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Avoiding abandonment on the path to purchase


Abandoned carts get plenty of attention. Retailers run reports on lost revenue from abandons. Email campaigns start hitting customers as soon as an hour after they abandon. A day later, another email comes.

Targeting cart abandoners is definitely effective. Statistics show that as much as 25% of lost revenue can be regained via abandoned cart emails. But what if you didn't lose that revenue in the first place?

We'll never live in a zero abandonment world. But we can definitely limit the chances of abandonment.

The moment someone lands on your ecommerce site, you're in a battle to keep their attention. Attention spans are shorter than ever, and distractions keep multiplying. You've got a limited window to build trust and confidence in your products.

While the cart is where we usually focus, abandonment is a process. It starts the moment someone lands on your site.

In every purchasing decision, there are certain hurdles the buyer needs to overcome. The price might be a bit more than they're comfortable paying. Shipping might be costly, or the time frame for delivery could be unclear. It might be hard to determine whether the color of a sweater is too light or dark. Will it be difficult to return that sweater if the color is too dark?

Imagine that there needs to be a specific amount of trust gained by checkout for the shopper not to walk away from the cart. Each time the shopper hit a hurdle, did you help them get over it? If you did, the chances are in your favor that they'll complete the purchase. If not, you may not make it to checkout with that specific amount of trust the customer needs. At that point it's a battle to get revenue back via email or retargeting, each of which carry their own costs.

Common hurdles buyers face on the path to purchase – and what retailers can do to eliminate abandonment – include the following:

1. The Landing Experience

First impressions are crucial. In a shopper's first few interactions with your site, there are a lot of chances to get off on the wrong foot.

Let's start with the biggest issue. Is anything broken? Keep in mind that your definition of broken will likely differ from a customer's. A mobile navigation that you would call "clumsy" is actually "broken" to the new visitor. Are there buttons that are too small to work with touch interactions? A shopper may be willing to struggle a bit, but the frustration will carry through to future stages. Think of a cartoon snowball rolling down a hill, getting bigger and moving faster.

Customers can hit your site from many different channels: email, social, search. If you brought that customer in via marketing emails or PPC, did you take them to the right place? It may seem basic, but retailers get it wrong all the time.

If I search for a specific product and have to scroll to the bottom of a category to see it, I'm hitting the back button.

2. The Evaluation Stage

In the evaluation stage, a shopper engages with a specific product and decides if they're going to buy.

Take the example of a solid walnut bookshelf costing $1,000. There are a lot of bookshelves on the market for much less money, but not a lot of solid walnut bookshelves for less. Here's where photography will be key. An amazing photo displayed prominently will make it clear very quickly that this is not a cheap item. Add a few shots of the product staged in a beautiful room to help them envision their home post purchase.

You can bet that price will be a hurdle for a good number of shoppers. When the customer gets sticker shock, what are you going to do to address their doubts? Price may not stop your customer from adding to cart, but it can definitely halt the checkout later.

The more costly the product, the more important it is to prove its value. The presentation of the product has to match the price.

When writing product copy or selecting which features to highlight, anticipate your shoppers’ questions. Is the shirt machine washable? Is the bookshelf easy to assemble? Will I need help carrying the box up the stairs when it arrives?

These kinds of questions are ones that can come back to haunt you when the shopper hits the cart. Spend some time in your customers' shoes. Imagine what they're thinking. Get ahead of what might slow them down moving to the next phase.

3. The Final Decision

We're finally at the shopping cart. Your shopper is almost ready to become a customer. Here's where nagging doubts come to a head. If you haven't addressed these doubts, you're at risk.

Anything that appears broken in checkout is a huge problem. And you don't get to decide what's broken vs what could use improvement. The power is in the hands of the customer. Be very careful when pushing any changes to checkout. Test extensively and keep an eye on analytics.

Are there any surprises? I can't stress how important this is. Did the customer gasp when they saw what the total was after shipping? Shoppers want to understand their total cost as part of their evaluation stage. Giving the option to calculate shipping before getting to the cart adds trust. Adding 10% - 12% to the total in the form of shipping charges can change the tone quickly.

How many steps are there? Are there chances that a customer could get frustrated? Is it difficult to edit a shipping address once it's entered? Attention spans have limits. Does completing an order take long enough that a customer could get bored? Do you let customers create accounts with social or pay with PayPal to limit time spent typing? Are you limiting the number of distractions that could take customers away from finishing the order?

Keep it simple: make it fast, make it easy, and make sure everything works.

Darren C. Hill is CEO and co-founder of WebLinc, a commerce platform and services provider for online retailers.

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