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My take on Stripe's Phocuswright 2023 Panel: Can Slow EU Checkout Processes Ever Improve?

Something has to be done to reduce the gargantuan amount of time it takes European consumers on average to get through checkout on an eCommerce website. That was our main takeaway from the PhocusWright EU 2023 that took place earlier this month in Barcelona.

The European eCommerce landscape is often characterized by a slow checkout process, with an average completion time of 3.3 minutes. This is a startling statistic, considering that 62% of customers abandon a purchase after two minutes. The question then arises, can Europe's slow eCommerce checkout process ever improve?

The answer, as discussed at the PhocusWright EU 2023 event, is not straightforward. The problem lies in a combination of factors, including the EU's PSD2 regulation, which requires Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) for most transactions, adding an average of 60 seconds to the checkout process. This regulation particularly affects European travel merchants, as most SCA exemptions do not apply to typical travel transactions.

There are other problems plaguing checkout on European eCommerce sites besides length of checkout that reduce the conversion rate.

For example, nine out of 10 eCommerce websites are making at least five basic mistakes regarding checkouts, according to Stripe. One of the most common problems (83 percent of websites surveyed) is that the website doesn’t seek to follow-up with customers who abandon their cart.

However, despite these challenges, there are several strategies that merchants can employ to optimize their checkout process and boost conversion rates. Here are three key takeaways from the PhocusWright EU 2023 event:

  1. Support Local Payment and Flexible Payment Options: Offering a variety of payment methods, including popular local options and flexible payment plans like Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL), can significantly increase the likelihood of purchase completion. Currently, more than half of European merchants do not offer BNPL, indicating a significant opportunity for improvement.

  2. Implement 1-Click Checkout: A streamlined checkout process that allows customers to complete their purchase with a single click can significantly reduce checkout time and improve the customer experience.

  3. Create a Seamless Mobile Experience: With the increasing prevalence of mobile shopping, ensuring a smooth and efficient mobile checkout experience is crucial. This includes responsive design, easy-to-use forms, and quick loading times.

Beyond the checkout process itself, the overall customer experience plays a crucial role in eCommerce success.

A healthy relationship with customers helps reduce chargeback rates, ensures customer loyalty, and maintains long-term profitability. Therefore, investing in customer experience, from the initial browsing stage to post-purchase support, is essential.

As for my thoughts, while there is no single solution to the slow checkout process in European eCommerce, a combination of micro-optimizations, strategic payment options, and a focus on customer experience can significantly improve checkout speed and conversion rates.

Like Stripe's James Lemon said at the event

“You’re probably not the only choice in town - any time there’s a point of friction, it just gives [the customer] a great excuse to go back to the best-in-class option"

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