Checkout Inspiration From Top Converting Sites

Every month, Nielsen Online / Marketing Charts posts the top 10 converting ecommerce sites. If you follow the updates, you’ll see usual suspects like Schwans, Proflowers, 1800flowers, Office Depot and QVC popping up month after month. Sure, a lot of these retailers enjoy high conversion rates for no-brainer, repeat purchases but that kind of loyalty is earned — and requires a smooth checkout process to make it happen.

One of the worst culprits for friction in the checkout process is required registration. Forrester Research reports that 23% of customers abandoned the last online store that asked them to register.

In a usability test for a major online retailer, Jared Spool found new customers resisted registering, and some weren’t sure if they had registered before or not, entering various email address and password combinations in hopes they wouldn’t have to register. Others were suspicious the retailer would spam them with sales emails if they registered.

“Very few” repeat customers remembered their login information, and worse, many had multiple email addresses that had changed over the years. Guessing email/password combos gets frustrating, and of those who eventually clicked “Forgot password?” only 25% ever tried to finish the checkout! Further analysis of the customer database revealed 45% of registered customers registered multiple times, some as many as 10. If this happens on your site, it’s a big problem – you have frustrated users and dirty data – you overstate your unique customers and understate your repeat purchase and lifetime customer value data.

Jared’s recommendation was to replace the Register button with Continue, and adding “You do not need to create an account to make purchases on our site. Simply click Continue to proceed to checkout. To make your future purchases even faster, you can create an account during checkout.” Conversions increased 45%, bumping annual online revenue by $300 Million.

Back to the top converting sites, I’ve checked them all out to see how they handle registration. Interestingly, some like QVC and Schwans (yeah, the one with the 50% conversion rate) still require registration. Exclusivity of product/service may afford them to get away with this, but makes you wonder how many millions are left on the table.

Of the top converting sites, I have a few favorites. I hope these designs inspire you as you consider your own checkout optimization:


  • Prominent 1-800-Number
  • Security is reinforced at the top with “Secure Checkout”, in the “Sign in Using Our Secure Server” and at the bottom with security seal.
  • Order details are shown with thumbnail image
  • Shows the number of steps in checkout
  • Very clear that guest checkout is an option, even uses “Proceed as Guest” on call-to-action button
  • Links to privacy policy


Like Proflowers, 1-800-Flowers allows for easy guest checkout, shows number of steps in checkout process and provides a toll free number but does not use any security assurances (although I may be seeing a test version with them removed). Because people read English left to right, I prefer the guest checkout on the left. Why subject a customer to friction if you don’t have to?

LL Bean

LL Bean provides 3 options but my suspicion is 2 is more effective. Whenever you offer more choice, you have higher risk of abandonment. Allowing the customer to create an account after checkout would satisfy both types of new customers – those who want to create an account and those who don’t. Unless…


…I like J.Jill’s approach to account creation. It lists the benefits of membership, shows all the fields required to sign up (so customer can decide whether they’re comfortable with providing personal information and believe sign-up time is reasonable).

I would also like to see the guest checkout option on the left and a more prominent privacy / security assurance on both LL Bean and J.Jill.


I’ve seen the exact Amazon sign-in design also used by other major retailers and Amazon does many things well:

  • “Ordering from Amazon is quick and easy” <-- addresses the fears and uncertainties about the difficulty to check out
  • Captures an email address as the first step so Amazon can send a triggered email should something go wrong (You have items in your cart and didn’t complete checkout, did something go wrong? How can we help?)
  • Asking for minimal information in the first step vs. asking for a lot of information may convert higher, customers perceiving it as simpler/easier (reinforces the promise “this will be a breeze”)
  • You have to create an account, there is no guest checkout option but “you’ll create a password later” makes it sound like that doesn’t matter
  • “Sign in using our secure server” is a good call to action to proceed.

How do you motivate customers to register? Forrester’s survey found 51% of respondents were somewhat or very willing to part with personal information in exchange for discounts, 40% to save time and 27% for a more personalized experience. Make sure you mention at least one key benefit for registration when asking for it.


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52 Responses to “Checkout Inspiration From Top Converting Sites”

  1. Great article. The cart I’m using still has a registered checkout and I’ve been pushing for the developers to give us a “no registration” option.

    This article is right on time.

    • Well written article. At 39shops, we have already created our checkout process based on these best practices. We do not make it mandatory to register, but offer an option to register and if they do so, the system create their password automatically and send an email with details of their login.

  2. Hi Linda, nice recap of the checkout process for top converting sites. Just last week we did a recap on where these top converting retailers were calculating tax and shipping costs and noticed that Schwan’s, which is consistently on the top of that list, DOES force registration. My assumption is that they have more of a “membership” type model, but I’m still surprised to see that.

  3. It’s always a good advice to have a look at the big players and learn from them. Many small retailer shopsoftware versions don’t offer such options at the beginning, but it’s worth it to consult some programmers to add good options like these presented above.

  4. I like easy checkout pages too. I always resist being forced to sign up for an account. When I purchase online, I just want to be able to proceed to checkout and be done.

  5. Hi Linda. You make some great points on how Amazon handle checkout for 1st time customers. Interestingly, in a recent mini usability benchmark report I did which featured Amazon, they performed particularly poorly on web form best practice, with some noticable issues being around not making it clear the character length/format when creating an account password (followed by some very non-personal error messages) as well as enclosing the checkout too much. With this I’m referring to how you can only come out of the checkout process by using your back button – there is no other ‘return to home’ type option visible, and the logo isn’t clickable which is quite standard.

    On saying all this, compared to alot of other retailers, 1st time customers for Amazon are much more likely to persevre during their 1st checkout process, no matter how many usability barriers they come up against. Brand awareness and credibility certainly go a long way in giving shoppers more patience during a retailers checkout process!

    The rationale behind enclosing the checkout process is something which I’ve written about for Econsultancy and its interesting to note that some of the retailers you have featured do follow these principles.

    Picking up one other area of checkout, I also like to see retailers showing a summary of a shoppers basket throughout checkout also, as in the case of Pro-Flowers.

  6. I’ll have this implemented by tomorrow.

  7. Hi Linda,

    Forced registration is one of my pet peeves — both as a web analyst and as an online shopper. You’ve explained its pitfalls very well. Good stuff.


  8. David Minor says:

    This past weekend I bought tickets for a local theater, which uses to sell tickets online. Not only was registration required, but gender and birth date were *required* fields! Their conversion rate must be abysmal.

  9. love the quick and useful points, just made a couple of quick changes to the content on our checkout page that will hopefully give us a nice conversion boost and drop in abandonment.

  10. Wayne says:

    It’s amazing that many site owners with such blatant barriers to purchase still haven’t cottoned on to these basic issues.

    It’s such an obvious ‘no no’ – after all you don’t expect to be asked qestions at a checkout in a real world store (unless you’re an underage drinker in an offy).

  11. Wayne says:

    It’s amazing that many site owners with such blatant barriers to purchase still haven’t cottoned on to these basic issues.

    It’s such an obvious ‘no no’ – after all you don’t expect to be asked questions at a checkout in a real world store (unless you’re an underage drinker in an offy).

  12. Like everyone else, I use my pet’s name in lower case for a password.

    I was horrified yesterday when a site insisted on having some numbers in the password as well as letters.

    I’m not going to rename by budgie just for some lame website!

  13. Popkorn says:

    as usual a nice article but how to keep customer data clean w/o registration?

  14. @ecommerceconsulting – funny, we’re sharing a brain :)

    Yes, Schwan’s enjoys the exclusive product advantage, but I wonder if satisfaction would be higher without it. I doubt they’ve tested but I could be wrong. Anyone from Schwans wanna enlighten us?

    @Paul Rourke, thanks for sharing your information – I’ve always wondered what the difference between locking someone into checkout vs giving them an option to go back affects conversion. I often start my checkout and then think of adding something later and I can’t get out. And yes, many many retailers do that.

    @Chris English

    Did the article convince your dev?

    @David Minor

    Yeah, that’s a no no. I hope they didn’t opt you in to messages from “partner sites” too :)

    @John Hyde what’s wrong with Tweetiebird2785?

    @Popkorn, I’m not sure what you mean by keeping data clean? In some cases, when customers keep creating new accounts it actually makes it more messy, but I may have misunderstood your question.

  15. alex says:

    What I would _really_ like to see is the conversion stats broken down into conversion by first-time shoppers vs returning ones.

    I also suspect that sites like Schwan’s have sky-high conversion b/c they are a staple product but it would be interesting to compare their conversion to that of other home-deliver supermarkets.

  16. Roman says:

    You must look at checkout (adult store). This checkout is best “one-page” checkout I ever seen.

  17. “@Chris English

    Did the article convince your dev?”

    They are working on a one page check out for the next version. In the meantime someone on the forums created a “guest account” hack that I’ve implemented as well as Proflowers “Secure Checkout” text at the top.

  18. I think another reason those sites are always on the top of that list is because they’re sites that people use in a pinch or when they absolutely need it. Flowers, frozen meals delivered, office products…these are the types of things that you’ve already decided you’re going to buy and you just go to the site. Loyalty plays a part, but brand awareness may play the bigger role in getting the person to the site. In my mind, flowers will always top the list, because people aren’t going to poke around looking for the best deal, they’re just going to purchase.

  19. Tks for the article, this is good information for me because I currently drive traffic to Office Depot and was wondering what affected the conversion rates once the customer reached the retailers page. Its frustrating for me sometimes because I have no control over their content once they leave my site and get on the retailers.

  20. Online Marketing says:

    Blogged a while back about this….. very good point – too many carts out there enforce membership on checkout, bad idea…

  21. Söve says:

    It’s always a good advice to have a look at the big players and learn from them.Thanks…

  22. Dean says:

    Why bother calling it registration anyway – you will be asking the customer for the key information anyway as part of the checkout process, or you’ll be getting it back from your payment processor. All you have to do then is generate a random password and confirm it to your customer in the order confirmation email, saying that they can login to view order progress, etc.

    Thinking about it, that’s probably what those sites with “Continue as guest” are doing.

    One page checkout is the way to go, though.

  23. Abby says:

    Very nice info! We’re in the process of COMPLETELY overhauling our checkout. I’m going to forward this to our designers right away!

  24. That’s really a great article. Reading this article made me realize two things:

    I tend to leave shopping sites that have a complicated registration process (except I really, really want a specific article).

    One of my own sites also uses a “forced” registration process which I will definitely replace with something like “Check Out As A Guest” process.

  25. Rooker says:

    Speaking as one of the people that move on once it gets to the register page…

    I’d register only if I found myself buying from the same place more than once or twice. Being REQUIRED to register before buying something is annoying. I’m probably there only after searching for cheapest price and that’s most likely the last time I’ll ever be at that site either way, so just take the sale and leave me alone.

    If it requires reg, I’ll just bookmark the site and go to find another with the same product if it wants me to register. I’d prefer to pay a few bucks more at a site that doesn’t require it. I go back to the first site only if I can’t find another that won’t require registration.

    Seriously – just take the sale and don’t bother me.

  26. mike says:

    Great article Linda

    have you every thought of doing a similar one but for lead gen sites rather than ecommerce

    guessing there’s no top 10 for that, but I’m sure we could al chip in some good ones for review



  27. This is really useful information. I am going to reevaluate the login/guest process of my site and make sure it is as simple as the big boys.

  28. [...] wants to be forced to register before checkout on the Web, how much more on a mobile [...]

  29. @Mike
    Check Marketing Sherpa, they have tons of B2B articles and reports on forms for lead gen, Marketing Experiments too.

  30. vavovu says:

    Somebody here can advise me as or than easier to earn in the Internet. Not in a year, not through two, and for example in a month.
    Prompt examples from a life.
    It is a lot of theorists, and who earns are silent.
    Who can works on somebody where do not deceive.

  31. [...] security and payment options the seller accepts. (And don’t forget the conversion killer of required registration). These are all important factors in the retailer selection process — with reputation, [...]

  32. [...] today we’re more enlightened about the perils of required registration before checkout – namely its impact on conversion, the first response to Brian’s question [...]

  33. SuperChef says:

    What is unfortunate about the results of top converting checkout pages, is that you cannot sort by type of product or checkout. Many of these sites have a certain percentage of people who have already decided to make a purchase before they even arrive top the website. Grocery shopping is a clear example of this.

  34. Mark says:


    as you said just about all of them require you to login or register.

    Even your favourites.

    The checkout as a guest isn’t fooling anyone.

    The fact that such a step/page even exists is a barrier to the sale.

    There’s absolutely no reason for it.

    Just imagine if you went out to dinner and the before you even sat down the maitre’d demanded your full name, email, home phone number, mobile phone number, full address and card details.

    You’d feel totally creeped out.

    Ironically you’ll give them all of that information anyway at the end of the meal when you hand over your ccard to pay and toss your business card in the bowl at the counter.

    First they have to give you a great meal and dining experience and then you give them your personal details.

    • @Mark, sorry I have to disagree. There is a particular retailer that I purchase frequently from that DOESN’T offer registration. Every time I have to enter my address and CC over again. Would be so much faster with an account. My recommendation is to offer both, but present the guest checkout first, and make registration optional at the end.

  35. Gergo says:

    We have also implemented the quick checkout in our webshop software. The method works, the number of sales have increased. Thanks for the article!

  36. I’m not a developer so I don’t know off-hand. I would imagine this could be done with custom database programming.

  37. Linda, We sometimes forget the basics. Thanks for reminding us with these examples.


  38. i agree with Mark above; why even bother with a step that gives the choice? go straight into the checkout process without delay.

    please take a look at the way we deal with this linda, then compare to your faves above – which is better?

    good post.


  39. Check out our one step checkout page. The conversion rate on this one step checkout is very good. Customers have an account automatically created for them when they check out. As soon as they submit their order a password is sent to their email address with an option to change it.

    If you want more information or to contact our developer feel free to email me from our contact page. Reference this article so I’ll know what you are talking about.

  40. canvas says:

    Thanks for all the help with this article, im going to pass this on to the developers of my site as it pretty much sums up what ive been telling them all along, thanks for taking the time to put this together hopefully it will really help a lot of people who come across it.

  41. [...] post by Get Elastic that analyzes the checkout login process of several of the top converting sites. New users resist registering and want to check out without creating an account. Very good data and [...]

  42. Julie says:

    Thanks for this. We are changing things as I type! Will let you know the results.

    Ashton Field

  43. Shawn Hakimian says:

    Woww Linda, another very useful post. What about a 1 page checkout process, does that not inspire you? :-)

  44. [...] Inspirasjon fra de beste nettbutikkene (2009) [...]

  45. Janelle says:

    Just read this post, its interesting

    We put in a one step checkout and only found a 5% increase in conversion. Do you have any other tips for improving checkout conversions?


  46. Nil Basak says:

    This is most important part of ecommerce checkout, people don’t have time to signup every website they will purchase.

  47. Laura says:

    Will definitely bare in mind with future shopping cart sites. Those stats are amazing! Thanks.

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