A Step-by-Step Guide to A Fully-Optimized DTC Checkout Flow

By Emily Rose Patz


Making a few smart moves to optimize your checkout flow can increase conversions by an incredible 35 percent. 

While the checkout flow is the last place a prospect visits before they convert, it’s not a done deal until the process is complete. One study reported that the average abandoned cart rate is 69.82 percent. That means that two out of three prospective customers dip out before ever finishing their purchase. Abandoned carts cause e-commerce brands to lose $18 billion in sales each year. While this is an alarming number, the two biggest culprits turning would-be customers into almost ones can be easily tamed by optimizing your checkout flow. 

How to Build a Conversion-Savvy Checkout Flow

Extra costs like shipping fees are the number one reason shoppers abandon their carts, while the second is the lack of a guest checkout option. Fortunately, making a few smart moves to optimize your checkout flow can increase conversions by an incredible 35 percent

1. Start With Mobile-Minded Design

Each year, mobile commerce (or mcommerce) continues to grow. Increasing 15.2 percent in 2021, mcommerce is expected to account for 44.2 percent of US retail ecommerce sales by 2025. That means if you don’t build your checkout flow to support a smooth and easy experience on mobile, you’ll miss out on sales just seconds away from closing. Mobile responsiveness is Step One for a reason, so invest in the tech it takes to create a mobile checkout flow that’s easy to navigate from a tablet or phone.

2. Give Customers a Sneak Peek of the Flow

Show customers there’s a light at the end of the tunnel from the very start of your checkout flow. By giving them a preview, customers will know just what to expect in the purchase process. Your checkout flow outline doesn’t need to steal the spotlight from the actions you want them to take. Check out this minimalist example from digital style destination Mango:

3. Adopt a “Be Our Guest” Policy

The key to a great checkout flow is creating as few barriers as possible between the moment a checkout starts the process and the second they tap “Place Order.” When you require a prospective customer to create an account, they’re much more likely to pass on purchasing altogether. 

By providing a guest checkout option as luxury e-tailer Matches Fashion does below, you give the customer the impression that they can fast-track a purchase while keeping it casual without the need to create a login and password. And in the end, this is no loss for your business. In fact, conversions can increase by 45 percent when you offer guest checkout. Not to mention, you’ll still obtain guests’ email addresses for future remarketing opportunities.


4. Keep Form Fields to a Minimum

An ideal checkout flow contains 12 fields or less. If you can fit everything on a single page, even better! Consider what you really need, along with fields you can combine. To limit form fields and avoid the impression that your checkout page is a lot of work, try these easy trimming tips:

  • Combine “First Name” and “Last Name” fields into a single “Name” field
  • Hide “Address Line 2” and “Company” fields and give users the option to open them if they need them
  • Hide “Billing Address” fields and first ask if the customers’ billing address is the same as their shipping address (it usually is)
  • Hide “Promo Code” field with a text prompt like “Add a coupon code”

5. Leverage Google Auto-Address

Recruit Google to help customers complete your form faster with Auto-Address. This handy feature prompts the customer to select a saved name and corresponding address the moment they type a letter in your name field. All they need to do is select the one they want to use, and they’re set in a second.

6. Give Customers a Heads-Up on Hot Sellers

Send customers sprinting to the “Buy Now” button by highlighting fast-selling items at checkout. When they see there’s only a few left of the item in their cart, they’re more likely to complete the purchase right then and there rather than “saving” that item in their cart for later.  

7. Offer Price-Pointed Last-Minute Additions

In the same way HomeGoods brick-and-mortar stores line the checkout aisle with dessert-scented jar candles, bedazzled barrettes, and pouches of organic dog treats, you can pop “Why not?” kinds of items into your checkout flow. Cult sunscreen brand Vacation kicks this offer up a notch by packaging add-ons into a deal that’s too good to pass on.

8. Display Security Badges

At a time when data breaches hit the headlines just about every other week, security badges are a must. Reassure your customer that their payment information is safe and secure by shoring up your checkout flow with tools and verifications necessary to maintain customers’ trust. 

9. Advertise a Buy Now, Pay Later Offering

In addition to your product pages, promote Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) at checkout. This split-payment phenomenon is taking over ecommerce and skyrocketing conversion rates by between 20 and 30 percent and boosting average order value between 30 and 50 percent.

Giving customers one last invitation to split up their order payment over time will make shoppers feel welcome to throw that last item they passed on into their cart. Budget-savvy fashion retailer H&M displays a BNPL option as an alternative alongside the one-time payment amount to make it all the more appealing.

10. Provide Payment & Shipping Options

BNPL isn’t the only way to provide your customers with payment options. From Visa and Amex to Apple Pay and PayPal, the more you cater to your customers’ payment preferences, the better their experience.

In addition to payment options, consider a variety of ship times, including ones that can cater to last-minute buyers and the kind of Amazon Prime-trained shoppers who will do just about anything to avoid shipping fees.

Shipping options can include:

  • Free expedited shipping for purchases over a set dollar amount for loyalty members
  • Free standard shipping for purchases over a higher dollar amount for non-members
  • Standard shipping on purchases under the free-shipping threshold for a fee
  • Express shipping for a fee
  • Next-day shipping for a fee

11. Prompt Add-Ons With the Lure of Free Shipping

When you offer free shipping at a certain price threshold, take one last opportunity to let customers know how close they are to earning that perk. Too-cute DTC children’s boutique Maisonette spotlights the possibility of free shipping in the checkout flow with a colorful note and a progress bar that shoppers can’t miss.

12. Test Your Discount Codes

Imagine receiving an email from your favorite retailer with a promo code you just can’t pass up. You head to their website and spend an hour stocking your cart with all kinds of items, from ones you need to ones you have to have — only for the promo code to fail at checkout time. 

Would you ever bother shopping on that website again? Probably not. And that’s why testing your discount codes is an absolute must before customers check out. The seconds you spend ensuring your customers will get the sale price you promised is well worth the return, so appoint your QA team to add this quick test to their list.


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