Differentiating in eCommerce: Creating a Custom Checkout

How to Optimize for Better Sales, and Fewer Abandoned Carts

There is a lot of great content out there about strategizing touch points, CTA’s, and informational architecture that will influence users to purchase and convert. In this post, we’re looking at the following step, what that conversion process actually looks like. One of the benefits of eCommerce technology today is that you actually have a lot of control over every aspect of your website - including checkout.

When a Standard Check Out Doesn’t Cut It

You want your checkout to be as pain-free as possible (reportedly, 12% of customers abandon carts due to over-complicated checkouts). For many merchants, the creation of a straightforward checkout is as easy as spinning up a Shopify site, or setting up a seller’s account on Amazon. But for businesses and merchants that are dealing with products for which delivery dates, production timing, and shipment methods are crucially important, a standard checkout isn’t going to cut it.

When I say “standard checkout” what I mean to say is a checkout functionality that has been designed for you by someone else and doesn’t allow you to directly customize the code of your website. This is convenient if your business fits the typical mold, but prohibitive if it doesn’t.

Here are cases where merchants often need a custom checkout:

  1. B2B: Traditionally, many B2B purchases happen over the phone because it’s the best way to get crucial details of production, shipping, and delivery exactly right. However, more B2B companies are rounding out their websites with eCommerce stores that allow new or returning customers to easily place those same orders online. 
  2. Unique Product: Although you might not have the same volume production of a B2B, your product could be just as unique, and just as dependent on production date, shipping, and delivery details.
  3. A Branded Checkout: Granted you are given a fair amount of control over the look and feel of your checkout, even working within an enclosed payment gateway or SaaS. But eCommerce websites that want to further customize their UX will need a custom checkout.

What You Can Do With a Custom Checkout

There are many reasons why merchants choose a custom checkout–more control over the UX, special ordering circumstances, and post-order processes are just a few. Here’s an example from the local Seattle PBS station, KCTS 9.


The KCTS 9 website is built on a Drupal CMS, which it also uses to manage and process memberships and donations. In addition to processing those payments, KCTS 9 also needed to pass data through to other systems, including Salesforce, their non-profit management tool (Round Cause), and their accounting software. In order to automate data transfer between their website and their post-order systems, they built a custom checkout.

On the front-end (the user’s end) checkout is quick and simple. On the administrator’s end, the custom integrations in checkout enable valuable customer information to be sent to 3 different places at once, without further inconveniencing the customer.

How You Can Customize Your Checkout

There are actually a few different approaches, each requiring a varying degree of design and development work, that you can take when building a custom checkout. Here are 2 common options:

1. Choose a PaaS, or Open Source eCommerce Platform

If you’re considering building your own website, choosing a PaaS (like Hybris) or an open source eCommerce platform (like Magento®), will give you complete control over the construction of your checkout because you can directly access the code of your platform. While this option gives you the greatest amount of control, it's also the most expensive.

2. Choose a Payment Gateway

There are thousands of payment gateway services available, some giving you different levels of control over UX, which you can integrate or embed on your website. The number of different gateways allows you to be more discerning about prioritizing the kinds of checkout features you want.

Payment gateways are more limiting than working directly within your website. You’ll have to find a payment gateway that can integrate with your website, or settle for redirecting your user to an external gateway (which we discourage). And although you may have more control over the look and feel of your payment gateway, you won’t have total control as long as you can’t directly access the code.

Above All: Ease of Use

Just like a slow and painful checkout process can have you tapping your foot in a brick-and-mortar store, possibly even abandoning your purchase by the register if it’s a terrible experience, your user is even more likely to abandon their cart online.

Nobody wants to spend more time than they have to in checkout, but no one wants to feel uncertain or insecure about how they’re parting with their money. The trick is to create a checkout that occupies that middle ground between efficiency, security, and ease of use.

At its core, every user’s interaction is based on the belief that technology should be easy. It’s why users bounce from your website immediately if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load, if it isn’t mobile responsive, or if your UX is outdated - if your website doesn’t offer them the easy experience they’re looking for, there are hundreds of other websites that will.