Discover 7 Proven Shopping Cart Enhancements to Increase Your Sales

For online businesses with their main goal of selling products, shopping cart abandonment can mean the difference between profitability and loss. But since recent surveys suggest that less than 50% of retailers know their shopping cart abandonment rate, let's review what it is and why it is important to know.

What is "shopping cart abandonment"?

Basically, shopping cart abandonment is when a visitor initiates your checkout process but leaves before completing their purchase.

Why is it important to know?

Industry publications report a 70% average shopping cart abandonment rate for the majority of retailers. Since, on average, websites convert visitors-to-sales at a rate of 1% to 2% then 98% to 99% of the visitors to your website leave without purchasing!

These percentages identify an enormous improvement opportunity for online businesses.

A Traditional Retail Example of Shopping Cart Abandonment.

Let me illustrate shopping cart abandonment using a traditional department store.

Imagine walking into your local department store to pick up a gift for a friend's wedding.

You find the three items you want but together the price exceeds your budget so you drop one of them and head with just two to the checkout counter.

When you get close to the checkout counter, you grow frustrated with the long lines ahead. After a ten minute wait in line, the cashier asks you to complete a membership form before they will compete your purchase.

The membership form requires your driver's license information so you pull out your wallet while people behind you start huffing impatiently.

As you register, you mind lingers about whether two items is just too much for your friend's wedding gift. "I mean they only gave us one item for our wedding" you think. So you ask the cashier to remove one of the items.

While ringing up your one item, the credit card reader fails. After the fourth swap by the cashier, you panic wandering if your card has just been charged four times.

At this point you give up and leave the store empty handed. While storming out you wander if the department store up the street will make your purchase any easier.

Know These Top Reasons for Shopping Cart Abandonment

This example is filled with some of the top reasons why visitors to your website may abandon their shopping carts. A recent study by Vividence Corporation, a Customer Experience Management company, reported the most significant reasons for Internet shopping cart abandonment are:

? High shipping prices or long delivery times

? Comparison shopping and browsing

? Changed Mind

? Total cost of items is too high

? Checkout process is too long

? Checkout requires too much personal information

? Site requires registration before purchase

? Site is unstable or unreliable

? Checkout process is confusing

Seven Shopping Cart Abandonment Solutions for Your Online Business

Although some of these reasons may be outside your control such as a visitor changing their minds, the majority is manageable and can be reduced by incorporating seven improvements into your current shopping cart process.

1. Remove Member Registration until AFTER the sale is completed.

Many checkout processes require a visitor to register as a new member before they begin the actual checkout process. A principle of selling is to never stall a visitor from buying once they make the decision to do so. Instead support their decision by clearly and conveniently leading them through your checkout process.

After the sale is complete then offer your customer the opportunity to register. Since you have their personal information from the purchase, you can pre-fill the information (or request less of it). This enhancement removes the visitor's buying barriers and enables them to perceive the registration as a value-added customer benefit.

2. Show shipping costs and other costs (i.e. applicable taxes)

Show the visitor all costs associated with their product purchase either in the first step of the checkout process or even in the product description. If you offer multiple shipping methods then default the shipping cost to the most popular one. If you apply taxes for certain States then communicate this early in the checkout process. Sometimes, retailers it is relevant for their market to ask a visitor for their zip code which can be used for calculating tax.

3. Build Confidence and Trust Throughout the Checkout Process

Place your guarantee, return, privacy, delivery, customer service and security policies in visible and relevant areas throughout the entire checkout process. Adding the policies at the very bottom of the web page is not effective since you are causing your visitor to search for it. Add the individual policies next to the information field or line item where it is most relevant to the visitor.

For example, add the privacy policy next to the email address field in the checkout process and add the delivery and return policy next to the shipping cost line item. In addition, add your security policy next to the "checkout" button.

Also, add your physical address and other contact information at the bottom of every web page. Usability studies suggest adding an "About Us" and "Contact Us" links to your navigational structure to build confidence and trust as well.

4. Add a progress indicator on each checkout page

Is it important to let visitors know how many steps are in your checkout process and to show progress as thy work through it. A progress indicator is commonly located at the top of the checkout pages and is clearly numbered with the current step highlighted.

Make sure that you provide visitors the opportunity to review what they did in previous steps without erasing the information they had already entered.

If a visitor enters information incorrectly or forgets a required field, have your checkout process remember their correct information and identify the missing information clearly. Do not make people repeat an entire step because of a missing field.

Surprisingly, the number of steps in your checkout process may not have a significant effect on your visitors' commitment to purchase. Although for many businesses, a two to three step checkout process is ideal.

5. Provide purchase options

Offer your visitors the opportunity to call a 1-800 number for customer support or online chat like LivePersonTM (www.liveperson.com) during your checkout process.

Visitors may be uncomfortable with completing a purchase online or become confused during checkout so clearly present your 1-800 number and/or online chat support link on every page within your checkout process.

6. Clearly identify what your visitor should click nest to complete the step

Clearly indicate the "continue checkout" button. Make it obvious where the visitor should click to move forward in the checkout process and keep it consistent for every step.

7. Use a readable and clear font size and color

The font size and color of your copy may influence your visitor's desire to complete their purchase. If your font size is too small or the color is too difficult to read forcing a visitor to strain then the potential for abandonment will increase. This is especially serious for online businesses marketing to older populations.

Get to know your shopping cart abandonment rate and start implementing the above improvements. Most importantly, test different strategies and track which ones produce the greatest increases to your sales conversion rate.

Kevin Gold is a Partner and Co-founder of Enhanced Concepts, Inc., which specializes in turning website visitors into leads or sales through tested website conversion strategies and performance-focused search engine marketing. To learn how to generate greater performance from your search engine marketing and to turn more website visitors into leads and sales go to http://www.enhancedconcepts.com

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