Keeping Customers in the Checkout Process

August 12, 2008 by  
Filed under Shopping Cart Abandonment

Moving customers through the checkout process effectively is a critical element toward closing any sale.

Throughout this process you will need to continually provide them with the necessary elements which ensure they feel comfortable enough to complete the action (i.e. buy your product.)

Checkout 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 process. Once you get them started on it they may leave, but you don’t have to make it easy on them to do so. Some site owners are doing just that.

The Problem Revealed

There is an inherent problem I have seen on a number of ecommerce sites who’s owners attempt to provide their customers with the “right information” at the “right time” with the hopes of persuading them to complete the checkout. These sites oftentimes do a good job of placing the elements but fail in one other important area — how they present the information the element leads to.

The way this information is presented can either help or negate to some degree the intended effect. In the examples I have seen, the sites present the user with a hyperlink element linking them to a point of customer assurance which resides on a new page within the site. This can be a link to the shipping rate schedule, a guarantee, contact information, or more.

However, the way these sites have implemented the elements actually ends up taking the visitor further away from the checkout process — not what you want if you are trying to close a sale and win over a customer.


For the past several months I’ve been testing the two methods against each other. One method uses hyperlink elements that “feed” customer assurance information to the visitor via a link to a new page, and the other feeds customer assurance information via a non-blockable DHTML hover box. The results were not surprising.

The method which utilized the DHTML hover over boxes had a positive increase on the website conversion in the areas it was utilized. In contrast, in instances where the information was fed to the user via links to other pages on the site (taking them away from the checkout process), the abandonment rates were higher and the conversion lower.

When asked, users attributed their abandonment to confusion relating to “how to get back into the checkout process” at the exact point they were at when they left it to view the “assurance” information.

Below are two screenshots. Figure 1 shows the typical way I saw this method utilized on sites; with hyperlinks that took the user out to other pages in order to get the information they sought. Figure 2 shows the after effect using the more effective DHTML hover over box which gives the end user what they seek without taking them away from the checkout process.

Customer Assurance Links
Figure 1

Customer Assurance Links
Figure 2

Others have tried to circumvent the misfortune of leading users away from the checkout process by providing the information in a traditional “pop-up” window. Not a bad idea, but still not the best. Why? Because with the many pop-up blockers built into browsers now, these clicks may only frustrate them again.

The answer is to provide the information to them in a non-blockable DHTML hover over type window. You can even set these up to activate “on mouse over” if you wish which will present the information simply by hovering a mouse over the link.

You’ve now got yet one more tool to use in your quest for increased conversion. Use it wisely and you will be rewarded.

To your continued success.

eCommerce Strategy Enables Higher Recovery of Abandoned Carts

Abandoned shopping carts and eCommerce all to often go hand in hand.

Let’s face it, if you own an ecommerce site, you can expect to have some sort of abandoned cart rate. That does not mean you have to accept that abandonment rate though. You can (and should) implement strategies to recover some of those potential lost sales. If you are not doing anything to try to recover them, then you need to think about starting.

A cart is considered abandoned when a potential customer adds items to their cart, starts the checkout process, but fails to complete that process.

Recover abandoned shopping carts reportAfter testing various strategies for one site, I found a mix that yielded a 51% recovery rate of previously abandoned carts. In addition to the carts that were recovered, we were able to gather superior feedback on why others did not elect to complete their purchase.

Using this information, we were able to make further adjustments to the site that reduced future cart abandons and helped increase conversion.

According to industry reports, the average abandoned cart rate for ecommerce sites ranges between 55% and 70%. Many of those visitors abandon at different places, with most coming during the checkout process itself. Recovering a portion of those abandoned carts can add sales to your bottom line that would have normally been lost.

There are all kinds of reasons why a user may abandon the shopping process including:

  • Poor site design
  • Lack of direction and communication
  • Confusion
  • Lack of proper customer assurances
  • Site credibility
  • Distraction
  • and more…

Recovering Carts: Finding The Right Mix

When crafting solutions that attempt to recover sales from abandoned carts, you should test various tactics to find the right mix that works for your site. What works for one market may not necessarily work for others. Generalities may be present that can be implemented across multiple markets, however, it will come down to how each demographic responds to your message that will ultimately determine which tactic or tactics work best for your store.

I found that through my testing, the best mix was to send an email within 2 – 4 hours after the cart was abandoned. I wanted to try to recover the sale while the initial transaction was still fresh in their mind

In the “From” section of the email I used the name of the website. In the subject line I used the following text: “Question about your recent shopping experience with us.” The body of the email included the items that were in their shopping cart when they abandoned, asked them to help by telling us why they abandoned the cart, and reminded them that since the cart was saved, they could quickly and easily complete their purchase by coming back to the site.

Ideas on Where to Start

Depending on the technology implemented, eCommerce store owners fall into one of two boats when it comes to cart recovery. Those that have the ability to track and contact visitors who have abandoned their cart, and those that don’t have the technology in place to do this.

Either way, here are a few thoughts on what you can do to generate more sales no matter what your technology allows.

  1. If your ecommerce technology has a cart recovery system in place (one that allows you to see those users and contact them) use it. Test various time frames and copy for sending email reminders. Try different subject lines, various offers and incentives for recovering and closing the sale. Equally important is to listen to those that respond to you with reasons why they did not complete the process. Use that information to make the needed adjustments on your site to avoid future abandons for that same reason.
  2. If you do not have a program in place that allows you to see and contact those users who have abandoned their carts, but you know they are abandoning, then start with your analytics. Find the main areas these users are leaving and address those pages first. Look for problems with design, wording, presence of customer assurances, etc…

    Where your site lacks them, add them. You may not be able to recover those carts who have abandoned already, but you may be able to reduce the number of future abandons by making the proper changes to avoid it before it happens.

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