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Four Top Tips To Optimize Your Online Checkout Here's how you can stay ahead of the curve and win more customers in the digital-first era.

By Alessandro Astone

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In 2020, the value of the UAE's retail e-commerce market rose 53% to a record $3.9 billion, with prolonged lockdowns promoting a marked rise in mobile usage and at-home shopping. That's a lot of people making purchases online, many doing so for the first time. Using the internet to buy clothes, order groceries, get takeaway food, or book a taxi, is today a matter of routine for many of us. Our daily lives are managed by tapping our phone screen. As a result, we've all become far more discerning when it comes to transacting online- the need for speed, efficiency and frictionless payment experiences is greater than ever before.

We've all been left annoyed as a checkout page crashes, frustrated as a merchant requires us to fill in a lengthy form and create a special account with them just to make a small purchase, and bewildered as to why you need to scroll through tens of years of options to find your card expiry date. We've probably all abandoned online cart purchases because making the payment just simply got too hard.

For businesses, this is a travesty. To think, you've invested in marketing, product, web design and more, all so that the customer is willing and ready to buy what you're selling, only for all that revenue to be left on the table because your checkout page is full of errors and frustrations. But it doesn't have to be this way. Building a fully optimized checkout process requires just four components to be carefully considered- here's a primer:

1. Design an adaptable checkout form One of the most alienating experiences for customers is to have to re-enter their payment details when checking out. Customers do not want to fill out a checkout form multiple times to make a purchase. They want forms that work quickly, are intuitive, and adapt to their preferences. For example, the ability to enter card numbers with or without spaces. A 2020 Baymard Institute survey found that 21% of respondents abandoned an order due to a long and complicated checkout form.

A simple fix is to highlight payment information errors in real time, before customers click "proceed" or "pay"- for example, a red exclamation point for errors, and a green checkmark for correct information. If there is an error in the form, use clear messaging, so that the customer can easily fix their mistake. Automate the process by ensuring your form can accept autofill information from customers' browsers. Forms should also automatically display an icon for the card brand after the number is entered, for example, Visa or Mastercard.

2. Always customize for mobile In 2020, 42% of the UAE's e-commerce market was on mobile. Smartphones and tablets remain a crucial platform for e-commerce, and they will only continue to grow in importance. A Stripe study on e-commerce transactions in Europe found that while more than 50% of e-commerce traffic comes from mobile devices, customers abandon their carts twice as often on mobile than on desktop. With this in mind, it's essential for businesses to have a mobile-optimized customer checkout, otherwise they could risk compromising sales conversion significantly.

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There are three key actions to optimize your checkout flow on mobile: first, ensure the form automatically resizes to a smaller screen; second, display a numerical keypad rather than an alphanumeric keyboard for customers to enter their card information; and third, offer mobile wallet payment methods (for example Apple Pay and Google Pay), but only where the customer has set up the wallet on the device they are using.

3. Localize checkout forms As UAE e-commerce continues to flourish, and the number of online businesses grow faster year on year, they will look to tap into other markets around the world. For your customers overseas, your checkout page should feel native to them, adapting to the norms, language, and payment methods they're used to.

To start with, identify the countries into which you want to sell, and make sure the checkout page translates to the local language. Next, change the fields to capture the right information for each country. For example, if your form recognizes a UAE card, you should add a field for "Emirate" when asking for the billing address, so customers can more quickly specify their address as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and so forth. Last, as a local business trading globally, ensure that your payment form dynamically shows different payment methods for your customers based on where they are located, enabling them to transact via the local online payments solutions familiar to them.

For example, ensuring that your customers from the Netherlands are presented with the option to pay by iDEAL, or that customers from Poland can pay by Przelewy24, or that Malaysia-based customers can pay by FPX. When your checkout page is optimized, it ensures all the hard work you put into marketing, branding, product quality and customer service doesn't go to waste.

Perfecting your checkout page can prevent significant losses in sales, and help to continue increasing customer loyalty and lifetime value in the long term.

4. Checking out once is enough Many online businesses today take recurring payments, often for subscriptions. For these businesses it's vital not to undo the hard work of a carefully optimized checkout by making users go through it all again when their card expires. Asking customers to go back and enter new card details for an existing subscription risks losing revenue, and it will almost certainly frustrate those customers. It is entirely possible to automatically update the details for expired cards. Not only does this maintain a high-quality customer experience, but also creates a much faster, cleaner and friction-free customer journey, all of which are key for customer retention and reducing churn.

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Alessandro Astone

Growth Lead, Middle East at Stripe

Alessandro Astone is the Growth Leader for UAE at Stripe, the most innovative payment platform in the world. He’s been in this role since the end of 2020, prior to which he led the launch of Stripe in Latin America and Italy in 2019 and 2017 respectively.Before working at Stripe, he held leadership positions at Google and Oracle. 

Alessandro graduated in Sociology at the University of Naples Federico II, and continued his studies in technology and business administration, first at Milan's Politecnico, and then at the IAE Business School of Buenos Aires and the University of San Diego. He is currently living and working in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. 

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