69% of all e-commerce visitors abandon their shopping cart.

So, why do people have commitment issues with shopping carts?

Hidden shipping costs, creating a new account, concerns about payment security, confusing and complicated checkout flows…

There’s a lot of reasons why users bounce at the last minute, and for the most part, they all have one thing in common: microcopy.

What exactly is microcopy?

Microcopy (UX writing) is the words you find on interfaces from websites to apps that guide the user’s actions. These are field labels, text on buttons, error messages, sorting categories, instructions, confirmation messages, forms, hint text, progress labels and more.

UX Planet describes UX writing as “… the practice of crafting copy which is directly used in user interfaces to guide users within a product and help them interact with it.”

To help wrap your head around this, let’s take a look at Slack’s homepage.

At first glance with the marketing copy:

Focus placed on the microcopy:


Why does microcopy matter now?

While the role of ‘UX Writer’ may have only popped up on job boards in the last few years, often from tech giants like Amazon, Google and PayPal, it’s not exactly anything new.

Job posting UX writers

Job posting by UXbooth

Microcopy has always been around. However, writers weren’t always responsible for this content up until recently. For the most part, it’s left up to the engineers, developers and designers. But when these individuals have SO many other elements to focus on, these tiny (but essential) words are often overlooked and become an afterthought.

People are more aware than ever of what’s going on around them. They are overwhelmed with marketing messages, and they’ve become masters at ignoring them.

It’s simple, if it’s not easy and informative, we leave. Which doesn’t mean it has to be boring.

Microcopy is an opportunity to stand out, be bold and connect.

Every single interface has a story to tell.

Content and design can’t be seen as separate. As customer journeys continue to become fragmented, we need to ensure brands are telling coherent stories across all channels.

It’s about getting from point A to B, but also enjoying the ride along the way. When it comes to copy, we can’t afford to just focus on point A. What about point B and all the moments in-between?

Our advice is to give sufficient thought to your website’s microcopy, meaning you need to be aware of all opportunities to win over your reader through the customer journey.

With saying that, here’s how you can utilise microcopy in your e-commerce site to increase conversions:

  1. When it comes to buttons, stick with the familiar.

As Joanna Wiebe so eloquently put it: buttons are like closed doors.

You know the slight anxiousness in the pit of your stomach when you attempt to open a door without a clue of what awaits you on the other side? Yep, that’s the feeling your customers get when they come across an elusive button. In this case, mysterious ain’t so sexy.

It’s straightforward. Your customers need to be certain of what’s behind the door. They need to be sure of what will happen when they click a button. This rule applies to all aspects of your site, but probably more so when it comes to ecommerce.

If you choose to use language the user isn’t familiar with, it may confuse users and raise unnecessary concerns about what will happen if they press the button. Users shouldn’t have to worry about where the button will take them, it should be obvious.

There’s a time and place to show off your skillz, and this, my friend, is not your time to shine.

“Add to Cart” should mean just that… ADD MY ITEM TO THE CART. Users expect when they add an item to the cart, it means they have the freedom to change their mind. They’re not yet ready to commit and begin the payment process.

“Checkout Securely,” “Place Order,” or “Confirm Payment,” are there to assist the user who is ready to complete their purchase. This needs to be as mundane as possible.

Deviate from the familiar, and you’re at risk of nudging your customers away from your site because, to be frank, your buttons are making them feel uncomfortable.

Remember, ecommerce buttons are there to help your visitors glide effortlessly through their journey, from the moment they land on your site, all the way to your thank you page.

Harrods payment page is a great example of using familar buttons to establish secure payment and show their user where they’re at with a clear progress bar:

  1. Make people feel safe.

It’s a no brainer that people are far more likely to abandon a checkout flow if they feel their personal and credit card details aren’t secure.

It’s only natural for people to worry about security before they’ve even arrived at the final payment stage.

Let’s have a look at the below examples and how screen B makes use of simple tactics to remind users their payment is secure:

Which one do you trust more? Image source: Baymard Institute.

By simply using a few visual reinforcements, you can alleviate the very trust issues that may cause users to abandon a cart.

  • Distinguish credit card fields with a different background colour
  • Make use of the SSL badge like “Secured by GeoTrust” and lock icons
  • Include a direct disclaimer promising a secure payment
  • Utilise the “Checkout” button to let customers know it’s secure by simply changing it to “Checkout Securely”

It’s important to place these elements alongside the payment form rather than in the footer.

  1. Use click triggers to guide the user

This is your chance to make people feel more comfortable and reassure them that they’re making the right decision purchasing your product.

Click triggers are the words and instructions you place alongside your button and are there to alleviate any doubts your customer may have regarding their purchase.

Here’s a few examples of how to use click triggers:

  • If you’re selling a subscription, let people know they can unsubscribe at any time.
  • Place messages like “30-day money-back guarantee,” “faulty products, money back guarantee” or “shipment is free” next to payment fields.
  • Again, this is a great time to remind them their purchase is safe and secure.

Right underneath the payment button, Wix reminds users there’s a 14 day money-back guarantee and that it’s a safe and secure payment.

  1. Ensure there are no friction points

You’re ready to part ways with your hard earned cash and head towards checkout to make it final, only to be hit with continuous ‘this field is required’ messages.

I mean, why don’t you just take a sample of my DNA while you’re at it?

The foundation of a successful ecommerce store comes down to how convenient and easy your checkout flow is for your users. If it’s a pain and requires them to fill in endless amounts of information, they’ll just leave.

Check each field for any hindrance that may interfere with your users finalising their purchase:

  • Explain why you need personal information with an honest and conversational approach.
  • If you need information to be completed in a specific format, make use of hint text to demonstrate how it should be filled out so unnecessary mistakes can be avoided.
  • Explain using familiar words what CVV is (security code) or any other technical terms.
  • Use asterisks to clearly mark the required fields and be straight up with yourself about what should be mandatory and remove all non-essential fields.

Ask yourself: Does the content accurately guide, help and instruct the user in a simple, informative way without delaying decisions or interaction?

Although Dropbox Paper isn’t an ecommerce site, this is a great example of using placeholder text to guide your user when filling in a form:

Dropbox Paper

Invision sticks to best practices with their clean and straightforward payment page where they use placeholder text as a hint and provide friendly reminders about the CVV.

  1. See an empty cart as an opportunity

The user’s cart may be empty, but if they’re still browsing your site, perhaps all they need is a nudge in the right direction?

Use an empty cart as your gateway to starting a conversation. Direct them to popular items and special offers. Remind them you offer free shipping. This is your chance to show off your brand’s personality and enhance your users’ shopping experience.

Etsy adds their personal touch with this simple yet effective empty cart message:

  1. Don’t end the journey at the thank-you page

Don’t let the journey come to a screeching halt once the user reaches the thank you page.

  • If you have a blog, direct them to a topic they may be interested in.
  • Get fans to share what you do by offering an incentive, “share this with your friends and get 10% off your next order.”
  • Reassure customers they made the right decision by inviting them to read previous reviews.

It’s key to remember that your work doesn’t end once your visitor has converted. It’s in the small details where you can really make an impact.

Infusionsoft nails this by allowing users to read success stories:

Once you realise why microcopy matters when it comes to your e-commerce site, it’s hard not to start noticing it on every site you visit. They might be tiny words but the impact they have on your conversions is far from it.

So who writes the content and copy for your platforms? Feel free to get in contact if you’d like to chat about how you can use copy to increase your conversions.