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January 22, 2008

Increase Conversions by Decreasing Shopping Cart Abandonment

A Checkout process can be a number of steps, and each step is its own little mini-conversion. You really want to know where in the shopping cart process folks get frustrated enough to say goodbye, because that’s the point where the carts conversion process is failing. If you’ve got a tidy little cyber shop and still want to improve your shopping cart abandonment rates, then here are some ideas on how to fix your cart:

1. Check how many steps are in your checkout process. This is usually a prime knee-jerk target for results. But we have found that whether you have one step, or seven, it is not all that critical. We had one client whose checkout process we were able to bring down from six steps to one, but there was no correlation in reduction of the abandonment rate to the number of steps. Once people found what they came for, they found a way and the time to checkout no matter how many steps were involved. Should you change the number of steps? No. It may not be worth the time, effort, and expense of trying to reduce the steps in the checkout process. Try some of these other ideas first.

2. Include a progress indicator (e.g., step 2 of 5) on each checkout page. No matter how many steps you have in your checkout process, keep shoppers oriented by letting them know exactly where they are in the checkout process by step number. Be sure to clearly label the task to be completed at each step. Always give them an opportunity to review what they did in the previous steps and a way to return to their current step if they do go back.

3. Provide a link back to the product. When an item is placed in the shopping cart, include a link back to the product page, so shoppers can easily jump back to make sure they have selected the right item. Your own experience probably parallels ours. Recently, while shopping for a CD/DVD printer, we wanted to know how many and what color cartridges come with the printer. It wasn’t obvious where we should click to review what came with the printer, so we had to navigate using our “back” button until we were able to get our questions answered. Not all consumers are willing to take on this navigational challenge and choose, instead, to abandon their carts.

4. Add pictures inside the basket. Just as adding a link back to the product details page inside the checkout process reduces abandonment, placing a thumbnail image of the product inside the basket can increase conversions by as much as 10 percent.

5. Provide shipping costs as early in the process as possible. If possible, provide an estimated cost while they browse. Your visitors want to buy; they just want the answers to all their questions, when they want it, and total cost is one of those critical questions. Also, if the shipping information is the same as the billing information, include a box that shoppers can check to automatically fill in the same information. Don’t waste their time while testing their keyboard skills.

6. Show stock availability on the product page. Shoppers should not have to wait until checkout to find out that a product is out of stock. One thing that we also like to see is “Estimated Delivery Date” or this product usually ships in x days. Deal with the “I want it now” mentality, and let them know when they should expect to get their product.

7. Make it obvious what to click next. Include a prominent Next Step or Continue with Checkout button on each checkout page. If possible, give the shopper a visual cue as to where they are in the process. Make the button you want them to click next the most obvious. One Top 50 e-tailer mistakenly placed visually similar Remove from Cart and Checkout buttons right next to each other. As you can imagine, many people click before they read. At this site, they ended up clearing their cart. And when they want to checkout and found nothing in their shopping cart, they immediately abandoned the site in frustration.

8. Make it easy for the shopper to edit the shopping cart. If a product comes in multiple sizes or colors, make it easy to select or change values in the shopping cart. How many times have you bought a pair of trousers online, and wanted the same shirt in two different colors? Make it easy for your consumers to add to and edit the contents of their shopping carts. It should be simple to change quantities or options or to delete an item from the shopping cart.

9. Make it your fault. If information is missing or filled out incorrectly during checkout, give a meaningful error message that is distinctly visible. It should clearly tell your visitor what needs to be corrected. The tone should intimate that the system was unable to understand what they entered, not that they made a foolish mistake.

10. Make shoppers aware that you are a real entity. Checkout is the time when peoples concerns start to flare up. Let them know you are a real company by giving full contact info during the checkout process.

Look out for part 2 of Increase Conversions by Decreasing Shopping Cart Abandonment, where we have another 10 top tips for you to increase your conversion rates.

Author:  Andy MacDonald owns and runs his own website design company called Swift Media UK which also incorporates logo design & reliable web hosting. Also checkout our SEO Blog which is updated regularly with posts to help you achieve a top search engine ranking.