As we mentioned in the previous article in this sales series, the point of sale isn’t exactly a glamorous moment full of “wow” moments — unless, of course, the customer is saying, “Wow, that was incredibly frustrating.”
What we mean is that an effective sale process is actually rather unremarkable:
- The customer identifies products they wish to purchase
- They’re provided with a bill for their purchase
- They provide cash or payment information in exchange for the products they wish to purchase
The overall cart abandonment rate across all ecommerce businesses is nearly 70%. In other words, even among consumers who show a pretty heavy interest in making a purchase, only three out of ten individuals actually do.
On the surface this sounds a bit depressing. But the truth is, the reason cart abandonment rates are so high is because so many companies simply don’t pay enough attention on this final step of the process.
Consumers abandon carts for a number of reasons. According to Business Insider, the main reasons for shopping cart abandonment are as follows:
- 25% of consumers abandon carts due to their preferred method of payment not being offered
- 28% of consumers don’t buy because they don’t want to register for a store account
- 58% of consumers abandon carts because shipping costs are higher than they expected
Let’s dig a bit deeper into what else these data points tell us.
Wow Your Customers at the Point of Sale
There are three main ways to “wow” your customers during the checkout process:
- Streamline the checkout process
- Ask only that which is required of your customers to complete the transaction
- Set expectations and deliver on promises
Let’s take a closer look at each of these in greater detail.
Streamline the Checkout Process
When a customer makes a purchase, the entire process shouldn’t involve much more than the following thought process:
I want this.
Here’s my money.
Of course, in the real world, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes technology makes things much more complicated than necessary.
Consider the following scenarios (some of which you may have encountered):
- A customer is ready to buy, but realizes the company doesn’t accept their preferred method of payment
- Upon checkout, a customer discovers the company doesn’t ship to their address
- A customer prepares pay with a credit card, but the website doesn’t offer a security statement
- After clicking to submit payment info, a blank page or 404 error comes up
In each of these cases, the checkout process has been complicated by things that are supposed to make the process easy. However, you can ensure these barriers and glitches don’t exist ahead of time.
Payments, Shipping, and Security
Not long ago, consumers had three basic options when it came to making a payment: cash, credit card, or check. Today, the modern consumer has a growing number of payment options to choose from.
While it’s not necessary for you to accept every payment option available, especially if your company is just starting to grow, you do want to know which of these options your target market uses most and make sure you accept them.
If you don’t typically ship to a specific area, provide other options to your customers from that region. Or, better yet, make an exception and do what you can to get the product delivered to the individual at cost to your company; it might not be sustainable to do this at all times, but it certainly would “wow” your first-time customers.
Make sure your customers know their data is safe with your company. On the pages leading up to checkout, include security certificates and written documentation about what happens should a breach occur.
And of course, your checkout process should be completely glitch free so that purchases go off without a hitch. At best, technical glitches (such as a faulty credit card reader or a broken webpage link) can cause frustration, which means the customer could be less likely to return. At worst, these issues can be why someone doesn’t convert at all.
Go the Extra Mile
In addition to making the checkout process as easy as possible, consider what you can add to the process to make your new customer’s experience that much smoother.
If they’ve already set up an account with your store (which we’ll discuss momentarily), you can give them the option of making “single-click” purchases.
This allows customers who came to your site intent on making a single purchase to do so without any distractions. It’s almost a guarantee that they’ll go through with the purchase.
Another option is to provide recommendations and bundle deals on the web page leading up to checkout.
By preventing the need to backtrack in order to find related products, you’ll have minimized the chances of the buyer getting sidetracked. Again, by decreasing the amount of steps your customers need to take when checking out, you increase the probability of them going through with their purchase.
A smooth checkout process makes for an easy conversion.
Don’t Ask for Too Much
As we mentioned earlier, more than 25% of consumers end up not making a purchase from an online store because they didn’t want to create an account in order to do so.
With the exception of places like Costco or Sam’s Club, most brick-and-mortar stores don’t require account creation before buying.
So why do so many ecommerce stores require customers to register an account before making a purchase? Well, it’s a great way to collect information on your new customers and provide them with targeted offers in the future. On the flip side, if they don’t convert because of the registration requirement, you’ll never collect that information anyway.
The modern consumer generally wants to keep their personal information as private as possible and not waste time filling out forms.
Not only should you allow your customers to check out as guests, but you should also only require them to provide information that’s absolutely necessary to the checkout process. If you do offer an account creation option, make sure you list the benefits or reasons for doing this up front. For example, oftentimes creating an account allows order tracking or simple returns.
Set expectations and deliver on promises
Most people know that buying online means added shipping costs and/or taxes on top of an advertised price.
But this doesn’t mean you have free rein to tack on additional charges without notifying your customers.
First, let’s talk about the price of your actual product. It’s obvious that what your customers pay for is what they should receive. It’s up to you to ensure they know exactly what they’re getting, how much they’ll pay, and when they will receive it. Not only is this required from a legal standpoint, but it’s also a huge part of forging a positive, trusting relationship with your customers and maintaining a positive online reputation.
Let’s go deeper, though, and talk about some of the other things you need to be upfront with your potential customers about.
As we mentioned earlier, more than half of all consumers end up backing out of a purchase due to a high shipping cost.
It stands to reason that shipping your product over a long distance or in an expedited manner means the cost may be higher than average.
But rather than springing the added cost on your customer at the last minute, show the cost upfront. While the cost could still turn off some of your potential customers, the added transparency may prevent some from bailing altogether.
Quality Assurance and Return Policies
Mistakes happen. And generally, customers understand. The modern consumer is generally willing to work with companies that are committed to fixing mistakes.
You can ensure your prospective customers understand your level of commitment in a number of ways, such as:
- Provide money-back satisfaction guarantees on your website and other branded documents
- Include return shipping materials, such as envelopes and pre-paid postage labels
- Provide customer support via several channels, such as email, phone, live chat, and/or social media
The more you show potential customers that you care about them and want them to succeed, the more likely they will trust you with their hard-earned cash.
Getting a prospect ready to make a purchase is a journey of its own, but the final part of the process is critical to the individual’s overall experience as a consumer.
The lesson? This is when you need to pay the most attention to your buyer’s experience in order to lead them to an easy, stress-free conversion.
In the next article in this series, we’ll discuss what you can do after a first-time customer has made a purchase in order to keep them on the hook. Stay tuned!
Matt Duczeminski is a professional writer specializing in helping entrepreneurs improve relationships with their customers. You can reach him on Twitter @mattducz. Matt lives in Philadelphia with his wife, Sarah, and he’d probably get a lot more work done if his cat would stop bothering him.