Improving Shopping Cart Conversions Without Giving Away the Farm

Tips on effecitvely getting users through payment

B2B eCommerce shopping carts often get less attention than they deserve because the business buying process usually involves conducting extensive product research, negotiating special terms and following multistep purchasing-order processes that are common in B2B sales. However, the shopping cart still plays an active role in eCommerce conversions, and even the most carefully crafted deal can fall apart during the checkout process. If companies aren't making it easy and convenient to buy products -- even on the first customer visit to the site -- then they're leaving money on the table. Research shows that B2B customers research their potential suppliers before their first visits to supplier websites, so many first-time customers could be fully primed to buy if the registration and checkout processes are simple and intuitive.

Managing shopping cart conversions can benefit any company regardless of its size or sales process. It's frightening but true: experienced buyers could abandon a carefully crafted deal just because they have trouble placing an order on the website. The shopping cart functions as the standard fulfillment engine for online ordering, and B2B platforms can use their carts to facilitate sales, track customer behavior, generate leads and automate marketing communications with customers who abandon their shopping carts. Preventing cart abandonment and reconnecting with users who abandon their carts are two of the most efficient conversion rate optimization or CRO strategies that B2B organizations can employ. Platform integration, automation and self-service are critical because about 82 percent of B2B buyers find that salespeople are woefully unprepared for today's marketing challenges.[1]

Preventing simple errors that lead to cart abandonment

Small errors and inconveniences can generate big effects on what buyers do -- especially those who are trying to type on small screens with big fingers. Forrester Research estimates that lost income due to shopping cart abandonment will soon top $31 billion.[2] Giving customers the best possible experience involves removing barriers instead of adding unnecessary complications. Simple platform fixes include the following strategies:

  • Designing Visible Controls for Managing Carts Customers should be able to easily change their orders, remove products and change any of the order's details and options with clearly marked controls.
  • Simplifying the Checkout Process The simpler the checkout process, the higher the conversion rate will be.
  • Providing Easy Access to Research, Reviews and Social Tools It’s important to provide links to further information, product reviews and social tools that are highly visible.
  • Offering Incentives Incentives -- especially for new buyers -- can convince fence-sitters to convert.
  • Promoting the Site's Reliability and Security New customers don't know the company, so reassuring them is a strong conversion strategy.
  • Retargeting Ads Platform automation can automatically schedule emails at optimal times to users who abandon their shopping carts. People often "window-shop" when they're not ready to buy just to see what the final damage is and what they'd need to do to place an order. These cases of abandonment are excellent prospects for conversion, so best practices suggest sending automatic emails, marketing messages and buying incentives to these users.
  • Reminding People that They Have Items in Their Carts People get distracted by other obligations and even while exploring other areas of the website. Reminding customers that they have items in their shopping carts can increase eCommerce conversions by up to 500 percent.

Improving conversion rates

Unfortunately, many of today's B2B websites use antiquated software, jury-rigged systems and aging legacy tools that just can't keep up with today's requirements of responsive design, lightning-fast page loads, full-integration capabilities and automated marketing. Updating business-to-business capabilities by adopting a strong eCommerce platform is the most effective strategy for ensuring consistent and profitable eCommerce conversions. Techniques for improving conversions and lowering cart abandonment rates include:

  • Strengthening navigation abilities by allowing customers to go back to product listing, change quantities and details, remove products and fine-tune their orders with customizations
  • Providing customers with intuitive search tools
  • Displaying the call-to-action or CTA button prominently with terms like "Buy Now," " Add to Cart" and "Provide Order Details"
  • Never forcing customers to register until necessary
  • Matching product order details to product images when possible such as showing a black coat when customers order black coats
  • Letting customers know when other available products could fulfill their needs when requested products are out-of-stock

Registering new customers

Everyone hates long, complex registration processes, and mobile ordering on smartphones makes even minor registration operations more difficult. Best practices for hassle-free registration include providing a contact navigation utility, keeping the process as short as possible, showing progress bars so that customers don't get discouraged and letting people select their billing addresses for shipments with one click.

Offering incentives without devaluing the brand

Inventory closeouts, special prices on discontinued products and discounts to attract new customers are acceptable incentives, but marketers need to be wary of offering incentives that could devalue their brands, lead customers to expect discounts or even trigger price wars with competitors. A great incentive for customers who buy directly from the catalog is offering free or discounted shipping. If the company offers complex global shipping integrations with multiple carriers, then free shipping offers can be limited to certain shipping plans, dollar values, percentages of the order, key shipping companies or other restrictions. Shipping costs are a major concern for B2B buyers who often have tight markup restrictions, so offering free shipping or help with shipping costs is a strong incentive -- especially if offered with an expiration date.

It's even possible to work out a deal with third-party shippers to absorb some of the costs of these types of incentive. Offering across-the-board discounts on products could cause customers to think that the products are overpriced or have defects or that the company is struggling, all of which devalue the brand. That's why shipping incentives are powerful conversion tools, and other CRO options include letting customers know when supplies are limited, prices are scheduled to rise, eco-friendly aspects of the manufacturing process and many other value-building offers.[3]

Closing the deal

There's a fine line between closing the deal, maximizing the sale and causing the customer to abandon a shopping cart, and an integrated platform can walk this tightrope by providing what each customer is most likely to want without introducing a lot of distractions and unnecessary red tape. For example, a small order to be delivered to a single address within the continental United States isn't likely to need complex shipping through multiple carriers, but the option could be a key deal closer for a company that ships to multiple global locations. During checkout, some customers are likely to reconsider, so providing high-quality images with zoom capability, product demo videos and customer reviews could seal the deal. It's important to give customers persuasive options such as personalized product reviews, lists of related items and even similar products with lower and higher costs that customers can add to their carts and "checkout now" or "continue shopping."

Developing a proactive strategy to improve shopping cart conversions

Depending on your eCommerce platform, ripping and replacing the platform might be the strongest cost-value solution for initiating a conversion rate optimization strategy. Leading B2B eCommerce developers have found that this strategy is necessary in up to 75 percent of their B2B development projects.[4] The cost-value benefits of partnering with a developer to build a platform that evolves, grows and provides a robust API layer for integrating operating software and third-party resources will quickly cover investment costs and provide unlimited scalability, seamless integration options and the strongest fixes for improving conversions. The right customizations can provide extraordinary services such as tracking items and accessories that users viewed during their browsing journeys, sending customers links to videos of product demos, featuring browsed items from previous visits on the display during a customer's next website visit and offering a buying incentive for those products during or after checkout. Choosing the right platform development partner can offer phenomenal short- and long-term benefits that include training staff in how to use CRM applications to maximize CRO rates.