4 Ways to Keep Customers’ Shopping Carts Full through Checkout

May 14, 2014 7:34 AM  By

As a customer, you can probably think of a slew of reasons to back out of an online purchase: maybe shipping costs were higher than you thought, the checkout process was confusing, or you got distracted and never finished the transaction. Those are all valid reasons from the consumer perspective – so a good ecommerce manager should never let them happen in the first place.

Shopping cart abandonment is one of the most frustrating things that can happen to an ecommerce company. To be so close to a sale only to lose it at the last minute is incredibly irritating – and incredibly common.

Research from the Baymard Institute found that average shopping cart abandonment levels from 2006 to 2013 were as high as 67.4 percent, which means ecommerce companies are losing out on more than two thirds of their potential sales. That’s staggering. However, fear not; with a few strategic changes, brands can drive that number down and conversion rates up.

Method 1: Streamline the checkout process
The more pages and steps your checkout process includes, the more opportunities you’re giving customers to get confused, annoyed or bored enough to give up on the purchase. To make your checkout process as efficient as possible, make sure you:

  • Keep checkout pages to a minimum to avoid overwhelming customers;
  • Explain all steps clearly with descriptions of form field labels, and keep all error messages or pop-ups clear and easy to understand;
  • Don’t require registration to make a purchase, since research from GetElastic shows that 23 percent of customers did not complete the last sale that forced them to make an account;
  • Design the credit card information entry form to look clean and legitimate, including trustmarks and features that mirror credit card detail forms to boost credibility; and
  • Add customer-friendly features, such as back buttons, early notification about shipping costs and item availability, and photos of each basket item.

Method 2: Optimize your site for all devices and browsers
It’s great if your site looks good on a laptop using Firefox, but if it doesn’t look equally good to a customer using Safari on her smartphone, you’ll probably lose a sale. With customers using different browsers and mobile devices accounting for an ever-growing number of online sales, it’s crucial to adapt your site to any and every shopper. Avoid browser-specific details when designing your site, and use tools like responsive design to make sure it automatically resizes and reformats to any screen.

Method 3: Embrace the power of social media
Social media is useful not only for things like word-of-mouth marketing and interacting with customers, but for directly driving sales. Stores with social media apps can guide customers to their products via those channels, and social media also offers a huge opportunity for direct product promotion. For example, posting discount codes or special sales on Twitter or Facebook can encourage customers to buy. Or, you can get more creative by encouraging customers to post about your products on their personal pages.

Method 4: Encourage customer feedback
The link between customer reviews and higher conversion rates may be stronger than you think. The numbers don’t lie: Adding feedback widgets at pivotal parts of the transaction – like the checkout page – can actually increase sales by as much as 58 percent. Since customers are more likely to purchase when they feel confident in the brand and the product, reviews can help prevent shopping cart abandonment by allowing them to research what they are about to buy and put any last-minute doubts to rest. Plus, responding to negative or lukewarm reviews allows brands to show they are attentive and customer-focused, which in turn boosts customer loyalty and satisfaction.

In some cases, shopping cart abandonment is unavoidable; there’s very little a brand can do to prevent last-minute changes of heart or thinking better of an impulse buy. But with a few improvements, ecommerce managers can circumvent some of the biggest customer complaints that lead to shopping cart abandonment – resulting in happier customers and higher sales figures.

Jan Vels Jensen is the chief marketing officer of Trustpilot, an online reviews community and technology platform. Follow him on Twitter @janvjensen.