11 Tactics to Improve Checkout Conversions and Reduce Abandoned Carts

11 Tactics to Improve Checkout Conversions and Reduce Abandoned Carts
What’s worse than not getting enough users to your e-commerce site? Losing out the ones that do visit your site thanks to a slew of abandoned shopping carts.

Abandoned shopping carts cost e-commerce companies trillions in lost sales every single year. The fact remains that nearly 69% of all shopping carts are abandoned by would be shoppers. While the reasons for shopping cart abandonment are many and varied, the solution is simple. Think like a customer when building your checkout process. The lower the easier it is to shop on your site, the lower will be the likelihood of vanishing would-be customers. Here are a few tips on getting those users to stick around longer and buy more.

1. Shorter, Quicker Checkout

Going by the attention span figures we saw earlier, another key takeaway is that your checkout process needs to be short and snappy. Research shows that the average number of steps in the checkout process of the top 100 e-commerce sites came in at 5.08 steps. Try and stay under that number – the shorter, the better.

Data proves this. Online travel giant Expedia grew their profits by an incremental $12 million in 2011 by simply deleting one single field in their checkout process. Sounds tempting now, doesn’t it?

2. Allow Guest Checkouts

Among the many reasons that make me such an Amazon junkie, is how much I hate creating a new profile on new e-commerce sites and remember the new username and password for each new site. It’s just easier to stick with the first profile I ever made – my Amazon one. I’m confident there are definitely tons of people like me out there who do not bother shopping on new e-commerce sites for identical reasons.

Don’t let your shoppers’ inherent laziness prevent you from bagging more conversions. Allow users to check out as guests on your site and save them the torture of compulsory registration. You can always email your users an auto-generated password to go with their email ID after they complete the transaction, if you must have a registered account for every user.

3. Collect Only Necessary Data Via Forms

Collect Only Necessary Data Via FormsSome businesses need more user data than others as a matter of fact. Buying an insurance policy online will obviously entail giving a lot more information regarding your health as compared to buying a digital camera. However, many e-commerce businesses do not realize how cumbersome it is for users to provide answers to endless questions on their forms and go ahead with monster sized online forms anyway.

Avoid this fundamental mistake. Ask only for information that is absolutely essential for you to process the transaction. Asking users to part with unnecessary data only makes them part with your site at double speed.

4. Autofill in Forms

Steve Krug’s iconic tome on usability ‘Don’t Make Me Think’, talks about reducing the effort a user needs to put in to complete any task on your website. The lesser the effort needed, the higher are the resulting conversion rates.

Apply Mr. Krug’s advice to your checkout forms. Autofill content wherever possible to make the process quicker and smoother for the user. If the user is signed in, autofill his name, address, phone number, even credit card details if you have them on record. That is not to say that you do not allow users to modify these details for each transaction if they choose so.

5. Checkout Completion Bar

Have you noticed that it is easier to complete tasks when you have the end in sight than those where you have no clue how much more time or effort you’ll need to put in? Yes, the anticipation of a result makes us move quicker and distances seem shorter.

Incorporate a task completion bar near the top of your checkout process indicating the user’s progress. As the user gets closer to completing the purchase, the progress bar lights up accordingly showing the user that the destination is just a step or two away.

6. No Hidden Costs

The single biggest reason why online shoppers abandon their shopping carts is when they are faced with sudden unexpected costs at the payment stage. This could be shipping fees, taxes, services charges or the like that make a user stop short in their tracks.

Avoid unpleasant surprises by displaying clearly all the involved costs upfront within the shopping cart at the very beginning. Leaving a user feeling cheated is the worst thing you can do for your brand.

7. Product Reviews and Ratings

Research by Nielsen has shown that word of mouth advice stands out as the biggest factor that convinces a user to buy a product or service. Buyers tend to believe the words of other buyers like themselves instead of believing the marketing spiel from the brand itself, as they see through the vested interests involved there. Factor in this insight when you design your product pages on your e-commerce site.

Users don’t have the luxury of touch and feel when they buy a product online. All they have to go on are product descriptions from the manufacturer (which they would normally discount) and reviews by other users. A product that has multiple reviews from existing users has a far higher chance of being bought than one that has none. Actively solicit product reviews and ratings from past customers. They will help you reel in new ones in the future.

8. Free Shipping

Free Shipping
E-commerce has a huge edge over brick and mortar stores in that they save on rent, utilities, overheads, warehousing and more, thanks to the absence of a real storefront. Conversely, the absence of a storefront means, users have no choice but to pay extra for shipping the products they buy online to their doorsteps. As a shopper yourself, you obviously know how much any shopper hates paying extra for anything in their purchase process. In fact, expensive shipping is among the biggest reasons for shoppers abandoning their carts before completing a purchase.

Get over this bump by offering your users free shipping wherever you can. Amazon has recently started offering free shipping for small, lightweight items with no minimum purchase requirement. This is a smart step to fend off competition from the online versions of Walmart and Target, which allow users to pick up items bought online from their physical locations for no fee at all. You may not be Amazon, but working out at least a free shipping option above a certain minimum purchase amount will not only benefit users; it will also push your average order value higher as users try and qualify for the free shipping offer.

9. Editable Shopping Cart

How many times have you gone back to the rack where you picked up an item in a store and exchanged it for another one before heading to the cash register? If you’re an indecisive shopper like me, multiple times would be my bet.

Not every shopper knows exactly what they want. Sometimes they’re just browsing and might change their minds halfway through the shopping process. Recognize this fickle nature of the average shopper and allow them to go back and edit the contents of their cart without having to redo the entire purchase from the beginning. A shopping cart that allows edits till right before the payments stage is one that loses much fewer shoppers than one that does not. Opt for the sticky version for your online shopping cart.

10. Multiple Payment Options

Multiple Payment Options
Imagine going into a candy store, picking out your favorite bits of candy, handing over your cash to the nice lady at the register, only to be told that your cash is no good. You need to pay for your candy in cowrie shells.

That’s kind of what happens to a shopper when your online store does not support the payment option that your user would like to use. In spite of wanting to complete the purchase, the user has no choice but to leave their shopping incomplete thanks to restrictive payment conditions. Stop frustrating potential shoppers and extend your payment options to include the most popular payment methods. Not only will your customers thank you for it, your bottom line will too. A shopping cart like ShopIntegrator allows you to offer users a variety of payment options ranging from debit card, credit card, bank transfers to PayPal and offline payments.

11. Security Labels

It is not enough to merely accept a variety of payment options on your website to convince users to buy from you. It’s equally important to assure them of the security of your site and the fact that their payment details and personal information are a 100% safe with you. This has become even more critical in the last few years thanks to all the cases of data theft that have come to light with large retailers like Target and eBay.

Besides displaying your returns and refund policy prominently in your checkout process, also make it a point to display security labels like VeriSign or McAfee Secure on your payments page. Familiar and trusted security symbols reassure users that they are shopping on a safe site and there’s no danger to their financial information. Making sure that your checkout process is hosted on an HTTPS protocol is another important step in this direction.

Conclusion

Improving checkout conversions is not a quick fix that you implement in one go. It’s a process that evolves with your website and changes based on your audience’s preferences. From helping users with live chat to displaying customer care numbers prominently, to even rewarding users for a completed purchase, there are multiple steps that you can take based on your reading of your users’ behavior on your site.

Remember, reducing cart abandonment is no one-size-fits-all formula. Once you get the basics described here in place on your site, incremental growth comes from understanding your users and modifying your approach accordingly.

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5 Tactics to Improve Checkout Conversions and Reduce Abandoned Carts

Imagine an athlete who trains round the clock every single day for four years and then right on the first day of the Olympics breaks her leg and is forced to sit out the greatest sporting competition on earth. Now multiply that by three and you realize how it feels when a user who has been identified, prepped and coaxed into visiting your site arrives on your site, browses for a few minutes and simply clicks away.

I know I’m being a tad dramatic. But it’s only a tad. Every e-commerce business spends nearly all their marketing budgets and resources on getting more users and getting them to buy more. An incomplete checkout or an abandoned cart is not too far from that athlete’s Olympic leg fracture. And the bad news is that trillions of dollars’ worth of goods just get left behind in ignored shopping carts – the ghosts of lost e-commerce potential.

The biggest fix for this chronic pain point is checkout optimization. Yes, we have talked about checkout optimization before. But the more time I spend online on different e-commerce sites; the more compelled I become to do something about the terrible, terrible checkout designs so many online retailers resort to.

Somebody has to stop them. I nominate me. So here goes.

1. KISS

Keep it simple, silly.

That’s the first and foremost rule of checkout design. The more bells and whistles you tag on to a checkout process, the more distracted your user gets and higher are your chances of a drop off midway through your checkout.

KISS

According to the data above from Smashing Magazine, the usability of a checkout process drops sharply with every increasing step that you tack on to it. Beyond eight steps, the user friendliness actually declines making these ripe candidates for abandoned shopping carts.

A good option to reduce drop offs is to create a one-page checkout process as against the standard multi-page processes. This one page checkout will ideally combine all the various stages of an e-commerce checkout like picking the items and their quantities, personal information, payment and shipping information etc.

One-page Checkout Process

Panic makes users complete their transactions in a single flourish by combining the three key sections of a checkout process into one seamless page.

2. Users are Impatient, Easily Distracted. Tackle these Hurdles.

Anyone who has shopped online will testify to how tempting it is to peek at a bunch of different sites at the same time. I won’t hold this against users, as it is in the very nature of the internet to keep things free and transparent. So how do you ensure that the fickleness that comes with the territory does not translate into dismal checkout conversions for your e-commerce site?

Well, play into the foibles of your audience and feed their impatience. A progress bar located at the top of your checkout process tells your shoppers exactly how many steps they can expect ahead and how close they are to completing the transaction.

Crate and Barrel Checkout Process

Crate and Barrel has a clear numbered progress bar that staves off impatience in shoppers

The more clarity you offer your shopper, the lower are his chances of quitting and moving on from your site.

Another key feature of a checkout process that holds on to users like a magnet is a self-contained checkout design. With a checkout process that is clearly cordoned off from the rest of the site, the users have minimal distractions to pull them away from completing the transaction.

Self-contained Checkout

With an enclosed and minimal checkout process like the one above from Under Armor, the user has no other temptations to tear them away.

An oft-irritating hurdle that too many e-commerce sites build into their checkout process is the need to compulsorily register with the site in order to make a purchase. This is a little like saying you need to first plant a few bushes before you can stroll through a garden. While getting users to register with your site does have its merits from a long term relationship building perspective, enforcing it at the time of purchase is a risk you ought not to take. Leave absurd ideas like these behind with the option of a guest checkout like the one from Crate & Barrel below.

Crate & Barrel Guest Checkout

This checkout model meets a happy compromise of guest checkout and user registration by offering the user both options side by side. No prizes for guessing which the more frictionless choice is.

3. Money Matters. Flexibility Matters Even More With Money

How people spend on your site as well as how much they spend on it both have a lot to do with your attitude towards pricing and payment mechanisms.

A large majority of e-commerce sites show only the listed price of the item that a customer selects in the checkout section. It’s only when the user reaches the final payments section of the checkout process that a load of ancillary fees get tagged on to the original list price of the item. These ancillary prices include service charge, service tax, VAT, shipping charges and so on. The result? The final price the user ends up paying becomes almost 25-30% higher than what he originally saw. That’s an immediate trust breaker, right there.

Invest in transparency in your pricing across the site. As far as possible, show all inclusive pricing up front to avoid giving the user a nasty shock at the time of payment.

Men’s formal wear retailer Haggar Clothing does a great job of showing a clear break up of each and every cost associated with the purchase even before the checkout process starts.

Haggar Shopping Cart

Once inside the checkout section, the pricing does not vanish. It remains clearly visible with the amounts getting updated automatically to match any change in the cart items.

Haggar Check Out

The information that Haggar provides regarding shipping costs, is a smart touch. It is estimated that close to 30% of users will simply drop off the checkout process when faced with unexpected shipping costs. Good save there, Haggar!

Reasons for Card Abandonment

Take a look at some more ways to minimize drop-offs due to shipping concerns, while we’re on the subject.

Identifying the geographical location of a user is easier than pie these days. And yet, there are thousands of e-commerce sites out there that will only show prices in their home currency, irrespective of where a user logs in from.

Avoid this fundamental tactical error by offering prices in the local currency of your user. Most well-designed shopping carts, including ShopIntegrator can detect the user’s IP address and serve up prices as well as site content based on the user’s location. If your site is unable to automatically identify the country where the user logs in from, at least ask the user to choose their location from a drop down list of countries and set your site currency accordingly. Not only does this make for a frictionless user experience, with exchange rate calculations out of the picture, your users now have a higher chance of converting.

Payment flexibility is the final cog in the wheel of your monetary transactions with your users. The more payment options you allow your users, the easier it becomes for them to buy from you. Go beyond the regular debit and credit cards to offer users the chance of paying through unconventional methods like mobile wallets, PayPal or even Bitcoin; which safeguard the security of the user’s payment details much better than other methods.

4. Never Say ‘No Looking Back’

If there’s one advantage that the virtual world has over the real world, it is the ease with which one can ‘undo’ our actions compared to the real world. Imagine sending out a press release to your PR agency with the name of your product spelt wrongly. An email send-out can be rectified within minutes by correcting the name and emailing the respective people right away. On the other hand a press release that has been hand delivered or sent out via snail mail will take a minimum of 24 hours before any corrections can be made.

Allow your users this same luxury by allowing them to edit their cart at any time during the checkout process. The ability to modify quantities, colors or sizes at will without losing the data entered so far, makes the likelihood of the user getting frustrated and leaving your page extremely low.

Amazon Edit Cart

If editing shopping carts is good enough for Amazon, it’s definitely something you ought to consider!

A corollary to the ability to edit carts, it the ability to retrieve an abandoned shopping cart within a certain number of days. This feature is called a persistent shopping cart, where an e-commerce site saves users’ session details and cart contents for a pre-decided period of one week or one month. This saved data allows users who dropped off on an earlier transaction to pick up right where they left off, thus avoiding a complete loss of your marketing efforts.

While a persistent shopping cart may not be a contributing factor to conversions during a user’s first visit to your site, it definitely aids conversions on their subsequent visits to the site.

Sometimes even the savviest online shoppers get bamboozled about specific items that they have their eye on online. While some people have no worries simply dropping an email or calling the customer care department to clarify any shopping related query, users who are first-timers or are flight risks in general are relieved to have someone they can speak to immediately and fix the problems right away.

For such cases and more, offer your users checkout assistance in the form of a Live Chat plugin. Customer care representatives can walk through the entire process step by step, thus helping the cause of the website owner spectacularly well.

Users who leave your site due to a payment failure or some other frustrating quirk can also be recovered by an instant call back mechanism to the user in question. Remembering the users’ login credentials for their next visit makes the process even smoother and helps grow the conversions even on subsequent visits.

5. Abandoned Cart Emails

Despite the best efforts by my team and me, not a single day goes by when we don’t join the ranks of the rest of the e-commerce world and suffer from abandoned shopping carts. But unlike a large portion of the e-commerce sites in the country, we don’t take the abandonment lying down. We give chase and pursue the user like a spurned lover in an attempt to remind them of our services and the items they left beyond in their cart.

An abandoned cart email does not have to be very fancy. Even a simple standard template with placeholders for the items still inside the user’s abandoned cart will work wonders. Just remember to include the following key pointers in every abandoned cart email

  • A personalized greeting such as, “Hi Jack!”
  • A snapshot of the items in the original shopping cart
  • Pricing details
  • A sense of urgency by reminding users that the abandoned cart will remain active only for a pre-decided duration
  • A Clear Call to Action

Abandoned Cart Emails

What Do You Think?

I realize that I have rambled on about my own checkout conversion optimization methods. Are there any different methods that you employ to prevent users from moving on to your competition? Let’s hear it from you in the comments below right here!

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