Ecommerce checkout: eight common mistakes for retailers to avoid

While more retailers than ever have focused on improving their checkouts, there are still plenty of common errors to be found. 

To coincide with this week’s launch of the excellent Ecommerce Checkout Best Practice Guide, I’ve compiled some common errors to avoid,

Pages not optimised for mobile

It’s been the ‘year of mobile’ since at least 2010 so you might think that retailers would have gotten the message about mobile by now. However, many still simply shrink the desktop version onto a mobile screen.

Indeed, 5% (or 25) of the Internet Retailer Mobile 500 have not optimised their websites for mobile.

It’s utterly essential now. These retailers will be missing out on sales, while Google’s focus on mobile-friendly websites means that their search rankings are likely to suffer too.

Here’s Playmobil’s site on a mobile. It’s pretty tricky to use, and would need a lot of determination to actually buy something.

playmobil mobile

Poor form validation

Form filling is the biggest job for users in checkout, and the key is to make it as easy as possible for users.

Form validation is important, and errors made should be flagged to users, but give them a chance to make them first. I’ve come across several forms where error messages some up even before I’ve finished a particular form field.

Not making it clear that you don’t ship to my country

Selling internationally allows retailers to access a larger market, but there are potential issues.

For example, some sites can be unclear about international delivery options, and only let customers know once they get to checkout. Others are unclear about international shipping duties and taxes which can affect orders and land customers with extra charges once items arrive.

The best sites for this, such as Sears, will detect the user’s location and tell them straight away whether they can order from the site.

Sears goes the extra mile and shoes items in local currencies, and (crucially) calculates duties and taxes at checkout so that customers don’t get any nasty surprises once the items arrive.


Hidden payment charges

This is to be avoided at all costs. It just irritates customers, and is also generally avoidable. It’s also a common reason for checkout abandonment.


This mainly applies to shipping costs when retailers aren’t clear before people enter checkout, but can also apply to extra charges.

Ticket sites are often guilty of this. For example, AXS events adds a ‘convenience charge’ when buying e-tickets, which should in theory be cheaper than physical tickets. Many others add booking fees which bear little relation to the actual transaction costs.

Forcing users to enter full addresses manually

As mentioned before, form-filling is work for users. The more work you ask them to do (and the harder it is), the less likely they are to complete the checkout process.

These days, there are plenty of tools to give users shortcuts, especially with address entry.

For example, Schuh uses an address lookup tool which suggest addresses as users type:

schuh address

Useless error messages

Error messages should be clear. They should seek to solve the problem in language customers will understand, and they should not seek to place blame on the customer.

Highlight the fields that customers need to correct and explain what it is they need to do to complete the form.

Links taking customers away from checkout

Once customers are in the checkout process, it’s important to focus their attention on the steps needed to complete a purchase.

One way to do this is to enclose the checkout so that distractions are removed and customers can’t accidentally click out of checkout.

Dark patterns and tricks

Dark patterns (also a site well worth reading) refers to devices used to trick customers, perhaps into agreeing to extra charges for insurance, or sneaking extras into baskets hoping customers won’t notice.

Here’s an example from Ticketmaster. Having paid for concert tickets, I’m invited to claim £10 cashback on my next purchase, by pressing a ‘continue’ button.


First of all, the button comes just after payment, and many will simply think they need to press that button to continue the purchase. It seems to be designed purely to deceive users.

It’s actually a subscription scheme, in which users’ payment details are used to set up a monthly debit in return for discount codes and offers.

Retailers should be wary of the consequences of tricking customers like this.

For more information on our Checkout Best Practice Guide, as well as guides on mobile commerce, customer experience, and social customer service, head to ClickZ Intelligence

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