If you run an ecommerce store there will always be a proportion of shoppers who spend time selecting your products, adding them to the shopping cart, and then promptly vanishing. But how do you prevent them from vanishing forever? And how do you get more of these potential buyers converting into cash?
Optimizing your shop for the visitors and customers you already have is much easier than finding new customers. So, optimizing your shopping cart abandonment rate should be high on the list for any ecommerce store owner. But apparently, it’s not…
According to the Baymard Institute, a UK-based web research company, 68.81% of online shopping carts are abandoned. This is taken as an average of 22 studies run around the world, some of which put the figure as high as 80%. This is fairly damning.
That’s not all. How about these shopping cart abandonment statistics:
- According to Formisimo, rates for completing the checkout process on desktops and tablets are 13%, with mobile phone completion rates at just 8.5%.
- The same company notes that the average abandonment rate for checkout pages is as high as 87%, rising on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays to almost 90%.
It’s almost criminal for a business not to be capturing more of these ‘missed’ sales.
The following post presents a detailed guide to optimizing every step in the abandonment funnel so that you get more visitors actually buying.
- The fundamentals of cart abandonment & what is shopping cart abandonment
- The steps you can take before and after abandonment to increase sales
- When to capture your visitor’s email address
- What emails to send and when (with template examples)
- How to optimize your product landing pages for higher cart abandonment conversions
So let’s get into it straight away…
Shopping Cart Abandonment Reasons
Do you even know your shopping cart abandonment rate? If so, how does it compare with the averages mentioned above?
Even if it is a little lower than average, you may still be throwing money away by not putting more time into optimization.
When a potential customer spends time in your store but doesn’t convert into a sale, it should be prompting questions about what you are doing wrong and how you can fix it. It should also be getting you thinking about what you can do to follow up with that customer.
The proactive store owner looks for reasons why shopping carts are being abandoned.
According to Baymard Institute, these reasons are varied. From the most to least common, the following are the main reasons cited for abandonment:
As you can see, most of these reasons are firmly within your control as a store owner. Many are simply design changes on your store. Shopping cart abandonment should therefore not be accepted as ‘just one of those things’. It is up to you to take the steps to reduce it.
Shopping Cart Abandonment Solutions
If too many visitors are leaving your store without buying, there are two fundamental approaches to fix the problem. A BEFORE and AFTER approach:
- Improve the buying process BEFORE they check out, so that there are fewer abandoned carts.
- Implement a follow-up strategy AFTER they abandon their carts to get them back into the sales funnel and remarket to them.
This should not be an ‘either/or’ question. Both approaches are needed for an effective cart abandonment strategy that helps to convert more sales.
How can you make the buying process easier when your visitor is already on your site? What can you do to optimize the user experience so that they make it to checkout?
These are the key questions you should be asking here, and following are some suggestions that you might want to consider:
Establish and demonstrate trust
However you design your checkout forms, nobody will buy from you unless you have first established trust and confidence. Hopefully your store does this from the moment a visitor lands, but it needs to be reinforced in every step of the buying process.
As soon as you ask a customer to fill in personal information you are asking them to place trust in you that you will look after it. When it goes beyond contact details to credit card and banking info, then the level of trust required goes up several notches.
Security credentials should be displayed clearly and prominently close to the form, with familiar logos and/or a text saying ‘100% secure’. These are strong, recognizable trust signals that will make the customer feel more confident.
Shopify reports that over 60% of people had not purchased something online due to the absence of trust logos and that over 75% had decided against a purchase as they didn’t recognize the logos used.
Tell buyers where they are in the checkout process
In the reasons cited above for shopping cart abandonment, a long, complicated checkout process was mentioned.
This shows how important it is not only to make the process as simple as possible, but to set expectations correctly for the customer. Whether you use single or multi-page checkout, let them know their progress through the checkout area. They don’t have all day. They probably have to be somewhere, meet someone or prepare dinner! They want to know approximately how long it’s going to take, or they may just get irritated and leave.
That’s why you should include a progress bar on checkouts whenever possible. Make it simple and clear, with as few steps as possible to make the checkout process appear quick and easy: ideally no more than 3 or 4 steps. If, in reality, you have more steps than this, try combining a couple of steps into one and A/B testing the visitor behaviour.
If you can condense your checkout phase into a single page, all the better, as it then appears very quick to complete for the customer.
But do be careful here: perceived ‘friction’ (often rated highly if the page is very long due to many form fields) can also be a conversion killer.
So always A/B test if a one-page checkout vs multi-step for your store.
Include thumbnails in the checkout phase
Images can help you sell all along the sales funnel and should not be purely confined to the actual category and product pages.
Including thumbnail images along with brief text descriptions of the products in the shopping cart will reassure customers that they are buying the intended products – not making a horrible mistake! This again raises confidence levels in the customer mind, and reduces the element of ‘risk’ or apprehension.
This is an extra measure that’s needed online because people can’t touch or feel what they’re buying. Therefore, most people like the visual proof before they take the next step in the checkout process. It also helps them remember what they have added to their shopping cart, if there are many items.
Allow the buyer to navigate between their shopping cart and store
People make mistakes, change their minds, or need to check information. Rarely is a purchase a simple A to B process, so store owners must allow for the reality of how people buy things.
It’s no different to shopping in store. How many times have you picked up an item of clothing and headed to the checkout desk, before having a change of heart and going back to get another size, colour, or design?
You need to make it easy for your customers to find the information they need from their shopping cart without having to abandon and go right back to the start.
There is no one solution here that all retailers should apply. The key is to test what works to make the process as smooth as possible for your buyers. In general, avoid customers having to hit the BACK button and instead think about designing your checkout process to make it less troublesome to find what they need to move on to the next step.The following is a good example of one that does that:
Avoid nasty surprises like shipping costs
Extra costs is the leading reason for shopping cart abandonment. Intentionally adding costs is, of course, poor strategy, as few buyers will complete a purchase if they believe that they are not paying the agreed price.
But many stores add costs unintentionally – like shipping. In the mind of a customer, it amounts to the same thing: a lack of trust in getting what they pay for. Having thought they were paying one price only to find out that there are hidden costs, fees, or surcharges may break the bond of trust. It must therefore be avoided by making all costs clear and transparent upfront.
KISSmetrics report that unexpected shipping costs account for almost one-third of all abandoned ecommerce shopping carts. With this in mind, consider offering free shipping and building these costs into the advertised price of the product. Whatever you do, do not spring shipping costs on your customer at the end of the checkout process.
Include clear and simple CTA buttons
Confusing or, worse still, non-existent calls to action in the checkout phase are a sure way to increase cart abandonment. People need to know what the next step is and clear call to action buttons help you present a smooth, logical process.
The perception that calls to action are only for ‘landing pages’ or ‘sales pages’ is wrong. In fact, every page on your store should be a sales page until the customer has purchased.
These buttons should ‘talk’ to your target customers and reinforce to them that they are headed in the right direction and are making progress. They may be just a few words long, as in the following examples:
Provide the option to ‘save’ and come back later (AKA ‘persistent cart’)
In a perfect world, everyone is able to complete the checkout in one visit. Unfortunately, life gets in the way sometimes, making it impossible.
A visitor is much more likely to return to complete their order if they know that their information from their previous visit to checkout has been saved. So offering this facility, and making it clear to the visitor that they can easily save their information as they go, is important.
Provide a support number or live chat
During checkout you are looking to provide customers with a level of comfort, confidence, and trust to follow through with the purchase.
Many of the tips so far help with doing that. Another way is to provide a freecall number that buyers can use to contact support or, alternatively, a live chat support facility.
If customers have questions, these may need to be answered before they will buy. Or them may need alternative products to unavailable ones. Providing this information freely, quickly, and conveniently may stop the customers from abandoning and going elsewhere to make their purchase.
The following image demonstrates how useful it can be:
Always offer guest checkout
Requesting unnecessary information or asking the customer to register for something before buying just adds an extra layer of ‘friction’ to the checkout process and could drive them away. People are fed up with generating unnecessary accounts and passwords.
It’s critical to keep things as simple as possible and just gather the details necessary for the purchase and for remarketing opportunities. While it may be tempting to ask for more, loyalty programs and other marketing opportunities can come later.
Rather than forcing customers to register and create an account, many stores have got around this by offering a guest checkout option. Here are a couple of examples:
Be clear on guarantees, refunds/return policies and delivery times
Being absolutely clear on the basic deliverables of a product is key. Beyond price, the customer wants to know how long it will take to get to them, what happens if they are not happy with it and what happens if something goes wrong with it.
If you display a cast-iron money-back guarantee, a solid refund/return policy, and realistic delivery times clearly at checkout, this will help nurture customer confidence and trust levels, overcome objections (which may still exist) and lower the barriers of resistance. This all makes cart abandonment less likely.
See how the WatchShop displays key information to lower potential ‘friction’:
Offer multiple payment methods
Giving people options when it comes to payment means there’s one less reason not to buy. Depending on your target market, Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Paypal should be obvious, but what about other payment solutions too?
If your market is younger, how about offering Apple Pay and Google Wallet? While this may take a little more effort on your part, you lower the effort needed to buy for your customers.
You should also consider modern payment integrations like the Payment Request API offered in the latest version of the Chrome browser.
Improve page load times
If your site pages are loading slowly then it is harming conversions from the moment that visitors land; in the checkout phase it will cause abandonments if they are not able to move seamlessly from step to step.
In fact, Visual Website Optimizer states that ecommerce shopping cart conversion rates drop 7% per one-second delay. Think about that…that’s 13 seconds before a potential customer simply gives up and goes somewhere else.
An easy place to start with optimizing load times is by ensuring that your images are fully optimized. If there are delays connecting to a financial institution to pay for an order, consider using a visual representation (like a progress bar) to show the customer that something is happening – it’s better than dead white space.
Despite your best efforts at preventing abandonment you’ll never get the rate down to zero. But what separates the smartest store owners from the rest is a strategy to remarket to those potential buyers who leave.
You could do nothing – and they’ll never return; or you could make sure that you capture all the information you need to re-contact and remarket to them.
There are essentially two ways that this can happen:
Remarketing with email campaigns
Most of you will be familiar with the ins and outs of email marketing but how many of you are using it to bring potential buyers back to your site after abandoning shopping carts?
That ‘order’ should not be considered dead in the water until you have exhausted all avenues. A great way to start doing this is to send personalized emails to shoppers who fail to complete the order process. Rather than being a ‘one-shot deal’, this means that you have further opportunities to convert interest into a sale.
Unfortunately, many ecommerce stores are not gathering the right information at the right time, and are not following up with the right strategy, so potential customers are getting away and money is being wasted.
When do you start gathering email details?
Remember that we do not want to obstruct the checkout process. So the information gathering element needs to be short and sharp.
When the customer first clicks through to checkout they are expecting to provide some personal details. That’s the time to capture their name and email address upfront.
Different places will be specified on the forms to capture email addresses, according to the ecommerce platform you are using (see images below). Generally though, it’s very high on the form – which is great!
Woocommerce typical email capture
Shopify typical capture
Magento typical capture
If the visitor intends to exit without leaving their email address in the form, you can have one last attempt to capture it: remind them that they have left something in their shopping cart and ask if they’d like to leave their email address in case they change their mind later and need to follow up.
What emails should you send?
Once you’ve received details of customers who have abandoned their shopping cart, it’s time to try to win them back with a targeted email campaign.
Usually this will consist of a series of three emails.
- The first email
This email should be sent almost immediately after the abandonment – within 24 hours. It needs a subject that convinces the recipient to open it (a call to action like ‘Complete Your Purchase’ or something intriguing such as ‘You left something in your cart…’). The email should address the recipient using their first name and contain three key pieces of information:
- A reminder of the item(s) that were abandoned in the shopping cart, with images of each item and price
- A link that allows the customer to pick up the order where they left off and to complete the purchase
- A strong call to action to persuade them to click the link and return to your site
Here you can show your personality – add a little humour if that fits well with your brand. You might also like to include a testimonial, or reiterate the money-back guarantee or returns policy, if they are important selling features of your product.
The following is a good example of this first email. Note the subject and the two main pieces of information that are communicated:
- The second email
The second email is essentially a reminder that is sent to anyone who has not yet acted on the first follow-up email.
This might be sent 2-3 days after the first email. Again it will be personalised and its subject will again be a call to action, such as ‘Buy now while the price stays this low…’ or ‘there’s still time to complete your purchase…’.
Again, include details of the items still in the shopping cart, with images and pricing information and the link to complete the order.
In this email you need to start creating a little urgency in your call to action. You might point out that the items are not reserved and could sell out.
- The third email
The third email is a final reminder that is sent to anyone who has not yet acted on the first two emails, and it also introduces an increased sense of urgency.
It should be sent around 5-7 days after the second email and the subject line should be a little enticing – something drawing attention to a limited time-offer, perhaps.
The body of the email again includes the relevant product information and images, but also adds an offer. Perhaps this could be a 10% discount or a bonus gift if they go back to complete their order before a certain date in the near future. Putting a time limit on it is important as it creates urgency to act. Mention again that it’s their last chance to secure the product, as it will not be reserved.
This is the final roll of the dice, so ensure there is a compelling reason to go back and buy.
If this still doesn’t work you may have lost the customer this time – but there may still be future marketing opportunities in email campaigns. Keep them on the mailing list until they unsubscribe.
How do you optimize the product landing page?
When someone returns to your store as a result of the emails you have sent, this is an opportunity to make them feel a little special so that don’t abandon their shopping cart for a second time.
By personalizing the message that greets them, you will show an attention to detail that online shoppers are beginning to expect.
Use the URL from the email to pass a string of customer data that you can show on the landing page. For instance if the URL in the email is shop.com/product?name=Mark you can address the landing page messaging to ‘Mark’ and ensure that the products they were interested in last time are all there for them to purchase this time round.
Retargeting with ads
If you’ve ever visited an ecommerce site, made a few selections and abandoned the buying process before checking out, then visited Facebook and amazingly seen an ad for the product you just enquired about, you’ve just been ‘ad retargeted’. It’s not coincidence!
This has become an effective way for ecommerce stores to remarket to their customers. Companies like AdRoll and Retargeter specialise in implementing such systems for ecommerce stores that understand the fact that few buyers purchase on their first visit to an online store. You may be surprised to learn that only 2% of shoppers convert on the first visit; retargeting is a proven way to bring at least part of the remaining 98% back.
The reason why this works is that these ads are for products that a buyer has already shown interest in. They are highly targeted and, with many of the major online platforms now accepting these types of ads, it is a quick and easy way to gain rapid re-exposure for your products and to potentially reignite buying interest.
If you own an online jewellery store, for instance, you might target a cart abandonment customer who had left before finalising a purchase for a new range of silver necklaces. The ad could appear on Facebook or a popular newspaper that this user reads, and it would show images and text relating to that specific range of necklaces, with a strong call to action to check it out on the store.
Typically these ads have high click-through rates. According to Merchenta, fair-trade fashion retailer PeopleTree got 30% of visitors who had abandoned their site to return, partly through retargeting; and Clogau Jewellery achieved twice the conversion rate of paid search using their display retargeting platform.
Here’s an example of what this type of ad may look like if you’d been looking at shoes on Zappos and suddenly left without checking out.
Shopping Cart Abandonment Conclusion
Online shoppers can be very fickle creatures who are easily distracted. They may be just about to complete an online purchase when their eye catches a Facebook post or Tweet from a friend that rocks their world; or they forgot that the new series of House of Cards was just starting.
Helping your customers stay focused on the purchasing process is important to reduce the shopping cart abandonment rate – and many of the ideas above will help you do that. But it’s only half the story. You must also have an active strategy of remarketing to those potential buyers who leave. Implementing the suggestions outlined above can reduce ‘lost sales’ significantly and have a dramatic effect on your turnover.
As always, test out what works; don’t just make changes that you think will work. Make a change and test it so that you know it works.