Every purchase process shares one common objective: Make it as easy and smooth as possible for users to complete it.
Almost every potential friction point or obstacle in this process can be removed with microcopy. Well-placed wording can increase certainty and alleviate the concerns almost all users experience while buying something online, making for a smooth experience.
Related: Who should write your microcopy?
1. With buttons, stick to what users expect
As Joanna Wiebe wrote, buttons are like closed doors—people don’t know what’s behind them, and they need certainty to decide to click them. They need to be sure that they understand what will happen after they click.
This is even more true when it comes to shopping online. Clicking the wrong button can lead to an unintentional charge, and this probably tops most shoppers’ list of concerns—or it might be a close second right after the fear that their credit card information will be stolen.
“People need to know what will happen after they click—or they won’t click.”
This is why buttons and instructions of a purchase process aren’t a good place to be creative with your copy skills or even your brand language. “Add to cart” means add the item to the cart, and that’s it. Users expect that adding an item to their cart will only save it for future consideration or purchase. They don’t intend to commit to it just yet and start the payment process.
Anything else you write will only raise people’s level of uncertainty. For example, “I want this,” “I pick this,” or any similar expression will immediately raise the questions: What does this button actually do? Where will it take me? Will it put the item in my cart or take me to checkout? Those are all completely unnecessary doubts.
The “Checkout” button should also be clear (at maximum it can be “Secured checkout” or “Checkout securely,” as we’ll talk about later), so that only users who really want to advance to payment will click on it. This is also true for that final button: “Confirm payment,” “Place order,” or “Submit purchase.”
Furthermore, UniqUI’s research (Hebrew) found that deviations from the standard process of purchasing lowers conversions.
Conclusion: With purchase buttons, the more mundane the better.
“Purchase process instructions aren’t a good place to be creative with copy.”
Sugru does it just right:
2. Talk about security
People are worried about security even before they arrive at the final payment stage. So it’s best if you use the “Checkout” button to start reminding them that payment is secure. For example, “Checkout securely.”
This is the button leading to checkout at Marks and Spencer:
And on the payment page itself, don’t skimp on the SSL badge, lock icons, and an explicit disclaimer promising a secure purchase. Placement is important, too: Don’t bury it in the footer, but place it proudly next to the payment form—which is exactly where it’s needed.
Here’s how Wix does it:
3. Use click triggers
Since we’re already talking about click triggers (things that are written next to the buttons to help people feel more comfortable clicking), there are other things that can help.
For example, stating right next to the button that the shipment is free or that there’s a 30-day, money-back guarantee. In the case of buying a subscription, this is the place to remind people they can unsubscribe any time. You could also provide social proof here.
All of these alleviate people’s fears and help them confidently make their purchase.
Next to the payment fields, Wix reminds users there’s a 14-day, money-back guarantee and that the purchase is secure.
4. Smooth friction points with the right word in the right place
When people have already decided to pay, we don’t want anything to interfere with that—especially annoying errors. So it’s worth checking out each field and making sure it doesn’t contain any potential friction points:
- If you need private information such as birthdate or phone number, explain why you need it
- If there’s a particular format for a date or phone number, specify what it is and give an example, or break it down into fields that don’t allow a mistake to occur
Eastern Mountain Sports gives an example to demonstrate the phone number format, and explains why it’s needed.
- Clearly mark required fields (and ask yourself if you really need the ones that aren’t mandatory)
Walmart uses asterisks to denote required fields, and they note when certain fields are optional. The user has maximum certainty and minimal chances to get an error on this form.
- Explain what CVV is—and even better, use more familiar terms like “Security code” accompanied by an image.
This is from Headspace:
- If the address should be the one associated with the credit card, make sure to specify that
On Wix, it looks like this:
5. Think about the whole process—all the way to the moment the product is in the user’s hands
The online purchase is only part of the process, followed by other events. The users will receive an item at home, or maybe now they’re subscribed to some service, or maybe they’ll receive an e-ticket that they’ll bring to the box office or the airport.
“It’s our responsibility as microcopy writers to think through the whole process.”
Either way, it’s our responsibility as microcopy writers to think through the whole process—including the end—and make sure there are no setbacks or surprises anywhere along the way. If you expect misunderstandings to occur, alert users and resolve the problem during the purchase process.
For example, El Al airline is careful to warn that if you don’t copy the names correctly from the passport, correcting that at the airport will result in additional costs.
Belle and Sue suggests that you provide your office address, as deliveries are made during work hours and you more than likely don’t want your order to arrive at home while you’re away.
6. Don’t make the thank you page a dead-end
In Talia Wolf’s wonderful article, she explains (and demonstrates with statistics) why a thank you page is actually the ideal place to ask users to perform yet another action that we want them to make in order to achieve high conversion rates.
Examples for such actions: Asking people to provide more information about themself, asking them to share the store or product on social media, and more.
7. Don’t waste an empty cart
Use an empty cart to motivate users to shop:
- Make it clear that the cart is empty
- Start an interesting and persuasive sales dialogue. Try to be funny or exciting or make them curious. When users are happy or excited, they want to act. A combination of text and an image works well here.
- Direct your users to interesting parts of the shop, such as special offers, popular or new items, etc.
- You can also provide social proof or interesting statistics about other buyers or items, and then direct people to specific items in the store
“Never let an empty cart go to waste.”
For example, on the site of a famous chocolate shop, they write “Your shopping bag is empty,” and the rest of the page remains blank. Instead of this vacant lot, they could have written:
There are no chocolates in your bag yet. Our chocolatiers never cease to amaze—the new 2018 chocolate collection is here, and it’s addictive. Explore our new flavors.
Barnes and Noble does a great job of this—and with minimal text. When your cart’s empty, they remind you there’s free shipping, and they show their current popular items.
8. Be thoughtful about how you name categories
The categories by which products in your store are organized should be worded in terms users actually use, or at least in standard terms that everyone knows.
If you have an “Organic Toiletries” category in your store, people who need hand cream might not find it because they’re looking for the “Skincare” category and have no idea what toiletries are.
On the other hand, 1–2 categories that are especially important for you can be worded with a twist that will attract both hearts and minds, but still be clear. For example, instead of writing “Gifts,” you could write “Looking for a gift?” thus creating conversation and movement around that heading in the menu.
So, choose simple category labels that can be easily found and understood.
More on microcopy: Did you read my recent post on writing accessible microcopy? Check it out.
Kinneret Yifrah is the leading microcopy (UX writing) expert in Israel, and the author of "Microcopy: The Complete Guide." She has written microcopy and designed voice and tone for the largest local companies. Kinneret gives lectures and microcopy-writing workshops throughout the Israeli digital industry.