Voice of the Industry

What makes a high-converting checkout?

Thursday 17 September 2020 09:42 CET | Editor: Stefana Ivan | Voice of the industry

Andy Mulcahy, Strategy and Insight Director, IMRG: Over a third of people who reach the checkout with an item in hand – demonstrating no small degree of intent to purchase – don’t end up completing it (at that visit, at least).

Ecommerce teams work very hard to ensure site visitors don’t come up against any unnecessary barriers in their progress towards completing a purchase. From the point that they land on the site, there is a huge number of options for them to consider around functionality and layout. Plus, there is no universal solution – it’s a real game of trial and error. 

Once the customers actually make it to the checkout, we’d all like to think that their job is done – the visitors had a successful browsing experience, found something they like, added it to their basket, and made it to the final hurdle, which should be straightforward enough to clear. Except, of course, it seldom is. 

At IMRG we track the conversion of site visitors once they have arrived at the checkout and while there is some variation throughout the year, it tends to hover around the 60% mark. This means that over a third of people who reach the checkout with an item in hand – demonstrating no small degree of intent to purchase – don’t end up completing it (at that visit, at least).

There is a huge array of possible reasons for this, and it’s important to state that the above number is an average. Some retailers have much stronger conversion than that, some much lower. But what are the key factors influencing higher or lower conversion rates at the checkout?

Payment options

In order to answer this question, we got a more granular view of conversion from 45 retailers. Instead of relying on conversion at the checkout overall, we got rates for each page on the checkout. The structure tended to vary greatly – while some have single-page checkouts, others have as many as six pages – but there were points of consistency.

For example, most checkouts opt for a dedicated page for capturing payment information. Offering multiple payment options may be one element that aids conversion (i.e. getting the mix right for your target demographic) but we thought it might be interesting to get a view of the actual payment method usage – as to what percentage of sales are made using each option. 

When we got that additional information, the results were quite striking. For a lot of retailers, there tended to be three dominant methods – Visa, Mastercard and PayPal – while Amex was a bit stronger for more premium brands, and Klarna a big chunk for a couple of retailers.

What was most apparent though was how few retailers seem to have a full view of their payments spread. Only a few were able to give us that 100% breakdown, as for the most there were gaps in the understanding. For example, some retailers were not able to identify which payment method was used for around 20% of the total sales they made.

Therefore, it was difficult to say whether offering alternative payment options is a positive driver of conversion yet.

Delivery options

The browsing and purchasing processes are only one part of the experience – getting connected physically to the order is a further consideration that is fraught with challenges.

At the checkout, can the conversion be influenced by the number of delivery options customers are able to choose from? 

In our sample, we had 20 retailers who had a page on the checkout specifically dedicated to selecting delivery options (economy, next-day, click-and-collect etc). As a simple exercise, we counted the number provided and lined them up in order of conversion at that stage – which means the percentage of visitors who reach that page on the checkout and click the call-to-action, usually a button saying ‘next step’ or something similar. 

We then drew a line down the middle, and it became apparent that there was a tendency for those with higher conversion (some at 99%, incidentally) to offer a greater variety of options. For the bottom half, the average number offered was 2.5, while for the top half it was 2.9.

There is no magic bullet for getting people across the line – the top performer only offered two options, for example – but there are certain patterns we can identify with some elements on the checkout.  


This doesn’t mean that it’s all a matter of science when it comes to structuring the checkout and deciding what functionality to include/omit. It’s important to note that some of the less tangible elements can also exert an influence.

As an experiment, we took three checkouts – one that had a relatively high conversion, one average, and one low – and showed them to a room of people. We then asked them to rank them in order of how they thought they would convert. It was interesting to note that in general, they did manage to get them in the correct order.

As part of this exercise, we specifically asked them to focus on the look and feel of the checkout rather than anything related to functionality – what payment/delivery options were available etc. It seems that something as simple as the font type/size used and general layout can be important factors in driving conversion.

And that reveals something that is often overlooked in user experience – the basics. We can sometimes get too bogged down in the technical detail and forget to ensure that it looks good. Sometimes you can do a lot worse than stand back and ask yourself – would I buy from there?

This article was published in our Payments Methods Report 2020, an extensive overview of what’s new in how people pay in the most relevant ecommerce markets.

About Andy Mulcahy

Andy has worked at the heart of the online retail industry since 2010 – researching and producing reports on trends and developments affecting the sector. During that time, Andy has developed strong knowledge in multiple areas, with particular expertise in Black Friday.

About IMRG

IMRG is the UK’s online retail association – a membership community offering neutral and unique resources for online retailers. We help our members understand and improve their online retail performance through a busy programme of performance benchmarking, data analysis, insight, best practice-sharing, and events.

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Keywords: Andy Mulcahy, IMRG, ecommerce, high conversion, checkout, retailers, Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, Amex, Klarna, multiple payment options, delivery options
Categories: Payments & Commerce
Countries: World
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Payments & Commerce

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