3 Ways to Solve Cart Abandonment and Boost Sales

When a shopper visits a physical store, waiting in line to check out is expected. Even if you try on an item but end up ordering it online to get the right size, that's okay. We're accustomed to being somewhat flexible.

Online, everything changes. Long load times result in closed shopping tabs. Out-of-stock items are eventually found on another site. These are just a few examples of how expectations differ from channel to channel.

Successful retailers must optimize each channel to cater to channel-specific behaviors—or face the wrath of consumers. After all, studies show shoppers are not forgiving of poor experiences. Most never grant a second chance.

While every industry benefits from optimizing the customer journey, one particular challenge stands out in retail: the abandoned e-commerce cart. In 2014, the average abandonment rate was just over 68 percent. The estimated loss to brands was a whopping $4.1 trillion.

How can such a problem continue when so much customer and business value is left in the cart? Here are three ways retailers can reduce cart abandonment and better serve customers so that everyone wins.

Tip 1: Pay Attention—Customize the Experience for Different Customers

When a consumer is shopping on an e-commerce site, we know much more about them than bounce rate or how long they've spent on a page. But unfortunately, these are the metrics most brands use to optimize e-commerce applications.

Let's look at a shopper named "June." June spends $200 each year on a tote bag and usually makes her purchase near the end of March. She doesn't, however, look at much of anything else.

A customer like "Frank" does. In fact, he spends about $100 per month with no real agenda. Sometimes it's pants, other times it's accessories. And he makes purchases for men and women.

Frank and June each have a journey matched to their preferences. Metrics like time spent on a page will be different for all the Junes in the world (who are seasoned tote bag buyers) than for the Franks, who are browsing a variety of potential items. So these metrics tell us very little.

Instead, when it comes to items in the cart and triggering the transaction, optimizing key moments of the journey is what wins the customer.

Because June is such a habitual buyer, when she abandons her cart near the end of March with a new tote in it, we have an opportunity to proactively get in touch. An automated SMS message could remind June about her cart, or ask if she has questions on additional color options or sizes. We can even reference her past purchases and offer a discount on this year's newest style.

Frank's constant shopping results in him adding items to his cart that are frequently abandoned. He is constantly looking at the available selection. By understanding his habits, we could associate two items on his list, like a shirt-and-pants combination, and offer both to Frank in an automated email. This encourages him to finish the transaction and demonstrates value in the brand's ability to also be a consultant.

Optimizing how a customer interacts with the brand improves loyalty and the experience. Every industry has its own cart problem, but using customer behavior data is a recommended first step toward a solution.

Tip 2: Shake It Up—Interact in New Ways

Obviously, customer profiles and reasons for abandonment vary. But automating outreach when a customer abandons their cart is the first step in problem-solving. By evaluating the results of proactive engagement, we can also continuously refine how we interact with consumers in the moment.

Our hypothetical retail brand above is surprised to see that June doesn't always respond to the SMS message. She only returns to her cart about 2 percent of the time. We can take this information and try something new, like an automated, proactive outreach sequence that begins with an email before sending the SMS message.

One best practice is to test different sequences on your own Junes and Franks. Some customers who don't respond to a single email will interact when a second, follow-up email lands in their inbox. With a cycle of testing new interaction sequences and reviewing success metrics, brands find the perfect match for what satisfies different customers.

Tip 3: Get Creative With How You Understand "Abandoned"

Once your e-commerce site has been optimized for specific consumer profiles and you're learning how to interact, what else can be done to solve the abandoned-cart problem? Well, because the customer journey occurs across channels, it's time to think outside the monitor.

When every channel is treated like a silo, brands don't recognize that customers who begin an experience online may move to a brick-and-mortar location to make a purchase. If they need a customer service representative, they might pick up a phone but are just as likely to reach out on a mobile app.

In other words, personalized shopping experiences are not exclusively designed for e-commerce sites. A true omnichannel provider will capture customer information and analyze this data to design unique experiences. Connecting this information across channels will allow your business to target those customers who seem to abandon a cart only to make an appearance in a physical location.

Back to our hypothetical retail brand: Even though June didn't respond to the SMS message, a strategically placed sensor alerted a store associate when she entered the physical store to check out the bag she'd left in her online cart.

By connecting to her mobile app, the store can proactively message June's phone and let her know that the tote she was looking at online is available. The in-store associate is alerted to assist her with finding items and can even make complementary suggestions. On the back end, once June purchases the bag, the item can be removed from her cart. The additional data points June provided by visiting the store will now become part of her purchase profile. 

With these three tips, retailers can start earning back some of the lost value of abandoned carts by encouraging transactions, and following the customer behavior and data trails to record purchases made in other channels. Once your abandoned-cart problem has been identified, it’s time to customize, learn, and innovate.

Jaime Bailey is senior director of marketing for Virtual Hold Technology.


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