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Ecommerce Guidelines: Checkout Shipping & Billing

Guidelines 240-244

Ecommerce Best Practices » Cart & Checkout » Clarity/Credibility » Shipping & Billing

The information exchange related to shipping and billing can be a major drag on conversions and it centers on the customer’s idea of how they’re getting what they’re getting, and how much it’s going to cost them.

It boils down to:

  • Don’t have hidden fees
  • Don’t surprise them
  • Provide a range of shipping options

The guidelines provided in this section get at these points above. They help to operationalize what many ecommerce sites have figured out for a while, to be clear and concise at this stage in the buying process.

5 guidelines for ecommerce shopping cart, shipping & billing:

  1. Total should be itemized: Price, taxes, shipping, discounts.
  2. Provide and clearly display shipping options (including in-store pickup).
  3. Provide free shipping if possible or offer free shipping when spending $X or more.
  4. Billing address should be shipping address by default.
  5. Display acceptable payment options.

Guideline #240. Total should be itemized: Price, taxes, shipping, discounts.

It’s easy and obvious to understand what’s in the cart and what’s the final cost including shipping and taxes.

Surprise costs down the line make people abandon carts.

When you’re looking at all of the abandoned orders, it’s easy to imagine that customers leave their shopping carts simply because they changed their mind at the last minute. But digging in, you find that’s simply not the case.

In fact, most research indicates that the #1 reason people abandon their carts is “unexpected costs” like shipping, taxes & fees.

In this study by Worldpay, “Decided against buying” isn’t even the second or third, but rather the fifth reason that people leave at the checkout

The top 4 reasons people abandon their cart have to do with “Price” and “Timing”. The top reason: “being presented with an unexpected cost”.

there was no indication of the price of the product that was recently added; only a subtotal of all products in the cart. I might suggest adding an indication of individual product price for items recently added to the cart.


Guideline #241. Provide and clearly display shipping options (including in-store pickup).

We know that checkout abandonment is still very much linked to nasty high delivery surprises. Providing a range of options can kick in an anchoring effect, like when restaurants add one super expensive wine to the mix to make everything else look reasonable.

It also pays to appease the various schedules and needs of your customer by allowing a range of delivery options and methods. 1, 2, 3-day, in store pickup, etc.

Check out how I.Crew does it.

I also do not recall seeing estimated shipping costs at any point until after I had selected my shipping option. It may have been nice to see estimated ‘standard’ shipping (if a zip code is supplied) while adding items to the cart. This helps to ensure that I am staying under a certain budget while adding items into the cart.

I also had trouble understanding what shipping method was selected, because one item in my cart could not be shipped with Next Day shipping, but did not see an indication of Standard shipping selected. I might indicate the shipping option selected, displaying even those that cannot be selected, but graying them out.

One last suggestion might be to make the shipping selection box contrasted or highlighted, to show the selection and maybe not have the other boxes seem so grayed out. I wasn’t aware during the checkout process that I could change my shipping selection because they all looked as if they could not be selected.


Guideline #242. Provide free shipping if possible or offer free shipping when spending $X or more.

Back in 2011, comScore reported nearly half of all online online purchases had some sort of “free shipping” offer.

That same 2011 report noted that 61% of consumers said they are somewhat likely” to cancel their order if free shipping is not offered.

According to Deloitte, 72% of consumers believe “free shipping” is top reason to shop with a particular retailer. Turns out, “Free shipping” is a huge factor in online customer experience.

If you’re thinking free shipping is restrictive to your business, consider the different ways you could offer it to your customers:

  • All Free or Qualifying Free (L.L. Bean, Nordstrom)
  • Free Shipping to Members Only (Amazon Prime)
  • Free Shipping With Minimum Order (Staples, Lego, American Apparel, J. Crew)
  • Special Free Shipping Days (Fossil, Levi’s)
  • Free Ship-To-Store (Wal-Mart, Ace Hardware)

I was surprised there was no “pick up in store” option for the chaise, and the shipping cost of $55 (or $180 for expedited — seriously?) was sort of absurd. Maybe that was uncommon, and just that particular item?

They offered free shipping on orders over $49 and various other specials and promotions if you use their credit card.

There is shipping charge for anything that you buy compared to most websites which offer free shipping after you buy certain $ value


Guideline #243. Billing address should be shipping address by default.

Sometimes we’ve seen websites ask for shipping first, sometimes billing. We recommend asking for shipping, as it’s psychologically more distant from your money and thus ‘easier’ to fill out.

Either way, have a checkbox that’s default to say that whichever you’ve filled out the other is the same. Unchecking it would allow for the rare event of allowing for different addresses.

See how Vitacost.com does it:

There needed to be in option to auto fill the input fields for billing address with my shipping address. For most people the billing and shipping address will be the same, so having us manually type it twice is very frustrating, and off-putting.

(frustrated by] having to enter my personal info twice, once for shipping and once for credit card

During the checkout process, provide a checkbox that allows you to select billing address same as shipping address.


Guideline #244. Display acceptable payment options.

Paypal is trusted and easy to use by those who use it. Check out how REI gets you to use Paypal:

They connect their popular dividend benefit to it, removing doubts about how it would work. Pretty slick.

Paypal, Pay by Amazon, Apple Pay: Third-party payment gateways are popular and make things familiar and convenient for the customer because the get to skip forms! This is especially powerful on mobile.

In shopping cart at the bottom, there needs to be a PayPal button like the Chase so that companies or pet owner can know that they can pay with PayPal too. Adding more banks that you pay with too.

Go back to the next section:

Ecommerce Best Practices » Cart & Checkout » Clarity/Credibility » Gifting