A Streamlined Checkout: Make It Easy for People to Give You Money

A streamlined checkout and digital shopping environment illustrates a user-friendly e-commerce experience. In the center, a clear, easy-to-navigate pathway leads to a stylized shopping cart, symbolizing a simplified checkout process. On one side, diverse payment options are represented, including icons for credit cards, digital wallets, and cryptocurrencies. On the other side, a mobile device displays a clean, uncluttered user interface. The environment is characterized by welcoming and efficient vibes, with an overall feeling of ease and accessibility. The color scheme predominantly uses shades of cobalt blue and teal, reflecting the Optimix brand. This image effectively conveys the concept of simplifying e-commerce processes for an enhanced customer experience.

Jan 9, 2024

Here’s what’s on my mind this week:

  • Too many brands don’t have a streamlined checkout process.
  • Why you need more payment options.
  • All the things that can ruin a mobile-friendly shopping experience.
  • How restrictive return policies save money at the expense of future sales
  • Why a customer-centric brand is the only way forward.

Let’s dig in:

Simplify Your Customer Journey to Boost Sales

If there’s one thing I wish every C-suite executive could tattoo on their brain, it’s this: “Don’t make it hard for customers to give us money.” Sounds like a no-brainer, right? But you’d be surprised how often this simple principle is overlooked in the world of e-commerce. Just last week, I was shopping online for a new small form factor (SFF) PC for work. I spent considerable time choosing each component in the product configurator – the motherboard, graphics card, cooling, RAM, SSD, everything thoroughly considered and selected to balance my needs with the total price I was willing to pay. As if that process wasn’t complicated enough, as soon as I hit ‘checkout’ I was hit with a barrage of forms, account creation demands, and a maze of upsell options trying to turn me away from the configuration decisions I toiled over just moments ago. Guess what? I bailed. If I, a tech-savvy, e-commerce enthusiast like myself found it too much, imagine the average customer’s plight.

Streamlined Checkout: Ditch the Forms, Keep the Customers

Here’s the deal: a complicated checkout process is like putting a locked door between your customers and your products. Sure, there are a ton of eCommerce tactics that are effective at increasing conversion rates, AOV, etc. during the checkout process, but when 69.57% of shopping carts are abandoned on average, DTC brands can’t afford to deploy them all or without careful consideration to how the tactic might boost a particular KPI at the expense of the customer experience. Conversion rates and AOV are easy to measure, but the amount of revenue walking out the door with a frustrated visitor isn’t. 

So, what’s the fix? Keep it simple. Limit the steps. Require only essential information. And please, don’t make me create an account just to buy a pair of socks. Becky Davis, a CRO expert who I’ve worked with and greatly admire once told me the best mindset to have when evaluating your checkout process is to assume every single visitor is drunk. Assume they can’t read and get easily confused. Assume their inebriated state makes them extremely distractible, and even the slightest amount of friction is likely to send them into a frenzy of rage clicks. If your checkout process is smooth and pleasant enough for someone completely tossed, then you’ve successfully solved for the lowest common denominator and optimized the last leg of your customer journey.

If a brand requires customers to create an account before completing a purchase, there has to be a very good reason for it. When I ask brands why they’re doing it, I usually get something along the lines of “to build our email marketing list.” That’s not good enough! There’s little sense in trading the sale that would have happened now for contact info that lets a brand sell something later. 

Similarly, cross-sell and upsell funnels are great tactics for increasing average order value (AOV) and units per transaction (UPT), but if the offers aren’t related to items in the customers’ cart, or if too many products get pitched, that customer will bounce. Tools like Honeycomb and ReConvert shouldn’t be added to a brand’s checkout process without extensive holdout testing. AOV, UPT, and Abandoned Cart rate all have to be better than the control group, otherwise, the brand is losing sales by chasing incremental gains.

Payment Gateway Paradise Caters to Every Consumer

Shop Pay and PayPal are my go-to for one-click checkouts. I can’t stress enough how much I, like many other customers, detest the tedious task of entering my name, email, and mailing address for an online purchase. It’s a real hassle. So, when I land on a site without a one-click option, I immediately start reconsidering. Should I continue now, deal with it later, or just drop it altogether? It can be a significant barrier, and all too often, it tips the scales against making that purchase. The transaction fees associated with one-click services are negligible, so there’s very little reason for a brand not to have at least one of them. Don’t be stingy about merchant fees. Make it easy for people to give you money.

Brands might even go beyond one-click and consider digital wallets, cryptocurrencies, and buy-now-pay-later options too. Sure, those transactions might only account for 1% to 5% of all purchases. But here’s the thing: those purchases might not have happened without these options. Plus, it’s not just about capturing incremental sales; it’s about building an inclusive shopping experience. By aligning with a customer’s preferences, you eliminate variables in their purchase decision. You’re not just being accommodating – you’re being smart. In e-commerce, the name of the game is accessibility and convenience. That’s how you win over customers and keep them coming back.

Mobile First Designs Can Easily Be Ruined

I like to think my wife and I do a pretty good job at limiting our kid’s screen time. After all, we’re good parents, right? But that’s why it pains me to say I’m always on my phone. I know it’s hypocritical, but I know I’m not alone. According to Statista, mobile accounted for 74% of all retail site visits, and 56% of all online purchases were made from a mobile device. But there’s a catch: if your site is mobile-first or uses responsive web design, if it’s a cluttered mess of opt-in forms, live chat prompts, and promo banners, you’re losing out big time. Remember, good design is invisible. Overloading your mobile site with tactics intended to increase conversion can be a recipe for disaster. 

DTC brands need to go beyond a responsive design that adapts seamlessly to different screen sizes. Every element added to an e-commerce site should be done with strategic purpose and weighed against the user experience in conjunction with other tools being deployed. Live chat or an AI chatbot might make a lot of sense for a brand, but if it gets in the way and makes it harder for people to give you money, then it’s missing the mark. It doesn’t matter how easy it is for customers to get answers to their questions if it comes at the expense of a smooth mobile checkout.

Build Trust Through Frictionless Refunds

To the degree that we make it easy for people to give us money, we should make it as easy to get money back. Make it as easy to return a product as it was to buy it. Thirty-day return policies are now ubiquitous in e-commerce, but shipping something back for an exchange or a refund is still a chore.  If brands want to win back customers and earn raving testimonials, they’ll need to rethink the status quo of burying return procedures and customer service contact information behind a maze of clicks. Practices like that are what make for a restrictive return policy, and it can be a major turn-off. It’s like telling your customers, “We got your money, now good luck.” 

Everyone knows a company has restrictive return policies to mitigate fraud and limit lossed revenue, but that’s not the message you want to send, especially when the rewards for streamlining your return process are greater than the cost of fraudulent returns. In fact, the National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates that only 7.5% of all returns were fraudulent. This is not where brands should be solving for the lowest common denominator.

Instead of assuming every return is a scam and making customers fight for their innocence, offer a fair return policy. Give customers enough time to return products, especially after the holidays when gifts are often purchased long before they are received. Waive restocking fees. All they do is incentivize customers to report a defective product. Make the entire return process straightforward and low-effort. Remember, a good return policy isn’t a cost; it’s an investment in customer trust and repeat business.


Don’t let complexity be the barrier to your brand’s success. Make it easy for people to give you money. Make it as easy to return a product as it was to buy it. Simplify your checkout process, be careful with tactics intended to boost KPIs, diversify payment options, optimize mobile experience, and make returns hassle-free. Remember, making it easy for customers to transact with you not only boosts immediate sales but also builds long-term loyalty and trust. Start streamlining now for a better customer journey and a stronger bottom line.

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