During one memorable brick-and-mortar shopping trip, I was ready and able to buy, but a misguided sales associate delayed my transaction to promote a store credit account. I agreed, momentarily, to sign up for a store card in exchange for an immediate discount on the items in my cart.
Oddly, though, I was directed away from the checkout counter to meet with a customer service representative so that I could submit a lengthy account application. Frustrated at this disruption, I exited and left the (now unwanted) contents of my shopping cart at the store.
This scenario was rare in the brick-and-mortar environment but is common in the digital shopping arena. Forty-five percent of shoppers routinely leave carts at the digital checkout, according to a study by PayPal and comScore.
To get actionable ideas for reducing abandonment and encouraging shopping cart conversions, I turned to Jeff Finkelstein of Customer Paradigm, a website design and Internet marketing firm in Boulder, Colorado. He told me about design solutions to common problems using the real-life example of Discount Decorating, which offers more than 50,000 SKUs of wallpaper and related products through its website. When Discount Decorating decided to close its brick-and-mortar locations to focus on its e-commerce business, Customer Paradigm made design and technical changes that boosted sales.
Here are common problems and specific solutions that may work for your ecommerce business.
Problem: Site visitor is researching products today but plans to purchase tomorrow, needs more information, or wants to give product information to a decision-maker (e.g., a spouse or interior design client).
1. Equip site visitors with the capability to send selected patterns to a friend (or spouse or client) for consideration using the "Send to a Friend" feature.
2. Allow registered users to save patterns using the "Add to Wishlist" feature, which functions as a secondary shopping cart.
3. Provide a list of recently viewed items.
Problem: The shopper is fearful of making a wrong decision by trusting an untrustworthy company, purchasing an inappropriate or defective product, paying too much, etc.
4. Place customer testimonials throughout the site.
5. Offer a trusted payment gateway, such as PayPal, in addition to American Express, Discover, MasterCard, and VISA cards so that shoppers can make a purchase without giving charge card information to the ecommerce company.
6. Display SSL certificate and "https" to demonstrate security of transactions.
7. Enable shoppers to get wallpaper swatches through "Order a Sample" offers on individual SKU thumbnails and pages.
8. Explain refund policies including returns procedures and associated charges.
9. Provide access to company staff through prominently featured phone numbers as well as physical address and email address.
10. Guarantee lowest prices on the Internet (combined shipping fees and product prices) with certain exclusions.
Problem: Online buyers want to complete transactions quickly and without surprises.
11. Offer single-page checkout with convenient features, such as populating "ship to" fields from "bill to" entries and automatically calculating shipping charges (if any).
12. Place thumbnails of items in the shopping cart so that shoppers won't have to navigate away from the checkout to verify orders.
13. Allow changes to order quantities without leaving the checkout funnel.
14. Don't require registration in the last phases of the checkout process.
15. Accept multiple forms of payment, including PayPal and major charge cards.
16. Alert shoppers to possible inventory shortages before they reach the checkout area.
17. Automatically populate the coupon code field for qualifying purchases, rather than divert a shopper's attention to locating an online promotional code.
Problem: Shipping costs are too high (cited as the #1 reason for shopping cart abandonment).
18. Offer free standard shipping on all orders.
19. Charge a nominal fee for sample shipping, require customers to pay for shipping on returned items (in addition to a restocking fee), and charge a flat fee for handling.
Closely related to shopping cart abandonment is site abandonment. Shoppers want a quick-and-easy online experience so Jeff recommended a couple of critical changes to Discount Decorating:
- Create multiple ways to search, including a comprehensive listing of all products by theme, to help shoppers find the perfect wallpaper among 50,000 SKUs (with the #1 selling item accounting for just 0.6% of sales).
- Place the website on a dedicated server for quick views of image-intensive pages, quickening the page load by 30-40%.
The lessons: when a visitor lands at your website, make it easy to shop; and when the shopper is ready buy, complete the transaction with no delays and never, ever ask her (or him) to visit another part of the store so that you can capture more information.