Guides and reports

Practical tips for turning casual browsers into serious buyers

Break down those barriers to sale and increase conversions

Tim van de Langkruis  ·  Product Manager, Adyen
July 5, 2021
 ·  7 minutes
Person browsing in clothes store

What’s the secret behind turning a casual browser into a serious buyer?

In marketing speak, this is known as “increasing your conversion rate” or “moving more people down your sales funnel”, and it is key to scaling up your business. Experts have written endless strategy, communication, and marketing books about this topic. And businesses are constantly testing new strategies for doing so – from adding graphics, tweaking copy, and improving navigation.

These are all valid strategies well worth testing. But in our experience, merchants often neglect the last mile in the entire process – checkout and payment. And it’s costing them big time.

Your checklist for choosing the right online payment solution for your business


The case of the £257 billion leaky funnel

Our research shows that, in 2019 alone,7 in 10 shoppers abandoned an online shopping cart at least once because of difficulties in completing a purchase. We estimate that this alone cost merchants £257 billion in lost annual sales. That’s a very big and expensive leak.

Opportunity costs aside, this can also be emotionally frustrating. You have a customer that has already gone down your entire sales funnel – from finding your site, browsing through it, finding items they like, and adding it to the shopping cart – only to check out before checking out.

But frustrating as it might be, that’s actually good news. Because it means the customer is already almost sold. You don’t need to drive more traffic to your website, redesign it, or change up the product mix. All you need to do is understand what causes that final bit of friction and then improve the checkout experience to specifically target those factors.

We’ve seen this time and time again at Adyen. I’ve personally worked with merchants of all sizes to help map out their ideal payment flow and build positive customer experiences. And many of them have seen tangible impacts on their bottom line from just a seemingly simple shift.

We have run an A/B test to compare the performance of Adyen Drop-in [embedded] vs. our legacy integration [redirect], and overall, we saw a positive conversion rate uplift of 3.6%

Kateryna GlushchukSenior Product Manager, Payments, Soundcloud

That brings us to the first practical tip – understanding the causes behind checkout abandonment.

Why customers abandon the checkout process

We all know that in this age of experience, customers prioritize efficiency and convenience. Everything should be seamless, removing as many sources of friction as possible. But this applies doubly to the checkout.

Think about it. From an emotional perspective, no one actually likes paying for things – they just want the pleasures that come from owning and using them. This means the act of checking out and paying already comes with its own internally generated emotional friction. The last thing you want is to add even more friction.

Here’s how merchants may inadvertently end up sabotaging their checkout process.

  1. Having too many steps: The more steps needed, the greater the friction. Common culprits include forcing people to sign up before they can purchase and not indicating which fields are mandatory and optional.
  2. Not enough payment choices: We found £212 billion out of the £257 billion in lost annual sales from checkout abandonment could be traced to limited payment options.
  3. Being too confusing: Customers may not be clear about the next step required of them – or even how much exactly they need to pay (for example, by not displaying the final price in local currency terms).
  4. Not displaying enough trustworthiness: Customers may not trust their payment details will be secure. For example, checkouts that redirect to a different payment page could cause some to abandon the process.
  5. Declined payments: Having your payment rejected is an unpleasant experience – especially if you know you’re good for it.

Removing the final barriers to get the sale

While the number of friction causes can seem daunting, a good payments partner will be able to help you with most of them. Here are a few ways to keep the flow going and guide your customers all the way to payment.

Show relevant options

Problems being targeted:

  • Not enough payment options
  • Being too confusing

It can be tempting to just splash as many payment options as possible on the checkout page. But this just makes the user experience confusing and the checkout page visually unappealing. In this respect, too many can be as bad as too few.

Instead, the idea here is to find a balance by only showing the most relevant payment options. For instance, if you are selling to a Chinese market, not including WeChat Pay or AliPay could cost you.

You can also use demographics to make an informed decision. A US-based Gen Y customer base, for example, would probably want to have e-wallet options.

Always be transparent

Problems being targeted:

  • Being too confusing
  • Not displaying enough trustworthiness
  • Having too many steps

Different payment methods may each have their own flows. Some may be direct, but others could redirect to a separate page or even ask for an additional action – such as authentication.

Transparency means priming the customer’s expectations so they know what will happen next (or what they need to do). They will feel comforted – trusting the process more – and even be more willing to carry out the extra steps. It also eliminates confusion.

Remember people hate uncertainty (scientifically proven). That was part of what made Uber so successful in the beginning – letting customers know exactly how long before their ride would arrive. It’s not so much the waiting that’s painful, but the uncertainty of it.

Authenticate smartly

Problems being targeted:

  • Having too many steps
  • Declined payments

Authentication helps protect both customers and merchants, while also leading to friction. There is a necessary tradeoff here, but you can minimize its effect through optimization.

For example, ourAuthentication Engineanalyzes over 100 data points to create an optimal authentication flow. For certain transactions, we can skip the process to prevent shoppers from getting interrupted. And the entire engine is geared to maximize authorization success for legitimate customers.

Optimize for returning visits

Problems being targeted:

  • Having too many steps

To scale up, you need to increase your customer lifetime value (LTV). And to do that, your customers must want to come back.

So, boost your customer retention rates by making it easier for returning customers to check out. Securely store their credit card details to enable one-click payments. Also, consider only showing a previously selected payment method to a returning customer (or even just a visitor).

Don’t neglect the physical world

The payment experience matters both online and offline. Here are a few tips for optimizing the in-store payments experience.

Illustration person scanning QR code
  • Use mobile POS terminals to reduce lines and wait times. Waiting in line need not be mandatory. Mobile point-of-sale terminals can allow your customers to check out without having to wait in lines – reducing overall wait times and creating a much better customer experience.
  • Ensure all key payment methods are available. Sure, people may be less likely to abandon the checkout process in-store (it’s a little awkward). But it could negatively impact customer retention.
  • Cater to travelers as well. Make it easy for tourists and locals. Use dynamic currency conversion (DCC) so customers from abroad can choose to pay in the local or their own currency. DCC-enabled terminals recognize the currency of the country the customer’s card is issued, so this option is automatically provided.
  • Optimize in-store touch points. Why limit payment terminals to just payments? By allowing customers to input information directly into the terminal – such as confirmations, signatures, numeric values, and texts – you can increase checkout speed and obtain valuable data. For example, you can ask for a feedback score directly after payment.
  • Have a Plan B. The sad truth – customers may not care why their experience was bad, but only remember that it was. If your POS terminal loses its network connection, an option to continue to accept sales is with offline processing or a “store-and-forward” system. Then, you can properly process these once the connection is restored

Unified Commerce – blending the offline and the online

Both the offline and online experience can and should be optimized. But to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts, they must be able to support one another in the goal of providing a seamless customer journey. This is especially important as the modern customer is an omnichannel shopper.

Imagine this. A customer walks into your store and decides on an item to purchase. A sales agent then creates a link on their mobile device using our Pay by Link app – giving the customer the ability to either scan a QR code that will prompt a payment page– or get the link sent directly to their device via email or instant messaging.

Illustration of person making on purchase on their phone.

The key to being able tocreate such a unified commerce journey? Using a connecting identifier across the channels – such as payments. This allows you to get rich customer insights to drive business strategy and improve engagement. When building such a journey, here are the three key phases to plan out:

  • Ordering: Where (in terms of sales channel) your customer will place their order. This could be in-person, on your website or within your app, or somewhere else.
  • Receiving: Where the goods or service will come from or be returned to. This could be a store, a warehouse, or a combination of the two.
  • Paying: How payments will be taken. This could be online, in-app, via a terminal, using saved payment details, or via a payment link shared through any channel.

The checkout endgame – an easy and enjoyable customer experience

Remember, the endgame is to create a buying experience that is easy and enjoyable. Paying is not what customers are looking forward to. So, it should at worst be painless and at best be a competitive advantage.

But this all starts with choosing the right checkout option for your business. A few questions to ask yourself during the selection process:

  • How much do I value flexibility over simplicity? Designing your own payment flow will give you the most flexibility, but it also takes the most resources. If simplicity is your focus, then an out-of-the-box solution such as Adyen Drop-in might be the best bet.
  • What is my desired customer journey? This depends on your business model and sales channels. A subscription business might want to focus on a smooth signup and renewal experience. Whereas a high-end luxury brand or B2B business might want to offer more flexibility with a payment link option, such as Pay by Link, during a video call or within an invoice.
  • Do I really need a redirect? Redirects are tempting because of the minimal integration effort needed. But it might impact the shopping experience – making this a question worth closely thinking over. Nowadays, embedded options can be just as simple to integrate, while offering a superior customer experience.
  • Can I use existing technology? Sometimes, the best move may be using what you already have. If you are already using an ecommerce platform such as Magento or Prestashop, you can most likely use a payment plugin. These can be a quick and simple way to instantly start accepting payments.

These questions can serve as a starting point to map out what you need to create the payment experiences your customer wants – without incurring unnecessary overheads. This makes it important you choose a payment partner that will allow you to easily shift between checkout options as you scale.

Data has shown us that by switching from HPP (hosted payment page) [redirect] to Drop-in, we increased conversions by approximately 12%.


With Adyen, all it takes isa single backend integration. Once that is done, you will have no trouble adapting your checkout options to fit your business needs – from out-of-the-box “drop in” checkouts to flexible payment blocks for building your checkout page and fully customizable API solutions.

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