Online shopping statistics continue to grow according to a recent study carried out by CRR Research; 2011 online sales in the UK were £50.34 billion, up by 12% on the previous year, making up an impressive 12% of UK retail trade. The same trend can be seen across Europe with a predicted ecommerce growth of 16.1% for 2012.
There’s no doubting an improved customer experience has contributed to winning the hearts and minds of the UK shopper – this might include great design; well prepared product images, videos and descriptions; excellent customer service and so on – but all this is in vain if at the point of making a purchase the shopper abandons the shopping cart without completing the sale.
So, what can online retailers learn from their offline cousins in making their purchase process as simple and familiar to shopping with a credit card in real life? The following 5 critical checks will help.
1. Don’t hide shipping costs
No one likes an unexpected cost to be added to their purchase. Be upfront about your shipping costs without making it too difficult to understand. If financially viable, consider offering discounted rates for bulk buying. On a related note, make sure to publish your returns policy including any costs returned items may incur.
2. Highlight discounts
Shoppers love bargains. A cleverly crafted deal might be a great way to attract new customers – but to no avail if they then abandon their cart as a result of not seeing the discount highlighted at the point of purchase. Consider how the blatant ‘50% OFF’ or ‘NOW ONLY £15’ label reassures the customer that he/she is getting a bargain purchase.
3. Streamline the purchase process
Reduce the number of steps in the checkout process – including avoiding forcing shoppers to set up an account before being able to complete their purchase. This is really a must though it certainly doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t invite new customers to set up an account. It’s simply that you should not let a purchase fall through because it is a mandatory step.
Including a step-by-step purchase progress indicator is a great way to ‘hand hold’ shoppers through the buying process.
4. Make answers readily available
One of the major obstacles to overcome in online sales is a lack of trust/faith in the site and therefore the company. On the high street, retailers can easily respond to questions and address objections. Online it’s not so simple. You’ve got to show your users you are a credible source. One of the simpler ways to accomplish this is to include easily accessible links to Frequently Asked Questions, your Returns Policy, your Shipping Terms and so on.
You might even want to go a step further and offer a live chat function for a little added reassurance.
5. Allow the shopper to be in control
One of the reasons shoppers abandon a purchase is because they feel they lack control over the process. A well thought out shopping cart design ca