No more queuing at the online checkout – eCommerce Magazin

Queuing at a supermarket checkout can be a test of patience. Buyers find the check-out process when shopping online no less tedious. The decision to buy, the payment process and completion of the order should only be a minor matter. Indeed, the design of the check-out with a view to the desired behavior of the customers during these steps is particularly delicate. The most common reasons for abandoning a purchase include the need to create a customer account after shipping costs are too high. In fourth place is a check-out process that is too long and complicated, according to a survey by the Baymard Institute of more than 4,300 respondents.

Reasons for the virtual queue

After deciding on a product, customers expect a linear and predictable sequence of a maximum of five steps, or subpages, including the shopping cart. It should be clear to customers which and how many steps have to be taken. A display of the progress in the purchase process helps with expectation management and improves the customer experience. If you can then switch between the individual steps without any problems, this process is as transparent and clear as possible.

These steps also include filling out form fields. Whether as a registered buyer or as a guest, entering address data cannot be avoided.

Address validation & address fields

On average, online buyers have to fill out ten to eleven form fields for the address information when placing their first order. Entering it is time-consuming and often confusing: Does the house number have its own field, what needs to be in the additional information? Without a correct delivery address, however, no delivery can take place; the entry is of course mandatory. In the case of deviating entries from the previous purchase, for example through an abbreviation to Str., An unnecessary second profile may arise and the assignment may be watered down.

Optional fields make the input process even more difficult, because the option must first be clearly recognized as such, for example by missing a mandatory field asterisk or a corresponding designation. It becomes clearer when fields that are not absolutely necessary, such as the additional address or the company name, are only displayed with a click and otherwise remain hidden. It must be clear to customers which fields are relevant.

If the billing and delivery address have to be entered again in full, independently of one another, this rightly creates displeasure. By default, the billing address should be the same as the delivery address and the corresponding field should only be shown in the case of a delivery to a different address.

Mobile shopping

38 percent of Germans shop online via smartphone. 68 percent use a shopping app for this (We Are Social & Hotsuite 2021), and the trend is clearly rising. In the age group between 16 and 29, there are even 81 percent smartphone shoppers (Bitkom 2020). However, the abandonment rate for smartphone purchases is over 80 percent (Barilliance 2021). One reason for this can be input in form fields. In comparison, it takes about twice as long as with a conventional PC keyboard. Simply because of the size of the letter field and switching between letters, numbers and special characters, input is more difficult and subject to more errors, because a correction is just as time-consuming.

Address validation: Faster through the check-out process

A simple and effective method is the use of a data quality tool for the auto-completion of address and contact data, which makes it easier to enter data. This suggests suitable entries when entering the address field. This is based on a (always up-to-date) database that accesses city and street names and specifies these suggestions with each additional letter entered (the type-ahead search). Or enter the place name automatically after entering the postcode. Typing effort is significantly reduced, incorrect spellings or typing errors are avoided. This not only helps in the check-out process, but also when creating the customer account.

A so-called single-line entry, in which the address field is similar to a search field, is particularly useful for mobile shopping. As you enter, a selection list of the addresses found is displayed without first having to start with a specific parameter. This also significantly reduces the number of input fields. In a recent poll that Uniserv carried out together with Appinio among 221 employees in various industries, 38 percent of the respondents from retail and logistics companies use an auto-completion function primarily in the customer center, while it is only used in every fourth online shop.

Another data quality tool that gives online retailers in particular security for the correct purchase process is address validation. The automatic address check ensures that there are fewer delivery delays or returns due to incorrect address details. Here it is important to signal that a correction will be supported or to confirm a correct entry as soon as the entry is made. Realtime validation, or live-in validation, checks in real time during the input process. Accordingly, it plays back positive or negative feedback directly on the relevant input field. This strengthens user satisfaction and leads to a higher completion rate, because while the users are mentally in this field, they can make the necessary changes.

If users had to jump back in the process to make corrections, that would be irritating, especially in mobile shopping, as it leads to even more scrolling movements and destroys the linearity of the process. Positive messages, such as a green tick next to the correct entry, also have a motivating effect and convey a secure feeling of progress in the purchasing process.

Limitless online trading

Online trading is global. For web shops, however, this means having to adjust to different address systems in different countries. There are country-specific input sequences. Just as the sequence street, house number, postcode and place name is common in Germany, in France the house number is given before the street name, in Austria the words “staircase” or “apartment” are added, in the USA the state must be mentioned and the ZIP Code to be entered at the end. If customers encounter an unfamiliar sequence here, this in turn leads to irritation or uncertainty, and thus to errors.

Ease of use for happy customers

A pleasant and easy-to-use input process for the necessary address elements leads to an all-round successful shopping experience with a successful conclusion. If the ordering process is optimized in terms of usability and user experience, the conversion rate can be increased by 35 percent, according to the Baymard Institute. A short and secure check-out process, in which the address entry is easy, pleasant and intuitive, contributes significantly to lowering the costs for customer support, but at the same time leads to an increase in sales. Happy and satisfied customers therefore do not break off at check-out, they also remain loyal and in all likelihood will buy again.

Address validation – the administration of the address data

Retail companies would do well to have their customer data and thus also their address data management under the best possible quality. In view of this, however, it is surprising that a good one in four (26 percent) in the Uniserv survey does not even have an overview of the number of address data in their own company. It is clear that in the company itself, high data quality leads to better process quality. This not only ensures great customer loyalty, but can even become the basis for further digital business models on a high-quality database.

A simple, error-free and fast registration and ordering process is also part of the smooth customer journey. And that in turn contributes to good address data quality.

Tips for a comfortable check-out process

  • Offer the possibility of guest ordering in a clearly visible manner.
  • Use the progress bar to show you all the steps in the ordering process and where the buyer is currently. The display can be used for navigation, the data that has already been entered is retained.
  • Reduce input fields to the essentials and clearly mark mandatory and optional fields. Name the fields clearly and easily understandable, also pay attention to the mobile view.
  • Simplify and accelerate quality-oriented address entry with tools for auto-completion and address validation.
  • Note the country specifics when entering addresses in international e-commerce.

Also read: Using address data sensibly – This is why many retailers are still giving away potential.

Address validation and check-out process: No more queuing at the online checkout
Image: Uniserv GmbH

About the author: J├╝rgen Brunner is Senior Account Manager at Uniserv GmbH and industry expert for retail. He has been accompanying and advising retail companies on their digital transformation and data governance path since 2015, with a special focus on the management of customer data.