Preventing Shopping Cart Abandonment

An “abandoned shopping cart” happens when an online shopper adds items to their cart, then decides to just close their browser or go somewhere else.  It happens to every site at some time or another for various reasons, most of which are preventable.  To help minimize abandonment, there are steps you can take to ensure that your shoppers will see your checkout procedure through to order fulfillment.

Think of your online checkout process like a traditional brick and mortar store.  In a physical store, shoppers browse the aisles to locate the products they want to purchase.  When they find one it is placed in their metal cart.  At this point there is no commitment to actually buy the items in their cart.  If they see something they don’t like, they can simply park the cart where it sits and walk out of the store.  Most brick and mortar stores have an advantage over e-commerce because the customer is physically in their building.  The shoppers had to walk or drive to the building, and most are already certain of the items they want to buy.  Online storefront shoppers don’t have to do anything except turn on their computers and type in your store’s website address or find your online shop on a search engine.  Abandoning an online cart is very easy to do so your storefront should take extra precautions to make the shopper feel comfortable and safe.

The first thing to do if you haven’t already is purchase an SSL certificate.  SSL, or Secure Socket Layering, is a protocol that web browsers use to give the assurance that the data being transmitted from the shopper’s computer is encrypted, making it illegible to anyone who might intercept it.  SSL is what gives websites the httpS:// instead of just http://.   SSL certificates are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased from vendors like GeoTrust, Verisign, Thawte or GoDaddy.  After installing an SSL certificate, most vendors provide a “site seal” which is usually a tag that can be inserted into your website to show that your store is secured.  If you have SSL installed but don’t have your seal displayed on every page, then go do that now!  It sends a clear message to your customers that you are aware of Internet security and have taken an extra step to protect their private information.

When you need help or have questions while shopping in a physical storefront, it is nice to be able to ask a smiling, friendly employee to guide you to what you are looking for.  People that shop online expect a level of customer support comparable to what they would receive in person.  If there is no way to contact a representative then how is the customer supposed to know that your store is still accepting orders?  There are many eCommerce web sites that were created and then forgotten.  At the very least your online presence should not feel like no one is home.  Post your 800 number prominently on every page of your site.  Have an “About Us” page that details your physical mailing address so the customer knows that they are dealing with a real business.  There are also online Help Desk packages available ranging in price from free to a few hundred dollars that gives the customer a direct line straight to you!  Using an online chat or help desk, if someone has a question they don’t have to even pick up the phone.  A small piece of software on your computer will tell you when someone needs to chat.  Having a real person available can make a huge difference if someone is on the fence about their purchase.

Keep your checkout process simple.  This point can’t be stressed enough!  Don’t make your customer fill out a form with so many fields that they feel like they are applying for a bank loan.  Filling out a long form online is comparable to waiting in a long line at a physical storefront’s checkout.  Get the information you need to fulfill the order and to contact them with confirmation information or if there is a problem.  A short checkout process gives the shopper less time to close the browser window.  Offer the customer a Guest checkout, or checkout with creating an account.  If your customer likes your store then they’ll create one, so don’t make it mandatory.

Showing your customers that you care about their privacy and security is key to stopping shopping cart abandonment.  A shopper must trust your online storefront.  There are services that can offer your customers some peace of mind when shopping online.  McAfee offers a badge that your store can display that shows you have someone on the outside verifying that your store is safe from hackers.  They do this by scanning your site every day for vulnerabilities, similar to how a virus scanner checks your local computer for problems.  The result of the scan is displayed on your website along with the last date of the scan.  It is updated daily which shows that your online shop is safe and secure.

Here are a few more credibility indicator tips that will give your shoppers more confidence while browsing:

Check your grammar and spelling!  A poorly worded sales pitch or a simple spelling mistake can give the impression that you don’t care about what you are trying to get the customer to buy.

“If I have a problem, can I return the item?”  This question should be answered as soon as someone visits your store.  A clearly labeled Return Policy link with clear and concise information will help put the shopper’s mind at ease.

Be sure to have a product review section on each product page.  Don’t make the mistake of faking reviews.  It might look good to see positive reviews but your customers are no dummies!  Authentic positive reviews from real customers will go a long way to building trust in your store.  Offer some kind of incentive to get customers to post reviews on products they have purchased.  A follow up a few days later is a great way to build trust and open a line of communication.

Keep your website simple.  Don’t complicate your site with loads of graphics and animations to get people’s attention.  Remember that the shopper is already on your website so you don’t need anything else to bring them in.  Instead, make their shopping experience enjoyable by providing a straightforward and easy to navigate website.

Comparing some aspects of physical storefront shopping to online shopping can give a different perspective on what the shopper expects from their online shopping experience.  There’s no way to stop all instances of shopping cart abandonment, but it can be reduced by following the advice that we have provided.  If you haven’t at least added everything in this article to your eCommerce website then go do it as soon as possible.  You may be missing out on sales over a simple mistake that your competitor didn’t make!