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Answer That One Last Question

  |  January 15, 2002   |  Comments

Why are your customers abandoning their shopping carts? It may be because they have one last question that you haven't answered.

There are a lot of possible reasons why a consumer would abandon a shopping cart in the middle of an online purchase: a sudden stock decline wipes out his finances, a friend gives him a gift of very same item he is buying, or the blue screen of death displays on his computer. These are all good explanations (except for the blue screen, which is inexcusable), but no consumer should ever abandon a purchase because your site kept the total purchase price hidden until the last moment or because your checkout process is too cumbersome. Yet those are exactly the reasons consumers give for leaving!

As Yogi Berra said, "It's like déjà vu all over again." I've gone over this ground before, but apparently the message is not getting out.

According to Vividence, 75 percent of online shoppers abandon their shopping carts before buying. Below are some of the main reasons given.

Seventy-two percent mentioned "high shipping prices." This is a valid reason, as some shipping prices are ridiculous, but consumers should be given that information up front. It should not be cause for jumping ship in the middle of a purchase. If your state has a high sales tax, you don't abandon the checkout line and leave the store. Why? Because you already know about it.

Forty-three percent said they abandoned the cart because the "total cost of their purchase was too high." "Merely browsing or comparison shopping" was mentioned by 61 percent. This is a valid reason; consumers should be permitted to gather information and shop around. Fifty-six percent said they "changed their mind about the purchase." This is also fine; buyer's remorse hits some people sooner than others.

However, other reasons given were "checkout process was too long" (41 percent), "too much personal information was required" (35 percent), "site [was] unstable or unreliable" (31 percent), and "checkout process [was] confusing" (27 percent). These are not acceptable. If I came at you with a bag of money, would you send me on a scavenger hunt before you took it? We must let our customers do what they need to do in a quick, easy fashion.

Datamonitor calculated that online retailers will lose $13.5 billion this year due to poor online customer service. The company estimated that 69.4 percent of online shopping carts are abandoned and cited many familiar reasons (slow order processing, security concerns, and shipping costs). The researchers found, though, that 8 percent of the transactions were abandoned simply because consumers couldn't get questions answered while they were buying. In the real world, we always have the chance to ask one last question of the salesclerk before we swipe our credit card. It should not be surprising that we need this in the online world as well.

Basex also believes this to be true. The company's analysts calculate that online retailers could increase sales by up to 20 percent, or $20 billion every year, if they deployed instant messaging as an online customer service tool. I've mentioned this before. Consumers want to talk to real people, and when they're making a purchase, they really need to. Though instant messaging itself may not be necessary, an equivalent investment in quality service is.

Or... you could continue losing about 70 percent of every near sale. It's your choice.


Blake Rohrbacher

Blake Rohrbacher is a consultant with Keally Consulting. Keally develops marketing and business strategy for clients who want to do better business online. Keally does site evaluation and optimization to help clients connect with their customers and provides market analysis, data modeling, and business planning expertise to help complement clients' in-house expertise.

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