Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Improved Online Shopping Experience

Have you ever been to a store , filled up your cart with products and decided not to buy since the queue was long. I doubt it, and even if you did the instances would have been very low. The reason being since you had gone down to the store physically with the mindset of purchasing something, you would actually bear minor inconveniences and buy what you came for rather than deciding not to buy at all. 

But this is not the case with online shoppers and as such online stores don't happen to be so lucky as their brick and mortar cousins. In fact only 1-2 % of those visiting your online store will end up purchasing something.So it becomes very important that you treat your online guests in a way that will help you convert more of them into customers.

As it turns out most online stores are confusing for first time browsers and finding some product through the site navigational systems turns out to be even harder. So now you bring in internal search to solve the guest's problem. But that is not where it all ends. Now that the customer has decided what to buy, has stood in line for the checkout, he finds something wrong with the checkout process..maybe it's taking too long...maybe he is being asked to register first...etc. So what does the irritated customer do. He leaves your cart and checkout process without purchasing anything....why ? because the entire process being virtual took very little effort on his part(except for the paying up part had he decided to go ahead with the purchase). So next he might look for the same product at a competitor's and since their checkout process is much easier and hassle free, he makes the purchase there. There goes your customer. So what do you do to prevent this from happening?

Well the answer is pretty straight forward…. You need to change the way your shopping cart operates…. Let’s look at some of the most common changes that can easily improve the chances of guests making the final conversion on your site and decreasing your cart abandonment rate :

1.    Optimize the Shopping cart experience: There can be many ways to do this, but the best way off course is to decrease the number of steps involved in the checkout process. Group similar pages into a single page. For example I often see some sites have separate pages for Items, gift wraping, Shipping, etc. All this can very well be clubbed into a single page. Always remember the shorter the process, lesser the friction and more are the chances that guests will go through with it. Added to this in case your competitors have a longer checkout process, your guests will prefer your site.

2.    Offer alternate payment methods : A recent study shows that guests respond well and have a better chance of converting in case they are offered alternative payment methods like paypal, Bill Me Later, etc over and above the normal credit card payment options. 

3.    Do away with hidden Shipping charges : In addition to properly displaying information related to shipping and handling charges, it’s equally important to clearly state store return policies, guarantees, user terms, and privacy statements. If a customer cannot return an item in the event that they are unsatisfied it may cause them to take their business to a competing merchant who does offer a return policy or guarantee.

4.    Allowing non registered guests to checkout : Some websites requires guests to go through the registration process in order to purchase products. This can seriously lower the conversion, as some of the guests might prefer to leave the site than fill out the excruciatingly long registration form. In case you want to keep track of your guests provide them the ability to fill out the registration form at the end of the purchase. In order to motivate guests to fill the form , provide a small discount on their next purchase.(Discounts are always great ways to bring back customers). In this way not only will guests give out necessary info, they will also think about returning to make a subsequent purchase. 

There are a lot of other ways in which you can improve the guest experience on your site. The basic idea is to listen to the needs of your guests (you can also conduct surveys) because the guest is always right.


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