It seems to happen for no apparent reason, and it appears that there’s no way to prevent it—or stop it once it’s started. Any retail business with an online shopping website fears it, yet very few know how to deal with it. Exactly what is this ever increasing, revenue-damaging phenomenon? It’s a common occurrence known as shopping cart abandonment—when a customer buying from a retail website fills their cart with items to purchase, but they never follow through with a transaction. Some revisit the site to purchase items later, but the majority of customers never return.
The scale of this issue can be fully realized simply by the sheer numbers and a little imagination. According to a recent Listrak marketing article, the rate of cart abandonment rose from 71 % to 74% within the first six months of 2011. Internet World Stats has determined that over two billion are people using the Internet worldwide (as of March 2011). If, according to recent recordings, nearly three fourths of the users currently shopping don’t follow through with their purchases, the amount of potential revenue never earned is staggering.
Shopping cart abandonment is the second most important metric for businesses to maintain, second only to conversion. Advertising and maintaining a website practically becomes pointless if the site itself is ineffective in generating revenue. This loss of business can be halted and reversed, but the reasons why it happens must be brought to light first.
Online shopping seems simple enough, and often more convenient than driving to the nearest retail store. But just as it is in a physical retail store, problems arise for customers that result in leaving the business without making a transaction. Customers on ecommerce sites typically expect to find an indicator that sites are credible (such as an SSL certificate). Even if the web site is credible, customers will exit if they can’t successfully navigate the pages, or if links don’t take them to the pages they expected to see. More often than not, shoppers tend to leave due to high or unexpected shipping costs that haven’t been clearly stated during the shopping process.
Most online shoppers want to know how much they’re paying while they are still shopping, not when they go to checkout. Some patrons that leave a site without making a transaction typically may have read a negative customer review before they proceeded to checkout, and others decide to comparison shop on competitor’s websites. Questions that cannot be answered by “FAQ” pages can also result in visitors exiting the site. This problem, along with most of the others, can be alleviated by online web chat—something that 33% of shoppers immediately look for when making a purchase, according to a study conducted by OneupWeb.
Businesses and their clients alike can greatly profit from a web chat experience. When a retail website provides chat options, customer service ratings tend to go up and it’s been found that Generations X and Y prefer chat as a method of communicating with the companies they purchase from.
A web chat conversation is essentially like speaking with and being assisted by a sales associate at a retail store. Strangely enough, web chat almost seems to benefit the business more than it does the paying customer. Not only do web chat services improve sales and lower operational costs, they’re also one of the most valuable ways for a modern firm to learn about their practices. Chat conversations can supply an unbiased look into the company, potentially leading to changes in product development, marketing, IT issues, and general business related actions. Information obtained from chats can even serve to make adjustments to prices, promotions, and company policy.
Web chat can be broken down into two basic categories: live chat, and proactive chat. Live web chat is a relatively simple tool to use, where the visitor only needs to click a link—no downloads or plug-ins required—to begin the process, and the operator can simultaneously sustain up to ten different chat conversations. Live chat is also extremely convenient due to the fact that the customer can take a break from the pop-up window to find information or follow an operator’s troubleshooting instructions.
Proactive (or “Rules Board Invite”) chat is a program that automatically opens up when certain online customer behavior patterns are followed, or when certain pages fail to load. The settings for inviting customers to chat are easily customizable and interchangeable. Customers nervous or unfamiliar with the website often benefit greatly from this software, especially if they’re nervous to initiate a chat with an associate, or if they don’t know how to find the information on their own.
One of the greatest obstacles to a company’s establishment of a web chat option is the method in which they implement the service. These two basic options are typically the purchase, installation, and implementation of the web chat software to operators within the company itself, or outsourcing to an experienced business that specializes in chat services. Each method has different components that benefit different types and sizes of companies. Even if the description of a web chat type seems to fit a certain company, either approach can be put to use to fit a company based on their unique needs.
Plenty of websites offer easy to install chat software that can be put to use immediately. Some websites don’t even require a download to utilize the software—all that’s necessary is an account on the web chat company’s site. The software is often tested and updated by the company providing it, making the process much simpler than creating and customizing the software internally. These programs include everything needed to begin using a web chat option—everything except the employees to maintain the chat program.
Despite its simple installation, a few issues come along with the easy to install package. Oftentimes, the chat programs require that the webmaster, as well as visitors to the site, to have certain software and special firewall settings in order to allow the chat window to appear at all. In general, setting up web chat services through software or membership with a chat software provider would most benefit large companies that do the majority of their business onshore, in order to closely regulate the standards that their chat operating employees adhere to in chat conversations. Onshore chat operations tend to be more expensive than outsourced teams, but there’s not a constant guarantee that all call (and chat) compliancy rules are being followed. Larger businesses also have the option of training their own specialized chat operations crew, steeping them in the spirit of the company’s brand.
Using the services of a company with extensive knowledge of web chat often results in less overall work and time for a business, making this option great for all businesses. Representatives with an outsourced firm are highly specialized, which means they can likely handle many more simultaneous chat conversations than a beginner within the company. In addition, an outside company’s main focus is on providing superior chat services and customer service, while an internal employee may have an alternate agenda.
There are many outsourced companies with an emphasis on first-rate web chat experiences, and they are surprisingly simple to find. These companies have departments that conduct chat conversations with an emphasis on efficiency, cost-effectiveness, productivity, and gaining customer loyalty and satisfaction. They work closely with the businesses that they provide services to in order to determine software metric needs as well as the overall goals of the company. The most credible companies are also ATA-SRO accredited businesses, which means that they strictly follow call compliancy measures in order to improve a customer’s experience, while continuing to successfully close sales. These firms also serve to raise sales numbers without incurring costs—something which an internal business without web chat services would have a difficult time accomplishing.
Online shopping cart abandonment is an important issue to most and a problem that should not be overlooked. It can cost companies thousands of dollars in potential revenue and a bad set of sales metrics. Luckily, there are a variety of solutions out there that can fit individual companies, helping to improve and grow their revenue that’s generated online.
The two main options, implementing web chat software internally or hiring a company to handle the execution and operation of software and employees, can alleviate the questions and problems that provoke customers to leave a retail site without making a purchase. Once the issue of shopping cart abandonment has been solved, firms can stop being limited by a loss of online customers and move on to accomplishing goals to expand business and improve their company.
This article was written by Matt Rocco, President and Chief Operating Officer at Etech Global Services. Etech Global Services is a leading provider of intelligent sales and service solutions utilizing inbound and outbound voice and web chat. Etech Global Services also understands the importance of customer relationships. Today, and in the future, all of Etech Global Services’ solution strategies will be driven by the ‘voice of the customer’.
Etech Global Services’ goal is to provide industry-leading service, stellar CSAT scores, and high performing sales and service solutions that enable clients to increase revenue and delight customers. If you would like to learn more about Etech Global Services or their live chat solutions to help improve shopping cart abandonment, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org