When Greed Is Really Not Good

I recently wrote an article on abandoned shopping carts that elicited a lot of feedback from people who wrote in to explain why they had abandoned their online shopping carts. It appears that most had done this for the same reason: information greed. Not their information greed, but the sites’.

The sites they were shopping on were more concerned with getting all the information they could (names, addresses, credit card numbers) than giving users the information they needed (product prices, availability, shipping prices).

Consumers looking for the latest widget on your site need to know a few things: how much the widget costs (including shipping charges), if you’ve got one to ship, and how soon you can ship it. Most sites show the product price in an upfront manner, but this is not the whole price a consumer has to pay.

Often product shipping can cost as much as the product itself. Why is this crucial piece of information kept so secret behind forms for names, mailing addresses, email addresses, and credit card numbers? All a site should need to know for the purposes of calculating shipping charges is your postal code. This code can also trigger the display of sales tax amounts when applicable. Most Internet shoppers have learned that a low product price means little by itself. Without the shipping charges and sales tax information, consumers are left in the dark about the total cost of the product.

Sites that require my credit card information before divulging the total cost of my purchase may be banking on the fact that once I’ve gone that far, I will just go ahead and click the “buy now” button, regardless of price. However, they’re forgetting one thing about the Internet: I can leave abandoned shopping carts all over the place. If I get sticker shock at the total cost on one site, I can easily move on to the next.

Here’s one way to encourage shoppers to move their carts through checkout. Allow them to input their postal codes at any time while browsing to let them check shipping costs and sales tax. You could even let them input their postal codes at the beginning of the visit and display the shipping and tax information for every product.

Sites have gotten much better about stock availability over the years, but they’re still not perfect. A certain online bookstore does quite a good job, I think, of letting users know that a book “usually ships within 24 hours.” Many other sites, though, figure that “in stock” and “out of stock” give users enough information. Even worse are the sites that let their shoppers know about availability only once the order is nearly complete. This simply frustrates the shopper, which leads to abandoned shopping carts and few second visits. Letting consumers know when they can expect to receive their products can go a long way in guiding them through the purchase process.

Want to decrease the number of abandoned shopping carts on your site? Let shoppers know if you’ve got the product they want and when you can ship it to them. Give a good-faith estimate (perhaps based on postal code) of when the product could get to their door.

The message today is simple: The Internet is all about the free trade of information. Hiding the information that users need and want behind unnecessary requests for their information runs counter to that principle. Give up the information greed, and you’ll get happier shoppers, fewer abandoned shopping carts, and more return visits.

And that’s good for everyone.

Related reading