In the ecommerce world, when a customer puts an item (or several) into an online shopping cart but clicks away before concluding the transaction, it’s called shopping cart abandonment.
That’s an apt name because to the e-retailer, it feels like being jilted. When a personal disaster of that type hit—way back when you felt love like a firecracker and its loss like a stab—you were unable to see why your squeeze left you because you were blinded by emotion. In the ecommerce world, your blindness is an actual fact. E-retailers don’t have a chance to see what their customers are reacting to. They’re just guessing unless they follow up and ask.
The customer who abandoned the cart might be a parent shopping from home, perhaps called away to deal with a crying child. That shopper might have every intention of returning and finishing the checkout later. Or the customer might be shopping by phone and could simply have lost the connection. Will she return another day? Maybe. Maybe not.
There are myriad reasons for abandonment that have nothing to do with your site, your prices, or your shopping cart. Just make sure that you provide no reasons on your website to frustrate or scare away customers.
1. Does your cart remember the shopper? The parent of the crying child might not get back to your website for a day. When he finally comes back and logs in, he’ll be pleased to find a well-designed shopping cart that still has the goods in it, ready to pick up the transaction where the shopper left off. This is called a persistent cart. It’s like the dog greeting him at the door. Gives the shopper a little zing of positivity: “Yeah, they want me as a customer.”
If you don’t have a persistent cart, you’re requiring your customer to retread the same ground he covered yesterday. He’ll have to find the items again, and he’ll have to input the shipping and billing information again. The hassle quotient is huge. How, then, are you going to keep that customer?
2. Are there photos to help the shopper? As an e-retailer, you know you need to have the right traffic and the right product at the right price. There’s trial and error involved in tweaking those elements. But when it comes to decreasing instances of shopping cart abandonment, you’re on firmer ground. You’ve got one goal: Make shopping easy for the user.
Maybe your customer clicked away and took a look at a similar item on a competitive site, then got interrupted and now, several days later when she returns to your site, she can’t remember exactly what’s in the shopping cart. The description might list a SKU number or it might have a generic description (“men’s crewneck sweater”), but that’s not going to be as helpful as a thumbnail image of the product.
Related to that tip is this one: Provide links back to the product so if the customer has questions about the size or material or whatever, it’s an easy click to go check.
3. At what point are your customers deserting you? If most shopping cart abandonment occurs during the final step when the customer learns what the shipping costs will be, you need to tinker with your shipping costs. There are several things you can do, including offering free shipping if the customer reaches a minimum expenditure threshold with the order.
With a sophisticated cart, you can pull up all the abandoned orders and see, for instance, if multiple people put a specific product in their carts before abandoning them. Maybe the shipping is being calculated incorrectly, or maybe an inexpensive product becomes a silly item to buy when shipping costs more than the product’s sale price. The point is, you have more information to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Customers may abandon their purchases on your ecommerce site because your shipping costs are higher than expected. If a customer sees your shipping costs only after he has filled in all the forms to place an order, he might just abandon not only the cart, but also any idea of ever returning to your site. Ideally, your cart should show shipping costs early in the ordering process.
4. Is everything working properly? If you’ve got lots of tire-kickers and few buyers, or if you’re seeing a dropoff in the number of orders your site is processing, something might be wrong in the checkout process. Most e-retailers are not software experts, and that’s OK. Your software partner can handle the technical part.
The Small Business Authority, powered by Newtek, offers web services for ecommerce, including the Newtek Cart. When you use the Newtek Cart, you can actually see all the abandoned orders and reach out to those shoppers as individuals to learn why they didn’t complete their transactions.
Make sure your customers don’t lose confidence in your site, which can happen if something doesn’t work properly. Sometimes the customer gets an error message and it’s unclear to the customer which box he didn’t check or what information he neglected to input. Do your own tests and get your site developer to provide pop-up directions such as, “Select shirt size.”
Maybe your customers are getting pop-up messages that the SSL certificate has expired, suggesting that your site is not secure and their payment details will not be guaranteed private. That is likely to send them fleeing from your site, many ecommerce experts warn. So if you’re losing customers who have already begun the checkout process, you’ll want to look at that SSL certificate.