Online retail is still considered to be the land of opportunity, and it’s a good thing that bricks-and-mortar dinosaurs like Gerry Harvey bemoan how hard internet businesses are making things. While it is true that there are thousands of people starting up – be it selling on eBay or setting up their own retail site – it doesn’t mean that everything is perfect in the digital aisles.
One area where the physical shop has the advantage is the personal touch. If you’re out looking for a pair of shoes, and pick a pair up after having a handy sales person find you the right size, it’s unlikely that you will just put them down and storm out. If you don’t like them for whatever reason, that sales person will suggest a different pair. If they are really good, they’ll listen to why you don’t like them, nod in knowing commiseration with you, and then talk you into making a purchase of a slightly different pair.
In the wonderful world of the internet, you don’t have this kind of luxury. There is no sales person casting a sharp eye over the customers, and no one to jump in the second a customer looks to be losing interest.
For industry veterans, it’s known as shopping cart abandonment. That is, people clicking on ‘add to cart’, only to change their mind before making it to filling in credit card details and clicking submit.
In order to track the amount of people that changed their minds, you need to have an analytics product installed on your website. Luckily you can use Google Analytics for free, and it’s relatively painless to set up. This will help you pinpoint exactly where people are exiting your website, so you can start to deduce why they are leaving and how to plug the leak.
Robert Steers, founder of marketing agency Creative Development, believes the first thing you need to do once you have analytics set up is to conduct a little research.
“Have a look at what the competition is doing in terms of pricing, and what their offers are,” he says. “It could be that they have a returns policy that is better than yours, or delivery times that are better. [Make sure] you find out whether they offer free shipping.”
When looking over a website for a client, one of the first things Steers will investigate is how many times customers have to click before putting in their credit card details.
“Generally it’s about a 10% drop-off rate, per page or per click, on the way through to someone’s payment details,” he adds. “You need to limit the time from the decision to purchase through to the commitment to purchase.”
Another thing that can trip people up is having more items in their cart than they expected. Just like wandering up to a checkout and being told that you are going to be charged extra for those blue suede shoes that you didn’t want, it’s going to cause people to be more than a little frustrated when it happens online.
Often your customers will exit the site if anything becomes more than a little difficult. Unless you have a niche product, then most often web shoppers will be spoiled for choice and will abandon at the drop of a hat.
Steers suggests having an active cart window so customers can see what they have added to cart. This should also have a clear delete option (like a big red X to the right of the item) so it’s simple for customers to remove unwanted items. Often someone will simply exit the site as a means of deleting an item, and with attention spans being extremely limited on the internet, that customer may just leave and never come back.
Depending on what you sell, one of the biggest pain points can often be shipping costs. Many online stores like to spring the shipping cost right at the very end, when people have already made up their minds to buy the item. Steers claims this is not the best way to go about it, and will just encourage people to abandon right at the checkout point. No one likes being charged more than expected, and this should be avoided if at all possible.
“If you are sending something bulky to Broome, then you pretty much have to charge them [for freight],” explains Steers. “You can have a shipping quote box on every page, or at least on the product page, so people can easily see what their shopping cart plus shipping will be before checking out.
“A lot of people will close the tab or exit the store completely if they go through to the checkout page and are suddenly getting stung for $50 worth
Claire Mukhi, owner of Food Guru, is experiencing this problem first hand, with shipping costs being the number one problem for the food products and kitchen accessories retailer.
“Nine times out of 10 it comes down to shipping costs, and the other time it’s because the session is timed out. They have gone to do something else on their computer and timed out,” she explains.
Mukhi had her site built using the e-commerce all-in-one platform Shopify, which tracks abandoned carts for her and saves them. The system will send her an alert when someone has not completed a purchase and a dynamic URL (web address) linking to the cart they abandoned.
“What we’ve been doing is sending an email and saying ‘Thanks for visiting our store, we noticed you didn’t complete your purchase. If there are any problems then just give us a ring, you can revisit your cart at…’ and then we give them that link.”
This adds a personal touch to the process, and Mukhi has found that abandonment rates have dropped when customers realise there is a real person on the other end of the computer screen.
“One abandoned cart that came through in the last couple of weeks was from a guy who put through an order and didn’t finish it,” she continues. “I sent him an email saying thanks for visiting and here’s the link to your cart if you want to revisit.
“He came back and said thanks, but I found the shipping was a little too high. So I wrote back saying as a one off here’s a discount code for your shipping. Because he was purchasing an apron for his wife, which is a lightweight item, he came back and ordered it. He even sent us feedback the next week saying I just want you to know you have fantastic service.”
Shopping cart tips
Robert Steers, founder of marketing agency Creative Development, has seven tips that can help reduce abandonment rates:
1. Make sure information about shipping and the price of product is available up front.
2. Reduce the number of steps from purchase to transaction.
3. Make sure your security credentials are clearly displayed.
4. Offer multiple payment options, not just credit card or Paypal.
5. Make it clear how to checkout and what you are asking customers to do.
6. Make sure shipping times and returns policy are easy to access.
7. If you can’t ship everywhere, make sure that is clear. Ask people to contact you for more shipping options to see if there are areas you should ship to.
Image credit: Thinkstock.