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Wisdom from the Grocery Line:
Don't Let Them Abandon Their Shopping Cart

The line that will never end.  Screaming children.  Slow checkers.  Have you ever been so frustrated while in line at the grocery store that you just decided to abandon the cart and walk out of the store without what you went in for?  Chances are, if you have not actually done so, you may have been tempted to on numerous occasions.   What may have prevented you from doing so could be the inconvenience of driving to the store or the embarrassment of established social norms (i.e., you wait your turn).  If you're shopping online, however, another store is just a click away.  

As we have discussed in a previous month's article,
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the talk of the industry.  Just as it is vitally important for you to attract customers, it is just as important for you "earn your keep" as their service provider.  Keep in mind that you must be worthy of their trust so they will make the purchase, and not frustrate them before the transaction is made.

As various research firms have reported, online customers have become more and more efficient in their time spent online.  They are more likely to know exactly what they are looking for and going directly to those places.  Therefore, once they are on your site, you want to make sure the navigation is easy and the text is concise to ensure that their stay is pleasant--pleasant enough to make a purchase.  

Let's assume you have those things taken care of.  Your customer is happy and is on their way out.  Are you golden?  Don't breathe easy yet.  According to Vividence, a research firm specializing in Customer Relationship Management, 75% "abandon ship" right before checking out.  

While there are various and unavoidable reasons for this, ranging from price comparisons to a computer glitch, there are variable that you can control to prevent the "run of the mill" reasons why people have abandoned their shopping carts.  Prevent this from happening on your site by putting yourself in a the shoes of a frustrated shopper in a long, check out line and tweak your site accordingly.  Here are some common complaints that can be overhead in the checkout line:

1. "Can the line get any longer?": Since time is always of the essence, filling out endless information likens the excruciatingly long line that one often suffers at the checkout line.  Think about adding an asterisk on those items that are essential for their purchase and give the your customer the option to leave the rest blank and proceed to checkout.  

2.  "Can that checker be any slower?": I was once at a grocery store on a quick errand (maybe one or two items) and chose the line that had the fewest shoppers in it.  I picked up a magazine and started to browse.  Only after a couple of minutes did I realize that though I chose the shortest line, I was not moving any faster because my checker took "special care" with each item while passing the items over the scanner.  If your shopping cart technology is moving at a snail's pace, consider an upgrade as soon as possible (look in the Webmasters' Corner for additional information).  There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to finish the deal.  

3. "How Rude!":  Poor customer service is the quickest way to drive away your visitor and is the worse reason for them to leave.  People talk, and when your customer service is less than acceptable, their friends and family will hear about it.  Your company's image is at hand where this is concerned.  Make sure that when they contact your customer service, that they are friendly.  Period.   

Since "shopping cart abandonment" is a more serious online issue than a real life issue, Here are two other variables to consider:

1.  Cost for Shipping:  Make sure yours isn't too high.  Look at a few of your competitor's site to make sure that yours is either lower, or in the same range.  If your cost is much higher, perhaps you can somehow figure the cost of shipping into the items you offer so your customers are not surprised when they get to the checkout point and and abandon their cart as a result.  Also, make sure the shipping cost is available and up-front.   

2.  Easily accessible information:  Just as poor customer service is a no-no, inaccessible information that late in the purchasing process can also hurt you.  Shoppers are humans and perhaps need a bit of reassurance on their way out.  If they have just one last question before they make the buy and the FAQ's are no where in sight, they may decide to not make the purchase.  Once you lose them, you never know when you'll get them back.  really.

Happy implementing.  Here's to a lower cart abandonment rate at your online store.    

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