How to get your customers from browsing to buying

Thu Jan 04 2018

If you sell products or services online, you’ve probably thought long and hard about how to drive more people to your website.

Perhaps you’ve considered how to present your products in the most enticing way, or tested which pricing strategies get your customers clicking ‘add to basket’.

But what if – even after all that – visitors to your site abandon their cart before paying?

It’s a pretty common problem: Barclays research (PDF 1.3MB) shows that 86% of people browsing online save items to wish lists and shopping baskets. But only half the items in these baskets end up actually being bought.1

Think about that for a second; if you’re dropping half your sales at the last hurdle, that’s a serious blow to your profit margin.

And it’s a major problem for businesses across the country: online ‘basket abandonment’ costs British retailers over £3.4 billion in lost sales every year.2

Why do people abandon online shopping carts?

There are several reasons a buyer might dump their purchase halfway through. Almost half (43%) are waiting for a better deal, according to Barclays research.3 Or they may have simply forgotten that they had items in their basket (26%).

The growing trend for ‘multi-device purchases’ is also affecting how people buy. Over a third of online retail transactions now involve multiple devices.4

This means you could be losing customers when they switch devices from browsing on their phone to paying on their laptop.

Even worse, they may never have planned to buy from you in the first place: more than one in 10 women admit that they simply enjoy browsing, and will save items to their wish list with no intention of buying.5

Get to know your shoppers

The good news is there are several things you can do to encourage your customers to progress to your payments page.

The first thing is to track your buyers’ habits. When are they shopping online? What devices do they use? Did you know, for example, that:

  •  People aged 45 to 54 do more online browsing than their younger counterparts; they browse for 1-3 hours per week, compared to people aged 18-24, who generally browse for one hour a week.6
  •  Shoppers aged 45 to 54 tend to browse on their laptops, whereas for 18 to 24-year-olds, the smartphone is the device of choice.
  •  The most popular day for browsing is Saturday.
  •  The most popular time of day to browse is the evening, with almost a third of shoppers (30%) doing most of their browsing between 5pm and 9pm.

Getting a clear picture of what devices your customers are using, and what they’re looking for and when, means you can target them more effectively to help them buy the items they’ve identified.

Also keep in mind that your customers' experience will vary depending on what industry you’re in and what information you’re asking them to hand over.

Ecommerce expert Graham Charlton notes the clear distinction between the experience of shopping for clothes or insurance, for example. When you’re buying jeans from a fashion site, it’s ‘relatively quick and straight-forward’ to enter your address and payment details, he says.

Applying for insurance, by contrast, ‘can take 10 minutes and requires users to fill in many different sections. It's harder work, and therefore users are more likely to abandon.'7

Optimise your buying process on all devices – particularly mobile

You may already have embraced ‘omnichannel’ retailing  to make sure every interaction you have with your customers is as consistent and seamless as possible on all devices and channels.

This means not just your company’s website, but all your social media, mobile apps and sales aggregator sites where people can buy your products, such as Amazon, ASOS and Etsy.

The laptop is still the most popular device to access retail websites (45%), compared to smartphones (31%) and tablets (28%).8 But this looks likely to change as people get more confident buying things on their phone; mobile is one of the fastest-growing areas in retail.

Despite this, only a fraction of retailers plan to make mobile sales a top priority in the year ahead.9 So if you want to stand out from your competitors, make sure you’ve got a smooth user experience and a website that works equally well across desktop, tablet and mobile, so it’s easier to buy across all devices.

Make paying as easy as possible

Your customers shouldn’t have to struggle to pay you. It should be a smooth exchange; they pay you using a secure channel and they get their items in return – no fuss.

But many customers cited complex payments processes as a major frustration when they’re shopping online.10 Either their card is wrongly declined at the last minute, or they’re continually asked to give more information – for security or marketing purposes – until they finally throw their hands up in despair and look elsewhere.

To avoid this, make sure your payment gateway is as user-friendly as possible.  And don’t ask again for registration and payment details that your customers have already given you on previous visits. Forcing them to repeat things they’ve already done could damage the hard-earned relationships you’ve built up with your customers, and potentially drive them straight into the arms of your competitors.

Set up incentives to get people buying

We’ve all forgotten something. So there’s a good chance that a lot of your customers who’ve abandoned their carts have simply moved on, without realising that they’ve left items in their online basket.

Sending a simple, automatic email to remind customers they still have items on their wish lists could help you convert the browsers who’ve saved products for later.11

You may also want to nudge customers along their shopping journey by offering incentives. Customers cited free delivery and returns as their top factors that would encourage them to buy the items they’d stored.12 Next-day delivery and ‘click and collect’ options are also good ways to spur people into action.

Finally, don’t ignore the power of word-of-mouth. Product reviews from other customers can also be a persuasive tool for retailers. More than a quarter of consumers said they’d be encouraged to complete an online purchase after reading positive customer reviews.13

So help your customers find honest, unbiased reviews about the items they’ve got saved, and encourage them to take the next step.

You don’t need to spend huge sums to help move your customers from ‘browse’ to ‘buy’; just give them the easiest-to-use options on all platforms to create a better shopping experience.

Remember: a happy shopper will want to keep spending. So keep your customers satisfied to make sure you’re not losing out on sales.

To find out more about how you can move your customers from ‘browse’ to ‘buy’ – and to read case studies from Bodens, Mallzee and Dixons Carphone – download our guide, From browse to buy: the conversion challenge

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