A 3-Pronged Approach To Plug Major E-Commerce Leaks: Web, Email, And Social Tactics

Tracy Vides

E-commerce sites suffer serious customer leakages in two places: on the first page/initial point of contact and at the point of purchase. Both of these these problems represent serious revenue leaks: bounce rates of 51-55% are average across the space and cart abandonment rates are notoriously high, at an average of 69%.lego version of three musketeers

The good news? These leaks can be plugged using email, social, and website tweaks that slash bounce and abandonment rates, bring customers back, and drive revenue. In many cases, you won’t need new apps or even activities: just a slightly different approach.

How to stop e-commerce bounce

Major causes of high bounce include slow page load, unqualified traffic, and weak aesthetic or user journey design. This is where site optimization can make a huge difference. Target bounce by checking your content and page design, as well as speed-testing your site. Any page that takes longer than two seconds to load will be leaking visitors to the tune of a 20% jump in bounce for each additional second.

Poor content alienates visitors by damaging trust. Further, offering difficult choices that appear to involve excessive commitment is a sure way to shed visitors. Don’t ask people for their life story, credit card details, or home address on your landing page; email addresses are enough to start.

Your customer journey design should take account of this factor and offer a clear next step that requires the minimum necessary commitment of time and information at each stage of the journey to make a purchase. Here’s how to map out your customers’ journey for them:

So what are the solutions?

1. Website

The keys to reducing bounce rate are increasing qualified traffic, reducing the number of visitors who leave because they realize your site isn’t what they were looking for, and improving your site so that there’s more incentive to stay than to leave the first page. The further visitors go into your site, the less likely they are to bounce – until they reach the purchase stage, anyway – so the landing page really is of vital importance.

Tackle design and technical issues to ensure a clean, accessible page that loads in under two seconds and makes customers feel secure and trusting. Next, address how your content is making customers relate to the site. Both aesthetic and content choices can be A/B tested and the results of even minor tweaks can be surprising. A free tool like Optimizely can help you get started with A/B testing on your website and mobile apps, with little coding knowledge.

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Specific options include:

  • Video: While autoplay multimedia drives conversions up by making the landing page stickier, it can slow load time; the only way to know if it’s worth it is to test it.
  • Pop-ups: Exit-intent popups – which track mouse movements and display an offer when it appears a user is moving to close a website – are something we’ll talk about under cart abandonment, but they’re effective in combating bounce, too. Web users tend to “flow downhill” – they’ll do the easiest thing, so an exit-intent popup can help make it sufficiently difficult to quit your site. It gives you a second to make the visitor rethink, especially in light of a (hopefully) enticing offer!
  • Search optimization: Coming top in search for the things you actually provide increases the likelihood that your traffic will be qualified, cutting your bounce rate and increasing conversions.
  • Mobile: As a rule of thumb, you should assume half your traffic will come from mobile. In some cases it will be significantly more, and the way you interpret the figures depends on your business model. Mobile suffers from extremely high bounce rates when a site isn’t mobile-usable, so have it tested to make sure it doesn’t just look right but also converts well. Your mobile site needs to be just as intuitive and attractive as your desktop site.

2. E-mail

The classic welcome e-mail comes into its own here. You’re asking people for their e-mail addresses on your squeeze page or landing page? Follow up and connect with them better with a welcome series. Use the opportunity to solicit information on their preferences which can then be used to target social and e-mail campaigns. You’re also getting a valuable opportunity to present the voice of your brand. And customers are used to the program now: 74% expect a welcome e-mail.

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Welcome emails should:

  • Communicate your key message strongly: Clear design and simple copy is worth more than bells and whistles.
  • Follow a schedule: Tell the receiver how often they’ll hear from you in the first email. Let them know what to expect. A weekly touch is a common choice.
  • Offer value to the customer: Offer coupons, money-off, membership to groups that offer desirable information, or other attractive items to incentivize opening the welcome series.
  • Respect the onboarding process: Keep welcome series recipients off the main email list until the onboarding is over (unless your specific program says otherwise).

3. Social

The best use for social channels when combating bounce is before the bounce takes place. Social sharing of content and engagement with your existing customers should increase the amount of qualified traffic you get from social sources. They should also drive your social profiles and content up the search rankings, making it more likely that your would-be customers can find you everywhere.

How to prevent shopping cart abandonment

Cart abandonment is the biggest leak in e-commerce. Riding at 70%-75%, it eclipses even bounce, and it’s on the rise. In 2011, cart abandonment averaged 69%; in 2012, it was 72%. It’s doubly frustrating for e-commerce retailers because it occurs among people who have already demonstrated purchase intent. What changed their minds?

One reason for this frustration is that abandonment of the cart isn’t necessarily abandonment of the purchase intent. Three-quarters of those who abandon carts say they intend to return to the retailer’s site and complete the purchase. Meanwhile, customers often use the cart as a place to evaluate purchases or discover the total cost of ordering. In the first case, purchase intent hasn’t been abandoned, only postponed. In the second case, it was never there: the customer MacGyvered the cart into a pricing and comparison tool.

And consider the mobile cart abandonment rate: 97%.

While mobile is more susceptible to convenience issues even than desktop sites, part of this high rate is explained by the increasingly omni-channel experience of shopping. Many mobile users fill a cart on their phones, only to purchase in-store or at their desktops. Eighty percent of customers check prices online and then go on to buy in-store. While 2013 saw $12 billion in mobile sales, it saw $1.1 trillion of sales influenced by the Web, including mobile browsing – and all those abandoned carts.

So it should be possible to recover much of the value of abandoned carts, as well as reduce the rate of cart abandonment to begin with.

Cart abandonment can be largely accounted for by slow load speed (18%), shipping costs (could be as high as 70%), and excessive inconvenience in filling out purchase forms. In a 2014 survey, shipping cost was the top reason for 58% of abandonments, lack of free shipping was the top reason for 50%, and 37% listed their top reason for abandoning carts as “shipping and handling costs listed too near checkout.” Twenty-eight percent said they left because they didn’t want to create an account.

So what are the solutions?

1. Website

The data on how websites affect cart abandonment makes it pretty clear that technical issues matter, but customers are usually more concerned with how easy it is to check out (retailers such as ASOS have been known to halve cart abandonment by making guest checkout the default), getting the full price as early as possible, and free shipping. You should also consider an exit-intent popup.

Specifically,

  • Minimize the number of pages required to check out.
  • Minimize the amount of information customers have to give to check out. Make it possible to check out without an account.
  • Offer free shipping wherever possible. Customers really, really like free shipping.
  • Offer information upfront. Show shipping costs, expected times, and any other price-related information prominently as early as possible.
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2. E-mail

Cart abandonment is an invitation to use re-targeting emails to reach out to customers who are leaving their purchase until later or wavering in their purchase intent. Re-targeting emails get a 44.1% open rate, 11.6% are clicked, and 28% lead to a purchase back at the e-commerce site. When they do, that purchase is worth 14.2% more than the site’s average purchase value.

Particularly,

  • Send automated, segmented emails and make sure they are personalized to the customer.
  • Send emails in a timely manner. Get the first one to the customer within four hours for optimum results. Use email marketing software such as GetResponse, which offer email triggers and auto-responder options in order to deliver the right email at the right time.
  • Send an email series, not an isolated shot or two at random times.
  • Offer value in your emails. Offers like free shipping at a lower order value or discount coupons can have a powerful effect on purchases.

3. Social

Social accounts can allow you to reinforce your email re-targeting campaign and encourage return to the site. If your email list is integrated with your social media following, you should be able to locate customers on Facebook and Twitter and offer them targeted ads in tandem with emails, an approach proven to get more conversions.

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In conclusion

Weighing in at the two leakiest points in your e-commerce site can have powerful results. When 50% of potential e-commerce revenue fails to get onboard in the first place and a further 70% leak out at the checkout, it makes sense to seek to address these two areas that hold out the potential to more than double revenue.

The CMO’s role is evolving from being focused on execution of campaigns and events to being responsible for the total customer experience. Learn more about Marketing’s Customer Experience Mandate.

Featured image: Pascal on Flickr (used under CC license)


About Tracy Vides

Tracy is a content marketer and social media consultant who works with small businesses and startups to increase their visibility. Although new to the digital marketing scene, Tracy has started off well by building a good reputation for herself, with posts featured on Steamfeed, Business 2 Community and elsewhere. Hit her up @TracyVides on Twitter.