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How to beat shopping cart abandonment in five steps

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23rd Jun 2015
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Ecommerce may have been around for a while but consumer attitudes towards online shopping are poles apart from the traditional high street experience. Despite the industry expecting to turn over $1.3 trillion of business this year, Experian estimates that in the UK alone around £1bn is lost due to shoppers that fail to reach the check-out. However despite the gloomy stats, Chloe Thomas, author of the eCommerce MasterPlan is quick to reassure retailers that basket abandonment is simply part of the ecommerce experience.  “When you’re walking round a High Street store, you’re mentally building a basket because you can walk back and see it, whereas on a website you tend to add things to the basket as a bit of a wishlist. There will always be a level of cart abandonment.” Of course, while there are many reasons why shoppers might not make it the check-out, retailers can improve on the statistics by following a few simple rules…

1. Be upfront: Customers hate unexpected costs

This pretty much tops the list of pet-peeves for customers when visiting a site according to a global study by LivePerson with 70% stating it was their top turn-off. “None of us like shocks, and unexpected delivery price hikes can be a real conversion-killer. Ideally, delivery charges and timeframes should be included alongside the product at the browsing stage. Adding charges at the last minute is not a good idea,” explains international marketing director, Tony Heyworth. He recommends using features like messages to offer free delivery if customers spend a certain amount or adding a cost calculator, preferably on the product page so visitors can keep their virtual spending in check.

2. Streamline the checkout process

Online shoppers have far less patience than those purchasing in bricks and mortar stores. The LivePerson report also highlighted that customer expectations are far different too, with buyers realising that the balance of power favours them and they can simply visit another site within seconds if their needs are not met. If there’s one company to emulate when it comes to sleek ecommerce, it’s Amazon. With its 1-Click Ordering initiative, the fuss-free system comes out a winner time and time again. “Once you get an Amazon identity established it’s a very quick process,” says Chris Fletcher, research director at Gartner. “Click a button, you’re logged in, click a second button and you’ve paid, you’re out of there and they’re following up with you with an email confirming they’ve got the order and giving an expected delivery date. It does require that the consumer has some level of self-identification or a log-on – which is easier to do with an Amazon, eBay or a site you go to frequently rather than one you don’t - but I do think you can replicate that level of experience that you need from the consumer.”

A lengthy checkout process simply gives multiple chances for a customer to abandon their cart. If something isn’t absolutely necessary (like contact and billing information) then it is best left out altogether.  

Providing online address capture tools is a smart way of keeping customers on track to conversion. “On many websites now you can enter your postcode, click, and it has your address,” says Thomas. “It’s so tedious when you actually have to type it out. It’s such a cheap thing to install and to have on a website, that’s one issue which is very easy to fix.”

Address lookup, capture and validation is an integral element of the customer journey, so make it as quick and painless as possible. “Don’t give shoppers the opportunity to get distracted in the middle of a purchase,” agrees Max Childs, marketing director at Amplience. Instead, he suggests simple additions like thumbnails to remind customers of their purchases will help keep them focused, and allow them to either edit or delete items as they progress towards payment.  

3. Think social AND mobile

According to data from Forrester Research, 43% of the traffic sent to a shopping cart comes through social media while research from Digitas LBI, showed that 43% of tablet users and 34% of smartphone users make purchases on their devices. Making your site mobile-friendly AND offering social login via existing social media profiles is a great way to seamlessly transition users from being interested in products via a social platform to being a few clicks away from purchasing without having to spend time setting up a new account.

The mobile-friendly element cannot be overstated either. With a whopping 97% of mobile transactions being abandoned, the paltry 3% window for success leaves little room for error. Creating a seamless payment route is one way of improving things. Setting-up an account, entering shipping and billing info and addresses is time-consuming and tricky to achieve on a mobile phone. Offering multiple payment gateways is a must and it goes without saying that a PayPal  option is expected by consumers as it is viewed as reliable, easy-to-access and secure.

4. Offer dedicated help channels

First impressions count when you shop on the High Street, and the same goes for the online experience. “Not only should a visitor get a good idea of what’s on offer and where to go next, there should also be a facility to welcome and/or direct them to what’s of interest to them,” advises Dino Forte, managing director of Ventrica. “Whilst some potential customers are happy to navigate a site themselves, you can increase the length of visitor times and ultimately sales, simply by giving the option of talking to a customer sales representative.”

He recommends using a simple web chat facility or call-back option which can really appeal to users, particularly those thinking of spending on big-ticket electrical items or holidays. A study by the help desk recommendations firm Software Advice, found that 49% of US shoppers said they prefer live chat for online shopping questions, while 74% prefer a telephone conversation for financial queries. Among the most popular reasons given by those who prefer live chat were the lack of hold times, convenience, and the fact that the system provides a record of the chat. Even better, though, the chat software can be integrated into the CRM system, to provide a feedback and customer satisfaction facility and improve the overall shopping experience.

5. Last but not least…don’t forget to follow up!

Of course, even if retailers follow these tips to the letter, there’s still a chance a customer will leave their site. Whatever the reason, just because a customer abandons their cart, doesn’t mean they have no intention of completing the transaction. “People tend to use a cart or a basket as a wish list, a reminder shopping list to come back and buy it later, and they forget. Putting in place a simple cart abandonment email can have a very big impact on improving conversion rates,” says Thomas. It’s best to provide customers with options here so they can choose to purchase, save for later, or just empty ready for the next session.

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of feedback. Asking visitors what can be improve upon, perhaps throwing in a sweetener such as a discount or voucher on completion of a short survey will help you spot the weak points in your system. 

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