Your shopping cart is at the heart of your ecommerce marketing initiative. It has to be reliable, easy to use and incredibly user friendly. Most of the best shopping carts on the market today can handle basic order processing and customization options with little programming or technical experience necessary.
The problem for most ecommerce websites isn’t what shopping cart they’re using—it’s getting customers to be comfortable, confident and trusting enough to click those Checkout and Process Order buttons.
The Real Truth behind Shopping Cart Abandonment
According to eConsultancy, 67% of shopping carts are abandoned before a transaction is completed. That’s more than two-thirds of your potential orders lost, customers concerned and profits gone—and it’s a staggering number.
Fortunately, these same customers certainly aren’t shy about letting the company know why they decided not to buy:
Over half of respondents indicated that they were “just looking”, saving items for later, or
abandoned the cart because the cost of shipping was too high
As you can see, shipping is a major concern—and one of the most preventable reasons for customers leaving their digital carts without buying.
But Shipping Is Out of My Control! What Can I Do About It?
While your shipping does depend on a third party, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a role in communicating efficiency to the customer. Many of the best shopping carts include APIs for third-party integrations like shipping services. APIs are like specific programming instructions that teach your website how to interact with the shipping provider.
If you can provide an estimated shipping date (or better yet, order tracking), do so—as nearly 1 in 4 customers will stop the checkout process if there’s no estimated shipping date. If an order takes more than a week to arrive at your customer’s door, you can also bet they’ll be putting the brakes on their payment.
Letting customers track their order will give them peace of mind that their product is indeed on its way—and quick shipping makes for happy customers.
What about Customers Who Aren’t Ready to Buy Yet?
A lot of online shoppers will be the first to admit that they’re just window shopping—a report by Forrester showed that only 3% of shoppers make a purchase during their first visit to a site. Of the other 97%, 71% will add an item to their cart then leave before buying.
“Not Ready to Buy” falls under many categories (Image Source: AdRoll)
The “Not ready to buy” part is one area where you do have considerable control. The response of “not ready” can mean any number of things, so when this is the case, it’s worth having a retargeting campaign in place so that you can remind those customers of the pages/products they looked at—even when they’re on other sites.
What’s a Retargeting Campaign?
Retargeting is at work any time you’re browsing another site, and you see products or ads for sites you’ve previously visited, attempting to lure you back into completing your purchase. It’s incredibly common on news sites and social sites like Facebook.
Retargeting itself involves creating ads (either generic or product/campaign-based) that are enticing enough to encourage customers to circle back to your site and complete their purchase. Fortunately, there are many retargeting sites and services to help guide you through the process:
Perhaps the most well-known retargeting solution providers, AdRoll serves businesses large and small. Well-known clients include Nutrisystem, Nestle, Overstock.com, Levis and Salesforce.com to name a few.
AdRoll reaches customers on properties including those owned by Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft, Google and AOL. A free 2-week trial is available. Pricing varies depending on the number of ad impressions you wish to buy.
AdRoll is one of the largest retargeting providers on the web
Retargeter is another highly popular choice for re-marketing to customers. Their pricing is also based on impressions and is separated into site-based retargeting and audience-based retargeting.
One of the more interesting features that Retargeter offers is the ability to target customers based on the action they took—whether it was as simple as searching for keywords related to your business, opening an email from you, or sending you a message through social media (among other things).
Retargeter offers several re-marketing solutions for agencies and marketers alike
Pricing starts at $1,500/month, and certain products have specific requirements needed to help you optimize your ad budget for the best possible return on investment.
Chango refers to their ad platform as “programmatic,” meaning they can deliver real-time results in fractions of a second to help match audiences with tailored ads. Their retargeting services span a variety of media formats, including display ads, video, Twitter and Facebook.
If you’re thinking of launching a multi-pronged approach to retargeting through social, mobile, video and regular display, you may want to look into their offer a little more closely.
When you think of banner advertising, you don’t often think of a high conversion rate, right? Well that changes with Dispop.
With both targeting and retargeting options, DisPop designs compelling banner ads for display on the web and Facebook. A clean, crisp analytics dashboard lets you view your results by number of impressions, clicks, cost, CTR or conversion rate, so you can immediately tell how your ads are performing and who they’re resonating with.
What about All the Other Cart Abandonment Reasons?
Once you’ve dealt with window shoppers and buyers with shipping concerns, you’re left with two groups of people:
- A group that’s interested in comparison shopping and seeing if they can get a lower price elsewhere
- A group that adds items to their cart to save them for later.
Comparison shoppers are all about getting the best—whether it’s selection, price or service. Even if you shout from the rooftops that you have a “low-price guarantee”—that phrase is used so much, it has almost become clichéd to shoppers’ ears.
If you truly do have the lowest price around, you can make this abundantly clear on your product page simply by showing all your competitors’ prices in comparison to yours. The benefit of this is two-fold: it stops users from going to those “other sites” to comparison shop, and it proves that you indeed have the best price.
If you don’t have the lowest price—you have to communicate another clear value to the customer in order to convince them that your site is the best possible option. This perceived value could be faster shipping (or better yet, free shipping!), better customer service, a larger selection of items, product maintenance/update reminders, you name it.
Whatever your chosen value is, make sure you communicate it across all of your channels, so customers won’t be shopping based solely on price!
Add to Wish List
Customers who add an item to their cart in order to “save” it for later purchase do this because they believe it will still remain in their cart. Unfortunately, many items expire from the cart after a set period of time. The best shopping carts include a wish list functionality to let customers add the item and keep it there for future purchasing until it’s out of stock or discontinued.
A wish list is also an ideal way to encourage people to revisit your site after their cart has been abandoned. As part of a retargeting campaign, you could remind them of the items they’ve left in their cart and suggest that they add them to the wish list instead. Make sure to let them know that items in the cart expire after a time and that moving it to the wish list will ensure they get the deal they really wanted!
Another crucial point to keep in mind when optimizing your shopping cart and ecommerce site overall is that sometimes even the best split testing ideas can cause conversion rates to crash.
Trying to Be Helpful Can Backfire!
When you think about online shopping, one of the most seemingly helpful features of the cart is the ability to filter items. Being able to sort by things like color, price, brand and style makes searching and finding the right product easy and hassle-free.
But in one case study, including a product filter actually hurt more than it helped!
For UK Tool Centre, adding a product filter for wood stain theoretically would allow customers to refine their search to find the right wood stain for their needs:
A product filter helps users narrow down their choices (image source)
Ordinarily, adding a product filter would be seen as a step in the right direction, as it helps the customers find the exact product they want. But in this case, customers who want wood stain—and search for an actual brand name—already know what they want. They don’t need to be hindered by a “refine your search” menu.
Can you guess what happened when they removed it?
A search without a product filter
Product page engagement went up 27%—that’s an enviable number for any ecommerce site! But it also shows what happens when people blindly follow “best practices.” They’re the best choice for some, but just practice for others!
You shouldn’t dismiss A/B split testing entirely. It’s worth it to find out what works for your particular website and your particular customer. It’s fine to look at best practices to get a general idea of what to test, but don’t be surprised if your results are completely different (either good or bad) from the company that’s the focus of the “best practice” being spotlighted.
What about Testing Pricing?
Pricing is one of those “grey” areas of testing—it has its own set of pros and cons. On the one hand, price is a major factor in whether or not customers ultimately decide to buy, so on the surface, it would make sense to start testing there first. But you have to do so carefully.
For one thing, constantly changing prices on your site from one day to the next for the same item is illegal in some areas. You can easily conduct a user testing session where price range is one of the questions asked, but testing prices publicly comes with a its own set of responsibilities.
One thing you don’t want to do is change prices solely based on specific data—such as location, device used, etc. A couple of years ago, travel site Orbitz was found showing higher prices to Mac users than PC users because it was discovered that Apple users tend to spend more than their Windows-using counterparts.
Mac users were charged higher prices than Windows users on Orbitz
Needless to say, angry Apple fans took to Twitter and traditional media to voice their outrage. But if you’re looking at the study from a marketing point of view, you’ll see that Orbitz does have a point—Orbitz’s own data revealed that Mac users typically spent 30% more on hotels and were 40% more likely to book a four- or five-star stay, and Orbitz used these shopping preferences to develop its pricing strategy.
That’s just one example of behavioral targeting. In the end, it’s not just about Mac users being targeted because they own Macs, as the original article implied. Basing pricing solely on one trait is discriminatory.
You have to take a much broader view of the user. Rather than simply looking at their type of computer or smartphone and deciding that they should pay more, you have to take into account things like past purchases, shopping behavior (what other sites do they frequent?), disposable income, and so on. All of these details are necessary to build a true shopping profile of a specific user.
Pricing Vs. Value
The biggest shift that comes with testing prices is the consideration that somehow the price isn’t aligned with the value you’re trying to communicate to the consumer. Of course, you can make more money without making more conversions, and vice versa. The trick is to find that middle ground where pricing, value and profits align.
When it comes to testing prices, there are two very different schools of thought regarding the matter. It’s a good idea to read and understand both the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision for yourself.
The Pros of Testing Pricing
There are some users that will simply not go beyond a certain number when it comes to price. The question to ask yourself is then “what number could I put on this product/service that presents a clear impact on my target market?” Sometimes, a price can actually increase because the business took steps to maximize their presentation of the product—thus increasing its perceived value.
There are other factors too, beyond the numbers. The color, size, quality/features included, and so on. All of these are things that can be tested independent of price. But when you’re testing the number itself, make sure all your tests are consistent and that shoppers aren’t seeing different sizes/colors/features so as to muddle the test results.
In addition, sometimes the money saved can be the difference in a conversion. Do people respond better with a percentage or a dollar amount? Several years ago, in the midst of the recession in the U.S., one company tested both % off and $ off amounts against each other. The $ off coupon resulted in 170% more revenue.
EVO (evogear.com) tested a 15% off coupon vs. a $50 off coupon with the
latter generating 170% more revenue
Now, this doesn’t mean you should run out and immediately change all your % savings campaigns to dollar signs—test the two to see which one results in more sales in your unique case.
The Cons of Testing Pricing
In some cases, it’s actually illegal to offer different prices to different segments of the general public. As was the case with Orbitz, when people discovered they were being offered specific (higher) pricing based on the device they used, they were understandably upset. Would those same people have complained if they were offered a free or discounted upgrade based on their device?
As of this writing, it’s still a digital taboo to change pricing based on things like location or device used. But with so much information available about shoppers, you can bet that any smart marketer would use these freely-given details to their advantage to promote more personalized content.
The bottom line on testing pricing is that it’s still a very grey area with many different points to consider rather than just shifting the numbers around.
Adding Urgency, Adding Desire
Urgency is one of those often-overused-but-not-always-used-well marketing tactics. You’ll often see it used with digital products, where an unlimited supply causes your target audience to disbelieve your insistence that there are only “3 copies left.”
Urgency can still be used successfully with digital products, and it can definitely be used well with tangible products. Let’s take a closer look.
Urgency with Tangible Products
At their core, people really don’t want to look foolish—and they’ll do almost anything to prevent that pang of regret, including not buying when an item is on sale. Rather than throw up a standard “out of the box” ecommerce template with a photo or two, price, description and a buy now button—let customers know when inventory levels are low and if/when the item will be backordered.
American Apparel does this with their products. A simple message like this can let people know that they might miss out and, if they really want the item, to get it now while it’s guaranteed to be in stock.
Urgency with Digital Products
Digital products are treated a little differently in the ecommerce world. Customers likely already know that you have unlimited stock of your e-book, course, membership, etc. So you could conceivably limit how many people can buy—or better yet, take a cue from sites like Groupon and offer special time-limited deals for subscribers.
You may need to have some custom programming done to make this work for your particular site. In some cases, existing shopping carts also have this functionality available as an extension or a plugin that you can purchase.
Tips and Tricks
Beyond all the points you’ve read here, there are a few extra tips you can follow to make your ecommerce site convert better right from the start, including these four:
1. Add Social Proof
Remember where I mentioned that no one likes to look like a fool? Social proof is one way to prevent just that. Things like “X people like this / bought this,” ratings, testimonials and reviews bolster a product’s quality beyond any description the company could include. Social proof demonstrates that others bought and enjoyed this product or service—so you likely will too!
2. Show Off Savings
It’s very common in the retail industry to show a default “manufacturer’s price” or “retail price” and then show the store’s price as an example of what you’ll save. This is done to some degree online, but why not take it a step further?
Since people love to comparison shop, why not compare your product’s price to that of your biggest competitor? Assuming yours is lower, you’ll save shoppers the trouble of going elsewhere to learn what your competitor is charging.
In addition, you can show coupon codes right on the site to prevent buyers from opening a new browser tab or leaving your site to go look for coupons from third-parties (and potentially be distracted from completing their order!)
3. Go Beyond Product Photos
Stand-alone product photos are the standard when it comes to ecommerce websites. But what if you could show your product being used by a customer? Could you do a video tour or demonstration? This would give customers an inside look at, not only what the product really looks like, but also how it performs and how it’s being used by people just like them.
4. Tell a Friend
One of the best ways to grow your brand is to invite customers to share the love via social networks. However, no one wants to be seen as an outright mouthpiece for a particular brand (unless you’re a teen or twenty-something).
When that’s the case, invite them to tweet or post on Facebook about the awesome deal on the product they just bought—rather than directly praising the store or the brand itself. This way, it puts the shoppers’ friends “in the know” on great deals that they’d likely be interested in as well. Bonus: pre-fill in your shoppers’ tweets/posts to make it one-click simple for them to share the good news!
In this chapter, we’ve taken a look under the hood of the shopping cart—learning more about marketing tactics that can be used to boost sales and engagement. We’ve discussed pricing tests, ecommerce tips, why customers abandon their carts, and retargeting efforts to bring them back.
As you can see, there’s a great deal that goes into a buyer’s discovery, shopping and ultimately connection with your brand. By nurturing their interest every step of the way, you’ll help give them the safety, security and confidence they need to be able to buy online in a way that’s both comfortable and convenient.
Next, we’ll look at one of the most pivotal points of the shopping cart experience—the checkout page. This is where “the rubber meets the road” and, for many shoppers, is the last chance to check their order or leave it behind. You’ve got them this far—don’t give up!