MAKE ECOMMERCE FABULOUS AGAIN: HOW TO ELIMINATE SHOPPING CART ABANDONMENT
George Rowlands, Marketing Journalist
The Internet has changed the world in ways we can't begin to imagine. It has changed how we learn, how we think, and even how we love each other. Most prominently though, it has changed the way we do business.
It doesn't matter how simple it seems, starting up an ecommerce business can pose a multitude of risks. If businesses navigate these risks properly, they will rightfully claim their reward. With something like an 80% failure rate in modern ecommerce businesses, brands need to tread carefully and pay close attention to make sure they"re doing everything right.
FALLING AT THE FINAL HURDLE IN ECOMMERCE
One huge problem that most ecommerce businesses face is something called shopping cart abandonment, a phenomenon where customers put items in their shopping cart but leave the site without buying. I've seen it thousands of times. Heck, I even do it. I surf the net, browse the latest tech, peruse tickets for upcoming concerts, and look to treat myself to a few new numbers for my wardrobe. I hover over the "pay now" button... but I just can't bring myself to press it.
If you think that's just me, you'll be flabbergasted to find out that only 2.86% of ecommerce website visits convert into a purchase. Just let this statistic sink in for a second. For every 1000 people that look at stuff online, only 28.6 of them aren't going to get the heebie-jeebies at the last minute.
So, with an estimated $4,600,000,000,000 of merchandise abandoned on the home strait, experts are looking into why so many people are doing this. Maybe the shipping is too expensive or takes too long. Maybe it's because they have to create a user account. Maybe they just want to do some research now and maybe they will come back later.
It's true, maybe. They are experts afterall. As for me, I believe that all of these reasons fall under the same umbrella: these tentative customers just aren't sold on a product. If they truly want your merchandise, they won't be able to envisage a future without it. They will happily fork out a little extra for shipping. They will go through the emotional turmoil of having to create a user account. And they just will not be able to wait until later.
REASONS TO BE TENTATIVE
As a consumer, nothing turns me off more than an apathetic or unsaturated product description. Sure, you might think you've got the greatest product the world has ever seen. However, if you think a product alone is going to light the fire in a consumer's imagination, then you are wrong. Having a great product is only half the battle, now you need great marketing to match.
My list of pet peeves when it comes to product descriptions is as long as my arm.
Webshops shouldn't try to cram as many buzzwords in as possible to hit "search engine indexing" quotas.
It's just confusing. I've read this Amazon listing a dozen times now, and I'm still not sure what the product is. The seller has stuffed as many brand names and buzzwords into the title and bullet points as possible. The result is complicated word vomit taking up valuable creative space. Sure, this seller will maybe get a few more hits on their page, but when the customers get there they're hardly tempted to buy. If anything, it looks unprofessional. Unprofessionalism doesn't lead to trust, and trust is exactly what we're aiming for here.
Likewise, companies tend to place too much importance on photographs by lazily listing tech specifications and not giving enough real-life context to products.
I've got a huge problem with this one. There once was a time when 1 in 7 British Pounds was spent at Tesco supermarkets. That is phenomenal — for every £7,000,000 that Brits spent, Tesco would pocket a cool £1,000,000. So, why haven't they got a huge online shop to keep up with modern consumer trends? The odd thing is, they did. But, they had to close Tesco Direct in 2018, citing that it was a "small, loss-making part of the business... with no route to profitability".
Pull the other one, Tesco — try harder. Give your products some context. For example, there's no reason why this unimpressive, low-end smartphone can't be sold as the perfect first phone for a teenager. With this phone, your teenager can be the talk of the playground with the dazzling 13MP camera and 128GB worth of pumping music. As the British would say, put a bit of welly into it.
Product descriptions should be used to convey information that images simply can't. An ecommerce study found that 20% of purchase failures are directly a result of missing or unclear product information. This lack of information can go one of two ways. Either a shopper will abandon their purchase when they don't find the information they need, or, they will buy the product and it won't meet their expectations.
Either way, you end up with the same problem. An unhappy customer.
GIVE ME ONE GOOD REASON
If you do it properly, you can easily claim that 20% margin. A good product description doesn't fill us up with tonnes of unnecessary information. I hate fluff. Fluff is phrases like "excellent product quality" that marketers write when they simply can't think what else to write. Fluff is useless. Fluff is pathetic. Give me meat.
That's more like it. ThinkGeek have a lot of great examples of how to do product descriptions the right way. This text is engaging, using almost euphoric language to highlight exactly what this barbeque tool does. The text frames how the product can be used and why it has been created. The most important thing for me is that it's funny. They make me feel like I'd be the barbeque boss if I bought it and in doing so, they have connected with me.
As if we needed any more proof that this is the right way to do it, this product is sold out.
I think the pictures could be a little better though. There needs to be a better variety to demonstrate what the writer is talking about. There's a GIF to show how the appliance works, but a video would be more effective. Videos are useful for potential customers, as they give greater envisionment into real-life scenarios.
This Amazon listing is a blatant example of how to get it right. The seller focuses on one problem that everybody in modern life faces: having to queue at a coffee shop in the morning. That's where this product comes in handy. They identify the unique selling point, and then hammer it home. This coffee machine can brew coffee two ways. The infographics are a great touch, as they give us rapid bursts of product specs in a more presentable way.
There's heaps of information — customers don"t need to go elsewhere to find it. There's tonnes of pictures — customer knows exactly what they are getting. There's even a short video with commentary for a full insight into how it works. My thirst for knowledge is quenched.
That's what we need — knowledge. It's important for brands to remember that the higher a price tag is, the more closely a potential customer will read the product description. A huge 87% of customers rate product content extremely important when deciding to buy something.
A SMARTER SOLUTION
Scientific research has proven that if we hold a product in our hands, our desire to own it increases. Since you're selling online, this is physically impossible… so you need to be creative to overcome this. That's where storytelling comes in. Storytelling gives us as much of a feel for a product as is possible without physically touching it.
The beauty of storytelling is that it's so versatile. A good story can go anywhere, straddling the borders between reality and imagination. Saying this, it's important that texts are well thought-through and not overly abstract to the point where a product doesn't feel real. It's equally important for us, as consumers, to have our questions answered.
If you've never done it before, it can be difficult to know where to start. But, start off how you would start any new project: research. There's tonnes of stuff to read online about this kind of issue. Some pieces are shorter, and more concise. Some, on the other hand, are longer, and offer a more in depth analysis of creative product descriptions. If, unlike me, you don't have days of spare time on hand to trawl the internet, I came up with 5 basic rules to follow when a brand is writing their next batch of text.
Answer the "5 Ws"
What is your product? Who is the product aimed at? Where can you see your customers using the product? When is your product useful? Why is your product the pick of the bunch?
This is the recipe for success. Once you have covered all of these bases you've addressed all of your customers" most innate questions about the product. After that, it's all down to them to press that button.
Highlight the benefits
OK, this is somewhat of an understatement. You don't just need to highlight the benefits, you need to throw them under the spotlight and zero in on every possible advantage your product can bring. This is the culmination of weeks, months, even years of hard work in designing and manufacturing a special product. Flaunt it!
Define your tone and stick with it
Are you going to summon magical beings or keep it real? Are you going to dazzle customers with kind advice or hit them with cold, hard facts? Your style is yours, I can't change that. Once you find a tone that you are comfortable with, it's key to stick with it. You need to build a relationship with customers so they can trust your brand.
Eliminate buyers' guilt
Hovering over that "pay now" button without having the cojones to press it is called buyers' guilt. You should understand that customers will absolutely be feeling it, no matter how great your product is. It's your job to eliminate this: throw in a quick compliment for being so thrifty or tell them that this is actually going to save them money in the long run.
Appeal to feelings
If you're naturally good at writing stories, this is easy. You need to find that sweet spot between serious and funny; fact and fiction. Emotive language lets you unpick the seams of the reader's imagination and being positive and avoiding negativity could be the final step towards turning a potential customer into an actual one.
IT'S HARD WORK, BUT IT'S WORTH IT
It seems difficult. Heck, it is difficult. But if an ecommerce business wants to survive in this uber-competitive industry then I implore them to at least try.
Your brand might have hundreds, even thousands, of product descriptions to write. It doesn't happen overnight, especially if you don't follow a process.
It's important to set a period of time aside just to decide exactly who you will be speaking to in your product descriptions. Deciding this, defining the style, and creating a relevant style guide will prevent writer's block later in the process. You need a good team of authors who can follow the style guide correctly but with enough creativity to put their own stamp on it. Penultimately, you need a short trial period to see if the descriptions actually work, or if following the same style guide is going to be a waste of time further down the line. Thorough groundwork is essential before you can finally roll out your product descriptions to the masses.
LET ME LIVE MY DREAM
One day, I want to live in a world without abandoned shopping carts. A world where consumers have complete faith in what they are buying. The problem is that customers don't have enough knowledge when they are deciding to buy, but storytelling is the way to overcome this problem. In my dream world there are no tentative customers, only ones who are sold.
Overcoming this problem is important for any ecommerce business. As Tesco taught us — you can never be too big to fail.
There are two ways to go about it. A brand can do it in-house. They can assemble a team, create necessary guidelines based on buyer personas, and control everything themselves. But, the easiest way to do it is to outsource to a professional marketing company. They have all the personnel, the tools, and the expertise to create great product content that can be tailored to a brand"s specific needs.
No matter which way a brand decides to go, it's important to remember that consumers are becoming more and more interested in the singer, rather than just the song itself. If they can get a grip on this then it's problem solved. Enjoy your happy customers and converted shopping carts.