If you are like most omnichannel retailers, most of your sales take place in your brick-and-mortar stores. The U.S. Census Bureau’s June 2016 Quarterly E-Commerce Report states ecommerce sales as a percent of total retail sales is 8.10%. You may have resigned yourself to the fact that ecommerce is only a small fraction of total sales, but there is no reason to be satisfied with merely average performance of your ecommerce channel.
About 70% of shoppers abandon their online shopping carts before completing purchases. This represents some good news: ecommerce channels are attracting shoppers. The bad news, however, is that they need to find better ways to convert shoppers into buyers.
One key to better-than-average ecommerce sales is engineering better online shopping experiences. Take a critical look at the following areas of your ecommerce site and evaluate whether the experience is enough to make a shopper browse and buy — or to click “log out” and look for another place to shop.
Shoppers should know they are doing business with the same retailer that they are familiar with from shopping at your physical stores. It would seem odd, for example, to visit an upscale retailer’s website to find it’s been cobbled together with a free theme and stock art. The qualities of your brand that make people want to shop at your brick-and-mortar stores should also be reflected in your ecommerce site — if customers like shopping there, they will be more likely to stay on the site longer and return to shop again.
Make sure online shoppers — even first-time visitors to your website — can easily find what they are looking for. Is the top or side navigation well-organized and easy to use? Can shoppers sort by price, brand, or other parameters? If they click on an item, can they easily go back to the previous page? According to a HubSpot study, 76% of consumers say the most important factor of a website’s design is the ability to help them find what they want.
You can also help people navigate your site with affinity suggestions, which show similar or complementary items (i.e., “people who viewed this item also viewed”) to help shoppers find what they’re looking for. And don’t forget a prominent “add to cart” or “buy now” button to help shoppers find their way to checkout. Site without intuitive navigation can be frustrating to shoppers, who may give up and look for an easier alternative.
A common theme among models of the buying process is, after consumers recognize a need, they then search for information. Shoppers rely on retailers to provide the information they need to make online purchasing decisions. In a physical store, shoppers can stretch out their arms to get a sense of whether a table will fit in a particular space or touch a wool coat to know if it is soft or scratchy. Online, shoppers rely on the content you provide to help them decide whether items are right for them.
You can make it convenient for shoppers to find information with image hotspots that provide product details or the option to zoom in for a more detailed view. You can also include brief user reviews and photos that go beyond product specs with details such as whether a garment sizes run small, how durable a hardware accessory is, or how long batteries actually last.
There is some debate over whether single-page or multiple-page checkout is the best strategy to reduce cart abandonment. Single page checkouts are quicker because pages don’t have to load between steps and there is no navigation to follow. It also shows the shopper’s progress through the checkout process, which can encourage them to complete it. Whether you choose a single-page or multiple-page checkout for your website, however, the primary factor in reducing abandonment at this stage is ease of use. Make sure the checkout process takes the customer through clear, logical steps. To make checkout more convenient, complete address fields and payment information automatically, when possible, for returning customers to help save time.
Another area to consider is how well your ecommerce channel is at giving customer a “second chance” to buy an item. Your ecommerce platform may enable you to extend “exit offers” that appear when a shopper leaves a product page but doesn’t buy. Your platform may also enable retargeting to send offers via email or text after a person visits your ecommerce site. Make sure these offers center on promotions and have clear calls to action — and you should ensure you use them strategically to avoid seeming intrusive or harassing.
It’s important to optimize your business’ ecommerce channel so the online shopping experiences it provides creates sales growth. Don’t tell yourself the statistics show ecommerce is just a small part of sales. Don’t settle for average performance.
Paula Da Silva is the senior vice president of sales for CitiXsys