Ask any number of shoppers what elements would need to be present to create the perfect cart experience and you’ll likely get a variety of different answers—what’s good for the goose is not always good for the gander.
Although your site will see its share of different shopper demographics, there are a number of consistencies they all prefer and that should be in place if you are to have any chance of them buying from you. In this article I’ll outline a few consistencies all shoppers look for in the ‘perfect cart experience.’
The Perfect Cart Experience Checklist
Make sure customers have a clear view of how to access their shopping cart from every page on your website. This means making a ‘shopping cart’ link or even showing them a summary of their cart contents at all times—not just if something is in their basket.
Always display shipping costs and any tax applicable as soon as possible. Don’t make them wait to find that information out after they have already gone through a few steps in the checkout process. Doing this will yield frustrated customers and higher abandon rates.
Give customers a choice of shipping options. Even if an order qualifies for free shipping (ground for example) based on some criteria you set, give the customer the opportunity to upgrade the shipping to a faster method (for an added charge) if desired.
Free shipping is an excellent incentive and a powerful motivator, but don’t force a customer who qualifies for it to take it—they may want the item faster. Likewise, if they choose another shipping option, update the cart total to reflect that.
Let the customer update and edit their cart directly from the shopping cart page. This has become pretty standard on all carts now, but I have run across a few that still make a customer click a link of a particular product, go to the product page, make your edits, and then updated.
A ‘friendly’ shopping cart lets customers edit item quantities, remove items, alter attributes (product options), and more … all without leaving the actual shopping cart page.
Prominently display any guarantees, privacy and security policies, throughout the site and frequently during the checkout process to build trust. Don’t just display them however; make sure you put them within plain view, especially in areas of POA (points of action.) Putting a secure shopping seal directly to the right of the space you ask your customer to enter their credit card information is far more effective than placing it at the bottom of the page.
Implement a follow up system for abandoned carts. Abandoned carts are something that simply can’t be avoided all together. All ecommerce sites will experience them to varying degrees—no matter what they try. However, do not become satisfied that abandoned carts are ‘a part of doing business’ as some like to put it. Rather, institute a system to contact customers who abandon their cart and attempt to save the sale.
A system like this offers several benefits. a) It offers you the ability to cash in on previously lost sales. b) If you approach it correctly and don’t recover the sale, you still may receive valuable feedback from the potential customer as to why they chose not to complete the sale—and it is this information you can use to better the cart experience for those that follow.
Have at the very least, the following additional information (outside of the normal product price, photos, description, etc… that are expected) readily available on the product page. Stock / availability, shipping information (rates and times if possible), customer reviews, returns policies, any guarantees offered, payment methods accepted, live (or phone) help, security seals, ability to zoom in or see clear close-ups of product images.
A customer service phone number (not just email) that is answered by a real human to provide assistance if needed.
Provide the customer with the ability to save their cart and return later if desired (sometimes called a ‘wish list’.) Customers who may be shopping but not quite ready to buy for one reason or another will want to come back and easily find the item(s) the placed in the cart on their previous visit.
Although at this point you may not have their information available yet to follow up with, it would be a good idea if you do have that information to implement a ‘wish list’ follow up type system to help nudge them toward the checkout if they do not purchase for a period of time.
Offer some type of loyalty or rewards program.
Has a simple yet intuitive categorical structure and associated navigation. Narrow your top level categories so that they provide a solid framework for listing sub-categories below them. For example, rather than use the following top level navigation on a site that sells electronics:
- Digital TV Converters
- Portable TVs
- Stereo Receivers
- Stereo Antennas
It would be better to narrow the top level categories to read as follows with the sublevels under them:
- Digital TV Converters
- Portable TVs
- Stereo Receivers
- Stereo Antennas
Provide the customer with multiple methods of accessing (searching for) the same product data from various angles on the site and allow them to access it in as few clicks as possible. Here’s an example.
If you sold coffee on the internet and one of the coffees you sold was a dark bold roast flavor by brand “XXX” then it would be smart to allow customers to access this particular coffee using the following groupings: Shop Bold Coffees, Shop Dark Roasts, Shop by Brand.
People search for items different ways and catering to those habits helps them shop with you.
Prominently display any sales, offers, or discounts that may be of interest to your shoppers.
Offer multiple payment methods for the customer to choose from when ordering, including PayPal.
Send out instant notifications upon the customer successfully completing an order (order receipt) as well as a notification when the item has shipped (including tracking information.)
Offer the ability to checkout as a guest for those that may want to do so.
At the end of the day it’s all about making it easy for shoppers to do business with you and keeping your customers happy. Lowering cart abandonment rates and increasing sales starts with realizing what consistencies are desired—no matter the age, gender, or preference—among all shoppers. It’s human nature to want these items of ‘comfort’ and making them accessible to your visitors is what creates the ‘perfect cart experience.’
In a recent article I wrote titled 10 Proven Methods to Decrease Your Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate I detailed a number of strategies you could use to reduce your cart abandon rates.
If you use PayPal as a payment method, and depending on the technical ability of your cart, you might have had trouble with abandon carts in the past. However a recent survey conducted by comscore on behalf of PayPal aimed to answer the question why shoppers abandon their carts.
The survey revealed that largest single reason online shoppers abandoned their carts was due to high shipping costs. Additional factors were security concerns and check-out processes that lacked convenience.
The survey also found that if merchants had provided shipping costs upfront, this might have persuaded 40 percent of participants to complete the purchase.
As a result of the survey findings, PayPal recently released the PayPal Instant Update API — a new Express Checkout feature.
The Instant Update API enables merchants to provide customers with the critical information they need — when they need it — in order to make the purchase.
Merchants who integrate the new API, can now show order details which include shipping options, insurance choices and tax totals, earlier in the check-out process.
Customers will still pay on your site when using Express Checkout; however, with the new tools they do not need to reenter shipping, billing, or payment information because the information is already available from PayPal. This helps merchants offer a more simplified checkout process while providing customers with what they are looking for.
Additional Reasons Shoppers Abandoned Carts
A comprehensive list of the most frequent reasons why shoppers abandoned their carts is below.
- High shipping charges: 46 percent
- Wanted to comparison shop: 37 percent
- Lack of money: 36 percent
- Wanted to look for a coupon: 27 percent
- Wanted to shop offline: 26 percent
- Couldn’t find preferred pay option: 24 percent
- Item was unavailable at checkout: 23 percent
- Couldn’t find customer support: 22 percent
- Concerned about security of credit card data: 21 percent
If you are looking for more information on the PayPal Instant Update API you can read about implementing it using any of these links:
Moving customers through the checkout process effectively is a critical element toward closing any sale online. Providing your customers choose to order directly from your website rather than over the phone, the information you present to them during checkout is ultimately what will help them decide whether or not to complete the purchase.
Throughout this process you will need to continually reassure them, providing them with the necessary elements essential to developing trust and security. These elements are commonly called customer assurances. Their job is making the customer feel comfortable enough to complete the intended action (i.e. buying your product.)
Cart abandonment is a problem that all eCommerce sites see in some degree. The rate at which your visitors abandon depends on how effective you have structured the checkout process. Shopping cart abandonment is an important statistic that needs to be tracked as it could mean the difference between a profitable eCommerce store and a potential loss.
According to industry publications, average shopping cart abandonment rates are between 60% – 70%. Put in to sample numbers, if you have 100 people start the checkout process and 65% abandon it, you just lost 65 sales. To take that further, if your average order value is $49 you lost $3185 in revenue.
To further demonstrate the hit your business just took, not only have you lost revenue but you lost 65 potential new customers as well. This translates to an undeterminable amount of future recurring revenue through repeat orders.
Many factors that contribute to cart abandonment are out of the merchant’s control; however there are a number of factors you can concentrate on that will help reduce the overall effect on your store.
1. From a technical perspective, make sure your cart is working properly and is free of bugs. As elementary as this may sound, it is a vital component that often is not given the weight it deserves. Simple logic tells us that if a cart is not working correctly it will prevent a customer from being able to order. To alleviate this potential problem you should go through your order process and ensure it is free of bugs and works as you expect. It would be a good idea to also have others go through and test it periodically – especially after any updates to code or structure have been made that involve the checkout process.
2. Keep your pricing competitive. Customers are also shoppers. What I mean is they are always searching for and comparing similar products prices. Unless your product is totally 100% unique and not easily duplicated, you must be aware of the price you assign to it. With the increase use in shopping comparison sites by consumers and in light of the current state of the economy, competitive pricing is more critical than ever. If your prices are out of the ball park your customers won’t stay to watch the game.
3. Decrease the steps in your checkout process. If your cart has the ability for a one page checkout that is fantastic. However, if you don’t have that luxury, don’t worry. Test have shown that shorter checkout processes which aren’t one page only work just fine to convert visitors into sales providing a few elements are met. A good rule of thumb to follow here is to combine logical steps during the checkout process (shipping and billing address information as an example) and eliminate any extra steps. If you can get your checkout process down to four steps or less you’ll be ok in most cases.
4. Add process indicators to checkout procedure. You don’t want a customer to wonder how much longer it will take to checkout or what part of that checkout process they are in. This is an easy fix. Simply adding process indicators in a graphic format near the top of the checkout process will help keep customers in the checkout until the end.
6. Clearly display your security and trust seals. Customers want to ensure the information they submit during an order is secure and protected. Make sure you clearly and plainly tell them that their transaction is secure and show them the seal to prove it. Don’t hide the seal at the bottom of a page or make it hard to find. Tests have shown that adding a security seal within the user eye flow at critical times during checkout can improve conversion.
7. Offer multiple payment methods including PayPal. Offering multiple payment methods opens up the number of people who will do business with you. Customers like to choice and control. Providing them with the choice of multiple payment methods in addition to PayPal will help keep them in the checkout process. In fact, 1 in 3 shoppers expect to be able to pay with PayPal or at least be given that option in addition to other methods.
8. Enable customers to order over the telephone if desired. No matter how perfect a site is, there are going to be customers that prefer to complete their order over the phone. Whether they start the checkout process and have a question that needs to be answered or simply don’t feel comfortable providing their personal information over the internet, you must give them the ability to call you to complete the transaction. Placing a customer service phone number in a clearly visible location with the text “Prefer to order by phone?” will help decrease cart abandonment.
9. Clearly state return and shipping policies. In survey after survey, shoppers say one of the big reasons they abandon the checkout process is due to the shipping charge or return options. Many sites don’t provide the shipping and return information to the customer until they are in step two or three of the checkout process. If the information they find there does not appeal to them they will leave. You can prevent this by offering them the shipping and return information at the first step of the checkout process or better yet from the page they are viewing their shopping cart from.
10. Don’t require registration to checkout. This is difficult for some stores to implement because of the architecture their cart is built upon. However, if you have the ability to offer what is often called a “guest checkout” feature you should do so. For privacy reasons, there are a number of people out there who do not want the information they provide you with saved and it is those people who will leave unless you provide them with an option to checkout without registering.
Following these principles will not completely eliminate shopping cart abandonment at your site but it should help in reducing it to a more reasonable level thus increasing sales.