Where are customers dropping out of your buying cycle - and what can you do?

28th Oct 2015

How many of you abandon shopping carts online? How many of your customers fail to make a purchase? You may think it is only a small proportion of your audience, after all why commit to placing things in a basket if you have no intention of buying? Shockingly, that proportion is actually estimated at 68%.

It draws the question ‘why do 68% of your audience decided not to commit?’ And, more importantly, how can you encourage them to come back and take up where they left off?

Let’s start with the buying cycle. Here is the cycle simplified into five stages:

  1. Awareness of need: first signs that the consumer needs or wants something.
  2. Assessment of alternatives: research into where to buy or find the service.
  3. Alleviation of risk: evaluation of all the options for purchase.
  4. Decision: the final purchase.
  5. Achievement of results: the consumer is happy and re-enters the cycle with you again.

What the cycle shows is that potential customers can drop out of the cycle or be stuck in one stage of the cycle at any point.

For example, if your website visits are high then the good news is that you have managed to get your audiences’ attention. Potential customers are coming to your site at stage two: “assessment of alternative”.

It may be at this stage visitors leave your site and do not return. Sometimes, businesses that concentrate their efforts on getting prospects into the cycle forget to nurture them once they are there. In fact, 61% of companies fail to test their conversion process for customers. Remember, customers can drop out at any stage - until they hit the payment button and confirm the order, they are not committing and there is no guarantee that they will come back and place the order with you.

The third stage of alleviation of risk refers to various factors depending on the business. It refers to anything that could deter the consumer such as multiple forms to complete, confusing delivery terms and the requirement to join a website as a member or difficulty in checking out.

Here are some tips on assisting alleviation of risk:

1. Form testing: The website visitor has clicked on your call to action. Next lies a form with multiple tick boxes and text boxes to complete. We have all been there, when completing on a PC, tablet, or mobile phone these forms are laborious and time-consuming, not to mention they that require a substantial depth of personal data they want you to share.

Keep your data capture forms simple. Limit it to a name and email or telephone number. Take out the date of birth, password and verification code boxes.

Another thing to bear in mind is creating a guest log in: not every customer will want to sign up as a website member so allow them to complete orders via a guest check in. That way they do not need to commit but you are still gaining an order.

The moral is to remove all obstacles or unnecessary hurdles to completion.

2. Chat buttons: Implement a chat button to assist with immediate questions. Studies have shown the adding a chat button for questions on a website can increase form completion by 31%.

3. Security: Add a security seal to your website when visitors are required to pay or share personal data. For example, adding a recognised security mark from PayPal or other merchants can ensure the visitor that their data is safe and will not be shared or sold.

If the consumer feels confident they will make the decision and buy. This tends to be based on trust, ease of use of site, ease of purchase or a special offer, deal or factor to sway their decisions.

The key to increasing conversions is to frequently test. With trial and error you can see what works well for your business and what does not. Here are some simple test methods that can assist in increasing conversion rates:

Split testing or A/B testing

This is simply where you test two versions of one marketing campaign on your audience and monitor which works the best. It is often used to monitor the success of a landing page. One version may have more form boxes to complete and might include images and be colourful. The second landing page design may be simpler, contain less contact form boxes to complete and no images. Your response rate should tell you which is more effective.

This method should be used along with the others mentioned. Testing relies on the sample size and your own assumptions on what will and what won’t work.

Headline testing

Do not limit your blog posts, emails or landing pages to one headline. There are a number of tools online that allow you to set emails and blog posts with a variety of headlines. These rotate and the headline that gains the most clicks is then favoured as the best headline for the campaign.

Call to action testing

The below example shows a call to action test. Enlarging the call to action button and changing its colour can have a massive impact on the number of goal completions.

It is not always the colour or style of the call to action that can sway an action either. It may be the wording or placement on the landing page. For example; ‘complete our contact form’ or ‘click here for a call back’, both calls aim at  the same result - a form to be completed but the phrasing used to reach that page is very different.


Lastly, if you are going to test rigorously, and want to pinpoint the areas where you are losing customers, then it is vital to implement a successful tracking method. Too many companies rely on sales alone as a mark of success. Tracking into sales, non-sales, visits, enquiries and interactions can tell you so much more about your customers than sales alone.

Call tracking systems available from companies such as Mediahawk offer tracking services on and off line. A great example of this is when used with split testing. As mentioned earlier, two separate emails or landing pages can be sent to a database and they can contain two separate telephone numbers. You can then trace which email is most effective by calls or orders.

Call tracking can also identify where a consumer is lost and allow you means to bring them back. If your customer drops out at the ‘alleviation of risk’ stage then an email offering a reduced price, a reminder or confirming your great service may encourage them to re-enter the buying circle. Without tracking how can you know when your consumers are dropping out?

The main elements of customer retention are tracking your consumers to identify the risk areas where you may lose them and then testing your strategies to win them back.

Gina Hutchings has been in b2b and consumer marketing for over 12 years. Her specialities lie in customer acquisition and retention marketing. She has worked in a number of industries including engineering, manufacturing and finance. Find out more at @Hutchings_Gina.

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