Are You Having Abandonment Issues? 8 Terrific Shopping Cart Tactics

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Synopsis — Even at its average, 7 out of 10 people abandon a shopping cart that they have placed items into on a typical ecommerce website, and the numbers can be even higher at times. The problem of how to reduce the rate of shopping cart abandonment is not going away anytime soon in a shopping environment where it is super-easy to leave the shopping behind and “walk” out of the store with no one staring at you for leaving a cart full of perishable groceries sitting in the store’s aisles.

In this article, Charles Nicholls explores eight different tactics that online marketers can use to counteract the two main impulses behind the abandonment of shopping carts online — price (including shipping/handling costs) and the customer not being ready to commit to the purchase. It’s not too late to turn what looks like it could be bad news for this holiday season into a windfall in coming months. With Nicholls’ tips and specific examples, you can fine tune your shopping cart experience and hone your sales techniques to counteract those abandonment impulses.

Here’s a hint of one approach — use the knowledge of what is left in shopping carts to figure out what products people like most on your website and use that data as Nicholls suggests to make next year’s sales even better.

The complete article follows …

Are You Having Abandonment Issues? 8 Terrific Shopping Cart Tactics

At the beginning of the last quarter of 2010, shopping cart abandonment averaged 83%, up from 72% over the same period last year. Time will tell if this signals a higher long-run average in the shopping cart abandonment rate, which normally averages 70% (i.e., 7 out of every 10 people placing items in an online shopping cart do not complete the transaction).

In recent years, a new trend of stalling purchases in anticipation of holiday offers has developed. From Labor Day through November 15 of 2009, the number of online sales fell by almost 56% compared with the previous month’s volume, and the shopping cart abandonment rate shot up, peaking at 83%. Once holiday promotional offers were rolled out, transaction volumes rose sharply, and the abandonment rate fell dramatically.

During 2010, many retailers chose to offer more discounts throughout the year rather than purely during the conventional sales periods. It will be interesting to see how this influences the traditional peaks and troughs of seasonal buying. Social commerce also increased in popularity throughout 2010, with social plug-ins such as Facebook “Like” becoming increasingly popular. These factors will continue to make it even harder for emarketers to prepare for upcoming holiday seasons.

So, with the holiday season in full swing, it’s a good time to look at how others are handling their shopping carts, with an eye toward lessons to be learned, trends that have emerged this year that could impact ecommerce sales, and battling online shopping cart abandonment.

The first place to start is to understand why customers abandon shopping carts. A Forrester study from May 2010 found that the top reasons customers abandon shopping carts fall into two main areas: price (especially shipping/handling costs and comparison shopping) and not being ready to buy.

Applying these findings to the seasonal shopping cart abandonment problem, we put together a list of eight simple fixes. You may still have time to implement these for the inevitable post-holiday season sales, New Year’s sales, and to influence upcoming seasonally related sales (such as Valentine’s Day).

1.  Drive Down Shipping And Handling Costs

The number-one reason customers abandon shopping carts is the cost of shipping and handling. While you may have seasonal free shipping promotions planned, these are tactical and it is difficult to offer free shipping more broadly. But driving down your shipping costs to rock bottom should be a priority, especially at this time of year. This should have a measurable impact on your conversion rates.

2.  Offer Free Shipping For A Minimum Order

If you can’t offer free shipping, offer free shipping above a minimum order value. This should increase your average order value. Prominently display the minimums required for free shipping, especially in the shopping cart area itself. If you offer free shipping for all orders of $75 or more, and the customer has $55 in their cart, tell them that an additional $20 of spend will qualify for free shipping. Better yet, show them some products that are priced at this price point, and make it so they can quickly be added to the cart. This has the effect of increasing the average order value as well as reducing the shopping cart abandonment rate. One site that does this well is American Apparel at www.americanapparel.com.

3.  Give Them Valid Voucher Codes

Everyone is looking for a deal, especially around the holiday season, and it is important to recognize this behavior. Ecommerce sites that provide a list of valid voucher codes on their website have found it reduces affiliate fees as well as increases conversions. An additional tactic to consider is moving the coupon code box down the checkout process to make it a bit harder to shop for voucher codes. If customers still abandon with invalid voucher codes, then trigger a real-time email with a valid voucher code. In addition, to encourage web purchases, offer web-only offers for set time periods.

4.  Include An ‘Email Me This’ Button On Product Detail Pages

There’s a trend toward using shopping carts as “shopping list reminders,” and permanent shopping carts are a great way to enable customers to store their potential purchases. But setting up a permanent shopping cart on your site is not as simple as it sounds, so an alternate is placing an “email me this” button on the product detail page. This is a great way to provide a reminder to the customer of an item they liked — they can keep it in their inbox together with an easy link back to the page. This very simple remarketing technique works well and isn’t hard to do. It also has the benefit of capturing email addresses.

5.  Promote Your Phone Number

Promoting your telephone number is important if your site is not a well-recognized brand, especially for converting those nervous about doing business with you online. Potential customers may have questions or just need to believe that there is a real business with a real person behind the website. Well-known brands should already be doing this. Studies suggest that by simply offering a phone number, you can recover perhaps 5% of sales that would otherwise be lost.

6.  Provide Customer Endorsements

Customer reviews on your products and service are extremely beneficial in reassuring nervous customers. Focus reviews around reliable / on-time delivery as holiday promotions wind down.

7.  Build Trust With Social Media Engagement

In 2009, most retailers made extensive use of social media to promote holiday season special offers. This year, the focus increased on social ecommerce and was not just about promotions. If your brand is less well-known, engaging potential customers in dialog about your company, products, and services builds trust at a critical time. Remember, to many shoppers, shopping is more about emotion and less about rational decisions. Positive emotions about potential purchases are countered by negative emotions about potential post-purchase dissatisfaction. There is no substitute for a direct conversation with the customer to reassure him/her that you are a company with great service. Also, men and women have different motivations for following or endorsing brands or products through social networks – men see it as an opportunity to drop hints about the presents they would like to receive, while women are more concerned with receiving associated discounts and promotions.

8.  Send Remarketing Emails

Customers that abandon their shopping carts are customers that almost purchased. One of the most effective techniques of reducing shopping cart abandonment is to trigger a recovery email to abandoners. Most ecommerce companies that send shopping cart recovery emails recover between 10%  and 30%, which translates into a significant return. In the run up to the end of the holiday season, record numbers of customers will abandon their shopping carts. In doing so, these customers are telling you what products they are interested in. This is valuable data, and used in your remarketing emails, it makes them incredibly relevant, which leads to very high open rates.

Many customers use shopping carts as “wish lists,” especially during the holiday season. Given this, even if your remarketing email doesn’t trigger an immediate purchase, there’s a strong likelihood that the email will be kept in their inbox and opened several times to use the short-cut link back to their shopping cart wish list.

Conclusion

At first glance, an abandoned shopping cart looks like bad news all around. Its presence, however, serves as a reminder of a number of basic tactics we have used to decrease the rate of shopping cart abandonment, and not just around the holiday shopping season. However, like the proverbial cat, it can have more than one life, at least as far as marketing and ecommerce life is concerned. Tactics such as remarketing, as well as being a reminder throughout the year that something enticed this consumer to place this item in their shopping cart, may in fact be all that’s needed in the last week of July 2011 to trigger that purchase.

About the Author

Charles Nicholls is founder and chief strategy officer of SeeWhy (www.seewhy.com) and author of the ebook "Lessons Learned from the Top 10 Converting Websites." As a veteran of the web analytics space, he has worked with the world's leading ecommerce companies, including Amazon and eBay. Contact Charles at charles.nicholls@seewhy.com or @webconversion.

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