THE BLOG
10/29/2014 06:41 pm ET Updated Dec 29, 2014

5 Easy Tactics to Reduce Abandoned Carts During the Holidays

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Just like death and taxes, nothing is as certain in e-commerce as abandoned carts. Various studies show that 45-70 percent of all shopping carts don't end in a purchase, which means that you and your online business are fully aware of the frustration that abandoned carts can bring. And with Volusion predicting 9 percent holiday growth for small- and medium-sized online businesses this year, every cart counts.

Fortunately, there are some very common and easy-to-address themes that lead to abandoned carts. These include: shipping costs and issues, shoppers browsing products and comparing prices, security concerns, and a lack of payment options, all of which can be overcome by following these 5 easy steps.

1. Prevent "shipping sticker shock"

A June 2014 report from UPS and comScore indicates that 58% of shoppers abandon their cart because shipping costs made the total purchase more than expected, a phenomenon known as "shipping sticker shock." This consumer behavior is unique to online shopping, yet understandable as shipping costs are never an additional cost when making purchases in-store. Long story short, online shoppers often forget that shipping charges are involved, and frequently don't see additional shipping fees until reaching the checkout page.

To help prevent shipping sticker shock, give these tricks a try:

  • Implement a tool that allows users to estimate shipping and tax before they reach checkout. This tool allows shoppers to enter their state and zip code and receive the associated shipping cost before pulling out their credit card.
  • Offer multiple shipping options so customers can select the most affordable shipping option.
  • Have your default shipping option always be the cheapest to reduce the subtotal of the order.

2. Create a sense of urgency so shoppers "buy now"

The UPS/comScore study also shows that 57% of shoppers abandoned their cart because they were comparing prices on other sites. These behaviors are even more prominent during the holiday season, as frugal shoppers are looking to find the best deal possible. The key here is to convince shoppers to stay on your site and make a quick purchase by creating a sense of urgency with your marketing and messaging.

Here are three solid approaches to keep shoppers from leaving your site to compare prices:

  • Prominently display coupons throughout your site, particularly within the header so they're visible across pages. (Free shipping and percentage-off discounts are particularly effective during the holidays.)
  • Leverage email and social media to offer limited-time offers and flash sales on specific products - this creates excitement and a feeling of scarcity with customers, meaning they're more likely to make an impulse buy directly on your site.
  • Consider offering a low-price guarantee, but only if you can afford it. Research from Conversions on Demand showed a 9 percent improvement in conversion rates by adding messaging on the product page that stated, "Low Price Guarantee - Find a Lower Price and We'll Match It!"

3. Ensure site speed and navigation are highly efficient

This holiday season is one of the shortest on record, with only 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This condensed timeline means shoppers will be more pressed for time, so every second counts, literally. In fact, CPC Strategy reports that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. Not only that, hurried shoppers are looking for a simplified website experience, desiring the ability to efficiently find the products they want and quickly check out.

To improve site speed and navigation efficiencies, give these ideas a shot:

  • Don't require account registration upfront. 28% of shoppers abandon their carts because they didn't want to register or create an account just to make a purchase.
  • Perform a site speed test with a free or paid tool and take measures, like reducing file sizes and the amount of rich media on your site, to improve overall speed and load times.
  • Avoid asking unnecessary questions on the checkout page. While tempting to gain additional customer insights, only require the minimum amount of information for the transaction to occur.

4. Offer a large selection of payment methods

Holiday shoppers have a wide range of payment preferences. Some are loyal to a specific credit card so they can rack up points, while others stick to their debit cards to keep their budgets in check. Increasingly, more and more shoppers are leveraging tools like PayPal for their online transactions. Whatever the case, the more payment options you offer on your site, the more likely you are to reduce abandoned carts.

When it comes to accepting payments this holiday season, keep these ideas in mind:

  • Offer myriad payment options, with the minimum being major credit cards, debit cards, and PayPal.
  • Proactively display your payment options on your website, including the footer your checkout page - this approach lets customers know how they can pay early on.
  • Watch your costs when it comes to payment processing. For example, American Express charges an extra amount to you as a merchant, so if certain payment options are out of budget, don't feel obligated to offer them.

5. Reassure shoppers that your site is safe and secure

Increased security concerns will have an impact on shoppers, as we have seen a large rise in targeted attacks, security breaches and online identity theft. If you think back on this year alone, major incidents like those at Target and the online security gap of Heartbleed are still fresh on shoppers' minds. Fortunately, all you need to do is provide a bit of reassurance to customers that your site is a trustworthy place to conduct business.

To show shoppers that your site is secure, do the following:

  • Display security seals, including your SSL, throughout your site and checkout page.
  • Prominently display contact information, particularly real-time options like online chat and phone support.
  • Create a clean, professional site design to boost credibility. As they say, perception is everything.

This year's holiday season is projected to be the biggest in e-commerce history, which means that every visitor presents a chance to boost your sales and profitability. By knowing the main reasons that shoppers abandon their carts and taking action now, you'll convert more sales throughout the holiday season and well into the coming year.