You’ve got an amazing product that should be flying off the shelf but you’re seeing some cart abandonment.
You can see that people are interested by the amount of traffic you have, but the sales don’t match up.
Could you be dealing with the dreaded shopping cart abandonment?
But what is shopping cart abandonment? Basically, online shoppers start the process of purchasing your product but then drop off and don’t click that final purchase button.
Why does this happen?
There are many different reasons why:
- A complicated checkout process
- Hidden charges/shipping fees
- Getting distracted by something else on the site
- Long loading times
- Finding the product cheaper elsewhere
- A lack of assistance to finish the purchase process (e.g. live chat software)
In each case, the result is that the site loses out on a customer who they almost had.
Why Cart Abandonment Happens
So we know why website visitors abandon shopping carts, but let’s take a closer look at a breakdown of the most important reasons cart abandonment happens:
One important thing you’ll notice is that the majority of these reasons are preventable, sometimes with just a minor tweak to the site.
Some, like “just browsing” and payments being declined are trickier to address, but you’ll see that most of the problems above need to be addressed at a site level.
For that reason, though I will get onto them later, I want to avoid cart abandonment emails for the moment.
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Let me explain why…
Actionable On-Site Shopping Cart Abandonment Tips
When most people think of shopping cart abandonment, they probably think of those “Hey, you left this in your basket!” emails sent out by retailers when a purchase isn’t completed.
That’s all well and good, and it is a big part of addressing shopping cart abandonment, but it’s really treating a symptom rather than a cause.
Abandonment emails are necessary because a website has failed to convert the visitor to a buyer. So it makes more sense to start with thinking about how to change a site to boost conversion before even thinking about implementing abandonment emails.
It’s the same thinking where you should focus on getting higher conversion rates on your landing pages, instead of hoping for a pop-up to fix the issue.
1) Unexpected Costs
Let’s start with the biggest reason people are bouncing.
With 56% of shoppers admitting they’re leaving due to bogus added costs, it’s vital to be upfront with your customers.
I recently sent a college friend some flowers in Cincinnati and thought I found the golden flower shop. Beautiful flowers and at a super low cost (sucker, I know):
But I was pumped.
So I clicked through right away and was putting in my credit card info before I could think to myself that this is “too good to be true”.
After clicking through the next few pages of entering the standard delivery information, I was already up $10+ (where did the sale go and how did that happen?) then noticed they snuck in a $4 card, (that I never selected) and the price ended up being 32.5% higher than the original price that got me to click.
I immediately began to lose trust and started searching for another flower shop.
And I’m not the only one who feels this way.
WebCredible explains eliminating hidden charges is a major key in reducing shopping cart abandonment:
“41% of online shoppers abandon their purchases because of hidden fees
that are only revealed upon checkout.”
It’s understandable that stores want to make their goods appear as desirable as possible, but an apparently low price tag doesn’t help if it means that extra fees are added later.
2) Free Shipping Is a Must
Online shoppers seem to expect free shipping, everywhere and always these days.
Especially with Amazon Prime and other big brands offering this constantly, visitors are becoming turned off by shipping fees.
VWO did a study that proves offering free shipping improves conversions by significant rates.
They ran an A/B test that showed “Free Shipping” next to their shopping cart in the top right corner of the page that followed the customer as they browsed the online store.
“The test results showed that when customers were given the free shipping incentive,
orders increased by 90% with a 96% confidence level. In addition to this,
the company’s Average Order Value (AOV) also rose by 7.32%.”
Not only does this improve overall conversions, but free shipping actually entices visitors to buy even more.
And TechCrunch agrees:
“The perk of free shipping is a major incentive to buy more, as orders with free shipping
average around 30% higher in value those that tack on a couple of bucks for transport.”
Think you can’t afford free shipping? Yes you can. Here’s a piece on how to do so.
3) Showcase Discounts or Money Saved
With over a third of shopping cart abandoners leaving because they found a better price elsewhere, it’s clear that getting a great deal is important to online shoppers.
But, no matter how great the store, it’s unlikely that they can offer the lowest price for every single item in their inventory.
But they can, like Nordstrom’s, do the next best thing:
This product view is great because it really emphasizes the extra % off being offered in the sale.
While there’s no guarantee that these products are being offered at the lowest price available, the double hit of sale savings (not to mention the “You saved: $X” presented before checkout) goes a long way towards alleviating the fear that goods may be cheaper elsewhere.
4) Improve Site Speed
Kissmetrics tells us that 40% of people have ditched a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load, so site speed is definitely of importance.
A previous post for the CrazyEgg blog explains a few of the ways that were looked at to be improved were as follows:
- Optimize and compress images
- Combine and minify files, including CSS
- Use code to generate the page layout in place of images where possible
Josue Valles gives us more tips on speeding up your site loading time including installing a tool called Google PageSpeed which will automatically apply web performance best practices for you.
Or you could use Google’s PageSpeed Insights that breaks down your desktop and mobile versions and shows you how to fix these speed issues.
The value of doing all this should become evident very quickly – Firefox saw a 15% increase in downloads after improving their site speed by just a couple of seconds.
5) Display Local Currency
With our world become smaller and smaller, international shopping is becoming more popular and you need to make sure your site is optimized to accommodate everyone from everywhere.
After falling in love with a fashion retail store in Denmark (if you’ve never visited Denmark, you need to visit just for the clothes… Gentlemen I’m talking to you, too) Vero Moda, in which I still purchase their clothing through their online retail store.
Lucky for me, a popup appears right as I visit their site asking where in the world I am purchasing from:
This makes the purchasing process smooth because I don’t have to look up the current exchange rate from Danish krones to U.S. dollars.
“Most online retailers are now accepting international orders. If you are,
it’s important that you display, or provide the ability to show,
what the cost will be in the shopper’s local currency.”
Last minute exchange rates can throw a visitor off and deter them from clicking that “Submit Order” button.
6) Various Pictures or Even Better, Video
Ever have a customer return an order because it wasn’t exactly “as shown”?
Let’s hope not.
But if you have, no worries, just add more high resolution photos with multiple angles, or even a short video.
Research by e-tailing shows that the vast majority of consumers expect to be able to see high quality views of the product from multiple angles and in all color variations.
Lululemon has 8 high quality images, ranging from up close to see details to overall look:
Or, give video a try.
ConversionXL states that video is becoming even more popular:
“According to the etailing group’s ‘13th Annual Mystery Shopping Study,’
usage of online video on product pages among the 100 leading retailers studied
increased by 18 percentage points between Q4 2009 and Q4 2010.”
Mark Robertson’s article explains that Zappos.com,
“Use the video to describe, use and demonstrate the products with real Zappos employees and
not models or actors. Those videos are said to have a sales impact of 6 to 30%”
Adding video can give your customers an even more detailed look of your merchandise.
7) Add Testimonials or Reviews
People are social animals and being able to see what other users think of the product will, provided reviews are generally positive, undoubtedly have an positive impact on abandonment rates.
Amazon didn’t invent the concept of adding user reviews, but they’re still one of the best at it.
With tiers of power reviewers and the ability to upvote/downvote individual reviews, Amazon’s review section is just as important as its descriptions of products themselves:
In the same piece of e-tailing research we mentioned above, more than half of consumers say that they view peer reviews/recommendations as essential on a good eCommerce website.
As Neil Patel writes for Kissmetrics:
“A simple callout or sidebar with a customer quote or two can
keep the motivation level high as the
customer continues to check out.”
Once you’re armed with this sort of information, you can then begin to test different iterations of sales pages, checkout processes and so on in order to boost sales.
8) Don’t Force Users To Register
And another thing; don’t try to force users to register before they can complete the purchase.
The following comes from a Webcredible study:
“29% of online shoppers do not like proprietary registration forms during checkout. In fact, one respondent stated that because of their existing number of passwords,
they feel inconvenienced when yet another service requires them to create an account.”
Ebay makes it easy for shoppers to check out as a guest:
Three different CTAs individualized for the customer to decide which is easiest for them. If a customer were to use an online retailer quite frequently, then they may find signing in is much faster and easier for them.
Although the evidence has shown allowing users to checkout as a guest reduces shopping cart abandonment, the more I researched, I realized some big companies actually force users to register:
Walmart only gives the option to Sign In or Create an Account; no guesting around here.
I am assuming they have A/B tested many variances, so maybe there’s something that proves this works for certain targeted personas?
Just make sure to A/B test constantly to find out what converts best for you.
9) Remove Distractions
The attention span of the average person is dropping fast – research by Microsoft suggests it’s dropped to just 8 seconds – and it’s probably only going to get worse. That’s why minimizing the number of things people can do during checkout is rapidly becoming the norm.
Econsultancy has a nice article on what they call enclosed checkouts, and use this example of a cluttered checkout process on the Boots website:
“By retaining the top navigation and footer links, Boots is taking the customer’s attention away from what should be the main focus – completing their details for the purchase.
The address form fields and calls to action are less visible than many other elements on the page.”
Now check out this super simple and conversion driving checkout page from Piece by Paz:
This shows my total expected cost (including free shipping) with tax, a picture of my merchandise, and an easy to fill out form field.
10) Keep Cart Visible
This concept is a no brainer but here’s some proof that this concept works:
“In one report, Movies Unlimited allowed its online shoppers to see their existing cart via a dropdown menu, rather than navigating to a separate page.
This led to an estimated decrease in cart abandonment of 4% to 8%.”
There’s a lot of ways to display your shopping cart, but here’s one example of the shopping cart icon, with the number of items in it:
11) Coupon Caution
Coupons can be used by returning customers (on average, 12% of your customers are returning to your site), either using a coupon code they received in a retargeting email or a coupon code they found through a social media campaign, and can get those already interested shoppers to convert.
But they can also deter brand new shoppers away.
Over a quarter (27%) of people stated they bounced due to looking for a coupon code online and never returned.
So if you offer a coupon, make sure it’s easily visible on your site and even make a banner at the top of your checkout pages with the code.
Chez Gagné, a letterpress company out of Los Angeles, uses this strategy during the checkout process seen above.
12) Billing After Shipping
Getting the correct order of walking the customer through purchasing is important. You want to have your shipping form fields come first before the billing.
“Customers care about when and where they will be receiving their product
and want to know those details before providing payment details.”
Focus on the customers’ thought process first, not your end goal. The customer is first wanting to know when and where their product will be delivered, then once that is decided, billing information of course is needed.
13) Show The Progress
Ever tried to buy something online and found yourself bogged down in seemingly endless forms? I thought so.
While I like the way Amazon does this…
Kissmetrics found that the order and appearance of these steps can have a big impact (up to 5%) on overall conversion results, so it really is worth putting each step in the process under a microscope.
It has to be a good idea to indicate where buyers are in the process since 21% of buyers saying they haven’t finished a purchase because the process was taking too long (see the chart further up this page).
However, it may also help to make visitors aware how close they are to being done. And the shorter you can make the process appear, the better.
14) Allow Editing
Not only is it frustrating, it reduces conversions. I’m talking about allowing your customers to edit their shopping cart.
“Shoppers don’t want to be locked in to the checkout page. If they made a mistake in their selection or need to edit it for some reason make sure it’s easy for them to do so.”
Stumptown Coffee Roasters gives the easy option of adding or subtracting quantities for each item and a simple “x” to remove the item completely.
15) Reduce Risk
“Risk” can refer to a lot of things in the world of eCommerce.
It might mean that visitors are hesitating about a purchase because they aren’t sure about a site’s security or it could be that they’re worried about getting stuck with a product if they order the wrong size.
It’s difficult to identify just one way to reduce risk until you know what risks are putting people off making a purchase.
Peek by UserTesting will record a session of an everyday online shopper’s experience with any difficulties or misunderstandings the shopper goes through.
So, who better to ask what’s stopping visitors from making purchases than your visitors?
Try other software to get insight into what visitors are doing on your page and what frequently causes them to leave.
For example, you could try any of the following to start understanding why your visitors are abandoning their carts:
- Implement Qualaroo’s website surveys to trigger exit surveys just before people leave your checkout process and gather data about what went wrong.
- Try ClickTale or UserTesting to view session playback of what people actually do while they’re on your site and, in this scenario, what makes them leave.
- Use HotJar’s software to see everything all at once (heat maps, surveys, analytics, etc.)
A Forbes piece you should reduce risk by displaying security features everywhere:
“A leading cause of abandonment is a distrust of payment security…
As online retailers, we need to make sure that every step of the checkout process features trust signals — indications that the customer’s payment information is absolutely secure.”
16) Test Checkout Steps
Trying to figure out if a two-step checkout or a five-step checkout is best, well you’re going to have to test it.
A study from GetElastic concluded that the single-page checkout outperformed the out-of-the-box checkout by a whopping 21.8%.
While a study from QuickSprout showed the three-step checkout process had a 10% increase in conversions.
17) Implement Live Chat
Live chat is a big way retailers can reduce risk as answer any questions customers may have.
eMarketer did a study where having live chat available made a huge difference:
“62% reported being more likely to purchase from the site again. A further 38% of respondents said they had made their purchase due to the chat session itself.”
Nike’s website does a very good job of limiting the risk of purchases by highlighting their security, range of payment options and the fact that delivery is free.
I also like the fact that Nike encourages visitors not just to chat with “us”, as so many sites do, but to chat with “Nike Running Experts”.
LeadChat actually starts conversations with your visitors for you and is a great tool to incorporate live chat onto your site.
18) Good Return Policy
Online shopping is all about trust.
If your new customer is somewhat hesitant about trusting you, your return policy is a great way to guarantee they will be satisfied.
A staggering 61% won’t purchase if you have a bad return policy.
Not sure what to include in your return policy to make them convert?
Here’s some help “What Consumers Want From eCommerce Returns”.
19) Mobile Is Life
We could write an entire piece on this alone, but out of all the points I just made above, this one may be the most crucial to getting more conversions.
You hear it all the time “optimize for mobile” and there’s good reason for it. Our world is definitely shopping on mobile more than on desktop these days and your site must be easy for them to navigate.
MarketWired did a compelling study explaining how users feel about shopping on mobile:
“The trend to shop on smartphones is growing, with 71% of smartphone owners saying they shop using their mobile device.
However, mobile shopping experiences fail to meet consumer satisfaction, as 88% of those who shop on their smartphone have experienced negative issues.”
Now, this study was done in 2013, and I can only imagine how these mobile shopping numbers have risen.
Furthermore, the study goes into detail about which processes caused the most pain points:
“When asked about their biggest pain points when shopping on mobile, mobile shoppers responded:
- Retailers’ websites are harder to navigate and use on a mobile device than on a desktop (51%)
- Product images are too small to make buying decision (46%)
- Concerns over security on their smartphone (41%)
- Checkout process is a pain (26%)
Some shoppers believe that products are more expensive on a mobile website, while others claimed concerns over clicking the wrong buttons when making purchases.”
Domino’s pizza does a great job optimizing for mobile.
Even as complicated as ordering a specific pizza can be easy on mobile with how they’ve set up their checkout process:
Then I can easily select the most popular pizzas, drinks, or sides.
But I like to customize my pizza, sooo…
Whether you’re selling pizza or anything retail, make sure it’s easy for your customers to navigate and easy big enough for your visitors to know what they’re purchasing.
Try using radio buttons and giving preselected choices instead of asking your visitors to type all the information in form fields to convert better.
Now that we’ve put our best foot forward during the live shopping process, now let’s see what we can about people still bouncing.
Shopping Cart Abandonment Email Best Practices
Ultimately, you’re likely to reach a plateau when making on-site changes to reduce shopping cart abandonment.
But have no fear.
You can still use shopping cart abandonment emails to bring visitors back to your site for further improvement.
In reality, it’s highly likely that (if you want to take a really proactive approach to shopping cart abandonment) you’ll be working on a site and introducing abandonment emails at the same time.
This means that tracking improvements will be a little more difficult, but you’re likely to see it happening much more quickly than working on them in isolation.
Amongst these examples we’ll see different styles and techniques, and it’s worth tailoring emails to your audience and/or testing several variations.
1) Use The Right Tools
Because there are so many different factors in play – personal information, time elapsed since product was viewed, possibly payment details etc. – it can be daunting to start sending cart abandonment emails.
Our first piece of advice? Get a decent piece of email software.
You could try something like Rejoiner, lifecycle email software designed to make cart abandonment as easy as possible:
“Wait, why can’t I just use integrations to send cart abandonment emails through MailChimp, which we already use?”
The answer is that you could, but you might want to keep content like newsletters and promotions separate from the cart abandonment side of things.
Plus, Rejoiner has some very cool segmentation features built in…
…as well as the fact that it’s built specifically to track and act on cart abandonment.
It’s not so much how you do it, more that you do it: with just shy of 30% of clicks on cart abandonment emails leading to sales, it has to be worth a try if you know you’re missing out on sales.
2) Be Clear, Not Clever
As a general rule, shopping cart abandonment emails have a much higher open rate than other marketing emails, with SaleCycle finding that almost half are opened.
Most cart abandonment emails keep it simple, with subject lines like:
- <fname>, you left something in your basket
- We’re still holding your products for you
- Complete your purchase
That’s not to say more “out there” subject lines can’t succeed, but the fact that so many retailers stick with a clear reference to the abandoned basket rather than trying to be funny or mysterious is telling.
Because cart abandonment emails are more likely to be automated than, say, a newsletter or marketing promotion, it makes sense to stick with something tried and tested rather than trying to reference current events (which will soon become dated) or try to use shocking subject lines (that will quickly lose their shine to repeat buyers).
Of course, there will always be exceptions to the rule. Black Milk is a company that does “zany” pretty well, and was featured in a Shopify article about cart abandonment by Dan Wang as a result:
Direct response marketer Dan Kennedy says on the back cover of his book Make ‘em Laugh & Take Their Money that “people buy more and buy more happily when in good humor.”
I don’t know about you, but a cute puppy always puts me in good humor.
Just be sure to think about your audience and what you’re selling before you try to be cute: the last thing you want to do is offend or irritate potential customers with an inappropriate tone or image.
3) Be Specific
The more specific you can be about cart abandonment, the better.
An email with the subject line “We still think you’d look great in this Armani jacket!” is likely to be more successful than one that reads “We still think you’d look great in these items”, because shoppers will likely visit more than one store in a single online shopping section.
In fact, according to Salesforce, referencing a product/category improves open rates by 10%.
Refreshing their memory about a particular product helps readers to pinpoint the item that they were looking for in their minds and reconsider their initial objections to the purchase.
This is exactly what this abandonment email, another one highlighted in the Dan Wang article mentioned above, from Fab.com does:
I also like the way they oh so casually mention that there are only limited quantities of the item remaining, which brings me neatly to my next point: urgency.
Sending a follow up email within the first 24 hours can substantially increase your conversions.
Moz found a case study that increased ROI by 2815%:
“Haven Holidays implemented an email remarketing campaign that sent emails within 24 hours of shopping cart abandonment to users based on product and drop off point within
the booking process.
Haven Holidays found a 2815% ROI on their email remarketing campaign as well as higher open and click through rates compared to regular email campaigns.”
Most abandonment emails are sent within 24 hours of abandonment and, provided your email system is capable of it, you could go one step further:
CathKidston sends a cart abandonment email with the specific item still in your cart.
Here’s what SalesCycle found when researching the subject in conjunction with 200 global brands:
- Cart abandonment emails sent within 20 minutes of abandonment had a conversion rate of of 5%
- Those sent within an hour had a conversion rate of 4.5%
- Emails sent more than 24 hours later converted at just 2.6%
Clearly, when it comes to cart abandonment emails, time is of the essence.
5) Personalize, Personalize, Personalize
I already mentioned being specific with products in abandonment emails so let’s take this to the next level.
Barilliance can create content that can change based on the reason for abandoning and suggestions for other products can be added too.
Here’s how Nordstrom’s does this:
But why add other products into the mix?
Using personalized content recommendations of the “shoppers who bought X also bought Y” approach means that even those who have bought the product elsewhere might return to make a related purchase that complements the item they looked at on the site.
Hannah from Ometria has a great post on this as well along with a nice example of the anatomy of a retargeting email:
“Providing them with images of other popular or related items in your store is a great way
of getting them back and shopping.”
6) Offer A Discount (Maybe)
There’s lots of advice out there to suggest that you should add a discount to cart abandonment emails.
The thought here is that mentioning a 10% discount in the subject line makes more recipients open the email.
But SmartInsights has an interesting case study that suggests this may not actually be the case:
There are ways around this, such as using segmentation to ensure that you only offer a one-time discount to new purchasers, but we recommend giving serious thought to whether or not you include a discount in abandonment emails.
7) Track Your Metrics
I can’t think of an email marketing service out there that doesn’t provide at least some form of email metrics, but there can’t be many out there that make digging into the data easier or prettier than CartHook:
But even the most comprehensive data in the world is totally useless unless you act on it.
Experiment with your cart abandonment emails – put the above tips to the test and let us know if they work for you or not so much – and build the funnel that works best for your customers.
Many of the above changes might sound small, but each one can have a huge impact.
For example, Envelopes.com was able to use tweaks like the above to cut cart abandonment by 40% and boost their conversion rate by 65% in less than two years.
The Future of Shopping Cart Abandonment
Shopping cart abandonment emails (and retargeting, for that matter) are a great way to bring visitors back to a website, but they’re really just band-aids to be applied until conversion problems that affect the checkout process on the site are fixed.
When you think of cart abandonment in these terms, it becomes apparent that business owners should address shopping cart abandonment not as something that can be solved with a quick fix, but an ongoing process.
With so many consumers using adblockers and failing to sift through countless marketing emails every day, you start to realize that the emphasis has to fall on improving sales and product pages through split testing.
But will the next few years see other ways to reduce cart abandonment?
I think so.
For example, a site could pay to (using a visitor’s cookies) to bring up tweets by other Twitter users about the product they were just looking at.
Some sites are already using Facebook retargeting, offering a discount on products that have already been viewed:
Currently, people think of shopping cart abandonment, PPC management, retargeting, and others as very different things. And while they are different by definition, you hurt yourself when you don’t think holistically.
I believe that the lines are becoming more blurry and marketers are starting to view sales recovery in a more un-siloed way.
I hope you find some of the above actionable tips (many of which can be implemented in just a few minutes!) useful and I’d love to hear any of your shopping cart abandonment experiences in the comments below.