research shows up to 75 percent of shoppers abandon their online
shopping carts before completing the checkout process. I’m not sure how
comfortable I am with that statistic, but shopping cart abandonment is
a significant problem. Numerous factors influence this rate, but I’ll address those that move the lever in the right direction this week and next.
- How many steps are in your checkout process?
This is usually what most people focus on. Our clients’ checkout
processes range from one to seven steps. We’ve discovered the number of
steps is not all that critical. One client was able to bring the
checkout process from six steps down to one; we found no correlation
between reduction of steps and reduction in abandonment rate. Once
people found what they came for, they found the time to check out no
matter how many steps were involved.
Should you change the number of steps? Yes! But if you don’t have an
inexpensive and simple way to test, it may not be worth the time,
effort, and expense of reducing the number of steps in the checkout
process. Try some of these other ideas first.
- Include a progress indicator on each checkout page. No
matter how many steps in your checkout process, let customers know
where they are in the process. Number the steps, and label the task
clearly for each step. Give shoppers an opportunity to review what they
did in previous steps and a way to return to their current step if they
- Provide a link back to the product. When an item is
placed in the shopping cart, include a link back to the product page.
Shoppers can then easily jump back to make sure they selected the right
item. I was shopping for a printer and wanted to know how many and what
color cartridges come with the printer. It wasn’t obvious where I
should click to review the product description. I had to navigate using
my back button until I got my questions answered.
- Add pictures inside the basket. Placing a thumbnail image of the product increases conversions by as much as 10 percent.
- Provide shipping costs early in the process. If
possible, provide an estimated cost while visitors browse. They want to
buy but want the answers to all their questions when they want them.
Total cost is one of those critical questions. Also, if the shipping
information is the same as the billing information, include a checkbox
to automatically fill in the same information.
- Show stock availability on the product page. Shoppers
should not have to wait until checkout to learn if a product is out of
stock. Also, give an estimated delivery date. Deal with the “I want it
now” mentality, and let them know when they should expect to get their
- Make it obvious what to click next. Include a prominent
“Next Step” or “Continue With Checkout” button on each checkout page.
Make the button you want them to click next the most obvious. One top
50 e-tailer mistakenly placed its “remove from cart” and checkout
buttons next to each other. Neither stood out. Many people ended up
clearing their carts. When they went to check out, they found nothing
in there and immediately abandoned the site in frustration.
- Make editing the shopping cart easy. It should be
simple to change quantities or options, or delete an item from the
shopping cart. If a product comes in multiple sizes or colors, make it
easy to select or change values in the shopping cart.
- Make it your fault. If information is missing or filled
out incorrectly during checkout, give a meaningful error message that’s
obvious to see. It should clearly tell visitors what needs to be
corrected. The tone should be the system was unable to understand what
was entered, not the visitor made a foolish mistake.
- Show them you’re a real entity. People’s concerns start
to flare up during checkout. Let them know you’re a real company by
giving full contact info during the checkout process.
- Offer the option to call.
If visitors have a problem during checkout or feel uncomfortable using
a credit card online, offer a phone number. Devote a dedicated
toll-free line for tracking purposes. Also offer a printable order form
so customers can complete orders by fax, if they prefer.
- Make the most of cross- and up-sell. It isn’t always
effective to up-sell on a product detail page; sometimes this is best
left for checkout. Recommend items based on what’s already in the
shopping cart. Look at how Walmart.com sells flowers and up-sells a vase, versus how Proflowers.com does. Try interstitials or pop-ups to capture up- and cross-sell options.
- It’s about new customers. Make the checkout process
even easier for new visitors than registered customers. Acquiring new
customers is much harder than selling to the loyal ones. Registered
customers will find a way to sign in (if they don’t have a cookie).
Don’t position registration and log-in as an obstacle between new
visitors and checkout.
- Add third-party reinforcement messages. VeriSign,
Better Business Bureau, and credit card logos either greatly boost
conversions or at least keep them neutral. In other words, they can’t
hurt. A HACKER SAFE
rating certification helps clients across the board, especially those
with larger-than-average order sizes. Its maker, ScanAlert, claims the
certification can increase average orders 15.7 percent.
- Handle coupon codes with care. Don’t decrease your conversion rate90 percent, as my friend Brad did. Think carefully about where you present the option to enter codes and how you label it.
- Offer a price guarantee. If you sell name-brand
products and your store is price competitive or truly provides better
value, try a “Lowest Price Match” guarantee.
- Provide multiple payment options. Follow Wal-Mart’s lead and add more payment options. Allow visitors to pay by credit card, check, PayPal, or any other means you can.
- Reassure customers at the right time and place. How
often is critical information buried in tiny type at the bottom of the
page or deep within a site? In a brick-and-mortar store, it’s fairly
easy to find product warranty information. Offer customers this same
opportunity online, at the point of action (POA). Link to product
warranties, shipping costs, return policies, testimonials, even
optional extended service plans. Or, provide the information in a
pop-up. Make the best use of your assurances at the right time and place.
- Track your mistakes. Develop a system to keep you
notified of errors during the checkout process. One client noticed a
portion of his visitors had cookies turned off. He developed a
cookie-free checkout option. His conversion rate and sales jumped.
- Use an exit survey. If a visitor abandons checkout,
offer an incentive to complete an exit survey. She may tell you why she
didn’t complete that order.
have 20 different ways to reduce shopping cart abandonment. Every site
is different, of course, with its own environment and issues. Don’t
obsess about abandonment rates. Many people use shopping carts as place
holders for considering items. Help those who want to check out and may
have questions, doubts, or obstacles holding them back.
these tips will result in dramatic improvements, others may not do much
at all. Test each one that’s appropriate. Improve conversion rate one
step at a time.