Industry research shows up to 75 percent of shoppers abandon their online shopping carts before completing the checkout process. I'm not sure how comfortable I am with that statistic, but shopping cart abandonment is a significant problem. Numerous factors influence this rate, but I'll address those that move the lever in the right direction this week and next.
How many steps are in your checkout process? This is usually what most people focus on. Our clients' checkout processes range from one to seven steps. We've discovered the number of steps is not all that critical. One client was able to bring the checkout process from six steps down to one; we found no correlation between reduction of steps and reduction in abandonment rate. Once people found what they came for, they found the time to check out no matter how many steps were involved.
Should you change the number of steps? Yes! But if you don't have an inexpensive and simple way to test, it may not be worth the time, effort, and expense of reducing the number of steps in the checkout process. Try some of these other ideas first.
Include a progress indicator on each checkout page. No matter how many steps in your checkout process, let customers know where they are in the process. Number the steps, and label the task clearly for each step. Give shoppers an opportunity to review what they did in previous steps and a way to return to their current step if they go back.
Provide a link back to the product. When an item is placed in the shopping cart, include a link back to the product page. Shoppers can then easily jump back to make sure they selected the right item. I was shopping for a printer and wanted to know how many and what color cartridges come with the printer. It wasn't obvious where I should click to review the product description. I had to navigate using my back button until I got my questions answered.
Add pictures inside the basket. Placing a thumbnail image of the product increases conversions by as much as 10 percent.
Provide shipping costs early in the process. If possible, provide an estimated cost while visitors browse. They want to buy but want the answers to all their questions when they want them. Total cost is one of those critical questions. Also, if the shipping information is the same as the billing information, include a checkbox to automatically fill in the same information.
Show stock availability on the product page. Shoppers should not have to wait until checkout to learn if a product is out of stock. Also, give an estimated delivery date. Deal with the "I want it now" mentality, and let them know when they should expect to get their products.
Make it obvious what to click next. Include a prominent "Next Step" or "Continue With Checkout" button on each checkout page. Make the button you want them to click next the most obvious. One top 50 e-tailer mistakenly placed its "remove from cart" and checkout buttons next to each other. Neither stood out. Many people ended up clearing their carts. When they went to check out, they found nothing in there and immediately abandoned the site in frustration.
Make editing the shopping cart easy. It should be simple to change quantities or options, or delete an item from the shopping cart. If a product comes in multiple sizes or colors, make it easy to select or change values in the shopping cart.
Make it your fault. If information is missing or filled out incorrectly during checkout, give a meaningful error message that's obvious to see. It should clearly tell visitors what needs to be corrected. The tone should be the system was unable to understand what was entered, not the visitor made a foolish mistake.
Show them you're a real entity. People's concerns start to flare up during checkout. Let them know you're a real company by giving full contact info during the checkout process.
Stay tuned for part two next week. As always, feel free to let me know if you have any additional tips you'd like to share.
Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.