Conversion rate optimization is a funny old world.
Some authority somewhere will post an article explaining how changing the color of their CTA increased conversions by X amount and, before you know it, every wannabe CRO is running to their site to do exactly the same thing.
We’re all quick to follow the advice of someone who’s achieved a decent lift, and with good reason.
This is business and, well, to not put too fine a point on it, we’re in it to make a profit.
These wonderful discoveries and the followings they produce move in cycles.
One month it’ll all be about the latest case study explaining how a CTA color change improved conversions, the next it will be about an amazingly effective headline formula. They’re fads which, whilst based on applicable methodologies, often don’t last too long.
But sometimes these fads persist. They’re not overtaken or overshadowed by the following month’s discovery.
They somehow manage to ascend to the upper echelons of CRO good practices, becoming a much quoted source of information that informs a new, long lasting best practice.
Today I want to talk about a problem and solution which has been gaining momentum for a little while now. Unlike many fads in the world of CRO it seems set to stay around. It’s gaining in exposure and is quickly becoming a major concern for savvy eCommerce managers across the globe.
I am of course talking about shopping cart abandonment. The topic every eCommerce manager is, or should be, worried about.
It is the digital marketing equivalent of Zoolander’s Hansel. It’s just so damn hot right now.
The reason it’s so hot? Well, because it’s a major issue that’s causing trillions of dollars in lost revenue.
Yup, you read that right. Trillions of dollars.
Various studies have been conducted into shopping cart abandonment. The Baymard institute lists the average rate of SCA at 68%, that means over half the people who add an item to their cart will end up leaving your site without purchasing.
That 68% of lost sales is predicted to cost around $4 trillion by the end of 2015.
But don’t worry just yet, it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, according to the study by BI Intelligence linked above, around 63% of that lost revenue is potentially recoverable.
Sure 63% is a good number, but it’s still a cure to the problem. If you ask me, we’re better off looking to prevent prospects abandoning their baskets in the first place.
Once again, conversion rate optimization is here to help.
It’s still an area which needs further study, but here’s a few tips on what the pros are doing to fix shopping cart abandonment.
1) Combat The Price Spike
When it comes down to the core elements of online shopping, what do your prospects want?
Value for their money.
They want to be able to get the best quality product at the lowest possible price. This isn’t exactly a secret, but it’s led to a weird practice which actually damages your overall conversion rates.
The majority of eCommerce sites will allow you to track the price of your cart at every stage of the checkout but continue to hide additions like shipping costs.
These hidden costs are only added at the final stage of the checkout and they can greatly increase the cost for the prospect.
Perhaps some genius thought this would be a great idea to entice prospects into adding more to their cart. Said genius probably believed that your prospect would be so involved in the product that by the time the extra costs showed up, they’d simply accept them as part of the deal.
Well, there’s a thin line between genius and insanity, and this idea is insane.
You can’t fool people into thinking they’re getting a good deal. Online shoppers aren’t morons and they’re going to be pissed when they see you’ve tried to sneak on an extra $25 for shipping.
It’s one of the most cited reasons for abandoning a cart, and is in fact the number one reason that deters those who were serious about purchasing.
Don’t treat your prospects like idiots and don’t try to fool them.
Be upfront about your shipping fees or any other hidden costs and you’ll find that those who make it to the final checkout stage will be more willing to click that magic little button labeled ‘pay’.
Alternatively, cut out any confusion and offer flat rate shipping or, dare I say it, free shipping. This eradicates confusion and leads not only to happier prospects, but also to a healthier bank balance for you.
When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter which approach you take with your shipping costs or ‘hidden’ fees.
The most important step is to expose them and make your prospects aware of exactly what they can expect later down the line.
2) Make Cart Value Should Be Visible At All Times
This action is pretty closely related to the point above and is well understood by anyone who’s ever got a little too liberal with their credit card on a night out.
Sure, that round of drinks you bought for the whole bar seemed like a good idea at the time, and you probably felt pretty good about it. But that all ends on the dreaded day when you check your bank balance.
Before you know it, that wonderful fuzzy feeling you’ve attained from being oh so generous is replaced with the gut wrenching realization that you’ve spent two weeks worth of rent in just one night. It’s enough to make you want to curl up in a corner and cry.
The same thing can happen with your eCommerce prospects. If you’ve taken all the right steps with the cross selling and product recommendations of your site it can make it very difficult for prospects to not add extra items to their cart.
But Pete, you say, that’s exactly what we want to happen. The more products bought the higher our AOV.
Sure, I can get on board with that. But if you’re not allowing your prospect to keep track of their cart value then they’re in for a shock at the checkout, a shock which will likely see them running for the hills.
The experienced eCommerce manager out there understand this potential pitfall and has come up with a way to make sure there are no surprises for your prospects.
All you need to do is keep a running total of the cart value in a visible spot for the duration of your prospect’s visit.
Pretty simple, hey.
The wonderfully tempting Naked Wines has utilized this tactic incredibly well.
They’ve saved me from overspending and having to run from a huge bill more than once by keeping a running cart amount in the top right of the page.
The last thing you want to do is to scare your prospects at the final stage of your checkout. Clearly display how much their current cart is worth for ease of use.
3) Guided Selling
“What the hell is guided selling” I hear you say.
Well, have you ever been in a store with a huge selection of products or products that are organized by their technical specs?
It’s confusing, right? And more than a little intimidating.
Sure you might head to the right section or category, but then you’ve still got to search through hundreds of options to find the product that best suits your needs and preferences.
Sometimes, that level of selection can put people off. The effort needed to make a decision is too great. The whole thing just seems overwhelming.
That’s why good stores have knowledgeable, helpful assistants who are able to make accurate product recommendations based on your individual needs.
Guided selling is exactly the same, but for eCommerce.
Rather than leaving prospects frustrated when searching through an extensive back catalogue of products, guided selling asks need based questions to make product recommendations based on prospect needs.
The solution has been implemented by Canon to help prospects find the perfect camera lens.
The process ticks a number of boxes key to increasing conversions. It simplifies product selection and your prospect’s path to the checkout. It also instills a sense of trust.
because the products are recommended on proposed usage, there’s a feeling that you’re getting the best possible product for your needs. You trust the recommendation more, something which is conducive to higher conversions and should help reduce the chance of product returns.
4) A Little Scarcity Never Hurt Anyone
Despite sounding like a potentially horrible disease, FOMO is something you definitely want on your site.
FOMO stands for the Fear Of Missing Out and plays on one of the most basic psychological principles to increase conversions.
If you cast your eyes back up to the first study cited in this article you’ll notice that the two top reasons for prospects to not buy leave what’s in their cart is because they’re either saving it for later or believe they’re not yet ready to buy.
Basically what they’re saying is that they’ve had second thoughts about spending that money on what you’re offering.
Thankfully, scarcity is a great way to get rid of this last minute hesitation.
After the University of Kentucky studied the effects of negative urgency, they discovered that adding a time or quantity limit to your products actually helps suspend logical thought in favor of immediate action.
Instead of adding your product to a list to buy at a later date, the fear of not getting it at it’s current price or perhaps even missing out on it forever forces them to re evaluate their priorities and purchase right now.
It’s a tactic well known in conversion optimization circles having been proven many times over.
This trick is literally one of the oldest in the book. Walk down any high street and you’re bound to see at least one shop which is offering a limited time sale on products.
Just don’t abuse the scarcity model, a fake scarcity limit is easy to spot and destroys trust.
When the offer runs out, it runs out for good. Break those rules and you lose all credibility, much like UK furniture giants DFS and their never-ending seasonal sales.
5) Offer Guest Checkout
No one likes to be press ganged into signing up for anything, because sometimes, you just want to buy a product in peace without having the company you bought it from constantly harassing you with their future promotions.
Say for example, that I was buying a gift for a female friend, partner or family member. A gift which is, in essence, quintessentially female in nature.
Why on earth would I want to be notified of future sales from that company? I’m only ever going to buy from them once or twice a year.
All it does is make me question whether I should be buying from this store or whether going to Amazon will save me from future spam.
I don’t want my name and email in the records of hundreds of stores that I’ve only visited once.
List sign ups are a conversion goal in and of themselves. They represent a completely different battle to the optimization for sales.
Why you’d want to make things difficult for yourself by trying to attack on two fronts I’ll never understand.
Here’s What It Comes Down To
People are always going to abandon their carts. I mean, we’ve all done it whether in a physical store or an eCommerce website.
You job as a CRO centric marketer is not to eradicate the problem (but if you do figure it out, let me know how!), but to mitigate the damage it can cause.
The primary problems come from navigation, time or monetary friction.
If you can create a more streamlined, intuitive, logical and informative experience to your prospects you’ve won half the battle for higher conversions. After that, the best steps are to focus on the compelling copy and persuasive elements that build desire.
This article isn’t the be all and end all for your cart abandonment woes.
However, the steps listed here outline solutions to the largest problems many eCommerce marketers experience with SCA and should help you put your best foot forward in this battle.
If you’ve got any other great tips to reduce SCA then drop a comment below to help us all out.
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