Ask An Expert: Sezzle Co-Founder Advises Retailers How to Streamline Checkout and Boost Conversion

The rate of change has never been greater — or faster — for the footwear industry, with new challenges popping up every day in nearly all corners of the business, from navigating cash crunches and supply chain issues to understanding the latest technological advances. In its new “Ask An Expert” series, FN will ask industry leaders — all solutions-based providers — to take on some of the most timely topics.

Footwear saw a slump in sales earlier this year, but the industry is hoping to turn a corner as states re-open for business and people get outside more. In order to capture the attention of these consumers, retailers will need to improve conversion both online and in-store, which means optimizing the final part of the customer journey: the checkout.

Paul Paradis, co-founder and chief revenue officer at payments platform Sezzle, spoke to FN about the importance of an easy purchase process and how retailers can create an ideal experience.

FN: Why is the checkout experience such a critical piece of business for merchants?

Paul Paradis: With online shopping becoming increasingly sophisticated, brands have to pay far more attention to every step in the consumer journey to win where it counts. This includes the most important piece of the consumer experience: the checkout. A sale is never final until a customer clicks that final button. Every step before that should be well thought out. Each individual aspect of the user journey plays a major role in deciding how to strategize your checkout process and reduce abandoned carts. Brands should study how customers shop and which devices they use to shop. There is a growing list of payment options and fulfillment choices, plus a world full of on-demand media and other distractions that urge the shopper’s attention away from the checkout. Having a clear understanding of the abandoned cart rate — and taking immediate action to improve it — has never been more urgent or important to the overall profitability of an e-commerce store.

FN: What are some common pain points in the checkout process that lead to cart abandonment, that merchants may not be aware of?

PP: The leading causes of cart abandonment tend to be based on confusing checkout processes; hidden and unexpected costs, such as shipping charges or minimum order values; and price shopping, meaning the buyer takes a look at your price but then continues hunting for a better deal. Other issues are typically payment security concerns, mandatory account creations and missing preferred payment options. It’s important for merchants to look at each of these causes of cart abandonment individually and thoughtfully to create the best experience possible for their shoppers.

An employee works on a laptop computer as he talks with a customer near a sheet showing accepted methods of payment, including Apple Pay, top left, at an Apple Store in Beijing, . Apple Inc. on Thursday launched its smartphone-based payment system in China where the electronic payments market is already dominated by an arm of e-commerce giant AlibabaChina Apple Pay, Beijing, China
Providing multiple payment options, from digital wallets to installments, lets consumers choose their preference and can increase conversion.
CREDIT: Mark Schiefelbein/Shutterstock

FN: While consumer spending is beginning to rise again, many shoppers are still cautious about buying nonessentials. How can retailers make consumers more comfortable shopping with them?

PP: Shoppers during this time are watching their budget and ensuring that they are spending as wisely as possible. We are seeing some slowdown in nonessential categories, but in a recent survey, many of our Sezzle users commented that buying nonessential goods has been what has gotten them through the negative mental health impact of COVID-19. Retailers need to continue to be sensitive toward increased financial anxieties, but we do not think that nonessential goods are dead.

What we are seeing is generational differences in how consumers will respond to the reopening of the economy. In our survey, 76% of Gen Z respondents told us that they will be comfortable with shopping in-store, either now or in the next six months — only 4% say that they won’t feel comfortable at all. Yet 28% of baby boomers claim they will not return to in-store shopping in the foreseeable future. Brick-and-mortar needs to take these generational differences in attitude into consideration. Retailers should also make shoppers feel more comfortable in-store by doing a better job replicating the online e-commerce experience when it comes to checkout, payment options and return policies.

FN: What qualities do consumers value most in a checkout/purchasing experience, that merchants should keep in mind?

PP: Consumers first and foremost are looking for ease. The more difficult the checkout experience, the more likely consumers are to abandon their cart. Shoppers want to glide through checkout and also want to trust the experience. From your product detail page to checkout, every element should present the “why” behind it. Having a frictionless, easy checkout process can positively impact the overall shopping experience and is even important to building brand loyalty; it’s an opportunity to build a trustworthy relationship with your consumer. Checkouts should be clear and direct — the user interface and design matters! It should be informative and additive, yet clean and concise.

FN: When considering whether to partner with a payments service, what functions or features should retailers assess?

PP: In the recent national survey Sezzle ran with the Center of Generational Kinetics, we asked respondents what their most ideal payment method included. A few of the top answers included no fees or interest, options to pay in full, no negative impact to their credit score, the option to pay early, and the ability to build their credit score if they desire to do so. Retailers should pay attention to these features when choosing a method because the consumer is the most important player in this situation.

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