The pandemic provides an ongoing education as to what frictions consumers will and won’t endure at checkout. People now have firm ideas about what good (and not so good) checkout experiences are, and merchants need to provide the right experience at that moment or risk the sale — and possibly even the customer.
Merchants are combatting cart abandonment and customer defection with more digital features and adjacent services than ever before, but there’s evidence that some measures taken this year are not going over well with consumers.
To measure consumer sentiment at checkout, PYMNTS developed our Merchant Index methodology based on a shopping simulation of over 500 leading merchants and used to produce out quarterly Checkout Conversion Index.
The latest edition of the Index, Consumer Choice At The Checkout: How Online Shopping Experiences Build Customer Loyalty, a PYMNTS and Checkout.com collaboration, notes that some changes made by online merchants are ironically increasing checkout friction — if only incrementally — but small changes can scale for good or ill. That needs to be fixed, and fast.
Per the Index, “The increase in this friction during checkout puts retailers at risk of losing customers in a highly competitive time for businesses.” Digital-first consumers feel strongly about having certain features as part of an end-to-end online shopping experience. Here we highlight what are debatably the most important: payments choice, free shipping and refunds.
Payments choice is a new rallying cry among digital-first consumers who now have many available options, and they expect the online merchants they shop with to offer most.
Per the Index, 13% of consumers say “payment-method availability is the most important factor that could cause them to switch merchants. Credit cards (43%), debit cards (37%) and PayPal (20%) are the payment methods consumers most commonly say they use for online shopping, and merchants may help themselves establish and sustain strong customer relationships by offering an ample range of payment options at checkout.”
Combined, that means 60% of consumers feel “the absence of a preferred payment method is an important factor that could cause them to change where they shop.”
Guarantees and Refunds
As consumers report high levels of satisfaction with merchant guarantees and refunds and given the high level of returns seen after Christmas, these twin features are proving extremely influential when it comes to consumer perceptions, spending and loyalty.
“Certain features’ increased availability may be improving the checkout experience for some shoppers,” the Index states, noting that “the proportion of merchants offering guarantees and refunds rose to 86 percent in Q2 from 77 percent in Q1,” adding that 85% of those using guarantees and/or refunds in recent shopping excursions were “very” or “extremely” satisfied.
This year saw the curious trend of free shipping being offered less by some merchants at a time when consumers are hypersensitive to delivery costs, from restaurant aggregators and others.
Per the latest Index, “a decrease in the share of merchants offering free shipping to 63 percent in Q2 2021 from 74 percent in Q1 coincided with the decline in Merchant Index scores to 58.9 in Q2 2021 from 59.5 in Q1.” That’s statistical evidence of an epic fail in the making.
With free shipping dropping for three consecutive quarters, merchants seem to be looking to cut costs at the shipping bay, but they risk losing that sale entirely without shipping perks.
The big takeaway for merchants: better to eat shipping costs than lose sales — and customers.