One of the biggest challenges facing any merchant throughout the sales year is shopping cart abandonment. It is a topic that continues to be discussed, and because of the value that first-time shoppers can deliver in long-term gains to your business due to repeat purchases, it is one that will not soon go away. To those of us in the shipping, logistics and supply chain industry, more often than not, we like to point to “shipping costs” as the reason for shopping cart abandonment. Survey after survey of consumer shopping behavior has shown this to be a primary driver of this all too painful problem. It is also a reason why very smart merchants try to entice consumers to purchase with “free shipping” offers – offers which succeed more often than not despite the fact that the merchandise is usually more expensive than the exact same item offered elsewhere. However, shipping costs are not the only reason for shopping cart abandonment, and while there is still time to review last year’s successes and failures in preparation for this year’s spring season, time is short and adjustments must be made quickly. So here are my quick tips to help you consider changes to your existing business practices that can be implemented quickly, yet may help you hold on to those valued customers:
  1. Shipping – Free or discounted shipping is one thing, but how you present the options to the customer is another thing entirely. To simply say these are your shipping options and then not clearly indicate what each option means does not instill confidence on the part of the consumer. I recently ordered an item from a merchant and paid for expedited shipping for $17.99 – only to have it arrive at my home five days later. When I called the merchant, they informed me the shipment is expedited from the point they release the order. Not a good policy; and even though I did not abandon the initial shopping cart, I have since “abandoned” that brand and will likely never shop with them again.
  2. Return Policies – Consumers do not want to shop from a merchant where they are uncertain as to what a company’s return policy is in the event that they do not like the merchandise delivered. The more comprehensive the policy in terms of what the customer can expect, the more confident they will be in the merchant, and the more likely they are to purchase; the old adage of “making it easy to return an item will increase my returns” does not fly. Customers don’t buy merchandise in order to return it; they return merchandise because the order experience did not meet their expectations (see point one above, as I immediately returned the order out of principle).
  3. Product Positioning – If you want to do something that will not only reduce shopping cart abandonment but also have a significant impact on the number of returns you receive, do this one simple thing: provide the customer with an accurate description of the product they are purchasing. This is especially the case when a customer is not familiar with your merchandise selection or is purchasing a particular brand for the first time. I have repeatedly seen customers fail to pull the trigger on a purchase because they did not feel as though they had the information needed to finalize the decision. Perhaps the color presentation is bad, the products have vague descriptions, or the appropriate size information is not presented. All of these contribute to increased returns (see point two), as customers feel as though they were somehow taken advantage of.
  4. Storefront Presentation – Have you ever walked in to a store, looked at their merchandising in terms of layout and presentation, and asked yourself, “What are they thinking?” Bad merchandising and presentation does not instill confidence in the consumer, and it does not fairly represent your brand. You could have great policies, tremendous service and competitive prices, but if you are not presenting your business in a manner that appeals to the emotional aspects of the customer in wanting to invest their hard-earned dollars in your image – you may get them in the door, but getting them to the register may be more difficult (see point three). Make the needed investments to keep your virtual storefront fresh, while at the same time making an emotional connection with your target customer.
I hope I have given you a few ideas that help you take a closer look at your business to avoid (or at least evaluate) some common mistakes that often are overlooked. Shopping cart abandonment is not just about shipping, returns, product positioning, or storefront presentation. It is all of those things, and more.  The reality is that shopping cart abandonment is really about the customer and the ability of your company to meet their expectations as a means to build lifetime value and long-term profitable growth.