Summer Preparations: Reducing Shopping Cart Abandonment this Holiday Season
Yes, I know: it’s only July and we’re talking about Christmas. While most consumers are lounging on the beach, and not at all thinking about the shopping for the 2012 Holidays, it’s actually the perfect time for e-tailers to get prepared.
Unfortunately, holiday shopping seems to be a less-than-enjoyable experience for the average consumer. After all, it’s known for long lines, out-of-stock products, shipping deadlines, crowds, the stress of selecting the “perfect gift”… you name it. But for e-tailers, this is good news. The e-commerce industry has seen a massive shift in holiday shopping, and revenue: according to comScore, consumers spent approximately US $37 billion on holiday shopping in 2011 — up about 15 percent since 2010. Whoa.
Consumers are doing their part to avoid long lines and grumpy cashiers by heading to their beloved dot coms. But, if they continue to experience headaches with you online, you’re likely to be put on a permanent “Naughty List.” That being said, it’s no secret that shopping cart abandonment is ubiquitous among e-commerce sites: buyers get easily distracted and confused by extraneous information, put off by complicated registration forms and processes, or surprised by unexpected price changes or out-of-stock messages during the checkout process. This could be even more detrimental during the holiday season when budgets are tight and time is precious.
According to Forrester Research, the top reasons shoppers abandon their carts are:
1. Shipping and handling costs are too high and/or were listed too late in the checkout process
2. They’re simply not ready to buy
3. They encounter unexpected product price increases
4. They’re saving items to buy later
5. They leave to conduct price comparisons.
Because these issues are so prevalent, there are a number of known fixes. Start by using multivariate testing to identify which combination of shopping cart elements are helping you and which are hurting your conversion rates.
How do things like the existence of hidden shipping costs, lack of early shipping cost estimates, out of stock items and lengthy registration forms affect overall conversions? Would reduced or free shipping increase the number of conversions? Are you telling visitors upfront when items are out of stock, or are you waiting to spring that on them when they go to checkout? Are they forced to leave the shopping cart to read your return policy when it strikes them that, “I’m not sure whether Aunt Susie is a size 4 or a 6 — I wonder if she’ll be able to return this?” The list of variables that create a good (or bad) checkout experience goes on and on.
Based on the data gathered in testing, you can optimize your checkout process to reflect the most popular combination of variables. For example, if testing reveals that last-minute or lengthy registration forms are a primary issue, you may decided to replace those with auto-filled forms for return visitors; let new users login with their social media accounts instead of filling out a new form, or simply provide guest checkouts.
You can prod hesitant consumers toward commitment by adding a progress indicator to show them exactly where they are in the checkout process, and introducing eye-catching, focused call-to-action graphics — including a “save for later” button — in order to salvage a sale.
With greater demand for online holiday shopping, comes greater opportunity. Putting customers at the heart of any online content and user experience decisions with Customer Experience Optimization (CXO) is crucial for not only succeeding during the crazy holiday shopping sprees, but also to sustain lasting relationships all year long. Arming your website with multivariate testing and real-time personalization, will help you provide your customers a quick, streamlined, stress-free and even helpful, online shopping experience. You’ll also be proactively gaining valuable insights into their behaviors for future marketing. The result for you is improved conversion rates, an increase in average shopping cart purchases and overall consumer loyalty. You simply cannot afford not to be a part of that $40-some-odd billion consumers are spending in just a few short months.