As with the previous article, I’ve drawn these tips from the very awesome infographic created by Monetate and picked up by Search Engine Land. While the earlier tips focused specifically on shopping cart features, in this article I’ll be looking primarily at aspects of your website that shoppers will find before they even get to the first page of your cart. As Monetate did, I’ll present my tips in the form of “dos and don’ts.”
We’ll start with a few things that you shouldn’t do. And the first of these will probably drive you crazy. Do not force shoppers to register before making a purchase. It doesn’t matter if it’s free to register; it doesn’t matter if all they need to do is fill in a form with their name and their e-mail address. Someone shopping in a brick-and-mortar store never needs to part with personal information, so don’t force your customers to do it until they’re ready – and usually that won’t be until there’s a good reason. In a shopper’s mind, putting an item in a shopping cart isn’t a good reason to part with personal information. From their point of view, you as the seller don’t need that information until they’re paying for the product and telling you where to ship it – and not a second sooner.
For online shoppers, it’s more than just an annoyance to be asked to register before making a purchase; it’s grounds for going elsewhere. Monetate mentioned some tests conducted by Jared M. Spool of User Interface Engineering on this topic. Spool found that “75 percent of people who were forced to register first never tried to purchase,” according to Monetate. “In one case study, customer purchases increased by 45 percent after forced registration was removed.” Let shoppers check out as a guest. Let them see for themselves that your products and customer service are top notch; then, when they do get around to registering on your site, they won’t resent you for it, because it’s their idea and you didn’t force the issue.
The second thing you should not do is hide shipping costs. In my previous article, I mentioned that one of the top five reasons customers list for abandoning shopping carts is that the shipping costs turn out to be too high. Intellectually, customers know that they have to pay shipping costs, but they don’t see those costs when they shop at brick-and-mortar stores, so they aren’t used to it. So do not wait until the last minute to include shipping costs. You could list them on each product page just under the product’s price, as a reminder. If it makes financial sense, you might also consider offering free or flat shipping to your customers. The key point is to make sure your customers are well aware of shipping costs going in. Nobody likes this kind of surprise.
The third thing you should not do is offer coupon codes unnecessarily. Many shopping carts feature a spot for users to type in a coupon code. If a shopper sees that, they’re liable to leave your shopping cart and start searching for coupon codes for your website elsewhere online. This isn’t a small issue; Monetate notes that one study saw a 90 percent decrease in conversion because of “faulty coupon code placement.” This doesn’t mean you can’t offer a coupon code entry form, but you should only present it to customers “who are offered a promotion on their way into the site,” according to Monetate. “Otherwise, it’s best to hide the field and replace it with some subtle text like ‘Do you have a promotion/coupon code? Click here…”
Customers can be very nervous about shopping online, so it helps to say, do and show them reassuring things to prove that they’re making the right decision in buying from you. For example, if you’ve collected any customer testimonials, be sure to include them on the path to your checkout. If your shoppers see that other customers had a positive experience, they’ll expect to have a positive experience as well.
You can also take a page out of the book of many brick-and-mortar stores and offer a lowest price guarantee. Online shoppers can find competing products and websites in just a few clicks; if they’re already on your site, however, and you’ve offered them a price guarantee, you’ve given them a reason to stay. You’re telling them they’re not going to get a better deal elsewhere – and in this economy, bargains matter. Product cost is one major reason customers abandon shopping carts; a price guarantee can help address this issue and reduce shopping cart abandonment.
If your inventory for a particular item is limited, you need to inform your customers. Monetate recommends listing how much of an item you have in your inventory right on the product page. This helps to prevent unpleasant surprises. It’s the kind of thing customers will want to know well before they check out. They may still be annoyed if they get to the checkout form and find out that the item they wanted is no longer in stock (or receive a message from you after ordering that they’ll get it as soon as you restock), but they might not blame you quite so much for it if they saw on the product page that you only had one left.
Quantity in stock isn’t the only information you should consider including on the product page. Add whatever data will reassure customers that they’re making the right decision. For example, Monetate recommends that you allow customers to see their warranty information up front. “Provide this information at a time when you feel your customers will have the most anxiety toward a sale,” Monetate suggests. You can’t be physically there in person to allay your customers’ fears, so you need to set up your website to do it for you. This reassurance needs to come at the right stages of the sales process.
Here’s an issue you need to be especially prepared to address this holiday season: preventing errors. Monetate recommends that you have a team watching for checkout errors at all times. The last thing you want is to have a small error invalidate a sale. These errors can add up to literally billions of dollars.
In the previous article, I mentioned that one of the top five reasons customers abandon shopping carts is because they wanted to go away, think about the purchase, and then come back and purchase it later. I also mentioned that you could help turn these “abandoned” carts into conversions by adding a button to your checkout form that lets them save the cart. Even if they don’t click this button, it’s still a good idea to save the cart, and let your customer know you’re doing this for him. “Next time they return to the site,” suggests Monetate, “remind them of the items they previously selected (preferably in a light box).” That little nudge might be all they need to get out their credit card.
Finally, keep in mind that more and more people are getting online and trying new things all the time. Online shopping carts tend to follow a predictable flow, but they’re not standardized by any means. So it shouldn’t surprise you that some of your customers may run into problems figuring out what to do while trying to check out – and rather than putting in the extra effort, they abandon the cart. After all, shopping is supposed to be fun; why work so hard? When that happens, if possible, you might want to send a follow-up e-mail offering to help. Again, it could be just the nudge they need to get them to complete the transaction. Good luck, and happy holidays!