Leave online cart abandonment behind

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E-commerce retailers have long been frustrated with consumers' propensity to fill an online shopping cart, only to get cold feet at the checkout screen. Four experts offer potential solutions to this problem

Bill Boland
Creative director, Patagonia.com

Shopping carts on apparel e-commerce Web sites are often the dressing rooms of the online store. They provide customers a convenient place to gather, sort and compare potential purchases. More often than not, they are the only place where a customer can gather all of the information needed to make a purchase decision. It is very easy to fill up a shopping cart in an online store. Unfortunately, it's just as easy to leave the online store entirely.

To reduce shopping cart abandonment, retailers can begin by making it as easy as possible for a customer to transition from the shopping cart to the checkout process. A clean, uncluttered page design with a clear path to purchase is key, as is a good balance of information. Merchandising or up-selling in the cart are valuable additional sales opportunities as long as they don't distract the customer from the primary objective of proceeding through the checkout.

The same rules apply during the checkout process, minus the merchandising aspect. Here, simplicity rules. It's imperative to have obvious directional cues that move the customer through the checkout process with as little friction as possible.

At Patagonia we have recently implemented live chat technology throughout our shopping process, and the customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Live chat allows retailers to connect with customers at critical times in the shopping process. It also provides customers the opportunity to get quick and direct answers to their questions; questions that, if left unanswered, might create a barrier to purchase. In the end, customers should feel confident about their purchase decision and the ability to chat with them directly helps a retailer achieve that goal. It's the online equivalent to a retail associate in a bricks-and-mortar store.

The Takeaway
Live chat and a clear path to checkout relieve barriers to purchasing


Charles Nicholls
Founder, SeeWhy

One of the leading tactics to counter an abandoned shopping cart is e-mail remarketing, in which a one-to-one e-mail is sent directly after a Web site abandonment, using appropriate incentives to close the sale. Get it wrong and you can annoy customers, make them angry, or train them to wait for the remarketing e-mail in anticipation of a promotional offer.

Get it right by focusing on timing. You are most likely to annoy your customer if your e-mail is out of step with what they are doing. Remarket in the seconds after they abandon, before they've purchased elsewhere or returned to purchase from you after checking prices. If you wait 24 or 36 hours, potential problems kick in because they may have already purchased from a competitor.

Second, make a promotional offer on the last of your sequence of follow-up e-mails, not the first. Visitors will often return several times before buying an item and may come back without prompting to make the purchase. If the visitor still has not returned to the site and purchased after two e-mails, a promotional offer is in order on the third.

You should experiment to test what works best for you. Be ready to break the rules, particularly if your sale is lower value and prone to comparison shopping.

Third, personalize the offer code to make it unique to one individual, non-transferrable and time-bounded. This has two distinct advantages: it communicates exclusive service to the visitor and it ensures that your offer codes don't turn up on affiliate voucher sites.

Finally, be unpredictable. Ideally you want to make promotional offers to those who will convert only with an offer. A simple approach is to set a threshold so that any abandonments over, say, $78.50 will receive a promotional offer, but those under will not. By picking a threshold price and changing it every so often, you'll ensure that your offers are targeted to your larger orders and make it more difficult for customers to guess.

The Takeaway
E-mail remarketing helps recapture customers that appeared lost


Errol Denger

Commerce strategy director, IBM

We don't see many shoppers abandoning fully loaded shopping carts at the market, but almost 50% of online carts are abandoned — one of e-commerce's costliest problems. Simple techniques that put the customers' needs at the center of the experience can decrease abandonment rates and build satisfaction and overall conversion rates.

Successful retailers guide their customers through the path to purchase systematically, eliminating distraction and keeping customers on the path to purchase. Progress indicators, large buttons and pictures inside the cart that visually reinforce product selection can increase conversion rates by up to 10%. Web 2.0 features such as the ability to modify attributes like color or size without leaving the cart page are also effective. Recommending cross-sells during checkout is a common practice, but you must enable shoppers to add these products directly to the cart without distraction.

Next, be sure to provide shopping tools. Savvy shoppers frequently use carts as a tool to calculate overall order cost, product availability and as repositories for the products they may buy. Facilitators such as carts with running order totals, product availability on the product detail page, wish lists and product comparison empower customers and enable them to focus on shopping.

Support the cross-channel sale. One of the leading causes of cart abandonment is that shoppers want the products immediately. An IBM Institute for Business Value Study indicated that almost 46% of respondents switched retailers when they moved between online and physical channels. Giving shoppers the ability to buy online or through a mobile device and then pick up in-store provides immediate product access and virtually eliminates this defection.

The most effective approach is precision marketing. Offer a targeted brand experience from the moment the customer enters your site and retain context even as customers jump across touch points and sessions. When a cart is abandoned, you'll have the right tools to take action by sending follow up e-mails, offering SMS coupons on items they left behind, or welcoming them back with compelling offers. l

The Takeaway
Provide costs, promote security and keep the online checkout process simple


Imad Mouline

Chief technology officer, Gomez

: Delivering an online experience both rich and fast is important to reduce shopping cart abandonment, drive conversions and generate revenue. However, these are often conflicting goals because as Web sites grow richer, they tend to slow down — and customers simply won't tolerate it, no matter how feature-rich a site or application may be. Aberdeen Group has reported that even a one-second delay in a Web page response time can reduce conversions by 7%.

As your Web application travels from your datacenter to your customer's computer, variables along the way can degrade your Web site's performance and, consequently, impact conversions and revenues. This Web application delivery chain involves third-party services, ISPs, CDNs and other elements, and your customer's experience is the sum of every link in this chain.

While slowdowns might be caused by third-party components or because your customer is accessing the site from a slow connection, the fact is that customers don't care, and they will blame your brand. This essentially makes you responsible for managing all the elements that color your customer's experience.

The key to ensuring superior online experiences lies in optimizing response times by proactively identifying issues across the entire Web application delivery chain from your customer's perspective.

Know who your customers are, how they access your site, and what they do there and when. Only by examining the performance of Web pages and transactions as experienced by customers in multiple browsers, geographies and ISPs can you understand if particular user segments are suffering slowdowns or errors. Then you can identify where the root cause lies between your data center and the customer's browser.

New approaches to Web performance management enable marketers to test response times under these different scenarios, at both peak and normal times, and then drill-down to understand the performance of individual parts making up the whole of revenue-generating Web pages and applications. This creates opportunities for optimization across the entire chain.

The Takeaway
Measuring performance from the customer perspective can improve the Web experience

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