Tactics to reduce shopping cart abandonment this holiday season

By Charles Nicholls, charles.nicholls@seewhy.com

So what can you do during the crazy holiday season to reduce shopping cart abandonment? We thought we’d put together a holiday season checklist to help you keep your customers in the shopping cart this Christmas.

Before thinking about solutions to your shopping cart abandonment problem, it’s useful to look at the reasons why customers abandon. Based on this Forrester study, you can group the top five reasons into:

  • Price, especially shipping and handling, and shopping around for a deal; and
  • Not ready to buy.

But what all the research tends to miss are the emotional reasons for abandoning a shopping cart. In particular, confidence in the brand, service and, if your site is not a global brand, the basic worry of doing business online with an unfamiliar brand.

Holiday season shopping cart abandonment checklist

Hopefully you’ve been working on most of these items for months, but if not, it’s not too late to implement many of these this year:

1.    Drive down shipping-and-handling costs
The No. 1 reason why customers abandon shopping carts is the cost of shipping and handling. While you may have seasonal free-shipping promotions planned, these are tactical and it is difficult to offer free shipping more broadly. But driving down your shipping costs to rock bottom should be a priority at this time of year. This should have a measurable impact on your conversion rates.

2.    Minimum order free shipping
If you can’t offer free shipping, offer free shipping above a minimum order value. This should increase your average order value. Display prominently the minimums required for free shipping. Tell customers how much more they need to spend to get free shipping.

3.    Give them valid voucher codes
We know customers are looking for deals at this time of year, and it is important to recognize this behavior. Ecommerce sites that provide a list of valid voucher codes on their website have found that they reduce both affiliate fees as well as increase conversions. For example, Macy’s gets a 40% conversion on visitors to its voucher pages. An additional tactic to consider is to move the coupon code box down the checkout process to make it a bit harder to shop for voucher codes. If customers still abandon with invalid voucher codes, then trigger a real-time email with a valid voucher code.

4.    ‘Email me this’ button on product detail pages
In the run up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we know that customers change their behavior in anticipation of holiday promotions. The shopping cart abandonment rate changes dramatically as customers move into a research mode, waiting for the promotion to be rolled out. There’s been a trend toward using shopping carts as ‘shopping list reminders,’ so a permanent shopping cart is a great bonus, which enables customers to store their potential purchases. But putting in a permanent shopping cart is not a 10-minute job, so an alternate that you can still get in this year is the ‘email me this’ button on the product detail page. Sending the customer an email with an item they were viewing is a great way to provide a reminder that they can keep in their in box together with an easy link back to the page. This is a very simple remarketing technique that works very well and isn’t hard to do. It also has the benefit of capturing email addresses.

5.    Promote your phone number
Particularly if your site is not a well recognized brand, promoting your telephone number is important in converting those nervous about doing business with you online. The customer may have questions or just need to believe that there is a real business and a real person behind the website. If you’re a well-known brand, you should be doing this already; in many cases, simply by offering a phone number, you can recover about five percent of sales that would otherwise be lost.

6.    Build trust with social media engagement
Last year, most retailers made extensive use of social media to promote holiday season special offers. But social media should not be just about promotions. If your brand is less well known, engaging potential customers in dialogue about your company, products and services will build trust at a critical time. Remember that shopping is more about emotion and less about rational decisions to many shoppers. Positive emotions about potential purchases are countered by negative emotions about potential post-purchase dissatisfaction. There is no substitute for a direct conversation with the customer to reassure him/her that you are a company with great service.

7.    Send remarketing emails
Customers that abandon their shopping carts are customers that almost purchased. One of the most effective techniques to reducing shopping cart abandonment is to trigger recovery emails to abandoners. Most ecommerce companies that send shopping cart recovery emails recover between 10% and 30%, and that translates into a significant return. If you want to calculate your potential return this holiday season, you can use this revenue recovery calculator.

In the run up to Black Friday, record numbers of customers will abandon. These customers are telling you what products they are interested in. This is valuable data, and used in your remarketing emails, it will make them incredibly relevant -- resulting in very high open rates. Many customers are using shopping carts as wish lists, particularly during the holiday season; so even if your remarketing email doesn’t trigger an immediate purchase, there’s a strong likelihood that the email will be kept in their inbox and opened several times to use the short-cut link back to their shopping cart wishlist.

Hopefully this has given you some ideas about reducing shopping cart abandonment this holiday season. Let us know how you fare!

Charles Nicholls is founder and chief strategy officer of SeeWhy and author of “Lessons Learned from the Top 10 Converting Websites” and “In Search of Insight,” which has established a new agenda for the analytics industry. Learn more at seewhy.com and the SeeWhy blog at seewhy.com/blog. Contact Charles at charles.nicholls@seewhy.com, and follow the company on Twitter at @seewhyinc and Facebook at facebook.com/SeeWhyInc.

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