It has to be more like the physical experience of shopping.
If you were brave enough to shop online 20 years ago, you had a vastly different experience than you would today. The eCommerce shopping cart was an unsophisticated, invisible space where selections hopefully waited for you to purchase them.
It was as much a guessing game as it was a shopping experience. Technology and competition are starting to change that. We’ve come a long way from the days when it was easier to abandon your purchase than make a basic change, but there’s still a ways to go. It’s the online storeowner’s fear of abandonment that’s bringing innovation to the shopping cart. It’s pushing our online experience even closer to that of pushing a real cart down the aisle.
Don’t leave me this way
eMarketer reports that over 74% of the world’s eCommerce shopping carts are abandoned. In Asia and the Pacific, the rate is close to 76%. That’s a clear message. Stuff is not getting bought, and people are not amused by any experience that’s dictated by inflexible technology.
To be fair, not all abandonment is the fault of the eCommerce shopping cart. Sometimes we just change our minds. More often, though, it’s because the shopping cart just can’t keep from surprising us with unexpected information. And that’s not going to happen if we were walking down the aisle of a physical store.
Why didn’t you tell me that?
Marketing software maker VWO recently conducted a survey of 1,000 online shoppers to find out why they abandoned eCommerce shopping carts. The top reason, cited by 25% of respondents, was the discovery of unexpected shipping costs.
Do shoppers expect a shipping cost? They will unless they’ve already been made to understand there’s free shipping. Should the cost come as a surprise to them at checkout? Apparently, online shoppers don’t think so.
It’s why some online stores have begun to calculate the cost of shipping as shoppers add items to their eCommerce cart. They’re listening to customers, who are saying that the inability to see the total billing upfront is a sly tactic. But there’s a downside to this.
I don’t want to register
The VWO survey found that 22% of shoppers abandoned their eCommerce shopping cart because they discovered it would be necessary to create a new user account to complete the purchase.
For those who did go on to register, 32% said that filling out the same information twice was their biggest sore spot. Discovering too many required fields to fill out was the next largest complaint.
Again, technology usually dictates a stringent process. And it’s often required because of a secure connection to the online store’s credit card processor. Unfortunately, the customer doesn’t want to hear about your technology limitations. It’s why the third largest complaint given by shoppers in the VWO survey was the discovery that the browser’s back button wouldn’t return them to the previous page.
None of your business
Today’s shopper knows that part of the online experience is trading some personal information in exchange for the sale. But these are the days of wholesale data breaches, and individuals are becoming wary about giving out personal information.
Nearly 60% of those interviewed for the VWO survey said they’ve abandoned an eCommerce shopping cart because the website asked for personal information they weren’t comfortable sharing. Over a third of the respondents said they would bail if for some reason they were asked for their social security number.
Conflicting behavior, confused objectives
You start to see the conundrum here. Customers shopping online don’t want surprises. The only way to remove most of these surprises is to collect information from them before they start shopping. But folks aren’t all that thrilled about divulging much information at all.
Where do they go if ‘they can’t get no (online shopping satisfaction)’?
About 18% said they’d just buy it from a physical store. Another 14% said they’d shop around online until they found a website with a better deal or experience. And nearly 30% of those in the VWO survey said they completely gave up and didn’t buy anything at all.
Can the physical meet the virtual?
Shopping at a brick and mortar store may not be more convenient than shopping online, but the tradeoff is the rest of the experience. The level of transparency in physical shopping is something that the online experience still can’t match. It’s going to be the benchmark.
For all the frustrations caused by eCommerce shopping carts, online still has the virtual upper hand.
All is not lost
In fact, not much is lost at all. The abandonment rate may hover at 74%, but the VWO report indicates that 72% of abandoned carts are not irrevocably lost. While we’ve already heard that 18% of those who abandoned their online experience went off to a brick-and-mortar store, 13% came back later and made the purchase anyway. And this is where online shopping carts are making the most innovative strides.
They can do something that few, if any, physical stores can do. eCommerce shopping carts give online stores the ability to quickly retarget customers who abandon the purchase. Nearly 60% of those surveyed admitted that a retargeting ad or email was enough to encourage them to go back and buy a product.
Can the virtual experience be more like the physical one?
The data about shopping behavior and the user experience piles up. It has provided online stores valuable insight by showing that the shopping cart isn’t just an invisible record of what shoppers want to buy; turns out, it’s a huge contributor to the decision-making process. Just because an individual puts something in their basket, it doesn’t mean they initially planned to buy it.
10% of those who participated in the survey said they’ve added things to their eCommerce shopping cart by mistake. An additional 15% said they were only using their cart as an online wish list. Here’s the big one: 45% said they often add things to their cart just to see if the price was inclusive of shipping.
Here’s what these numbers are telling us:
• In real life, your shopping basket is always right in front of you. Abandoned online shopping cart percentages will drop when the online experience can match this. Shopping is a visual experience, and just a text list of what’s in your eCommerce shopping cart doesn’t cut the mustard. Cue the images.
• In real life, a sales associate would (hopefully) be assisting you. This is where online shopping carts can pull ahead. They can monitor what customers intend to buy, and make recommendations for further purchases.
Maybe it’s not really even a shopping cart
Online shoppers expect their eCommerce shopping cart to truthfully tell them how much stuff is really going to cost. That’s something a brick-and-mortar experience can’t immediately do (yet).
They also expect it to be a dressing room, a comparison chart, and even a participant in social media. That’s a pretty tall order, but online stores have no choice but to deliver. The good news is that storeowners are beginning to see that customers don’t buy the excuse that a poor shopping experience is the result of software. Now, the challenge is to transform the technology from an obstacle to a solution.
For more information about creating an effective shopping experience, contact the online strategy and design experts at Creative Technology Partners. We design innovative solutions that will maximize your online impact and ROI.