. Understanding how your rivals are targeting consumers with their own marketing efforts will allow you to differentiate your proposition to attract potential customers at every stage of their journey.
A good buying experience not only impacts the first purchase but also encourages repeat purchases, which increases customer lifetime value. And loyal customers are the best advocates for your brand, helping to drive ever more awareness and sales.
There are many reasons why a customer might add something to their basket and then abandon their purchase. But, generally speaking, anything that creates friction or frustration during their buying journey is likely to increase the chances of an abandoned cart.
According to a 2023 study from the Baynard Institute, 48% of respondents cited unexpected shipping costs or taxes at checkout as their top reason for cart abandonment, followed by forcing customers to create an account (24%), and slow delivery options (22%).
Lack of trust is also a major cause of cart abandonment (18%). Even on a familiar website, cautious customers can be put off by anything that seems even remotely suspicious, such as an unrecognized payment gateway or laggy site speed. Or a customer could simply be dissuaded off by a checkout process that’s too long or complicated (17%).
What strategies can improve the customer buying journey?
Fortunately, there are plenty of steps that merchants can take to improve the customer buying journey. As long as you understand the reasons why your customers aren’t following through with their purchases, you can form targeted strategies to address the issues.
Personalize your customer’s experience
Tailor your customer experience to what you know about them. While you might be a business that focuses on selling domestically, does your data suggest customers are visiting from another country? If so, be flexible. Start their shopping experience with you on the right foot.
Remove friction for international transactions
Automatically detect the browser language and IP location. If your customer is in France, show up in French and wave the flag. Additionally, to remove further friction for international transactions , enable your customer to buy in their currency.
Protection. Clearly display the relevant security certificates on the home page and payment pages to build trust.
Detecting the device and browser your customer is using to offer different payment methods can help to streamline the checkout experience and speed up the buying process.
Responsive web design
Make sure your checkout page adapts to the device type, not just browser size.
While responsive web design has been around for years, we’re now seeing a growing adoption of Google’s progressive web app (PWA) methodology. Web elements are minimized so they can be loaded quickly, much like an app experience.
Offer multiple payment methods
Consumers want options and they want their needs to be met. That’s why offering a variety of payment methods is such an effective way to optimize your customer buying journey. Sometimes, giving a customer the choice to pay using their preferred method could make all the difference between losing or making a sale.
- Local payment methods: For selling across Europe, Middle East, Asia, you can offer multiple payment methods. Cards are not always the default choice. Before you expand, build ahead by adding the local payment methods you need
- High-ticket items: High-ticket items may be suited to pay later solutions such as Klarna. Some customers may prefer to use Amex over Visa or Mastercard due to rewards. Make sure your digital payment provider is charging you fairly for the offering choice.
Optimize your checkout process
Based on our conversations with merchants, we know that around 80% of them do not offer methods that pre-fill customer data which can speed up transactions. It’s all in the details when it comes to reducing payment friction for your customer.
Encourage newsletter sign-up or refer a friend. Start building loyalty to your brand by using methods like these in exchange for future discounts.
- Single page: Be considerate about the layout of your checkout page. Collect all the data you need on a single page or clearly show the steps involved.
- Guest checkout: Default to guest checkout. If you know the customer, enable the browser to show login name and password, otherwise let new customers checkout as “guests”.
- Handle common input errors: Reduce the likelihood of the customer having to submit their details again by automatically detecting the card type and showing input errors.
- Make it easy to submit card details: On mobile, showing a full keyboard slows down the process of entering card details.
- Customize the look and feel of your payment form: Display your branding throughout the entire flow of your customer’s journey right through to the payment stage.
Discover how Checkout.com was able to boost Curve’s approval rates and revenues by 10%
Continuously improve and adapt
Finessing your checkout experience can take time. But it’s time worth investing.
- Evolve payments with your business growth: Be agile in testing new payment methods as you enter new markets, offer new product lines or change how your customers access your product or service.
- Reduce declined payments. Work closely with your client success manager to understand the “why” behind the data and to prevent chargebacks.
- Does your payment provider help you understand exactly why a transaction has declined? Would using a card updater service be beneficial if you’re offering subscriptions?
- Scale your back-end process: As volumes increase, merchants can go from processing millions of dollars online to tens of millions and beyond. The cost of taking payments typically reduces but the time spent reconciling transactions and managing disputes can increase.
- Could your digital payment provider help you streamline your processes via API connections in the tools you use?
We’ve given you a number of suggestions here, based on our experience supporting our clients. We recommend that you pinpoint one or two tactics that you think could make the most impact on your customers’ checkout experience. Then build on those foundations.
How Checkout.com helps you improve your customer’s buying journey
Checkout.com’s Integrated Platforms solution comes with all the tools you need to develop a fully-optimized payments flow that scales as you grow. What’s more, our platform is highly secure, protecting against the ever-present threat of fraud; offers a huge variety of payment methods, to maximize sales; and empowers your decision-making by giving you access to all the data insights you could ever need.
With Checkout.com’s Integrated Platforms solution, you can customize and optimize your payments flow in accordance with your business goals. Our fully integrated APIs enable frictionless onboarding of sellers, automated funding flows and in-depth, granular data reports that can help you attract and retain more buyers and sellers, and increase your revenue.
Find out how we can help you improve your customer’s online experience to increase sales with efficient payment processing.
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