Checkout Optimisation Tips or a friendly letter from one marketer to another

This might sound a little over-confident, but I think I’m an ideal prospect for the majority of e-commerce shops. When you are involved in CRO on a daily basis, all ther dramatic conversion roadblocks like usability, friction or anxiety factors just don’t affect you anymore. I spot things more easily but at the same don’t react on them as emotionally as an average user will do. Luckily for all the ugly and unusable shops – I hate shopping as well. So whenever I’m faced with the long form which suddenly refreshes just a second before you click submit, or a site with delivery info impossible to find, I just go through these roadblocks with patience just in order to finish it all as fast as possible.

I may swear and curse the owner with the combination of brain cancer and bubonic plague – but still complete the process in 95% of the cases. I was clearly confident that even the worst user experience possible would never make me rage (something I notice from time to time during user testing).

You don’t need any Nostradamus tricks to understand that it all changed during my latest shopping experience. But even though I think that the marketer/manager/whoever is responsible for that site should be publicly quartered, I will try to avoid rage, and rather provide actionable dos and don’ts regarding checkout optimisation. Maybe a marketer whose committed all the heinous crimes below will spot this post and actually do something to improve it…though I honestly think he or she should think about different career choice.

So here’s my letter to our hero marketer somehow.  Let’s call him Bob.

Disclaimer: Tim would never allow me to name the company (hence the fantastic 5 year-old style red pen blobbing-out of the brand name in the screengrabs below) even though I think the world should know it’s heroes. So I will just mention that its a really well known brand with years of experience and multi million pound annual revenue. It’s okay when new startups are doing this type of mistakes – but it’s completely unforgivable for our hero site with at least 100k daily visitors.

Dear Bob,

I hope you are doing well. I sadly, along with thousands of other users struggling to check out from your website, am not. I have tried to summarise all of my issues for you just below so please spend a minute or two scanning this through.

Tip 1 – CTAs

CTA should always state a direct benefit or action user would go through after clicking. Continue or More are perhaps the most common and the worst choices ever.

That’s the CTAs you decided to choose on your website. Continue where? Shopping or checkout? What’s going to be the next step? Should I go for my credit card already? Bob! Why do you want me to guess so much? I have plenty of uncertainty in my life. All I need is just to know where am I going to appear after clicking on the button.

Tip 2 – No Guest Checkout

Are you a stalker Bob? Because I can’t find any other reason why you must make me to register and spend at least 5 minutes filling up some unnecessary forms for your marketing department to add into their dust-collecting database. Imagine each time you are picking up the milk from the corner shop you would need to register – pretty ridiculous, isn’t it?

If you so maniacally want to know everything about me just ask me later, using any channel you want. Just let me buy what I want. But please, tell me why do you need it and how you are going to use it. Otherwise expect a restraining order.

Tip 3 – Ask only the info you need


Bob, are you serious? I think you missed the “Which side of the bed do I sleep on?” and “What Frank Sinatra songs do I sing in the shower every Thursday?” Then you would know everything about me.

If marketing logic is not your strongest point, let’s get back to the milk. Imaging yourself filling in every field in the above example: who and how is going to use this milk? How many millilitres would every single one of your family members will consume? And mostly important, do you have any complaints to the cow number 1563AS who produced it? Pathetic, isn’t it?

What!? Again? Just couple of steps later you ask me again.

How long have I lived at my address? And my previous one as well? Bob, I think there should be a difference between a checkout form and an application to MI5.

Tip 4 – Stop confusing users

What da eff is that? All of these links are landing me at some weird pages offering some dodgy credit plans. BOOOOB!!1 I just want to buy it. It’s really a great idea to offer finance options for the price sensitive customer base but please let others just buy without troubles. I’m begging you.

Tip 5 – Important information should look important

You call it important information , but provide it in the most unreadable way possible. Bob, are you a sadist as well? If I want to read this (and by calling it important you make me read it) I have to mini scroll for about a thousand times, and in case I want to go back to some point, have to spend another five frustrating minutes finding it.

Finally, what’s the font size? 6 or 7? Because of sadists like you Bob, I’ve worn glasses since childhood. You are basically responsible for my geeky look and lack of sex in high school for this reason. Thank you very much.

Tip 6 – Use tabs to show the progress of checkout

Tabs at the top showing the progress is a really great move Bob. Nicely done. When I started to checkout you gave me a perfectly clear picture of how many steps are involved. But why da hell after at least 5 pages of filling up forms am I still at the first stage? You promised me four simple steps but decided not to mention that each of them has another five sub-steps. Lying is not good Bobby.

Tip 7 – Maximum cart expiration time

Guess what was the next step I saw?  – your homepage! Because marketers like you, dearest Bob, think that all your users are form-filling machines from outer space who love to fill out forms over and over again. If you want me to go through all these bureaucratic rubbish, at least give me some time. Allow us at least couple of hours before you will expire my cart and punt me back to the homepage again. At this stage even I was ready to leave – but luckily for you my mom likes your shop.


Bob, it might sound that I’m slagging you off but all I need is just to finish my Christmas shopping – and I’m afraid if I have to go through this hell again i won’t see this Christmas because your checkout is definitely creating pretty suicidal thoughts in my head. I really hope you would be able to change at least some of these points above, double the festive revenue generated by your company, perhaps even get a raise for it and mostly important make one fellow marketer and his mom happy.

Merry Christmas!

Best Wishes,



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3 thoughts on “Checkout Optimisation Tips or a friendly letter from one marketer to another”

  1. Liam says:

    Great article Kiril,

    I’m not forced to provide spurious information everytime I go shopping on the high street, so why the hell is it acceptable for online retailers to ask for it?

  2. Peter Munro says:

    An interesting article with some great tips but you clearly need to take heed of Tip 4, yourself.

    Don’t use acronyms without explaining them first, please, CRO (that usually means Criminal Records Organisation to me); CTA (this might mean Canadian Transportation Agency, Chicago Transit Authority, Cumulative Translation Adjustment or any of a whole lot of other meanings) though I wonder if it means Call to Action here.

    Tip 6: What commonly available shopping cart systems offer checkout progress tabs ?

    Tip 7: I don’t know of any commonly available shopping cart systems that allow me to configure the cart cookie expiration delay – perhaps you could share that info with your readers ?

  3. […] about CRO in this one. There are some great points in this and they clearly know their stuff.Checkout Optimisation Tips – A friendly letter from one marketer to another It is amazing how even well-known big brands can get the fundamentals so wrong. Kiril does not […]

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