A natural outgrowth of the continuing increase in ecommerce sales is a jump in abandoned shopping carts. With more people browsing and buying across mobile, tablet, and desktop devices, as well as getting comfortable with comparison shopping online, it’s not surprising that cart abandonment reached an all-time high of 72% by the end of 2011, according to research from remarketing services firm SeeWhy.

While you can apply a range of tactics to rescue these potential sales, why not start with a good offense that focuses on usability, offers, and customer experience to capture sales when visitors are in the moment? Monetate recently gathered some leading ecommerce experts, who shared their winning ideas for building a better checkout in the free webinar, Create a Shopping Cart That Converts Browsers to Buyers.

The panel included Lauren Freedman, president, the e-tailing group; Cam Jensen, senior manager, product management, Lands’ End; and Eric Miller, director, product management, Monetate.

Some of the valuable ideas they recommended marketers test include (you can learn the rest by watching the webinar):

1. Streamline the experience to save shoppers time.

Shoppers don’t always need to save money, says Freedman, but they always want to save time. According to research from the etailing group, the average number of clicks from the start of checkout for a new customer to order completion, looking across the 100 top online retailers, is 4.83. Now that mobile shopping is on the rise, Freedman advises retailers to think hard about how to reduce the number of clicks it takes for shoppers to place an order.

2. Simplify presentation of sign-in, registration, and guest checkout options.

When Lands’ End launched a redesign of their cart and checkout process last year, analytics and usability testing were key tools in figuring out where the pain points were. One of the major findings, Jensen reports, was that the start checkout process needed to be more clearly defined for registered customers versus new and guest checkout customers. By altering the layout to create two distinct areas—”Account Sign In” for registered customers and “Start Checkout” for guests and new customers—Lands’ End made it easier for visitors to begin checkout quickly and accurately.

3. Leverage shipping thresholds more effectively.

Free or reduced shipping wields great influence over purchasing decisions. To make this offer more powerful, Miller suggests online retailers present real-time calculations of how close shoppers are to qualifying for the deal. And consider adding product recommendations in the target price range (or higher) to this messaging.

4. Show estimated total earlier in the checkout process.

Usability research also helped Lands’ End determine that waiting too far out in the checkout process to present the total cost of a visitor’s order prompted cart abandons. So, Jensen says, they added a shipping/tax estimation tool to the View Cart page to help visitors with this decision-making aspect.

5. Provide access to customer service support.

Of the 100 online retailers studied by the etailing group, 47% offer live chat during checkout. Freedman encourages marketers to integrate live chat in the cart and make sure the customer service representatives responding to shoppers have good product knowledge. Why? Forrester estimates live chat garners an ROI of 105%, especially because it can be leveraged to promote upsell and cross-sell purchases.



6. Be careful with coupon code boxes.

When visitors see a coupon code box on a checkout page, they naturally think there must be a promotion code they can find somewhere online to save money, Miller explains. Once they start searching elsewhere online for a code, they’re less likely to finish making their purchase. To combat this challenge, try hiding coupon boxes for customers who don’t qualify for current promotions. Or, you can automatically apply a coupon code when a visitor is identified as part of a promotion group.

7. Eliminate unnecessary fields.

One of the sacred cows of cart design that Lands’ End tipped over was the inclusion of fields that most customers didn’t use, like middle initial. Also, the retailer converted some fields—gift order, delivery instructions, use shipping address as billing address—into check boxes that generate dropdown fields to collect the necessary information. These changes expedited the collection of shipping/billing information, while preserving functionality for those customers placing more complex orders.

8. Target testimonials by traffic segments.

Different customer groups need different types of reassurance when contemplating a purchase. Experiment with testimonials targeted to answering the type of objection specific to each segment. For example, new customers might respond to testimonials about prompt delivery or an easy returns process, while returning customers might benefit from learning about highly rated products that complement their previous purchases.

For more tactics like these, access the free recording of the webinar and start chipping away at your cart abandonment rate.