Checkout Is King: Why Companies Invest Millions in Checkout Pages

When you look at the LinkedIn profile of all successful subscription companies, you'll see a lot of people who work on checkout pages.

Big companies spend 10M+ a year on their checkout pages, why is that?

Checkout pages have existed for a long time online. Conceptually they're relatively easy to understand.

You need a place for a consumer to:

  • Understand what they're purchasing
  • Enter payment information
  • Process the payment

Its not rocket science, so why so much investment?

What Makes a Checkout Page Unique?

Your checkout pages it the only place where 1% increase in conversion = 1% increase in new revenue.

That is not true anywhere else on your app.

Every single improvement that you make on your checkout page turns into dollars immediately.

If you increase conversion on your homepage conversion, some people may filter down to purchase, but others won't. They might buy this week, or they might purchase in a year.

It's tough to say and even harder to measure.

Additionally, every 1% increase in your checkout page also helps improve the effectiveness of every marketing effort that drives people to your site.

Every SEO improvement, every paid media dollar, every brand deal that you cut needs to eventually convert people and that conversion happens on the checkout page.

All roads lead to checkout.

Losing people at this stage is equivalent to opening a restaurant, hiring the staff, advertising, cooking the food, getting customers, and just never sending a waiter to the table.

The Job of a Checkout Page

As they say for sales people, "no is the job", meaning sales people really get paid to help overcome objections that come up during the sales process and keep deals on track.

They don't get paid to just take orders. The skill is winning deals that you otherwise would have lost.

A checkout page's real job is to handle the edge cases when things go wrong.

The bigger a company is, the more edge cases that their checkout page has to handle.

If you only sell products through a credit card to US-based consumers, designing a checkout page it is relatively easy.

If you and your Netflix have to sell across 30 currencies with tens of differences in price packages on mobile on desktop, then getting a single page to do this is really hard but worth it.

Additionally, the checkout page is where all of a user's uncertainties and doubts come to a head, so every little bit of polish helps build trust and trust = purchases.

If your checkout page was a piece of metal, it should be polished to a mirror finish and there is always more to polish.

So What Do You Do With This Information?

What things might go wrong really depends on the complexities of your business.  How impactful it will be to fix these complexities depends on your transaction volume.

How deep you should go down this rabbit hold really depends on those two factors, but nearly every business can increase revenue by improving their checkout experience.

It's really hard to convince people to pay you money. Once they are trying to pay you, do your best not to screw it up :)

These are probably, at best, 2-5% improvements. But as we mentioned above, that's a 2-5% increase in new revenue for a moderate amount of work.

In subscription businesses, these wins also compound for every recurring payment you'll have.

What to do is up to you, but here are some things that have worked for me in the past.

1. Look at all of the error copy that comes back after a user clicks "pay" and the transaction gets declined.

Error codes are typically set up quickly by an engineer who is trying to meet a deadline and move onto something else.

I'd suggest downloading all of your error codes for the last 30 days, sorting them by count and ensuring that the major ones are:

  1. Human readable: not "Error: 172: Please contact support"
  2. Specific: Don't tell someone "Payment Issue" when the problem is "CVV code incorrect" or "Invalid Zip/Postal Code"
  3. Actionable: Tell them what to do to fix this problem, so "CVV code incorrect, please update and try again" or "Card Declined, please try another or Paypal."

Fixing these are as easy as re writing copy and having an engineer push the change.

2. Test your checkout page and a transaction as your users actually do in real situations

Every tech company builds for an international audience, but they do it on the latest iPhone with super fast connections. Your users might not be using this same set up.

Test across all the common browser types and screen sizes.  Bonus points for throttling the load speed down to lower levels.

Test with common ad blockers and similar extensions installed. Paypal is typically launched in a pop up and I have seen that get blocked by common ad blockers.

To a user, this page will look frozen. They'll probably go check their email while they wait, get distracted, then wander off and never be seen again.

3. Make sure the interactions on that page help users find, fix or prevent problems.

The subtle interactions on a page go a long way in helping get ahead of and fix problems.

  1. When the user submits a transaction and there is an error, is the error copy visible on all screen sizes by default? If not, does it auto scroll to the problem? Mobile and desktop?
  2. Make sure the CTA on the button is clear and ideally visible by default on the page. This is  harder on mobile, but valuable.
  3. Get ahead of any submissions errors by pre validating things like the card number or postal codes.

4. Collect as little information as you need for your use case to process the transaction.

Its a well documented trend across the tech world, that the more form field that you have a user fill in, the more users will drop off. Probably not a huge amount, but every user that drops is lost revenue.

If you aren't ship a physical product to someone, you probably don't have to collect their full address. The ​Hulu checkout​ page asks for your gender, which is weird and likely hurting them.

The tradeoff to note here is that the more information that you include for the payment processor the better the chance that recurring payments get processed.

5. For complex transactions, be clear with exactly what happens.

The more complex the transaction that a user is about to launch, the more clarify that you'll need to convey on the page.

Are you launching a trial period with a discount on top of that? How and when are they charged?  Will you notify them before? How do they cancel?

The more scenarios that can come up, the more questions a user will have.

Other Articles: