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Ecommerce – How To Increase Checkout Conversions

We’ve all done it. We’ve been shopping online, or maybe just browsing. We’ve added things to the basket and started the checkout process, only to abandon it. There’s a number of reasons for this, some that you can do something about and some that are more difficult to resolve.

So Why Do People Abandon Their Shopping Baskets?

There’s been many studies on the subject, and although there are also many answers, a number of them are extremely common. You won’t be able to convert all those abandoned carts, but you should be able to make some impact. Let’s start by looking the reasons people jump ship part way through the buying process:

HIGH SHIPPING COSTS – Getting through the checkout to find that shipping costs are high will make customers think twice. Particularly if the cost are unjustifiably high. Customers can feel that some sellers profit from postage costs and this really irks them.

CUSTOMER WAS BROWSING OR COMPARING PRICES – Many people will idle away time by simply doing a little window-shopping. There’s not a great deal you can do about those. In regards to the second lot, are your prices competitive?

CHANGED MIND / BUYER REMORSE – Sometimes people just second-guess themselves, feeling a little guilty about spending money that they could be spending on something they need, rather than want.

SAVING PRODUCTS FOR LATER CONSIDERATION – Maybe they want to check out the high street prices, remembering that somewhere may have a sale on. Or just maybe they want to sleep on it. Can tie-in with buyer remorse.

TOTAL COST IS TOO HIGH – Airlines have recently been busted by the Office of Fair Trading for this, adding additional fees, suc as taxes and card-handling fees at the very end of the checkout process, meaning that something which looked like a good deal initially, actually wasn’t at all. A sure-fire way of raising your customer’s blood pressure by wasting their valuable time.

CHECKOUT PROCESS IS TOO LONG – The longer people spend in your checkout, the more time they have to change their mind.

CHECKOUT ASKS FOR TOO MUCH INFORMATION – This also couples with the ‘long checkout’ reason above. Only ask for the minimal information required in order to process the payment. Additional information can be gathered later.

SITE REQUIRES REGISTRATION IN ORDER TO BUY – This is unnecessary, at least to begin with. By all means give users a ‘tick box’ option to create a account, but don’t demand it. Registration is another obstacle for your customers.

SITE IS UNSTABLE / UNRELIABLE – 404 errors, timeouts, security warnings will all put doubt in the mind of your customers. Make sure your site works correctly and loads quickly.

FEEL UNABLE TO TRUST THE SELLER – Do you and and your site come across as trust-worthy? Customers need to be able to verify that their details are safe and that they’ll receive the product.

3D SECURE – In the UK, the most common 3D secure system is ‘Verified by Visa’. If you haven’t had the misfortune of dealing with it, you’re lucky. It’s an ill though-out system that supposedly adds extra security, but does nothing of the sort. It confuses / infuriates customers and is the slayer of ecommerce sales. No joke, it obliterates on-line sales and has even put a stake through the heart of some sites.

OK, So How Do I Increase Sales?

Fortunately you can do lots to stop people from abandoning shopping carts/ baskets, and although you won’t be able to win the battle every time, you should hopefully see an improvement. Let’s have a look at what you can try, starting with tackling the main reasons.

HIGH SHIPPING COSTS
– Be clear about your shipping and postage costs
– Don’t let it be a nasty surprise at the end of checkout
– If possible, let them know the costs upfront
– Or offer free postage and packaging

CUSTOMER WAS BROWSING OR COMPARING PRICES
– Make sure that people can find the total cost quickly
– Save the basket items so when they return, the items are there
– Keep your prices competitive
– Promote your particular USP (Unique Selling Point)

CHANGED MIND / BUYER REMORSE
– Keep the buying process very short, don’t give them time to change their minds
– No nasty surprises (e.g. adding costs)

SAVING PRODUCTS FOR LATER CONSIDERATION
– Make sure that you’re prices are competitive
– Consider offering ‘Free Shipping Weekend’ offers or similar
– Remind people that they have items in their basket

TOTAL COST IS TOO HIGH
– Some repetition here: be upfront about costs

CHECKOUT PROCESS IS TOO LONG
– Streamline the process as much as possible, keep people moving along quickly
– Let people know how long the process is (e.g. a percentage gauge)
– Inform people of exactly where they are in the process, and let them easily move back and forth without losing details

CHECKOUT ASKS FOR TOO MUCH INFORMATION
– Keep it to the bare minimum
– Give people different payment options so that don’t have to give card details

SITE REQUIRES REGISTRATION IN ORDER TO BUY
– Make this optional
– Give this option after the sale is complete

SITE IS UNSTABLE / UNRELIABLE
– Optimise images so they they jave a small file size, but keep quality
– Check for broken links, create a custom 404 page which gives alternative options
– Test your site in all common browsers. Do it load correctly?
– Check for error messages. The Internet Explorer ‘Unsecure Items’ is quite a common one
– Is your sever up to the job? Check for down-time and time-outs
– Update your CMS (whatever platform you’re using) and ensure that your website code is compliant

FEEL UNABLE TO TRUST THE SELLER
– People buy from people, not faceless websites. Let them know who you are
– Make sure that you give your physical address
– Include your telephone number – a landline number
– Let people use buying methods that they’re comfortable with, such as PayPal so they know they have security
– Use HTTPS (not just HTTP) when collecting sensitive data. Get an SSL Certificate from a vendor such as VeriSign Secure

3D SECURE (Verified By Visa / MasterCard SecureCode)
– Just don’t use this – not until shoppers are comfortable with it or it’s mandatory

3D Secure systems are not the secure and user-friendly tools that they claim to be. Feel the wrath of the consumer public (your customers) here. It’s not just me that hates it.

General Tips To Increase Sales

Underline your links – All text links should be underlined or have a clear difference which makes them stand out from other text, and only your links. It helps users navigate your site.

Improve the overall aesthetic quality of your site – Don’t underestimate the value of good design and what it can bring to your site. A slick looking site can increase the perceived worth of the products your selling, and makes you look more legitimate. This also applies to your overall brand.

Improve the overall aesthetic quality of your site – Don’t underestimate the value of good design and what it can bring to your site. A slick looking site can increase the perceived worth of the products your selling, and makes you look more legitimate. This also applies to your overall brand.

Include a highly visible phone number – Must be a landline. This really makes you seem trustworthy. The majority of shoppers won’t ever ring it, preferring to use email, but just knowing they can puts them at ease.

Check for typo’s and grammatical errors – Although they do creep in here and there, they can make a site look very unprofessional.

Don’t bury your pricing information – Be open and frank about it. Your customers will thanks you for it and due to the immediate gratification culture, this can give you an edge on your competitors. Even though who may have slightly lower prices, but customers are just unable to find the information.

Add an ‘about us’ page – Don’t dismiss the benefit of the personal touch. It shows that you stand by what you offer and are open and upfront.

Give clear calls-to-action – ‘Buy now’, ‘add to cart’ and so on. Guide people through the buying process.

Answer telephones calls and respond to emails promptly – Delays in getting back to people can really give them cold feet, and more importantly, gives them time to shop around elsewhere. It seems obvious, but so many people put these things off.

Let them know of the payment options – Display images and seals of the payment methods you offer, such as PayPal and the cards you accept. Also show security seals of the tools that you use to make shopping on your site safe.

Let users choose to save information – This could be the delivery address for example. This speeds up the process next time they shop with you.

Let customers easily change quantities and continue shopping – Customer expect to be able to do this, and customers often decide to add extra instances of the same item (most notably consumables) if the price is right, or if it means they qualify for free shipping.

Get reviews / testimonials – Although some customers are wary of these, due to the there being instances of faked and paid for reviews, they can still be an effective way of alleviating fears.

Give a clear final review – Just before the user clicks the button to complete the purchase give them an overview, showing all the details so that they can quickly confirm. Let them know what they can expect from you in the way of confirmation emails etc.

Recommend related products – This can be a great way to do some up-selling just before the start of the checkout process.

Include your contact details – This is very important. Not only does it make you appear more trust-worthy, but if they have any questions or problems during the checkout they can quickly get in touch.

Provide multiple buying and shipping methods – People have their own preferences and requirements, so do your best to pander to them.

You saved this much / You qualify for free shipping – If people have made a saving or qualified for some other benefit, such as free shipping or a free gift. It helps stave off buyer remorse.

Was this price, now this price – Showing current/previous prices can help people know that they’re getting a deal. This has a reduced effect now as so many ecommerce sites seem to permanently display these price comparisons, thereby eroding any credibility. Best used infrequently and for short periods, such as a weekend.

Time your newsletters / product launches / sales carefully – Experiment with different times of day, days of the week. If your audience is quite localised, even check what the weather is doing. If it’s a bit grim outside, you may get more people stuck indoors browsing your site.

Give estimated shipping / delivery dates – Not an exact science as any number of things can get in the way, but let people know what to expect and send them an email when it’s sent out to them.

Offer rewards to get people to take action – This could be a referral programme, entry to a draw for giving reviews or testimonials.

Offer free samples – Free samples can be offered to either encourage people to spend a little more, or just to promote other products they may be interested in.

Offer great after-sales support – Good customer service gives people a greater sense of security and breeds trust. Maybe offer a longer returns period, although this may not be suitable for every business. However, the longer the return period, the less likely people are to return items. Strange but true.

A/B Split Testing – This should be done continually by presenting different customers with slightly different content and layouts. try changing the colour of buttons, the positions of your calls to action and so on. They might seem like very minor adjustments, but they can inexplicably have major effects.

Identify product features / benefits with bullets – Website visitors, on the whole, have short attention spans. The bullet point is your friend as it quickly distils information and encourages people to read the entire list.

Collect opt-in email leads – This allows you send special offers to your customers. Don’t spam them though, and only send them something they genuinely will be interested in.

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