Moving customers through the checkout process effectively is a critical element toward closing any sale online. The information you present to your customers during checkout is ultimately what will help them decide whether or not to complete the purchase.
Throughout the checkout process, you will need to continually reassure customers, providing the necessary elements essential to developing trust and security. These elements are commonly called customer assurances. Their job is making the customer feel comfortable enough to complete the intended action (buying your product.)
Cart abandonment is a problem that all ecommerce sites see in some degree. The rate at which your visitors abandon depends on how effective you have structured the checkout process. Shopping cart abandonment is an important statistic that needs to be tracked, as it could mean the difference between a profitable ecommerce store and a potential loss. According to industry publications, average shopping cart abandonment rates are between 60 to 70 percent. For example, if you have 100 people start the checkout process and 65 percent abandon it, you just lost 65 sales. To take that further, if your average order value is $49, you lost $3,185 in revenue.
To further demonstrate the hit your business just took, not only have you lost revenue, but you lost 65 potential new customers as well. This translates to an undeterminable amount of lost future recurring revenue through repeat orders. Here are ten proven ways to decrease your abandonment rate:
Many factors that contribute to cart abandonment are out of the merchant's control. However, there are a number of factors you can concentrate on to help reduce the overall effect on your store.
1) From a technical perspective, make sure your cart is working properly and is free of bugs.
As elementary as this may sound, it is a vital component that often is not given the weight it deserves. Simple logic tells us that if a cart is not working correctly, it will prevent a customer from being able to order. To alleviate this potential problem, you should go through your order process and ensure it is free of bugs and works as you expect. It would be a good idea to also have others go through and test it periodically, especially after any updates to code or structure have been made that involve the checkout process.
2) Keep your pricing competitive.
Customers are also shoppers. This means that they are always searching for and comparing similar products and prices. Unless your product is totally unique and not easily duplicated, you must be aware of the price you assign to it. With the increased use in shopping comparison sites by consumers, and in light of the current state of the economy, competitive pricing is more critical than ever. If your prices are out of the ballpark, your customers won't stay to watch the game.
3) Decrease the steps in your checkout process.
If your cart has the ability for a one page checkout, that is fantastic. However, if you don't have that luxury, don't worry. Tests have shown that shorter checkout processes which aren't one page, work just fine to convert visitors into sales, providing a few elements are met. A good rule of thumb to follow here is to combine logical steps during the checkout process (shipping and billing address information as an example) and eliminate any extra steps. If you can get your checkout process down to four steps or less, you'll be ok in most cases.
4) Add process indicators to checkout procedure.
You don't want a customer to wonder how much longer it will take to checkout or what part of that checkout process they are in. This is an easy fix. Simply adding process indicators in a graphic format near the top of the checkout process will help keep customers in the checkout until the end.
5) Clearly provide customer points of assurance at the right locations.
6) Clearly display your security and trust seals.
Customers want to ensure the information they submit during an order is secure and protected. Make sure you clearly and plainly tell them that their transaction is secure, and show them the seal to prove it. Don't hide the seal at the bottom of a page or make it hard to find. Tests have shown that adding a security seal within the user eye flow at critical times during checkout can improve conversion.
7) Offer multiple payment methods including PayPal.
Offering multiple payment methods opens up the number of people who will do business with you. Customers like choice and control. Providing them with the choice of multiple payment methods, in addition to PayPal, will help keep them in the checkout process. In fact, one in three shoppers expect to be able to pay with PayPal, or at least be given that option, in addition to other methods.
8) Enable customers to order over the telephone.
No matter how perfect a site is, there are going to be customers that prefer to complete their order over the phone. Whether they start the checkout process and have a question that needs to be answered, or simply don't feel comfortable providing their personal information over the Internet, you must give them the ability to call you to complete the transaction. Placing a customer service phone number in a clearly visible location with the text, "Prefer to order by phone?," will help decrease cart abandonment.
9) Clearly state return and shipping policies.
In survey after survey, shoppers say one of the big reasons they abandon the checkout process is due to the shipping charge or return options. Many sites don't provide the shipping and return information to the customer until they are in step two or three of the checkout process. If the information they find there does not appeal to them, they will leave. You can prevent this by offering the shipping and return information at the first step of the checkout process, or better yet, from the page they are viewing their shopping cart.
10) Don't require registration to checkout.
This is difficult for some stores to implement because of the architecture their cart is built upon. However, if you have the ability to offer what is often called a guest checkout feature, you should do so. For privacy reasons, there are a number of people out there who do not want the information they provide you with saved, and it is those people who will leave unless you provide them with an option to checkout without registering.
Following these principles will not completely eliminate shopping cart abandonment at your site, but it should help in reducing it to a more reasonable level, thus increasing sales.
Eric Leuenberger is an ecommerce conversion expert and author of a leading eCommerce Optimization blog (www.zencartoptimization.com). He coaches etailers, wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers how to increase their website sales through skillfully crafted online paid search advertising, targeted marketing strategies and website sales strategies. He can be contacted at 1-877-481-2323.
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