Vocus Questions: Tim Ash on Reducing E-Commerce Cart Abandonment

As an online retailer, you can expect a landslide of visitors to hit your websites as Thanksgiving and the holiday buying season approaches. Many of  those visitors will become customers, but many others will abandon their carts – in other words, leave your site without completing their purchase.

It’s a huge problem for businesses and marketers; in fact, last year, retailers saw shopping cart abandonment rates hit 89.2 percent. To help you reduce abandonment this year, we tracked down Tim Ash, an online conversion marketing expert who has helped clients including Google, CBS, Facebook and Nestle, and asked him what to do.

Vocus: How can retailers increase conversion rates with marketing?

Tim: The best way is to align visitors’ intent with what happens on your landing page. That means you should coordinate the marketing messages that happen upstream of your website with what actually happens on your site. In other words the messaging and promises you make in your advertising should be consistent.

What are the most effective ways businesses can get customers to revisit their carts?

Cart abandonment: don’t let it happen on your site.

Following up by email is the best way. That means that you should get the email address as early in the checkout process as possible. You can also retarget people after they leave your site. In other words, you can show them display or text ads on other websites after they leave yours. The banner can be targeted to the abandoned cart (e.g. “Come back and complete your purchase at XYZ Company!”).

What information should follow-up communication include?

If you are going to have multi-stage follow-up, make sure your messaging makes sense. Initial contact should focus on completing the transaction. The subsequent may be just a reminder that they have something left in their cart. The third might be a special incentive to reactivate a sale that is quickly going cold. Of course, it goes without saying that the exact timing of the follow-up is critical.

What’s the likelihood that follow-ups will entice shoppers to buy the items they abandoned?

Our results confirm what class leading abandonment recovery companies like SeeWhy.com are seeing. You can probably recover 15-30 percent of all abandoners if you do it right.

Are certain products more likely to be abandoned than others?

Obviously high-priced products are a more considered purchase and not something that most people take lightly. Also, if you sell a commodity (such as name-brand consumer electronics), then many people will shop around for the best deal.

How can businesses streamline the checkout process?

Have a clear process with simple steps. A one-page form that looks complicated is not always best. Make sure people know your out-the-door price. Many visitors will not buy if shipping is not clearly indicated before they check out. It is not something they are willing to discover later. Finally, don’t make people register and create an account just to pay you money. There is not some huge benefit in doing that for the visitor—it is a hassle and waste of time from their perspective.

What are the most effective calls to action within a site?

I think it is the overall site experience that matters. This includes a professional design, clear navigation and information architecture, and good in-page usability with a user-centered task focus. There are no silver bullets. You have to do it all well.

Tim Ash currently serves as the CEO of SiteTuners, is the chairperson of Conversion Conference, and is the author of the book Landing Page Optimization.

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