Optimizing shopping cart conversions across the ecommerce customer journey
By Omar Akilah, VP of products,GrandCanals
The advent of ecommerce has transformed the retail landscape for both merchants and their customers. A key component of that transformation has been the evolution of the customer's journey, from an experience that occurred primarily IRL ("in real life") to one that is almost exclusively mediated by the internet, increasingly accessed through mobile devices, and supported by parcel-centric fulfillment and delivery capabilities.
Each step of the brick and mortar customer journey has its corresponding digital equivalent. And each of these new stages represents a chance to either disgust or delight customers, depending upon the experience — not least the fulfillment and delivery experience -- provided to them.
Let's start the customer's journey with the "store" — whether physical showroom or website.
In both cases, increasing sales is a key objective at this stage of the journey. In the case of the brick and mortar store, it's important to have the right products at the right prices and to present them for view in an appealing way. The same is true for the ecommerce equivalent, but with the added element of needing some way to get the item actually into the customer's hands.
This is why fulfillment and delivery are important in ecommerce even as early as landing on the website (entering the store, so to speak). Offers of free shipping, for example, can encourage customers to shop on one site over another and 87 percent of consumers are more likely to keep doing business with companies providing a good shipping experience.
Once the customer is in the store, real or virtual, they will often need help in choosing the right product or product variation. This function is performed in the brick and mortar world by human sales associates with knowledge of their products, with some minor support from signage or other information assets. In the ecommerce world, the product page becomes the sales associate, providing customers with the information and motivation they need to make a purchase.
Thorough descriptions, images and video, customer reviews, and other assets all contribute to delivering the kind of product page experience that makes for a happy customer. Once again, the extra step needed to bridge between the virtual world of the website and the real world in which the customer lives provides an important opportunity to further delight the customer — or to derail the sale.
How and when the purchase gets to the customer can be a major differentiator for companies and a major deterrent to completing the sale if done wrong: 56 percent of surveyed consumers reported that they abandoned shopping carts due to the cost or length of time needed for delivery. Amazon.com gives the best example of how to optimize product pages: On each page, consumers have all the information, including delivery dates and total costs, they need to make a purchase.
In the brick and mortar customer journey, once customers have selected their goods, they proceed to the cashier to pay. The ecommerce equivalent is taking the full shopping cart and checking out. This step is an opportunity to increase sales by suggesting complementary purchases, whether through racks next to the register or through "customers who bought this also bought that" pop-ups. It's also another chance for eCommerce shopping cart abandonment.
Here again, fulfillment and delivery are critical to providing a first-class customer experience: 58 percent of shopping cart abandonments at this stage are due to shipping costs pushing the total purchase price too high. A best-in-class customer experience provides multiple shipping options with clearly-defined delivery dates and a range of price-points. Remember that shopping cart abandonments are the flip side of conversion; a decrease in abandonments is an increase in conversions and thus in revenue.
In the new ecommerce customer journey, the full shopping bag handed over by the smiling cashier has been replaced by a box left by the door and that box and how products are packed within it are a critical part of the overall customer experience. A quick search on "unboxing" will yield over 30 million hits. The shipping and delivery stage of the ecommerce customer journey thus provides exceptional leverage to magnify a customer experience story — good or bad. Get it right – nice packaging, timely delivery — and that story may be shared with thousands. Get it wrong and that story may be shared with thousands.
Finally, because many ecommerce companies do not provide customers with an opportunity to take returns to a physical customer service desk, providing customers with a simple, low cost return process is crucial — 79 percent of shoppers rate the availability of free returns as an important factor in selecting an online retailer in the first place.
Each step of the brick and mortar customer journey has an ecommerce analogue. Each of these steps represents both a risk and an opportunity from a customer experience perspective and fulfillment and delivery play a key role from the very beginning. By focusing on delighting customers at each stage of their journey, savvy ecommerce merchants can maximize shopping cart conversions (and thus revenues) at the same time they are maximizing customer satisfaction.