Your Shopping Cart’s Hidden Trap Door

Pop quiz: How many pages does it take for your customer to go from carting a product to submitting an order?

You probably answered somewhere between two to three pages. I bet it’s really more like five to six pages. We recently surveyed online marketers and 28 percent believed they have two checkout pages and 39 percent said three. In a separate study, we analyzed the carting process of 100 retailers (randomly selected from over 350 brands) and found an average of 5.6 pages existed between cart and checkout. I don’t think our respondents were being misleading, but many marketers underestimate the number of pages customers must view before they see: “Thanks, your order has been received.”

It’s easy enough to step through your checkout process and count the pages. You know the drill. Cart a product, sign in to your account, enter billing and shipping info, review your order, and submit.

In addition to identifying the sheer quantity of pages, auditing the process will help you discover and eliminate inefficiencies so you can reduce abandonment. We all know the primary contributors to cart abandonment: sticker shock when shipping and taxes are shown, technical issues, saving an item for later…

But beware! There is a trap door hidden in the checkout process many marketers overlook that can take your customer out of the purchasing process…way out!

One of the first pages a customer sees during checkout is the option to sign in to her account or to check out as a guest. You will have a mix of returning customers who have existing accounts and first-time buyers who have created an account but have not yet purchased. These are two highly engaged audiences. But, what if the customer can’t remember her username or password?

I recently experienced this while shopping and was forced through seven steps before I could get back to the shopping cart and complete my order. Here are the hoops I had to jump through to get back to my cart and a few tips for making the process easier for your customer.

  1. Click the password reminder link. This was only shown after I was forced to enter an incorrect password. I knew I had forgotten my password but had to enter something to proceed. The password reminder link should be shown wherever your customer is logging in, even before a failed attempt. If you are not doing this, you should add a “failed password attempt” step to this list.
  2. Enter email or ID info. While most of you will use email address and the primary identifier to send a username or password reminder, it is worth confirming that you are not presenting another roadblock for your customer. I recently had to enter an account number, customer ID, or username in order to receive a password reminder. Many shoppers may not remember this information, resulting in yet another data entry and yet another reminder. Asking your customer to enter her email address to receive her username and then enter her username to receive her password reminder, while definitely adding an extra layer of security, will be too much to ask.
  3. Wait for it… You may know how long it takes for a shopper to receive your cart abandonment reminder email, but do you know how long it takes for her to receive a password reminder email? Even if both are sent in real time, there is a significant difference between the two. The shopper does not expect the abandoned cart reminder but she is likely clicking refresh awaiting the arrival of the password reminder email so she can complete her purchase. This is one of the rare cases where the difference between three-second “real time” and five-minute “real time” could make or break a sale.
  4. Click password reset link. Simple enough, but how familiar are you with the content of this email? A couple things to check:
    • From name and from address: Are they consistent with your promotional email program? This will help improve inbox delivery and help the shopper recognize the email when it arrives.
    • Text vs. HTML: In this scenario, a text-only email may be sufficient. The shopper wants to get in and out as quickly as possible. You also don’t want to distract her from taking the action of resetting her password. However, a small amount of branding can build shopper confidence that the message is legit until she is moments away from completing a purchase. Include the actual URL to the password reset page in addition to linking copy.
  5. Create a new password. Briefly outline any password requirements such as multiple cases, numbers, letters, special characters, no old passwords, etc., so you avoid the shopper seeing another red error message.
  6. Log in. When the password is reset, the shopper will likely need to log back in to your site. Keep this page clean and to the point. Include encouraging copy like, “You’re almost done” or “Log in to complete your order” if you can target shoppers who reached this page when their checkout was interrupted.
  7. Go back to cart. Whew…

Audit your checkout process at least once per quarter and evaluate each step that takes your customers away from the shopping cart. Streamlining the checkout process will reduce shopping cart abandonment and increase sales, not to mention sparing you and your customer the unpleasant experience of falling through a trap door.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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