Member Exclusive   //   April 24, 2023

Member Dossier: 5 ways retailers are getting shoppers to stop abandoning the cart

This story is one section of Modern Retail’s Member Dossier. In this series, we drill down on one pertinent topic in the retail industry. More from the series →

This story is one section of Modern Retail’s Member Dossier. In this series, we drill down on one pertinent topic in the retail industry. In this first Dossier series, we talk about all things checkout. 

Cart abandonment is a plague across the e-commerce world: roughly seven in 10 online shopping sessions see a customer “add to cart” without ever completing the purchase. 

Sometimes this is a function of how shoppers behave. Many might use the cart as a holding place or “wishlist” for future purchases. And about half of the time, shoppers abandon their cart after seeing additional shipping costs and taxes, according to user experience research firm the Baymard Institute.

But the institute has also found that the checkout experience itself may be why some shoppers aren’t completing their purchases. And the reasons are myriad: 

  • 24% of shoppers abandon their cart because they’re required to create an account
  • 18% don’t trust the site with their credit card information,
  • 17% said they give up because the checkout process is too long and complicated.

“These are all things that can be avoided by any given website,” said Rebecca Hugo, senior UX auditor with the Baymard Institute. “Some of these checkouts — they look daunting when they shouldn’t be. They’re getting in the way of themselves, to some degree.” 

These design issues equate to billions of dollars in sales left on the table. In response, retail brands and e-commerce experts are tinkering with a blend of psychology, technology and design tools to lock in conversions. 

Modern Retail rounded up some of the best practices experts are experimenting with this year to change up the checkout game.

Personalized add-ons or suggestions

Birdy Grey is a DTC brand operating in the competitive world of bridesmaid dresses. Product personalization is key to helping users convert, said Alex Arkhangelskaya, senior product manager at Birdy Grey. The biggest customer demand they hear about is color, with many weddings having a strict color-coded theme.

“Sometimes brides can get very specific, like, ‘I only want this like specific shade of Twilight Blue,'” she said. “That’s why we’re trying to add more dresses to our assortment, and really capture all the different colors that are on the market.”

Arkhangelskaya said the brand also aims to convert users by marketing to brides in the planning stage. Birdy Grey offers free color swatches in popular engagement periods like after the holidays, which brides can then pass along to their bridal party to order their dress.

“They’re browsing, they’re trying to get inspiration,” she said. “Maybe they have an initial idea of the kind of the color scheme or dress style that they want to go with. But we can present similar options of things that maybe they hadn’t thought about.” 

Putting best-selling and trendy styles in front of customers also helps reduce abandonment, Arkhangelskaya said. The brand experienced a 2% increase in conversions when it put best-selling designs on the cart page. 

Comparing personalization to a Spotify discovery mix, Arkhangelskaya said the optimal checkout experience comes down to “knowing what your customers want without them even having to say or do anything,” she said. 

That thinking also applies to increasing AOV. The brand last year started adding more add-ons on the cart page such as coordinating shoes or hair accessories. Roughly 5% of Birdy Grey’s orders contain an add-on item as of February 2023, which is up two times from last year.

Reduce clutter

Nandan Sheth, CEO of Splitit, a white-label BNPL product, said some of his company’s customers choose to use Splitit over another BNPL product because they don’t want to introduce another brand login to the checkout page. 

“The merchants realize that the clutter actually confuses consumers, and fewer choices drive greater conversion,” he said. 

Baymard Institute research backs up the notion that a cluttered checkout page can deter buyers, particularly when it comes to the number of form fields a customer has to fill out. 

“A form field means something you have to do is a requested task,” Hugo from Baymard said. “There are this eye tracking studies where we are finding that users spend a large amount of time focusing on any given open form field, whether it’s required or not.” 

Usability tests show that having 10 to 15 fields can intimidate customers. In order to reduce the number of fields, Baymard recommends designs that put optional fields behind a link, and pre-filling fields when possible – as well as avoiding fields that have multiple inputs like a spot for area codes. 

Sell via text

Forrester found that 59% of shoppers have used their smartphone to make a purchase — yet brands are just beginning to crack the surface of what’s possible for making purchases via text.

Jonathan Fudem, the founder and CEO of OneText, is among the entrepreneurs looking to make it easier for brands to make sales via text. The best checkout experience, Fudem said, is one that doesn’t exist.

“You go to a website, you browse, you add some items to your cart, you get a reminder: ‘We found the cart, we have these items ready to go. Whenever you’re ready, just hit the button and we’ll take care of it for you.’”

OneText, which charges monthly membership fees, offers a live agent service to brands to facilitate a text-based purchasing, and it’s also experimenting with scheduled purchases and deliveries. 

Women’s workwear brand M.M. LaFleur has experimented with text exchanges between stylists and customers and hopes to roll out a new way to facilitate purchases via text. Founder and CEO Sarah LaFleur said the brand has already seen higher conversion rates with marketing texts compared to email, and LaFleur sees buying via SMS as the next wave. 

It’s a more immediate way to connect, she said, especially with customers who are predominantly using email while at work and might respond better to a more personal pitch or buying option. 

“Most people don’t really delight in looking at their email anymore,” LaFleur said. “And so it’s about how do we find other pockets of entry to get our attention?’” 

Keep the backend up-to-date

Launched in 2013, M.M. LaFleur originally had its own in-house engineering team to handle web development, meaning the entire website was built in-house. But in late 2021, it switched to using Shopify — a move that Christina Beebe, director of e-commerce, called a “game-changer” because of the ability to customize the checkout page, plus a faster experience.

Since the switch, conversions have increased 50%, with a 164% increase in the add-to-cart rate. There’s also been a 29% reduction in sessions without any shopping activity.

Beebe said the focus for 2023 will remain on improving the checkout experience by adding different Shopify apps to the checkout page, including options for product recommendations and potentially post-purchase sales. Behind the scenes, M.M.Fleur’s team can add these options without a developer, making them efficient to integrate, Beebe said.

One goal she hopes to accomplish is making it easier for a customer to complete a set, whether that’s recommending the complementary item in the cart, or as a post-purchase upsell. 

Platforms appear to be responding to such demand. Shopify in February 2023 announced a new checkout editor for merchants that will allow them to add more apps by dragging and dropping what tools they want to use, rather than having to edit code in a designated file. Shopify executives say the goal is to give merchants the ability to more easily customize their pages.

“There’s a lot of excitement around the Shopify update for cart,” Beebe said, “so we’ll be able to be a little bit more nimble and a lot quicker there. A lot of apps will come into play, like making sure post-purchase is there, upselling in the cart, and one-click purchasing.”

Fast-loading pages 

Jacob Hawkins, Forever 21’s chief marketing and omnichannel officer, said the retailer is focused on providing an easy-to-access experience for its Gen Z customer base. Recently, that meant the launch of a new mobile app in 2022. The new app led to increasing the penetration of mobile sales from 14% to 40% in less than a year of operation. It’s also the highest-converting platform they have.

Keys to the app’s success at checkout is a fast-loading experience, Hawkins said. Forrester’s Retail Benchmark Recontact Survey found 13% of U.S. adults say a fast checkout is influential in their purchase decision. 

At Forever 21, the mobile checkout experience aims to be “as quick and clean as possible,” Hawkins said.

“A younger audience who lives on their phones, lives on their devices and spends a lot of time online, they especially have high expectations for website speed,” Hawkins said.

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