New Baymard Study: How to Improve Ecommerce Checkout Rates with Site Seals & Checkout Design
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New Baymard Study: How to Improve Ecommerce Checkout Rates with Site Seals & Checkout Design

Baymard Institute recently released the 2019 edition of their site seal and ecommerce checkout study — here are 6 insights and actionable recommendations to improve your ecommerce conversion rates

98% of prospective customers leave an online store without making a purchase.

That’s a pretty depressing number when you think about it. Imagine if 98% of the people who walked into a grocery store left without buying anything!

If you’re managing an ecommerce website, reducing your site abandonment number can have a huge impact on your revenue. You can increase your sales without spending a penny more to attract more website visitors.

Baymard Institute recently released the third edition of their ecommerce checkout study that focuses on how site seals and other checkout page elements help build customer trust and increase ecommerce conversion rates. The updated study includes several actionable insights, such as:

  • How to choose the most effective site seal (the best site seals outperform by 10x or more!)
  • When sites seals are most effective — small and medium businesses will see the biggest impact.
  • How making the credit card section visually distinct increases perceived security and sales.

Let’s hash it out.

About the Baymard Institute Study

Before we get into the fun stuff (how to increase your ecommerce site sales) let’s cover a few basics — who published this study and how they did it.

The Baymard Institute is a research website that specializes in ecommerce UX research and best practices. They’re widely regarded as a go-to authority for best practices in ecommerce website usability, UX, and design. In fact, more than 60% of Fortune 500 companies use their research studies (we do, too… but we’re just an INC 5000 company, not a Fortune 500… yet!)

In 2013 and 2016, Baymard released studies analyzing how site seals impact consumer perceptions of trust/security on ecommerce websites. Baymard replicated their research in 2019, and also added in findings from several other studies they performed. They use data from studies they run on their clients’ websites, as well as data from consumer surveys.

Here’s what they found:

18% of Users Abandon Their Purchase Because They Don’t Trust the Site

How much does the customer’s perception of your website security impact your website’s conversion rate? Baymard’s cart abandonment study found that trust / security was the fifth most common reason that customers abandon an order — 18% of people reported abandoning a purchase because they didn’t trust the site:

Reasons for abandonment during checkout, by Baymard

Food for thought: how much would your site’s revenue increase if you could get 18% more of your site visitors to complete a purchase?

Site Seals Work by Referencing Known Brands + Creating a Good First Impression

We’d love it if everyone understood web security enough to analyze a website and make a decision based on the site’s technical security protections and their organizational track record. Unfortunately, 99% of web users don’t have that level of web security know-how, and it’s probably not realistic to expect them to.

In the real world, most people make the decision whether to trust a site or not based on visual cues and gut feel. In other words, they decide based on instinct or their first impression.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Will Rogers.

That’s why research shows that site seals impact customer behavior during the checkout process. Site seals work because:

  • They’re a visual cue explicitly stating that the website is secure. People move fast online. Visual indicators that simply and directly say “this website is secure” are simple and easy for anyone to understand.
  • They tell the customer that the website has been vetted and approved by a brand they trust (for example, Norton). It’s kind of like getting a health recommendation from your doctor—you’re likely to trust the store/provider they recommend because you trust the doctor and their expertise.

Here’s how Baymard explains it:

The average user’s perception of a site’s security is largely determined by their “gut feeling”, which – beyond how much they trust the brand – is to a large extent observed to be directed by how visually secure the page looks.

[A] visual clue that during testing also proved effective at increasing the perceived level of security (and adding robustness to the encapsulation) is the use of “site seals”, such as trust badges, SSL seals, and similar symbols suggesting trustworthiness.”

Site Seals Are Most Effective for Small & Medium Companies

If you’re managing a website for Google, Paypal, Amazon, or another brand that’s nearly universally known and trusted, you’ll probably find that site seals are less effective:

We see that when testing sites from large brands (i.e. Apple, Microsoft, Walmart) users have few security concerns, even with a minimum of “visual security” simply because they are large corporations and well-known brands. By contrast, when testing sites that are newer, less well-known, or more niche than these major brands, we have however observed users raise security concerns very easily if there are no visual clues.”

But let’s face it: 99% of us are working with brands that are less well known than Apple, Microsoft, and Walmart. For all the rest of us, site seals can be a highly effective tool.

Here’s why: Site seals work, in part, by “borrowing” trust from the brand displayed in the site seal. Let’s use an example to show how that works: Bob is shopping for the perfect table for his new home. He found the table he wants but it’s from a website he’s never heard of, so he’s not sure if he can trust it. But then he notices it’s got a Norton Secured site seal — if Norton says Aunt Annie’s Antique Store is secure, Bob figures it’s OK. So he goes ahead and completes the purchase.

If your website isn’t widely known and trusted, a proven site seal let’s you “borrow” recognition and trust, boosting customer trust and purchases. For small businesses, this can be a huge benefit. For larger businesses, though, it may not work. If you’re, your own brand is probably more widely recognized than the site seal, so there won’t be as much benefit.

“Norton Secured” Is the Reigning Champion of Site Seals

Which site seal is best? Which one is most recognized and trusted to drive conversion rate increases? Based on Baymard’s research, the competiton’s not even close — the Norton Secured site seal (which comes with Symantec and DigiCert SSL certificates) is almost twice as trusted as the runners-up and nearly 10x as trusted as an average site seal:

Baymard site seal research: Which badge gives you the best send of trust when paying online?

Note: because the question asked respondents which was “best,” this doesn’t mean that respondents didn’t recognize or trust the lower seals — just that they trusted the Norton seal more.

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Make the Credit Card Section of Your Checkout Page Visually Distinct to Boost Conversions

I found this insight particularly fascinating — the study found that simply “wrapping” the credit card fields and trust logos in a different visual style can boost purchases. Here’s how it works:

  1. Most customers don’t understand how websites and web security work.
  2. Customers are most concerned about security when they’re entering their credit card information.
  3. When determining if a website is secure, customers focus on the section of the page where they enter their credit card details, even though technically speaking the entire page has the same security.
  4. Ecommerce sites that make the credit card part of their checkout page visually distinct (with visual security indicators included) see higher conversion rates.

Here’s how Baymard explains it:

Depending on the design, users perceive some parts of a page to be more secure than other parts of the same page.

One method we consistently observe to perform well for increasing users’ perceived security of sensitive fields is to visually encapsulate them. This can be achieved simply by using borders, background colors, shading, and other visual styling that will make one part of the form seem more robust than the rest. Remember: this is about perceived security of the fields, not their actual technical security.”

Here’s an example from showing a visually distinct credit card field, with a visual security indicator enclosed (side note: I bet they would get a conversion boost if they added Norton Secured!)

Credit card design checkout example

Layout Glitches in the Checkout Impact Perceived Security

Baymard also conducted user research to understand how customers perceive checkout pages and security indicators. What they found was that a clean, bug-free design is critical if you want users to perceive your site as secure. In other words, users tend to think that if a site looks professional, it’s probably good.

If your checkout looks like this on the user’s device, they’re not likely to trust your site:

Checkout glitches harm ecommerce conversion rates

One of the users in the study group summed it up pretty well:

This looks a bit strange. Especially when you are about to pay. This makes you think of some phishing or whatever.”

It may seem like a minor thing, but design bugs like this raise suspicions in the back of prospective customers’ minds. Don’t let your checkout page “look a bit strange” — religiously test it across all browsers and devices to ensure that the layout is clean, crisp, and professional for every user!

5 Actionable Tips From Baymard’s Research:

To wrap up and summarize, here are five takeaways from this study — actionable tactics you can use to improve your site’s ecommerce checkout rate:

  1. Use a site seal (unless you’re or, then you may or may not need to).
  2. Use the Norton Secured site seal (it’s the best!). Test adding additional site seals and tweaking the placement until you find the most effective combination.
  3. Place trust seals next to your credit card fields and make that section of the form visually distinct.
  4. Make your checkout layout clean and error-free across all devices and browsers.
  5. Use other visual security cues such as padlocks, labels that mention being “secure,” etc.

As people live more and more of their lives online, customer expectations are increasing. Companies who pay attention to “small” details like security seals and checkout page designs are the companies that are best positioned to succeed in our digital-first economy!


Adam Thompson

Adam draws from his 17 years of experience in web development and ecommerce to share insights on cybersecurity & website security here at Hashed Out. He also serves as The SSL Store's Director of Digital Marketing.