For all the progress online merchants have made in recent years winning new customers and growing revenue, one metric refuses to budge: cart abandonment.
According to industry researcher Forrester, in 2010 fully 88% of shoppers reported abandoning a shopping cart without completing the transaction — the same percentage as in 2005. And quarterly MarketLive Performance Index data for the past two years shows that progress on cart abandonment is mixed, with merchants seeing improvements of less than 5% year-over-year, depending on the quarter, and never dipping below 50%. In the first quarter, year-over-year abandonment has actually risen — suggesting that seasonal deal-hunting will make the next few months particularly challenging for merchants combating abandoned carts.
These shoppers are potentially low-hanging fruit: after all, they’ve already found their way to your site, and they’re interested enough in products to place them in the cart in the first place. In some cases, they’ve even started the checkout process before stalling out or leaving the site.
Merchants have been slow to pursue these almost-customers. Fewer than 20% of Internet Retailer’s Top 1,000 merchants pursue cart abandoners with email campaigns, email service provider Listrak found, while Forrester found that just 7% of merchants use remarketing, also known as retargeting — a genre of display advertsing that targets shoppers as they browse elsewhere with reminders about the products they viewed on your site.
But with the continued focus on effective use of tight marketing budgets, 2012 may be the year when abandoned carts get serious attention. And the good news is that merchants have a number of tools they can use to win back cart abandoners — not just email.
For starts, there’s plenty merchants can do while shoppers are still on-site to help them return to the path to purchase. Consider the following tactics:
Use dynamic messaging to promote free shipping qualification thresholds. Shipping costs remain the number one barrier to order completion, Forrester found, with 44% of consumers saying they abandoned their carts because shipping costs were too high and another 27% saying shipping costs were revealed too late in the checkout process.
Not only should shipping costs be accessible in the cart — and even on the product page — but merchants should take a further step and message shipping promotions prominently as shoppers add items. Amazon.com calculates how much more shoppers need to add to qualify for free shipping and messages the amount in the cart.
Even if you can’t dynamically promote the amount needed to qualify for free shipping, position shipping messages so shoppers can’t miss them, regardless of how they deviate from the path to purchase. Just a few places to flag shipping promotions
- On product pages
- In the drop-down display of the global shopping cart, as Macy’s does with its banner featuring a promotional code
- In global banners at the top of the center content area
- In the shopping cart
- At the beginning of checkout
Assuage privacy fears. Forrester found that 12% of shoppers abandoned carts because sites asked for too much information, while 14% balked at setting up an account with a password in order to be able to purchase. As discussed previously, we don’t recommend forced account creation in most cases; but merchants should go further to ensure shoppers don’t abandon purchases because of privacy concerns.
- Examine analytics for checkout pages to determine where shoppers drop out. Identify the roadblocks and then alter those checkout steps to improve the flow.
- Offer alternative payments. Services such as PayPal or Bill Me Later are widespread, with nearly 60% of merchants in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 offering at least one type of alternative payment. These services are not only quick, but enable shoppers to skip entering credit card information on individual merchant sites — thereby boosting confidence that their data will remain secure.
Trigger proactive live chat to re-engage stalled shoppers. Fully 57% of consumers said they’re likely to abandon their purchases if they don’t find quick answers to product questions, and 44% said the ability to get live help while browsing a site is crucial, according to Forrester. Merchants can address these needs at crucial points on the path to purchase using proactive chat sessions, where a chat window opens and invites potential customers to ask questions. Dell triggers a proactive chat window if shoppers perusing laptop options become inactive on a page during the configuration process.
The trick is to exercise discretion. Forrester found that despite the desire for instant answers and live help, 71% of consumers also said they prefer to initiate live chat help on their own. Start conservatively by triggering proactive chat if shoppers
- stall for a specified length of time on a product page or the shopping cart page
- begin checkout but then either stall or backtrack to another part of the site
- browse customer service pages for a specified length of time
For more chat best practices, see the post “Three Key Live Chat Strategies.”
Consider dynamic personalization to serve targeted offers. Services that empower merchants to target shoppers using past purchase history in combination with site behavior can be powerful allies in the fight against abandonment. Some services can even tailor site offers based on shoppers’ current browsing session — enabling merchants to target top loyal customers who hesitate during checkout with a free shipping offer in real time, or to offer a price guarantee to first-time buyers who’ve stalled on a particular product page.
In coming posts, we’ll examine strategies for combating cart abandonment once shoppers have left the site — but meantime, what tactics are you using to win cart abandoners?