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BusinessColumnistsJamie Herzlich

Incentives can keep online shoppers from abandoning their carts

Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at NPD Group,

Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at NPD Group, at Roosevelt Field mall on Nov. 20, 2013. Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Retailers lost more than $4 trillion in potential sales last year from consumers who abandoned items in their online shopping carts, according to Business Insider.

The reasons vary, from cumbersome checkout procedures to costly shipping fees.

While shopping cart abandonment is impossible to eliminate, retailers can take steps to reduce it, and that starts with understanding the reasons why it happens, experts say.

“You have to look at the transactions themselves and make some assumptions,” says Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst for The NPD Group in Port Washington.

Try assessing why the consumer might have abandoned the purchase, he says.

A lot of times consumers put an item in their cart and leave it there to see if they can find it for less somewhere else, he says, noting that 22 percent of shoppers make their online purchases elsewhere after comparing products and pricing.

“You have to be very conscious of price matching,” Cohen says.

Many users also place products in their carts as a “forget me not” method, says Brett Bair, principal strategist of services at Manhattan-based Monetate, a software provider for consumer-facing brands.

A study by e-commerce researchers at Baymard Institute found that 58.6 percent of online shoppers in the United States abandoned their cart in the last three months because they were just browsing or not ready to buy, he says.

With that said, there are ways retailers can reduce abandonment, Bair says. These include:

  • Conducting follow-up: Incentives are powerful tools, and if price or added costs like taxes and shipping are the primary barrier in a particular case, an incentive such as a shipping discount may be enough to persuade the buyer, he says.
  • Creating clear forms: Filling out customer and credit card information can be a pain for customers, especially when these pages are fraught with glitches and require customers to start from scratch — over and over again, he says.
  • Being upfront about availability: If an item is out of stock, make it clear early in the customer journey — ideally on the product page, Bair says.

Other steps you can take include having progress indicators so people know where they are in the shopping cart process, says Jessica Moreno, digital marketing and brand manager at Hauppauge-based Active Web Group.

With many people shopping via mobile devices, be sure your site is responsive and secure across all devices, she says. Providing an autofill option can be helpful for mobile users.

Also provide multiple payment options, and don’t require users to register or create an account to check out, Moreno says.

“People want a hassle-free experience, and checkout is a big part of that,” says Danielle Conte, a Centerport retail consultant and founder of YoutailRetail.com, a marketing blog.

Put yourselves in your customers’ shoes when evaluating the entire checkout process, she says.

“Shoppers are comparing the merchandise, as well as the experience and the return policies,” she says. “They want something that is fast and easy.”

If they do abandon their purchase, use it as an opportunity to follow up, she says.

“I think a personalized email follow-up without flooding their inbox is effective,” Conte says.

That’s what Christine Laureano, founder of Hampton Bays-based Ba6 Marketing, a content marketing and copyrighting firm, and Ba6 Botanicals, a maker of handmade aromatherapy body care products, does.

She sends out a personalized email to customers who leave items in their carts.

“Abandoned carts are your second chance at a do-over,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to reconnect and nurture your potential customer or the customer that bailed.”

You could even offer an incentive or add a gift with a purchase, Laureano says.

If they go ahead with the purchase, remind them to give you a good rating or review, Cohen says.

If they don’t purchase, consider why.

“Don’t only evaluate what you sold,” he says. “Evaluate what you didn’t sell and why.”

Top reasons for shopping cart abandonment

Cost of shipping: 86%

Cost of order became too expensive: 72%

Hassle of return: 22%

Lack of payment options: 16%

Security concerns: 13%

Source: Data from FuturePay, provided by eMarketer

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