Sadly, only 1 in 4 shoppers who create a shopping cart on an e-commerce site completes the sale. Just imagine how well your local grocery store would be if 75% of all shoppers who put an item into their shopping trolley suddenly left the cart in the aisle and walked out.
Don’t you think the grocer would try to find out why? Of course s/he would!
Unfortunately, I see way too many merchants focus on recapturing rather than preventing, as evidenced by the popularity of our Abandoned Shopping Cart course. With a solid, multi-stage follow-up email campaign, it’s possible to recover about 20% of the abandoned carts where you have the customer’s email address. Since many stores don’t capture any email address until the checkout process, the opportunity for using recovery emails to prevent abandoned carts is even less than 1 in 5. It’s more like 1 in 20.
Know Why People Bolt
The first step to preventing abandoned carts is knowing why people leave behind a perfectly good cart. Once you realize the reasons behind the departure, you can fix what needs fixing.
According to SaleCycle, the top reasons shoppers give for leaving a website with one or more items in their cart:
While there are additional reasons a shopper will abandon during the actual checkout process, let’s focus on keeping the customer on your site rather than letting them leave the store (we’ll address the checkout process in another Insight article).
Lots of folks will come to your online store to “kick tires.” But, few will actually add a product to your cart. Those who come and go without adding to the cart are bouncers and the reasons for having a high bounce rate is yet another in-depth discussion.
Those who come and go without adding to the cart are bouncers.
Focus for the moment on the person who says, “I like this product so I’ll put it into my shopping cart.” Setting the product aside is the first step toward the final sale, and it’s important. It shows that the customer may have enough confidence in your brand to purchase.
But the “just looking” customer is still not a committed customer. There could be a lot of reasons s/he goes elsewhere, but you can employ some clever techniques to interrupt their departure.
Begin with the Add-to-Cart function. What happens on your website store after a customer adds a product to their shopping cart? Are they congratulated? Are they encouraged to consider related products? Does your system recommend possible alternatives in case they are still not settled on the one they selected?
Go to Amazon and add a product to your shopping cart, without buying. Notice how many recommendations are shown to the buyer.
While the level of personalization and AI that Amazon has might be beyond your budget, using available add-ons and customizations, you can offer enticing reasons to keep the shopper on your site. Help lead them to what they’re looking for: the more they stumble around shopping, the more likely they are to skedaddle.
One of the more clever tools we use to keep shoppers on the website if they are making a move to leave is the Exit-Intent overall interstitial perfected by OptinMonster. We have seen lifts in sales from clients who have used this feature, and we see fewer bounces from our shopping carts when we use this technique.
Shipping Costs and Options
There are two reasons shipping costs cause shoppers to bounce: too expensive or too unknown. For shoppers, the price of a product is certainly a determining factor, but the cost of shipping is equally as important.
I don’t necessarily believe you have to offer free shipping on all products. But, you do have to be competitive. If your competitors — and I mean those beyond Amazon — are offering $5 flat-rate shipping, then you need to consider doing the same. Of course, free shipping is the best to offer if you can afford to roll it into your price. Even if you have to increase your product price some, shoppers respond better to free shipping than a flat rate, all else being equal.
I do support any shipping costs that can be communicated easily and simply to customers. It’s understandable that accurate shipping rates for customers cannot be displayed until they enter in their shipping address, but for many, having to go through the checkout process to find out shipping costs is just too much of a hurdle, at least until they have decided they like your offering better than someone else’s.
What you as the merchant pay for shipping does not have to be reflected in what you charge the customer.
Here’s where so many merchants get tangled up with shipping: what you as the merchant pay for shipping does not have to be reflected in what you charge the customer. In other words, the shipping offered to your customer does not have to be calculated using real-time rates unless you’re intent is to charge the customer a variable rate structure based on actual shipping costs. And that leads to customers rolling their eyes and getting confused.
For example, if you sell a 1 pound product, your cost of shipping that item varies based on destination and method (ground, 2-day, etc.). But it’s difficult to communicate that upfront to the customer since you can’t quote an accurate rate before the customer enters their shipping destination. It would be easier to communicate that all products are shipped via Ground for $5.95 per order. Or “Same Day Shipping for $5.” Give the customer very simple pricing right upfront. You’ll have to do some financial modeling to determine your best customer rate, but the simpler you make the cost to the consumer, the less likely they are to bounce due to shipping.
You can always offer expedited or alternative shipping calculations at checkout; there’s always a shopper or two who needs something tomorrow! But, for most of your audience, a simple, well-communicated shipping price policy is the better course of action.
I do it, you do it, we all do it. We price shop. The Internet makes it so damned easy to do. There are also browser extensions, such as WikiPrice, that proactively show you if the item you’re looking at is offered elsewhere at a lesser price.
To combat abandonment due to price comparisons — or to regain shoppers who are comparing you to other stores — there’s a couple of strategies I like to consider.
I make sure our customers know they get more when they buy from us.
The first is to sell more than just the product. What all do your customers get for the price you offer? I generally don’t worry about being the lowest price provider on the market because I make sure our customers know they get more when they buy from us: a 100% money-back guarantee, flat-rate or free shipping, live chat support, special exclusive offers just for our customers, etc. Don’t let customers just buy your product; sell them the product and everything you have to offer.
Second, use an exit-intent pop-up such as I described before to offer them a great discount on the product they’re looking at if they are a first-time customer. Consider any discounted price a Cost of Acquisition (COA). If you could get a new customer that could become a long-term, repeat customer, how much is that worth to you? Using a tool like OptinMonster, you could even insert a small banner on a product page that would offer an immediate discount code for first-time visitors! Getting that first sale from a customer — as long as you have a solid, aggressive follow-up system — can create a series of future purchases.
It’s interesting that this reason pops up so frequently, as brick-and-mortar retailers complain about the opposite: in-store customers leaving and buying online. It’s called showcasing.
I have to admit, I’m a bit guilty of doing research on products online, then going to a local store to view in person. Usually, it’s because I cannot get enough information about the item online. The biggest culprit is the relative size or small details. In other words, websites are not giving me enough information to give me sufficient confidence to buy the product.
Providing great images and information is also a great boost for your brand and it gives customers greatly increased confidence in you as a merchant.
It’s up to you to answer every question or concern a customer might have regarding a product you sell. All too often, merchants simply copy-and-paste a manufacturer’s product description and leave it at that. Providing great images and information is also a great boost for your brand and it gives customers greatly increased confidence in you as a merchant.
Here’s the high-level advice I give our students and clients: build your product description pages as one-page websites. I call it long-form product pages. Give them multiple images with details, include videos demonstrating the product, illustrate possible uses, show reviews, and support a customer Q&A section. In short, give your customer so much information, they don’t have to go to the store to buy. Emphasize that you can ship quickly and have it in their hands in a day or so.
After all that, the only reason someone would shop in-store is if they have a special “club” relationship with the store (e.g. Costco, Sam’s Club), or if they need the item immediately.
This will sound as ridiculous as it reads: merchants will forego offering a particular payment method because it might cost 0.5% more than their regular merchant account but may, in fact, be losing an additional 10-20% of sales. It’s not seeing the forest for the trees.
Today’s platforms, such as Shopify, make it so incredibly easy to offer quick payment alternatives such as Apple, Android, Amazon, and PayPal. Plus, Shopify even has it’s own Shop Pay for shoppers who want to save their credit card information to use in various Shopify stores.
Do not let the idea of paying a bit more for payment methods stand in your way of increasing sales.
While I could write a whole book on e-commerce technical issues on various platforms, the bottom line is that if you’re having technical issues, it’s usually due to one of the following:
- You have not tested everything on your store and for all possible scenarios.
- You’re using a platform that is more complex than you have resources to maintain and update.
- You hire developers who are not experienced or professional in their work. The idiom that “you get what you pay for” is so true in this case.
While this reason is low on the list of bounce causes if your site is poorly executed or cannot allow a customer to easily shop and checkout without issue, this will quickly become your most important reason to lose customers.
Don’t Lose Customers
You have three points in the customer journey where you can greatly impact your bottom line: shopping, checking out, and after-the-sale. This article is just about the first one, but if you are not paying enough attention to all three, you are definitely losing out on sales.