Why and How to Improve WooCommerce Checkout
WooCommerce now powers roughly 1 in 3 online stores. The platform continues to consolidate its lead over Shopify in terms of market share. According to WordPress, the WooCommerce plugin has a whopping 5 million active installations. Its increasing ubiquity is all the more impressive when one considers that the platform is not even a decade old. It’s why Matt Mullenweg recently expressed the view that “it’s day one with WooCommerce,” likening it to where WordPress was in 2008. Considering that WooCommerce was only acquired in 2015, I think it’s safe to take Matt at his word.
More than any other e-commerce platform, WooCommerce benefits from a rich plugin infrastructure that allows merchants virtually unlimited ways to customize their store. But it remains an open question whether the growth of the WordPress plugin market is keeping pace with the influx of merchants unleashed by the pandemic. Compared to 2019, WooCommerce keyword searches jumped by a stunning 44% in 2020. Searches for WordPress plugin keywords, meanwhile, increased by 18%. There are over 50,000 WordPress plugins on the market, but only about 1 in 50 are specifically oriented toward WooCommerce merchants.
All this to say, there are still problems that need solving and plugins that need to be developed, especially in the WooCommerce space. Merchants using WooCommerce, despite being able to customize their store to their heart’s content, are not immune to the problems faced by merchants on other e-commerce platforms. Far from it. And, curiously, a surprising amount of these problems revolve around online checkout.
Frictional Checkout: The Unknown Plight of Merchants
Perhaps among the most frequently trotted out, and yet no less nightmare-inducing, e-commerce statistics is that roughly 70% of online carts are abandoned. As aforementioned, the fact of the matter is that WooCommerce stores are no better off than those of any other e-commerce platform. In fact, if anything, they might be worse off due to the absence of a viable universal, out-of-the-box payment and checkout solution a la Shop Pay. But, let’s not jump ahead of ourselves.
A Brief History of Online Shopping
Take a moment and transport yourself back to 2001. It’s an exciting time for the Internet and online shopping. The sheer novelty of buying something online means that, if you can jump through the hoops of collecting payments on your website, you were very likely to make a cool profit.
In other words, online shoppers were effortlessly delighted. It’s the type of scenario that online merchants surely dream about today, at a time when it is commonplace to call consumers spoiled and fickle. But the truth is that consumers have every right to be dissatisfied.
After all, how much has the process of online checkout really changed two decades later? Minus autofill, how much more convenient is it, really, to buy something online?
The Issue of Frictional Checkout
The same issue that lay under the surface in 2001 is increasingly up, front, and center today. That issue is frictional checkout, although it comes in many names and flavors. Excessive checkout fields, excessive checkout pages, multi-step checkout flows, lengthy page-load times, account creation screens, and more!
In the case of far too many online stores, these elements blend together to create the perfect storm, one that leaves the shopper unhappy and the merchant penniless. It’s the missing variable in figuring out the cart abandonment dilemma most merchants face. It may also go some way toward explaining why, of the 24 million e-commerce stores out there, less than 1 million make more than $1,000 a year.
Result: Cart Abandonment
The primary cause of the cart abandonment contagion is frequently misidentified. Leaving aside the matter of price (as slashing prices is not a sustainable strategy), the root cause of cart abandonment is frictional checkout.
With each passing second that a checkout process consumes, a customer is less likely to make a purchase. Notice that I said seconds, not minutes. Chalk it up to paralysis by analysis or shortened consideration spans, but seconds make all the difference in the world of e-commerce.
So what can WooCommerce merchants do to solve this universal issue? What are they doing already? Does the rich WordPress plugin infrastructure we brought up earlier perhaps yield a solution?
Streamlining the Checkout Process
Fortunately, autofill goes some way toward alleviating cart abandonment. Obviously, no plugin or PHP code alteration is needed to deliver this functionality to your customers. However, it is worth noting that autofill works best when you have as few checkout pages and fields as possible. There are quite a few one-page checkout plugins available these days. However, many themes already come equipped with one-page checkouts, so it seems senseless to pay a premium fee for this.
Checkout Field Editor
The less prevalent, and therefore more effective, thing is to play around with the number and nature of your checkout fields. You can try a plugin like Checkout Field Editor by ThemeHigh or, if sufficiently tech-savvy, make modifications to the PHP code using developer mode. Consider whether you really need to collect a customer’s phone number or if that may be just the type of unnecessary field you can remove.
WooCommerce Cart Abandonment Recovery
Most merchants think that they can fix the problem of cart abandonment by adding some sort of email automation plugin that reminds customers to complete their purchase. But by then, the decision to buy something from your store is likely a foregone conclusion. Still, it is a solution worth looking into.
Plugins like WooCommerce Cart Abandonment Recovery, created by CartFlows Inc, are exclusively focused on winning back customers by automatically sending out emails to those who left them behind in the checkout page. OptinMonster delivers the same functionality with added features, like popups and a newsletter delivery system. For those who take one look at a checkout screen and never even bother to enter their email, this solution misses the mark entirely.
Funnel Builder by CartFlows
A popular, although not optimal, route taken by many merchants is to spend hundreds of dollars (or the equivalent in time) on a highly beautified, elaborate multi-step checkout flow with cross-selling and up-selling capabilities. CartFlows Inc, the company behind the aforementioned cart abandonment recovery plugin, is most famous for its funnel builder, which essentially involves trying to encourage your customers into checking out “one more item!” before they complete their purchase.
The trade-off, of course, is clear. With each item you try to up-sell (and this plugin lets you up-sell a great many!), you’re introducing friction into the checkout process. You are increasing the likelihood of a customer getting tired of the sometimes unwarranted CTAs and exiting your site entirely.
Although CartFlow’s plugin is a great one, too often this approach essentially means that a merchant is doubling down on a fundamentally misguided approach to checkout by introducing further complexity and unfamiliarity into the equation. The approach only really bears fruit when a simplified form of checkout with as few fields as possible is the final product.
YITH One-Click Checkout
Other merchants opt for the worst solution imaginable, which is to encourage or outright force customers to create an account, promising them that checking out will be easier the next time. It should surprise no one that customers don’t bite. That initial checkout barrier is all they need to decide never to visit your store again. This one is worth skipping out on completely if you are like most online store owners.
However, if you find yourself in a position with a lot of repeat customers, then it might just be worth considering. To be clear, you should always allow someone to check out as a guest, but letting repeat users create accounts and then giving them access to a plugin like YITH one-click checkout is not necessarily a bad course of action.
But do you know what’s better than offering returning customers one-click checkout? Offering one-click checkout to online shoppers that have never visited your store before. In this day and age, giving customers the ability to check out with just one click is the single best thing a merchant can do to eliminate frictional checkout.
For WooCommerce, your best bet for one-click checkout is the PeachPay plugin. The first time a customer clicks the button generated by the PeachPay plugin, it generates a streamlined form that is already easier to fill out than 90% of checkout flows out there. However, the real magic takes place the next time the customer clicks the button, as all their information will be available for 1-click checkout, no matter what site they clicked the button on initially.
The best part? It’s free, as its price is built into the standard Stripe transaction fee. Merchants need to simply signup for an account with PeachPay to get started with a 14 day free trial.
Where to Start
All these suggestions may seem overwhelming, but the best place to start is with PeachPay’s passwordless one-click checkout solution. Merchants can get set up in minutes, let their customers check out in seconds, and see the results in just a few days’ time.
In addition to PeachPay, merchants can use the suite of plugins recommended above to optimize their standard checkout for a smooth experience. Hopefully with these tools you can streamline your checkout and improve the process for your customers!
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