How to improve mobile checkout

September 14, 2016 12:43 PM

Everyone hates waiting in line, yet it remains a necessary evil—in fact, Americans spend roughly 37 billion hours every year stuck in one.

And all this waiting leads to some serious impatience, especially for busy shoppers. According to one study, consumers are likely to abandon a line that might take up to 10 minutes after only 2-3 minutes if they feel it isn't moving fast enough.

In the online shopping world, lengthy checkout processes are that ‘long line’ at the store; time-consuming, annoying, and a deterrent to consumers intending to make a purchase. As many as 60-75 percent of online shopping carts are abandoned, with even higher numbers of abandonment on mobile.

Since the advent of retail, brick-and-mortar businesses have worked continuously to implement creative strategies and technologies to improve the shopping experience, yet mobile commerce has lacked that level of innovation, leaving many e-retailers unsure of what to do next.

To understand where the mobile shopping experience needs to go, we must look at how in-store checkout processes have evolved to help consumers overcome line fatigue and increase conversions. We’ll then share several actionable ways online retailers can develop a superior checkout experience to diminish shopping cart abandonment and increase revenue, as well as our predictions for the future of e-commerce. From these examples, e-retailers can draw some creative inspiration on new ways to improve shopping on mobile for a mobile-first world.

A brief history of brick & mortar checkouts

Improving the in-store check out process has typically centered around one thing: speed. Checkout remained a manual process for most of the 20th century, but when credit cards finally became popular, checkouts rapidly sped up as paying involved just a simple swipe, no counting out money and change.

With the actual payment process getting shorter and shorter, the next round of innovations shifted to the line. Some stores have a line for each register and customers choose which line they want, but an increasing number of are adopting single lines, where the first person in line goes to the next available cashier to combat frustration over choosing the “wrong line.”

Beyond this, brands are creating waiting experiences that distract from the actual time spent in line. All those magazines lining grocery store checkouts or cosmetic samples in the register lines at Sephora? They not only drive sales, but also provide a welcome distraction for waiting shoppers. Others are looking for ways to further decrease wait times, or even eliminate them. For example, Bonobos and Warby Parker developed an online-offline retail experience where consumers can try on clothes and accessories in-store, then purchase online with the help of attentive salespeople—negating the need for a line entirely. In France, IKEA is testing out an app that allows shoppers to scan each product as they place it in their cart, instead of having checkers taking the time to scan the entirety of bulky items at checkout. Once at the register, the shopper just scans the single QR code, makes the payment, and is out the door.

Tomorrow’s checkout experience will be see even more innovation, making shopping in-store so seamless that, “it will feel like stealing,” according to Michael Chui, a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute. Retailers will place networks of sensors strategically around their stores which will enable them to recognize you (through your smartphone) when you walk through the door, with additional sensors attached to (or embedded in) items that are available for purchase. Since stores will already have your preferred payment information on file, when you exit the store with your merchandise, you will be billed automatically, skipping a traditional checkout experience altogether.

Plus, the carts themselves will become more intelligent to guide the purchasing process. One company has designed a connected shopping cart that enables store owners to offer promotions and eliminate checkout lines, while also giving retailers valuable data about where customer habits. And this is just the beginning. 

Despite all these exciting developments in stores, online shopping is falling into the dark ages.

Online checkout

Brick-and-mortar sales still dominate commerce, but online and mobile shopping are growing fast. As of 2015, one-third of all e-commerce sales happened on mobile devices. However as mentioned above, most retailers are still struggling to stem the flow of customer attrition. $4 trillion in merchandise was abandoned in online shopping carts in 2014, according to a report from BI Intelligence, and 65% of retailers have a shopping cart abandonment rate higher than 50%. Optimizing mobile checkouts is clearly a problem, but there are things every retailer can do.

First, implement pre-fill and/or auto-fill technologies to your checkout page to eliminate the need for consumers to fill in a bevy of tiny boxes to purchase a product. Something as simple as auto-filling in a customer’s shipping address or recognizing a credit card can make the difference between clicking ‘buy’ or leaving the site. Then, make sure the shopping cart button is present on every page. This encourages shoppers to drop items in their cart when they have even the slightest interest in them, which increases conversions.

It’s also vital to implement a seamless one-touch or thumbprint checkout or payment process, like Apple Pay’s new mobile web integration. 66 percent of online consumers abandon their cart because of problems with the payment process, according to a report from Jumio, and 23 percent of shoppers will abandon their shopping cart if they are forced to register an account. The more friction you remove, the higher your conversion rate will be; implementing a one-stop, easy payment solution decreases the likelihood that shoppers will abandon a purchase.

Another important step is to design your entire mobile web page for mobile. Mobile commerce, and the influence mobile devices have on commerce, are rapidly gaining ground, so a mobile-responsive design is key.

The future of checking out

The checkout experience across in-store, online, and on mobile are all going to evolve in the years to come, as each realm learns from the other and retailers begin creating cross-device experiences that make friction—whether it’s a long line or requiring users to login—a thing of the past.

On mobile specifically, we’re already seeing some exciting innovations. Amazon has helped usher in the era of one-click checkout, while Apple Pay for mobile is bringing thumbprint checkout to the masses. But the best is yet to come. Next we’ll see some crazy new inventions like being able to purchase products from Instagram with just a hashtag or payment by retinal scan.

What do you think is next in shopping and payment technology? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Moovweb provides mobile commerce technology to 39 of the Top 1000 online retailers in North America, according to




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