It's easy to get upset when people visit your website, place products in their shopping cart but don't complete checkout. This is known as 'cart abandonment'. In this article, Chris Barling shares his top tips to help prevent shopping cart abandonment
People abandon shopping carts online for many reasons. Sometimes it's to compare prices, novice shoppers might find your site difficult to use, while a competitor might simply be checking you out. Some customers may search your site and then place their order by phone or buy from your shop - so abandoned shopping carts aren't necessarily negative. However, there are ways to reduce them.
The following tips are based on the proven premise that with every other site being just two clicks away, even a slight loss of confidence, irritating features or unexpected charges can lead to unnecessary abandonment.
1. Build trust and more trust
Some people are very nervous when shopping online, particularly when they don't recognise the brand. To counter this, provide your full contact details throughout your website. Promote confidence by responding to emails and answering the telephone quickly and professionally. Display logos of trade bodies of which you're a member, as well as photographs of your premises and staff.
2. Keep your site simple and user-friendly
Ease of use is the key requirement of all users of computer systems, so use common conventions such as "About us" and "Contact us" pages and don't try to be too clever. Keep your site navigation simple so that site visitors can always find what they are looking for.
Avoid distractions during the checkout process and don't force people to create accounts or log on (some won't want to). I always click away as soon as I'm confronted with this - I have enough passwords to remember.
3. Explain your terms and conditions clearly
It's particularly important to highlight your guarantee and returns policy. A rock solid guarantee goes a long way to persuading people to buy. You have to obey distance-selling regulations anyway, so make a big point of offering a no-quibble 14-day return policy - it costs nothing and encourages confidence.
4. Be clear about postage and packaging charges
Make customers aware of your postage and packing costs early in the transaction. This is not off-putting - in fact, to justify the postage charge, a customer may buy more than one product. There's nothing more undermining to trust than to find that costs have gone out of kilter at the last stage, when the delivery cost is finally revealed. This is a big cause of abandoned carts.
5. Explain your security, encryption and data protection policies
State clearly how customer data will be stored, secured and used. Use a Payment Service Provider (PSP). This provides a higher level of assurance and security, because all mainstream PSPs are now level 1 PCI DSS certified (ie the banking industry security standard). Use an SSL certificate on your site so when people start checking out, the 'padlock' appears.
6. Provide alternative payment and ordering methods
It's a good idea to provide alternative ways of ordering from your business, such as by phone. Few people will want to order this way - for the rest it just provides an aura of professionalism.
For online orders, obviously you should take card payments, but did you know adding PayPal can increase orders by up to 10 per cent?
7. Make your site fast
Use images effectively: not for the sake of it. Make sure they don't detract from the core proposition. Invest in good web hosting, too. Don't use over-complex technology that adds nothing but cost, and slows the site down unnecessarily. There's nothing more off-putting than a slow-loading site.
8. Manage customer expectations
You customers should be informed exactly what they can expect from delivery. Amazon tells you that a book "normally ships in 2-3 days", so you aren't too upset if it takes four days. If you offer "24 hour delivery", when does the 24 hours start? Also be clear about time cut-offs (eg "Orders received by 4pm normally ship the same day"). If possible, over-deliver.
9. Remember: customer service is key
Encourage repeat business by going out of your way to meet customer needs. A happy customer will tell their friends, but an unhappy one will tell everybody who'll listen (including moaning about you on social media). Repeat customers who have already experienced your service, or their friends who have come as a result of recommendation, are much less likely to abandon their carts.
10. Measure everything
Finally, try to measure everything using a package such as Google Analytics. If there's something wrong with your checkout process, this will help to pinpoint it and take corrective action. If you don't, you'll miss out on a lot of business.
Chris Barling is chairman of SellerDeck, a company he co-founded in 1996. An ecommerce expert, enthusiastic entrepreneur and business angel, Chris has a passion for helping small businesses take advantage of new technology. He has over 30 year' experience in the IT industry.