Conversion is a huge focus for Internet retailers, who want as many people viewing their site as possible to make a purchase. It's reasonable, therefore, to expect that online stores are doing all they can to increase and maintain successful conversion rates.

Unfortunately, according to a joint report by BlueSnap and Pymnts.com, the opposite appears to be true. Each quarter, the two companies research and update their Checkout Conversion Index (CCI). In a way, the CCI is a comprehensive report card detailing how well e-commerce retailers prepare their websites for purchases. Companies are rated on a scale of A through F. A-level merchants earned a score of 75 or above. Those given a B earned between 75 and 65, and C-levels had a score between 65 and 55. A D score meant the retailer earned between 55 and 45, while those given an F scored below 45. Each grade was calculated on various factors, including loading time, the existence of product reviews, shipping options, security seals and the total number of clicks it takes to complete the checkout process.

The latest Checkout Conversion Report Card, listing the findings of the CCI during the first quarter of 2016, detailed that numbers overall were down compared to Q4 of 2015. At that time, only seven online retailers received an A score. In Q1 of 2016, that number fell to four. Similarly, the average score fell from 55 during Q4 in 2015 to 53 during Q1 in 2016. While these numbers aren't grand in scale, they indicate a downward trend that ecommerce retailers should work their hardest to rise above.

It's interesting to note these numbers didn't improve when retailers were categorized by size or industry. None of the 14 industries that online stores were broken into received a grade higher than a C. Meanwhile, websites small and large scored about the same.

Still, there were some positives among those that scored the highest. The median  score among the top 30 online stores was 72, more than a third above average. High-ranking websites also loaded nearly twice as fast, finishing in 121 seconds as opposed to the prior average of 216.

Using psychology to improve conversion rates
The Index clearly identified several areas where e-commerce retailers could improve their checkout process. Bargain Fox, a supplier of discount codes based in the U.K., agreed with several, providing interesting statistics on the psychology of online shoppers that retailers should take note of.

A good website design does more than fall in line with a company's branding: 93 percent of consumers said it influences their purchasing decision. At the same time, 52 percent said they leave a website because of a bad layout. Proper web development isn't just a good idea – it's an absolute necessity for increasing conversions.

Good design also takes loading times into account. For each second it took a site to load, overall satisfaction fell 7 percent. Over 65 percent of shoppers said they wouldn't wait more than three seconds for an e-commerce site to display.

Both Bargain Fox and the CCI realized the importance of security. Sixty-one percent of online shoppers abandoned their carts because they didn't see a trust seal indicating their payment information was safe.

The CCI also addressed the issue of global payments in a worldwide marketplace. The best-performing merchants not only gave consumers a wide variety of online payment options, they handled multiple currencies as well. They also displayed prices in the currency of the credit or debit card a customer uses to complete a transaction.

E-commerce retailers should take a good look at their websites and ensure that they are structured to encourage payments and retain customers. Doing so will make numbers across the CCI improve by next quarter.

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