Secure eBusiness Solutions

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Improving Shopping Cart Conversion

Selling online has many interesting challenges and opportunities. Often these can be compared to the real “bricks and mortar” world of retail selling. There is one area where there is a fundamental difference.

In the “bricks and mortar” store you can see and converse with your potential customers. Prospects step in off the foot path or on the mall and browse around. Immediately you can see age, gender, style, possible family or friend connections, areas of interest, maybe even gauge buying interest and ability to pay.

In most online stores none of this is true. You can track visitors in real time and look at browsing habits and trends but in reality you cannot see your customer over the web. This is true not just in online selling but also social networks or any web based social interaction.Web analytics are improving but there is still a gap called the internet between the visitor and you.

That 25 year old single girl just might be a 55 year old married male. Who really knows? We had a customer store selling lingerie which was getting very high visitor rates and Google Adword clicks late at night. But these rarely converted to sales, who do you think was visiting the store? The solution was to stop Google Adwords between 11PM and 6AM. Less visitors but much reduced abandonment rates, lower Adwords costs and increased sales.

The solution to the problem is not always obvious and you have to continually test your market.

Shopping Cart Abandonment

If you have been selling online for a while you will know that people will come to the store, browse products, add to the shopping cart, enter address details and get to the point of check out……and then leave. No transaction took place. 

It is frustrating for an online merchant as these are “the ones that got away”. In the “bricks and mortar” world it is like the consumer who takes the product up to the sales person (or check out) and asks about price (any discounts), delivery cost, gift wrapping….and says “no thanks”. The difference is that in the latter situation the sales person has a chance to convert the sale face to face.

Shopping cart abandonment has always been a problem for online retailers. 

What are some of the major reasons contributing to abandonment rates?

Consumers go online for many reasons and shopping cart abandonment may not mean you lost a sale. It may mean that you webstore lost the sale which is just like the sales rep in the "bricks and mortar" store. Some of the reasons sales may not complete are easy to see and some not.

  • Competitors checking your prices and offers 
  • Consumers seeking total price for comparison (includes shipping, taxes, gift wrapping etc) 
  • Real buyer but shipping is too expensive 
  • Real buyer but you ask for too much information 
  • Real buyer but you want the consumer to register to buy 
  • Real buyer but they do not trust the website 
  • Real buyer but confused by the basket or payment process 
  • Real buyer but cannot complete payment or credit card rejected 
  • People playing around on websites

What are some of the things that you can do to improve your shopping cart conversion rate?


People buying have to trust the website; information like Terms and Conditions, Returns Policy, Privacy Policy, Contact Details and Important Customer Information are necessary. You need to ensure that there is a valid SSL Certificate (URL needs to be consistent throughout the basket process and secure) and that there are valid business details like contact name, address and phone easily found. Do not use mobile or cell phones it is easy to get an 1800 or 1300 number that is directed to a mobile. You should also have email addresses that use the business URL and not use Hotmail or Gmail or any personal email address as a contact point. 

So TRUST is number 1.

You need to provide your contact details on the website and if you do not want to leave your home address (not recommended) then get a Post Office box and provide a postal address. If you have an ABN or ACN or any business registration number always provide it clearly with your contact details and full company or business name.

Safety is made up of a number of issues including look and feel here is a quick summary:

  1. Is there a valid address on the website 
  2. Is there a business name with ABN or ACN 
  3. Are there terms and conditions, refund policy etc 
  4. Privacy policy 
  5. Contact number – business and not personal 
  6. SSL certificate related to the business 
  7. Does it look safe or dodgy 
  8. What is the payment method – do I have to leave credit card details

Visitors do not want to leave to much information so if asked for unreasonable or personal information like date of birth or colour of eyes they will drop out.

PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards) are the store owner’s obligation. Consumers are being taught not to buy from websites where it might not be safe regardless of the deal offered. Prominently display the logos for your payment provider like PayPal or eWAY and the credit cards that you accept. Explain the payment options in the shopping basket and offer a contact point for questions.


Try to make the process as easy as possible to see and understand for example, explain the shipping process and costs maybe provide some example costs.

People often want to see the whole price before they buy so will put products in the cart and go through the checkout process to get shipping cost. This is where some small retailers come unstuck as they might have a $5 product with a $20 shipping cost. So shipping method and cost is a key drop out point. You need to look at;

  1. Delivery method 
  2. Delivery timeframe
  3. Delivery and Shipping information
If possible use a trusted source for shipping like for example Australia Post.


The more information that you ask for the higher the basket abandonment rate will be. The visual process through the basket is really important but asking for too much information is not good. If you are dealing with basic consumer goods allow an anonymous checkout as some people are reluctant to register on a website.

Simple and graphic progression steps in the shopping cart

There should be enough information so that buyers can understand the process but there should be an option to contact the retailer, a lot of small retailers often don’t have contact details for afterhours or use a mobile phone (bad idea). It is easy enough to create a mailto link in the shopping basket or a Contact Us link.

Asking visitors to register before buying is a dead end in most cases. Giving the visitor an option to register before or after the sale can lead to better results. Some buyers just want to be anonymous with minimal information left behind.


Offer human contact and service. Small businesses cannot always do that but basically people trust people more than websites especially if they have never visited before. Offer a free-call (1800) number very low cost for high returns. Stuff like live chat in the basket and call back numbers can persuade browsers to be buyers. After the sale provide fast and efficient delivery and service and they will be back more often.


Offer promotions like free shipping or discount these can be offered as part of the checkout process and also offer services like gift wrapping or gift cards, again free if possible.

Consider offers like “Free Shipping”, “Free Gifts”, “2 for 1”, discounts are not always the best way to a conversion.

What is the right conversion rate?

This really will vary greatly from business to business; and from product type to product type. Some large retailers might have conversion rates of less than 1% and be very happy. While some online only retailers would expect 25% or more.

First you need to measure, or assess, your current conversion rate and then set a target for improvement. It will depend a great deal on the number of visitors you get to your store and also how you promote the store.

You also need to access the rate at which visitors start shopping baskets vs the completion rate so you will in fact need to look at multiple metrics.
The next challenge is to improve the value in the shopping basket through cross-sell and up-sell but that is a whole new discussion.

The web analytics to track the visitor progress and conversions are very important and you can get free services like Google or pay for a service. But you need to have analytics and reporting in order to understand what is actually happening.

Without the right information I have seen website basket conversion rates increase but the actual value of sales decrease.

Most retailers can expect a 10%+ conversion rate but many have over 25% and some with over 50%. Why so high?  Because they are known brands and have large repeat customers who “TRUST” their service. Getting the service message across is hard work.

What more can you do?

Search, Browse and Find

This is the key to success. Categorisation of your products on the website is really important and you must consider having your products listed in multiple categories where appropriate. User could navigate to product using search or browse method therefore both of them should be given equal importance. Search is a simpler method to find the desired product therefore usage is high, one should be very careful about search result page.

Content is king

Always have enough content to engage the browser. The detail on product page should include key benefits, price, discount (if any), visual of product maybe users' rating and reviews. Provide what make sense in your context.
Always offer an alternative like “add to wish list” or “recommend this product”.  You should try to get an outcome from every visitor.

Up-sell and Cross-sell

Recommending related product helps in up-selling and increasing the total order value.You should always consider selling accessories and option both in the product detail page and in the basket. However be careful as cross-sell or up-sell in the basket can cause abandonment as the buyer may be confused or see a high cost associated with accessories. Remember the old saying "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush".

Targeted Information

Targeted information is very important to get the first level of gratification because users do not read each and every line. Pages on websites are generally skimmed top to bottom and left to right. So place important sales information in viewable positions that do not need the browser to scroll. Every click made by browser is a step towards final conversion.

Keep language jargon free. Simple words make it easier to catch users' attention.

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

It is very good to be able to offer answers to customers’ questions. One of the reasons that a visitor will exit without buying could simply be that they have a question. So give the visitors to your store the chance to answer that question for them by providing simple and easy to find FAQs. The key areas that questions arise will vary from store to store but here are some suggestions:

•    Shipping and delivery types and periods
•    Payment methods and questions
•    Sizes and colours
•    Returns and Refunds
•    Breakages and product faults
•    Non-delivery
•    How to use
•    Contents or ingredients
•    Environmental

User Stories and Testimonials

Visitors will often be persuaded to buy if they can get a reference of referral from another customer who has already bought. The easiest way to provide this is to add some customer testimonials to your website.

Ask real customers if they would mind you show their comments or stories on your website and to make it easy for them even suggest some works or ideas.


Alex said...

Thank you, John. I'm new to the financial services and online retail markets and have been conducting my own external research into this issue alongside our own inhouse experts. Unfortunately, not really picking up anything new. As you said on my Linkedin question, an old problem.

Corp. Comm.

Salk Jons said...

Hi I was searching for the blogs for many times, now I have reached at the right place.