How to optimize your checkout flow

Best practices for how to make it as easy as possible for readers to subscribe to your publication

By Joseph Lichterman

August 20, 2018

Source: Meta Journalism Project

For publishers, it’s the moment of truth: A reader has decided they want to become a digital subscriber, and they now just need to complete the purchase.

However, for many outlets, this can be a fraught moment as their checkout flows are often not mobile friendly or were originally built to support print, not digital, subscriptions. At the third Accelerator session in Menlo Park, eCommerce consultant Kunle Campbell, an expert on conversion optimization, spoke to the participants to share critiques of their checkout flows and highlight best practices for how publishers can make it easier for users to subscribe.

“You’ve built up your brand, and when it comes time for them to pay it has to be frictionless,” Kunle Campbell told participants.

Here are some tips he shared for how publishers can improve their checkout flows to maximize their conversions:

Get a User’s Email Address

Some users are inevitably going to abandon their carts, but once publishers have their email they can follow up with them to resume their purchase.

Similarly, you don’t want to force users to immediately create an account — that adds an extra step of friction. Publishers should encourage guest checkouts, and once users have submitted their email address and actually paid, you can encourage them to create a login.

However, 86 percent of users don’t want to create new accounts every time they sign up for a new service, Campbell said. As a result, publishers should enable social logins.

Customer data capture

Enabling logins with Twitter, Google, or Facebook can help expedite the process and make it easier for users to sign up — especially if they’re on mobile.

“People are on mobile. They’re prone to make mistakes,” Campbell said. “They might not have their autofill done enough. You need to get them to put in as accurate information as possible. Social logins can help.”

Make it Easy to Pay

When it comes time for users to enter their credit card information, Campbell recommends publishers ask for as little information as possible.

If someone is subscribing to a digital-only subscription, there’s no reason to request that they enter their full address. However, if users are asked for their address — they may be signing up for a print plus digital subscription, for instance — Campbell recommends enabling autocomplete forms and also using an address finder which will enable users to submit their address in one field.

According to Google, users finish forms that have autocomplete enabled 30 percent faster than without it enabled, Campbell said. All major browsers support this and will save users’ information for easier completion.

Campbell suggests publishers provide as many options as possible. One-click payment systems such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, Pay with Amazon, and PayPal can also expedite the checkout process — especially on mobile.

“At a minimum, you should have two, and ideally you should have three running and testing,” Campbell said.

Testing is key for publishers, and if you want to learn more about how a publisher tested multiple payment options check out this case study from The Seattle Times, an accelerator participant.

Design for Mobile

While most conversions still occur on desktop, the future is becoming increasingly mobile and publishers have to checkout flows that are optimized for smaller screens, Campbell said.

Eighty-eight percent of users navigate their mobile phones with one thumb, Campbell said, so he recommends publishers design their checkouts with that in mind. By using centrally oriented end-to-end, legible thumb-friendly buttons, the form should automatically advance to the next field once one is complete. And it should scroll down the page with the user.

Publishers can also use real-time validation to let users know immediately if they’ve entered something incorrectly — it’s unpleasant if you submit a form only to find out that something you entered way back at the top was wrong. Publishers can also use green check marks to show a properly completed field and a progress bar to show how much the user has completed.

Another easy to overlook aspect of a mobile checkout form is to ensure that the correct keyboard displays for each form. If you’re asking for someone to enter their credit card number of zip code, for instance, it should use the number-focused keyboard.

Campbell also recommended that publishers use extended validation SSL certificates on mobile.

“It reinforces that your brand is a stable company,” he said.

Ultimately though, publishers must test regularly to see what works best for their audiences. And Campbell recommended that publishers time how long it takes users to get from the subscription gateway through the confirmation. That time can give publishers a sense of how easy it is for users to complete the checkout.

“It’s a metric you must start to measure,” he said.

The Facebook Journalism Project: Local News Subscriptions Accelerator is a pilot program designed to help news publishers build their digital subscription revenues. Funded and organized by The Facebook Journalism Project, the 3-month program includes hands-on workshops led by news industry veteran Tim Griggs, a grantmaking program organized by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, and regular reports on best practices authored by both The Lenfest Institute and the Facebook Journalism Project.

Check out more posts about the Facebook Journalism Project program sessions here.

This article originally appeared on the Facebook Journalism Project blog.

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