EXPERT ADVICE

Don’t Give Your Customers a Reason to Park Their Carts

Up to 70 percent of online shoppers abandon their shopping carts before completing the checkout process, according to SeeWhy, a company specializing in abandonment tracking software. This rate, which rose substantially from 2005 to 2008, is in part a reflection of the intensified comparative shopping that visitors conduct on many sites simultaneously.

The ability of consumers to move easily between and among competitive retail sites has increased the likelihood of shopping cart abandonment. For merchants, this abandonment equals lost revenue. Particularly in this economy, it is imperative that merchants do whatever it takes to guide consumer shopping carts through the checkout process to achieve authorized transactions.

Choosing the right payment management platform can make a big difference to help merchants drive conversion through seamless transaction. Below are some things every merchant should consider to improve overall customer satisfaction until the checkout process is complete.

Convenient Shopping

One of the most important ways to ensure that consumers do not abandon their carts is by providing a clean, hassle free user interface. Consumers who feel overwhelmed or underinformed are likely to abandon their carts immediately.

First, assess how many steps are in the checkout process. Nothing is more frustrating than taking 10-20 minutes to complete a transaction; this type of delay will likely drive consumers away. If you require registration for purchases, consider addressing this step before the user reaches checkout. Forcing a user to wait for a confirmation email before they check out correlates strongly with abandonment rates.

Once a consumer decides to buy, be sure to provide a clear and convenient guide through the checkout process and build confidence along the way.

If you need to collect a large amount of information, make sure to break things up. Separate the required fields into two to three pages to make the checkout process less intimidating. Show the consumer all the costs associated with the purchase either in the first step of the checkout process or in the product description. Specifically, place your shipping rates, guarantee, return, privacy, delivery, customer service and security policies in visible and relevant areas throughout the entire process.

The top reason given for cart abandonment in a May 2009 PayPal Checkout Abandonment Study conducted by comScore was high shipping costs. The survey also found that providing shipping costs up front might have resulted in substantially more customers completing their purchases.

Be sure to include your physical address and contact information at the bottom of every Web page. Usability studies suggest adding “About Us” and “Contact Us” links to build further confidence and trust with the consumer. Ultimately, consumers are less likely to abandon a cart if they are aware of estimated shipping costs and anticipated delivery dates, and if they have an option to call or request live service before they even place an item in their cart.

Alternative Payment and Credit Vehicles

Given the current credit crunch, it is getting harder for some consumers to access credit, so alternative payments are being used more widely. For others, alternative payment brands imply a greater level of personal identity security during online transactions. Alternative payments will represent 31 percent of online dollar volume by 2012, estimated Javelin Strategy & Research.

In order to satisfy customers, merchants need to provide early and consistent messaging throughout the shopping experience, making customers aware of alternative payment methods and clearly educating them on promotional offers available.

Twenty-four percent of shoppers cited a lack of their preferred payment option as the reason for not purchasing, according to the PayPal Abandonment Study. Awareness and a standard payment experience create the conditions of consistency that help drive consumer conversion. Among the most popular alternative payment options available today:

PayPal

By letting customers know that you accept PayPal, you can increase conversion. PayPal is particularly attractive to younger online consumers without credit cards — a significant segment these days. On average, 21 percent of PayPal shoppers at well known merchants’ Web sites would not have made the purchase if PayPal had not been available.

Bill Me Later

Bill Me Later drives incremental business for many merchants because it extends credit at the point of purchase to consumers purchasing high-ticket items. Several merchants have seen a lift beyond 30 percent using alternative payment methods such as Bill Me Later. In addition, Bill Me Later is often recognized for its potential to drive higher order values.

Robust Security

Just as consumer payment methods are influenced by customers’ sense of security, so too are their decisions about where they will shop. Prominently display your efforts to secure the check out process and detect transaction fraud.

These will help to reassure your buyers. Always remember that the actual security of your site may not convince a shopper to purchase if the perception of security is lacking.

User Reviews and Product Ratings

Tapping into social media and online communities are some of the new ways merchants are building word of mouth for their products and services. Online comments and reviews are second only to word of mouth as purchase drivers for Web users, according to a 2008 Rubicon Consulting study.

Once you’ve improved your ability to drive consumers through the purchasing process, you may also want to consider methods such as these to keep them coming back.

The Right Payment Management Partner

Payment processing is significantly more important than most retailers think. Fifty-five percent of consumers think about payments before the final checkout page, for example, according to a report released last year by PayPal and JupiterResearch (now part of Forrester).

Merchants should look at payment management across two fronts:

  • First, what should I do to optimize the user experience so that full shopping carts result in fully authorized transactions? What counsel can I get on how to build general navigation and shopping cart checkout? And what role does my payment processing connection play? For many retailers, this will include consideration of how gateways are or are not used. Faster, direct-to-network connections often result in better authorization rates and less delay for the consumer.
  • Second, what can my payment management partner tell me about solutions for capturing completed sales from more consumers? What role do alternative payments play? Which alternatives are right for my business? What data is available to help me decide what’s right for me — and for my customers?

Not all of the solutions discussed above work for every merchant, but they should be discussed with a payment processing specialist to determine what payment options will help meet your individual business objectives.

This more holistic approach to protecting shopping carts can go a long way in helping you protect, and perhaps grow, your revenue. Don’t let consumers abandon their carts. Evaluate your conversion rates, consult with a payment processor, and make sure your site is designed for the ultimate shopping experience — one that generates conversion.


Bala Janakiraman is a principal product manager for Massachusetts-based Litle & Co., which provides card-not-present transaction processing and merchant services. He can be reached at bala@litle.com.


6 Comments

  • There are a couple of interesting new ideas emerging cto counter the rise of voucher sites. One tactic is to keep them on your site by publishing your own voucher code pages. Macy’s are getting a 40% conversion rate visitors to this page. They have a very different approach, and make the promo code box very visible, but show you how to get a promo code on thier site.

    I wrote a blog on Macy’s voucher program <a href=http://websiteconversion.blogspot.com/2009/09/voucher-codes-website-conversion.html>here</a>

    • scobb99 You make a good point. How then to have our cake and eat it too? How can we economically show the coupon box to only those customers who receive a code in a targeted email campaign or to those who reach us through an affiliate? I’ll meet with our programmer next week and discuss this but I’m hoping you might offer some guidance.

      • scobb99,

        I’d say it comes down to the purpose of your promotional strategy: Are you using coupons to incentivize new customers to buy at your site or are you trying to increase your share of wallet with your existing customers?

        If the former, you probably have general purpose coupons that could be used by any consumer. Most consumers share these coupons with their friends and many do so in online forums (take a look at the forums at fatwallet.com – rife with general purpose coupon information. Needless to say, the internet is viral in spreading information). So, the coupon is what is driving some of the new consumers to your site and you want to make it easy for them to pop the coupon in, complete the order and get on with their life.

        If the latter, then you could consider emailing your existing customers and provide them links in their email that they could use to begin shopping and your website could track those and give them the discount at check out. Another option could be you offer coupons when the consumer is back surfing at your site – you want to grab their attention and give them a quick incentive to buy what their eyeing. In my opinion, this kind of consumer behavior is unique to the internet (can’t happen in the brick & mortar world … how often does one go to a bookstore or a shoe store just to browse) and savvy internet marketers can capitalize well on this.

        I welcome your thoughts.

        Regards

        Bala

  • In addition to leaving once I see that others can get a discount via a "coupon", is also having to put an item in a cart to see the "too low to publish price". WHICH most of the time is not all that low. And then, again, the discount/coupon box.

    I won’t set things up for clients in this manner. I thinks it’s rude and unprofessional and have been told by "shoppers" that abandoned their shopping carts through follow up surveys that they think so too.

  • Usually when I close / abandon a cart it is because the seller is charging a lot more to send me the order. One seller charges X for the item and Y for the shipping. Another may charge more for the item, but the total is less than the first seller’s total because the shipping is a lot less. Comparison shopping does exist.

  • Bala,

    Some very good advice here. One category of cart abandoner is the "Coupon Hunter." These are shoppers who are ready to buy but see the box on the checkout page that labeled "Coupon" and go looking for a coupon.

    Although coupons can be a great way to boost sales, it is probably a mistake to have a coupon box visible to every shopper when every shopper does not already know what that coupon is. Why? Because a significant number of people, 27% in the PayPal survey, will be prompted to go find a coupon. About a third of them eventually come back and buy, but still, it’s a very risky way to do business.

    Far better to hide the coupon box unless it is really needed. We have seen double digit lift in conversions when we do this for our clients.

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