DEV Community


Posted on

The Optimal Number of Steps for the E-commerce Checkout Process

As a Magento developer I get a lot of orders for shopping cart design. Consequently, whenever people mess with online stores' shopping carts, problems arise. Shopping cart abandonment is one of the most frequent problems.

This post might help some fellow eCommerce devs (and marketers!) tackle the issue.

The top reasons for the customers leaving their carts are:

  • High extra costs - taxes, shipping, etc.
  • Complicated checkout process
  • Need to create an account

Therefore, the checkout process has to be as simple and short as possible in order for the customer to successfully complete the purchase. Thus, a question arises: what is the optimal number of steps for the checkout?

The 3 steps of the checkout process

If we break down the customer’s purchasing path, we can identify the following steps:

  • Choosing the product
  • Confirming the choice
  • Completing the purchase

Thus, the general number of steps would be three. However, each of these stages includes a number of actions a customer takes in order to proceed to the next one.

Choosing the product

The first step in any purchase process is choosing the product. Though seemingly easy, this step contains several traps that better be avoided, if you want to provide a user-friendly and smooth shopping experience.

Optimize your catalog

It has been proved by a famous “jam study” that the bigger the choice is, the less likely the customer will complete the purchase. People want easy choices and buy better when they are presented with fewer options. Thus, optimize your product catalog to help the customer choose the product instead of scrolling down and leaving in disappointment.

Incorporate search bar

Obvious as it may sound, a search bar is a must for any online store. If a customer knows what he wants and does not see it right away, he will be able to immediately search for the necessary item. But if your store does not have such an option and there are too many products displayed, the customer may simply leave.

Offer a gift or incentive

People love unexpected gifts – so offer them something extra as soon as they add an item to the cart. You will be using the reciprocity method: in other words, giving people something for free to make them feel they need to give something back. I.e. you offer a discount and receive a completed purchase as a feedback from grateful and delightful customers.

Your gift may be a coupon, a sample of a product or a discount for the further purchase – whatever you think will be suitable and useful for the customer.

Speed up website loading

Slow page loading is one of the main reasons behind low conversion rates. To fix the issue, you can order third-party Magento site speed services and request an analysis of the page performance. You may be surprised by how the most minor things influence the loading speed, i.e. images, extensions, etc.

Confirming the purchase

This stage is not necessarily an independent step in the purchasing process but it includes a few important things that should not be overlooked.


The upselling technique is incredibly popular among e-commerce store owners and it has proved to increase revenue and bring in more sales. Upselling can be introduced during the purchase confirmation stage when the customer has not yet proceeded to check out.

You can incorporate “suggested” or “you may be interested” products to the item’s page, that would appear once the item is added to the cart.

Get their email

Email is the bitcoin of the sales world. Once you get it, you expand your opportunities for promotion and can use the email as a powerful marketing tool for customer attraction and retain rate.

You can ask for an email as soon as the customer wants to proceed to the checkout or you can do it during the checkout process directly. Also, keep in mind the option of a guest checkout. In this case, the email is a must-have as the customer will receive a purchase confirmation on it.

Make the cart visible

In order for the customer to quickly and effortlessly proceed to the checkout, make sure the cart and its content are visible. You can place the cart and the number of items at the top of the page in form of a header or incorporate it as a sidebar.

Completing the purchase

The most important stage of the purchase process is the payment confirmation. There are certain issues that have to be taken into consideration during this step, otherwise, you will lose the customer.

Include a progress indicator

The customer needs to be aware of how many steps he has to take, so make sure to provide him with this information. The most common method is the incorporation of a progress indicator into the page, that shows at which stage exactly the customer is at the moment and what steps are left.

The progress indicator, first of all, appeals to one’s sense of consistency, meaning: once you started doing something, you will have the urge to finish it. Secondly, the indicator helps the customer feel more confident and knowledgeable about the whole process and gives him a sense of control.

Guest checkout

We have talked about it in the beginning and shall repeat once again: guest checkout is a must-have if you want to retain the customers.

Majority of the users will leave if presented with an option to register an account and fill in a certain amount of fields. Think of it in the following manner: if a customer enters a brick-and-mortar store and, once at the counter, is asked to fill in dozens of blanks before the payment, guess, whether he leaves straight away or stays?

Be honest about the cost

Another big reason for cart abandonment is unexpected costs that pop out right before the payment confirmation. This is a big mistake that many business owners do: they do not display the full cost until the last moment.
To decrease cart abandonment rate, be honest with the customer from the start. Display the price for shipping and taxes in the cart next to the item and always indicate the total price, that would include the item cost, shipping, taxes, etc.

Add security

With numerous cases of cybersecurity breaches, customers are becoming more suspicious of any financial transactions happening online – so help them feel confident.

Add security seals (i.e. Norton, Google Security, TRUSTe) and put them in a visible place, so the customer feels secure during the whole purchase process.

Offer different payment methods

Convenience is a key to customer’s satisfaction. Therefore, make sure to include different payment options to your online store.

In addition to credit cards (of different types, obviously), integrate PayPal or offer an option of paying with cash upon order delivery.

An extra piece of advice

There is no definite answer to the question about the number of steps in the checkout process. It depends on the store, the offers that you are willing to make and other factors. However, for all online stores the checkout process must be:

  • Linear - with no processes inside other processes
  • Clear and understandable
  • Fast and easy

Another crucial point: make the checkout process mobile friendly. With 62% of the users buying online from their mobile devices as per Datorama, it makes sense to optimize your store and checkout process to be convenient and easy for the mobile.

To sum up, put yourself in the shoes of your customer and answer honestly: would you have the patience to buy from your own store? If there is even slight hesitation, you may want to refine the process a bit.

Top comments (1)

ahmedarain3 profile image

The optimal number of steps for the e-commerce checkout process can vary depending on several factors, including the complexity of the purchase, user experience considerations, and the specific goals of the e-commerce website. While there is no definitive answer, it is generally recommended to keep the checkout process as streamlined and efficient as possible.