Keeping Your Clients Hooked
Make These Positive Shopping Experience Criteria Mandatory For All Your Online Stores Or You Are Sure To Fail Every Time!
“Shoppers check in, but they don't check out.” Does that sound like an insect trap advertisement? The phrase refers to something more important to home based Internet retailers: shopping cart abandonment. That is, potential customers who choose a product but for unknown reasons, decide to leave the online shopping experience without making the purchase. Discovering ‘why’ is important but not always easy.
eRetailers "can't close the sale with the majority of online shoppers," according to a recent BizRate.com survey. More than three-quarters of on-line shoppers failed to complete at least one purchase during a three month test period on several seemingly well done Web sites. A majority of the shoppers, 55%, left their carts prior to checkout. Another 32% of the shoppers left their purchases when asked to enter billing and shipping information, or after the final calculation of the sale.
Too often, the cause is simply customer confusion or frustration. Careful site design and clear organization are, of course, essential for an effective e-commerce site. In addition, though, there are steps you can take to reduce the occurrence of cart abandonment. Below, we’ve provided a few which top the list of or Internet marketing master minds.
Realtime Customer Service
If you really want to keep a customer consider stepping up your customer service options. The ability to get online help from, a human, anytime of the day or night, is attractive to shoppers and increasingly common on e-commerce sites. "Giving people the information they need while they're making the decision is the key. The ultimate customer service vehicle is realtime customer service," Gutzman said.
For those of us that don’t mind interacting directly with our shoppers, an affordable alternative is BoldChat Pro (www.boldchat.com.) BoldChat is an ASP solution that offers a robust feature set and live chat solution for businesses wanting the very best of live chat, but don't need integrated click-to-call or e-mail management. The feature is easy to add to any Web site, no programming is required. The ‘Pro’ edition includes live chat and visitor monitoring plus: custom buttons & chat windows, real-time visitor monitoring, advanced reports, and ‘SmartInvite’ proactive chat.
BoldChat is the realtime customer service chat technology used on the Apple Internet Marketing Web site. BoldChat and similar realtime chat systems, bring us closer to our customers and help us to lower support cost. In fact, after we implemented BoldChat on our Web site we measured a consistent 20% improvement in our shopper-to-client conversion rate. We love it, you will to!
If offering online support seems daunting, you can outsource the task to an ASP. Many firms are set up to provide service for e-commerce sites, offering assistance via textbased "chat" or voiceoverIP. ClientReps.com is one such company: its online customer support service can be charged per hour, per incident, or for a flat monthly fee. A fixed fee of $5,000 per month is typical, according to Taher Khan, VP of Business Development at ClientReps.com.
eStara (www.estara.com) is an ASP that focuses on VoiceoverIP support. Its service works with any Windows based computer equipped with a microphone and speakers. Another service, Surf&Call (www.surfandcall.net) emphasizes its ability to provide hands on help with guided Web browsing and joint form completion.
Offer Plenty of Detail
For one thing, providing detailed information about every product is essential you never know what feature or specification will prove as the selling point for a customer. "The more information you can give, the better," said Alexis Gutzman, author of The Ecommerce Arsenal: 12 Technologies You Need to Prevail in the Digital Arena. Knowledge is power on the Web and if people can't get information from you, they're going to get it from someone else.
Clear Crisp Product Pics
Having at least one good picture of the product is also essential, more than one is even better if your shopping cart supports multiple product views. The quality of the picture is quite important and it should be sized such that it fits and appears well proportioned to the rest of the page. Also note that your images should be Web optimized so that they display well and load quickly in the shoppers browser. If you don’t already have a graphics editing program, you are going to need one unless you plan to hire and use a contract graphics artist. The Microsoft ‘Paint’ program won’t get the job done, you need something with more features. We don’t suggest one of the many very powerful and rather expensive ($500+) graphic editing packages, there are more features there than you will ever use. Instead, purchase something more feature rich than ‘Paint’ and less expensive than ‘PhotoShop’. We use an inexpensive graphics editing program called ‘PaintShop Pro’, it works just fine for us and we have been using the product daily since 1998. You can get a FREE TRIAL of this product by clicking here.
Make it Simple
Once the customer has made the decision to buy, make sure the process is quick, smooth, and free of distractions. Expedited checkout for returning customers is a key feature: the ability to skip those lengthy shipping, billing, and credit card forms spurs return customers. Using a shopping cart that allows shoppers to setup a online ‘shopper profile’ that is only used to recall shipping/billing information on a return shopping spree is always preferred.
However, storing credit card information in your shopping cart system, in filing cabinets (even those under lock and key), in a database, or in any other form, is just NOT a good idea. In fact, most credit card processors require that you never store a shoppers credit card information any longer than is required to complete the transaction. Also VISA/PCI compliance regulations also forbid the retailer from storing the credit card data. You also leave yourself wide open to Internet ‘hackers’ that might find a way to lift that data right from your site and in many cases, you or your company could be held liable for the losses. It’s just a good business decision to not store the shopper credit card information at all. This is not true of a business that offers a product or service that requires recursive billing, and even in that case, the shoppers credit card data is typically held by the credit card/merchant processing network and is automated.
On the other hand, poorly designed shopping carts and unclear forms hold buyers back. "Some sites will forfeit sales by stopping shoppers seconds before the cash register rings. With forms that make users think they've completed the sale when in fact they've only registered on the site, and fields that don't accept phone numbers the way that customers want to type them, it's not surprising that look-to-buy ratios hover around 2% according to a Forrester Research report.
Avoid Shipping Shock
Shipping costs pose another problem at checkout time for both buyers and sellers. More than 40% of shoppers in the BizRate survey blamed their abandoned carts on expensive shipping and handling charges. That is a VERY high percentage so if your cost for delivery is reasonable or below that of your best competition, you have a good thing going. Be very careful if you decide to offer a free shipping promotion or policy. Recent fuel surcharges from private package delivery services such as UPS, FedEx, and others may consume all your profits if there is not a lot of profit to begin with.
Displaying the shipping cost for every item will prevent unpleasant surprises during checkout. At the least, the shopping cart should be able to display the cost for shipping the entire order prior to requesting the credit card and payment information from the shopper. Some sites don't compute shipping costs until after the credit card number has been entered and many shoppers are often unwilling to share their credit card info until they know the bottom line.
This is one ‘problem’ that online retailers that sell information, eBooks and subscription services just don’t have; there is typically no shipping cost to deliver a product via email or a download link. This feature of information marketing makes the business opportunity and product very attractive to both seller and buyer respectively.
Keep It Error Free
Cryptic error messages are another perennial problem: a server error can stop a transaction cold. If a problem causes the cart's contents to unceremoniously disappear, it is unlikely the frustrated customer will take the time to restock it. Likewise, if the customer is forced to press the browser's "Back" button to correct a form, but finds all the form fields are suddenly blank, he may log out rather than painstakingly retype the information.
It is important to test, on a regular basis, your shopping cart to determine if any errors have crept in while you were not looking. Also be on the lookout for how easy it will be for a shopper to know what to do next as they work their way to checkout. The ‘checkout’ button should be easy to find and see, also display how many steps there are in checkout and what step the shopper is currently on. This is very effective at preventing the shopper not actually completing the order because they thought they were done. Make it a point to shop your store daily, weekly or monthly to look for possible snag points, negative system messages, improperly calculated shipping charges, ANYTHING that might stand in the way of a shopper having a great shopping experience while checking out.
One Last Shot
Be careful, though; some customers will consider this tactic just short of desperate, or resent browser windows that appear unbidden. If your site does use this tactic, make it count! That ‘popup’ window needs to have an offer enticing enough to sway someone who has already decided to look elsewhere. If you want your visitors to know about it, popups are the answer. Popups are flexible they can and should be used to grab your clients attention for any number of good reasons.
You can use high impact popups to make sure your visitors know about things like:
- Your Product's Most Important Feature - Highlight it in a popup and it will really make an impact!
- Special Discounts Or Promotions - Everyone loves a sale, but only if they know about it.
- An Important bodysmall - Build credibility from the minute a customer hits your website!
- Contest & Sweepstakes Announcements - Who doesn't want to be a winner?
- Product Updates - Displaying an "updated last week" message will skyrocket your sales.
- Reminders - Let your prospects know that a new product is coming, or that a sale is ending so they'd better act fast!
- Opt-in List Building - Tell your visitors about a free gift and your list will grow by leaps and bounds.
- Traffic Control - Have an old domain that's still getting traffic? Make sure your visitors know where to go!
- Up Selling & Cross Selling - Include an high impact popup on your thank you page and grab your buyers while their credit card is still on the table!
- Affiliate Product Promotion - Let your prospects know about new product launches the minute they get to your site.
Are you starting to see the doors that will open to you when you start using high impact popups? No longer will the door be slammed in your face, it will be flung wide open showing your visitors your most important message within seconds.
eRetailers shouldn't expect to turn every browser into a buyer, but they should make sure that shoppers who intend to buy can access the information they need and aren’t stymied by needless hurdles.
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