According to the latest research 73% of shopping carts are left abandoned in virtual aisles. Meanwhile Experian estimated that UK e-tailers lose over £1bn from disillusioned buyers that fail to check-out.
Whilst some experts argue that this is caused by complex websites (A recent survey by Bronto Software pinpointed this as a significant barrier to sales), high prices, hidden delivery charges or indecision on the part of the consumer, I believe that there are often other factors such as the quality of the customer experience, which can have a significant impact on converting a visitor into a buyer.
Here are a few suggestions on how you can enhance a customer’s online journey and stem the tide of lost potential business that walks out the door.
1. Work the floor
When you walk in to a high street store, particularly one that you haven’t visited before, the first few seconds or minutes will often determine how long you will stay. Likewise, on the Internet, the same rules should also apply, but often don’t. 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.
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. This can be done cost-effectively through live web chat or a call back facility. Ask yourself this, how common is it to come across a supermarket trolley left in the aisle? Then compare this with the on-line equivalent where it’s nigh impossible to find a live method of contacting a sales advisor….gets you thinking doesn’t it.
2. Act like a personal shopper
Everyone is different, but many ecommerce websites adopt a ‘one size fits all’ approach that doesn’t necessarily take into account an individual’s needs. Take clothing for example, a buyer may want advice on the shape, colour or material or has an idea of what they want but doesn’t want to spend hours trawling through pages and pages of information. Why not Introduce ‘personal shoppers’ that can make a real difference to the customer experience. Give them that vital advice and reassurance, so they have everything they need to make the right choice, plus it even gives you the opportunity to up-sell with other suggestions.
3. Don’t make customers wait in line
If you do decide to give your customers the choice to speak to a live representative, then you also need to make them highly responsive. In a department store you wouldn’t expect to wait several minutes to speak to an advisor, so the same should apply to the on-line experience. If you don’t have the in-house resource to provide instant service, then consider outsourcing this to a third party as part of a dedicated or bureau campaign.
4. Create the comfort factor
Remember that if the customer leaves your site feeling satisfied, then they are more likely to return, buy more in the future and recommend your business to friends and family. Make sure you help the customer every step of the way, pre and post-sales. You need to make sure that the delivery is a smooth as the purchase. Ensure you provide regular updates and a customer service line for any problems or queries that may arise. Value-add may appear to cost more money in the short-term, but in the long-term it can really pay off in terms of repeat business.
5. Operate around the clock
The beauty of the Internet is that it’s always open, so tills can ring around the clock, even across multiple time-zones. Online sales generated by UK retailers from international markets are expected to soar sevenfold to £28bn by 2020, according to new research by OC&C Strategy Consultants in collaboration with Google.
However, one of the downsides of making a purchase out of regular office hours, is that often there is no one to respond to queries resulting in lost sales. If you don’t have the staff to work 24/7, why not switch your out-of-hours enquiries to an external supplier that specialises in customer care. This way you optimise your sales in your local market and you can even consider expanding internationally. Not only can you provide call answering and web chat, you can even pick up and respond to messages from other mediums such as email or social media. For example, we work on behalf of an Australian company that operates in the UK, and on average we handle a couple of hundred customer interactions every night on a range of channels.
6. Engage at the checkout
A high percentage of abandoned baskets occur just before checkout, so it’s essential to offer some form of contact at this critical point. With the latest technology, you can track when a buyer is lingering on a page. So simply pinging an on-screen message can really help to remove any barriers. Why not even suggest complementary goods or services that could go with a purchase so you can raise the average order value. As long as this is done in an unobtrusive way it can result in hundreds of extra orders.
Forrester Research predicts that online sales will increase by at least 10% annually through 2015, but also reports that almost 60% of Internet users are dissatisfied with their experience of shopping online, and even more regularly abandon shopping carts. By adopting a more customer-centric approach, e-businesses have the potential to turn this untapped source of disillusioned shoppers into life-long buyers.
Dino Forte is managing director at outsourced contact centre at Ventrica.