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When it comes to online shopping, I’m one flaky customer. It’s not uncommon for me to put a few items in my online shopping cart, balk at the shipping fees or long forms and close my browser window before I hit the final “buy” button. And when I’m not being indecisive about purchasing something online, I simply forget about it. It’s not abnormal for me to commit to checking out and then forget to pay because of something I see on Twitter or Reddit.

As it turns out, I’m not alone. Worldwide, 74.3 percent of online shopping carts are abandoned, according to a 2016 report. It’s a big problem for retailers, with businesses losing up to $4 trillion annually due to abandoned shopping carts.

For retail marketers and e-commerce professionals, there’s a huge business opportunity to address cart abandonment. Online shoppers who don’t complete their purchase are already well aware of your brand and have shown interest in the goods you sell. They just need a nudge to become paying customers.

In this blog post, we examine the major drivers of cart abandonment and provide tips on how to convince more people to complete their purchase. We also look at the role of ongoing engagement with your customers as you optimize your sales channels for maximum conversions.

Why customers abandon their checkout cart

A lengthy and painful customer experience discourages shoppers from finishing their purchase. According to Alyssa Nahatis, director of deliverability at Adobe, “people loathe repeating information and will often abandon purchases for that reason alone.” If you’re asking customers to enter a shipping address in addition to a billing address, for instance, you run the risk of a higher cart abandonment rate. It’s important to identify redundant and lengthy steps in the checkout process and remove them where possible.

Another issue is price, or more specifically, shipping cost. About 35.7 percent of cart abandonments happen when customers see the shipping price, according to a BI Intelligence report on the e-commerce industry. If customers must pay for shipping, handling and any other surcharges that could be deemed as “hidden fees,” those should be communicated clearly to avoid turning people off.  

Three out of four shoppers who have abandoned carts say they plan to return to the retailer’s website to make a purchase later on. 

The good news is that abandoned carts don’t necessarily mean sales lost forever. BI Intelligence found that three out of four shoppers who have abandoned carts say they plan to return to the retailer’s website to make a purchase later on. Engage with your customers to get a deeper grasp of the e-commerce path to purchase and to understand not just why people abandon carts, but also how to convince shoppers to come back and complete the transaction.

Using customer insight to tackle shopping cart abandonment

Your customers can help uncover effective solutions to decreasing cart abandonment. There are three ways, in particular, that customer insight can help address this issue.

1. Determine why people leave.

Analyzing data is a crucial first step in pinpointing issues in the shopping experience. Use web analytics tools such as Google Analytics to identify non-converting pages—those steps in the process that cause people to leave.

That said, page-level data alone can’t tell you what you need to change in the path to purchase. You need to determine why people abandon certain pages. For instance, if data tells you that people are abandoning their cart at the payment stage, you need customer feedback to determine the specific parts of those pages that are turning them off and, more importantly, why. Talk to your customers directly through user research, insight communities and other methods to get more context and actionable insight on how you can save more sales.

Page-level data alone can’t tell you what you need to change in the path to purchase.

2. Optimize retargeting efforts.

To address cart abandonment, many companies invest in remarketing—advertising campaigns that target people who have previously visited certain sites and pages. A 2016 study shows that 44.4 percent of U.S. retailers use retargeting ads (often through social media advertising and search engine marketing) to entice customers back to their shopping carts. Triggered emails and embedded live chat windows are other common tactics.

To get the most out of these tactics, however, you need to understand your customers’ media consumptions. For instance, deciding between Facebook dynamic product ads versus Google AdWords requires knowing where these platforms push ads to and whether your shoppers visit those sites. As you plan your retargeting strategy, consider using customer intelligence data to optimize the allocation of your marketing budget and the placement of your remarketing promotions.

3. Test and enhance product messaging.

As an online shopper, I look for compelling and accurate content in product pages. I’m more likely to complete my purchase if a product is described and photographed well, and if my questions are addressed on the page. Studies suggest that most customers feel the same. A 2015 report found that 30 percent of shoppers have abandoned an online shopping cart due to poor product descriptions. The same report found that more than 25 percent didn’t commit to purchasing because of the lack of quality images and product reviews.

30 percent of shoppers have abandoned an online shopping cart due to poor product descriptions. 

Marketing content also plays a crucial role as you try to go after people who left their shopping cart. For instance, many retailers find that triggered emails can recover up to 11 percent of abandoned sales. Similarly, as you retarget people on social media, search and other digital channels, you need compelling copy and attractive images to capture people’s attention and convince them to come back.

To ensure that your product pages and retargeting content are effective, consider testing them with your customers. Show early versions with shoppers and gather feedback on how messaging can be improved. Enhance your content over time by working closely with your customers, analyzing results and gathering customer feedback to iterate further.

Earning the loyalty of your e-commerce customers

Experts expect the rate of cart abandonment to continue to climb as adoption of online and mobile shopping pick up momentum. Retailers need to figure out how to keep the attention and loyalty of online shoppers, who are increasingly fickle and distracted. In the end, building a close relationship with your customers and using their feedback to deliver on their needs and wants is crucial to boosting sales—no matter what platform they choose to shop in.

How to keep your customers from cheating on you

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Kelvin Claveria

Kelvin Claveria was the former Content Marketing Manager and was responsible for Vision Critical's blog and social media marketing program. Before joining Vision Critical's global marketing team, Kelvin worked at Dunn PR, a Vancouver-based public relations firm. His experience includes working with lifestyle, real estate, and non-profit clients to develop social media marketing and PR strategies. Kelvin has a Bachelor of Business Administration from SFU's Beedie School of Business.
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