Are One-Page Checkouts THE Best Practice?

Kyle Nelson says: “I attended your shopping cart webinar a couple weeks ago. During your presentation, you said that one-page checkouts are not for everyone.  Our provider said you don’t know what you are talking about and that one-page checkouts are the new best practice. Which one of you is right?  Oh, I forgot to mention, he wants to charge us $7,500 per site to develop ours (we have eight sites) so he has a vested interest.”

Hi Kyle.  Thanks for writing.  Here’s the thing.  One-page checkouts will work extraordinarily well for certain users and for others, they will completely bomb.  Some will fall right in the middle.  You won’t know till you test it.

In other words, looking at one set of A/B split test results from a site that sells anabolic steroids to Jordanian bodybuilders (a similar case study to the one your provider is using in his collateral material) and making your assumptions from that is a terrible, horrible, no-good very bad idea.   (And yes, as much as I think those sites that give you information on which test(s) performed best are sexy and fun to read, they are not a sure-fire recipe for success.  Take it from someone who happily admits that she tests more things that fail than things that succeed.)

If you are interested in a one-page checkout, test it with the people who know you first – your registered users and past customers.  Make sure you have enough statistical significance in your results – if your one-page checkout gets 21 orders and your old checkout gets 22, it’s not necessarily a winner.  (Online you need the variances in checkout tests to be much higher – usually two or three times that of offline tests.  If you want the results to stick that is.  Oh, and always backtest the old control at least once with anything concerning forms and/or checkouts.)

If that is successful, you can start rolling it out with other segments.  I would never globally implement a one-page checkout to all your folks.    Some people do it.  I don’t think it’s the best idea ESPECIALLY if you have catalog customers coming in from offline sources as they often need a completely separate checkout OR if you are doing a lot of work with PPC or affiliates OR…. Well. You get the idea.  I’ve just seen too many examples of where it hasn’t worked to be completely enamored with it.   (By the way, I want to be clear that I am a proponent of and do recommend one-page checkouts, I just think you need to be very disciplined in your offerings.  Your users will tell you what is best for them.  Don’t force what you think is best just because it’s the “in” thing.)

One of the points to keep in mind with one-page checkouts is  that you really need to do server calls (or something similar) so that you can keep track of the information that you do get from the user.  A lot of times companies will feel that their one-page checkouts are stellar until they realize that they have collected very little data to use for their abandoned cart e-mails and programs.  If you are doing things right online (best practice or not), you are going to save 15 to 50% of your abandoned carts.  (And no, you don’t need a discount or free offer to make an abandoned cart program work.)

P.S.  As for your provider, I think you should tell him that charging you $7,500 for each site when he’s implementing the exact same checkout is highway robbery, which in fact, is NOT a best – or even good — practice if he wants to keep his clients, exactly 42% of which I have sent him, I might add.


  1. says

    A 1-page or multi-page checkout is never the issue with me. It’s navigation through the checkout process. I like to know the number of steps in the checkout process and where I am during that process, but most importantly I want to be able to move backwards in the steps. Sometimes I have second thoughts or can’t remember some aspect of the order and I want to review one more time. With some checkouts, if I ‘m on the payment screen (say step 3 or 4) and I want to move back to review my order (step 1 or 2), the system won’t let me and I end up closing the window and starting over. Are we back to exit strategy again?

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