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How to Stop Losing Customers Who Want to Buy

Kim Brebach - Thursday, November 21, 2013

Why you can fix more than half of the problems

'Shopping Cart Abandonment' happens everywhere -- not just online

Do you know how many visitors come to your website or shop who are ready to buy - but leave instead? In the e-commerce world, Shopping Cart Abandonment is very common, but it happens in bricks-and-mortar shops too. Did you lose these customers because they just changed their minds  - or did your service or system change their minds for them?

A recent Invesp survey put the average rate of Shopping Cart Abandonment at 2 out of 3 customers who were about to buy something.  Among the reasons given, high price and not ready to buy topped the list. The next 10 obstacles are a lot easier to address:


After a dozen years of e-commerce, customers expect more

How many times have you opted out when you discovered that free shipping meant to the USA only? How many times have you opted out when a ludicrous freight charge popped up during checkout? How many times have you got to the checkout, decided to go back and add an item, and the website froze? How often have you gone back and found the form you’d filled in so laboriously just went blank?

Chances are you cursed and said something more than ‘forget it, life’s too short.’ That’s how customers who were ready to buy a minute ago turn into customer you won’t win back for a long time.

How hard can it be to fix these things?

Here are the easiest obstacles to remove:

  1. 44% of participants cited high shipping costs

  2. 22% said the site didn’t make shipping costs clear up front

  3. 14% left because there was no guest checkout option

  4. 12% complained of being asked for too much information

  5. 11% cited a complex checkout process

  6. 11% cited websites that were too slow

  7. 5% said the websites crashed

Issues 3, 4 and 5 are about clunky processes on your website, while 6 and 7 are about the speed and stability of your website. In other words, about half the complaints were about issues that are entirely under your control.

Real customers, real people, real problems

It happens just as easily when real people are involved. A friend was offered a special package by Optus for a combined phone and internet service. She called the special number she was given only to be told that the deal she’d been offered did not exist. Her insistence resulted in her being passed around like a parcel from operator to operator (with a 20 minute wait every time), and forced to repeat the whole story with each one. Optus lost a customer because of disjointed systems and badly trained staff.

It also happens in bricks-and-mortar stores because sales assistants spend too much time wrestling with obtuse computer systems. Or they get stuck and there’s no supervisor with override authority. A stalled sales process rapidly turns into a physical shopping cart abandonment.

One of us was fed-up with Telstra and decided to get his new mobile from the 3 Network. The first contract application, completed on a PC by the sales assistant in a 3 shop, choked on a minor detail and forced a cold restart, with all the information entered so far lost. A second attempt met the same fate and he called the supervisor. She couldn’t help and called the 3 support desk. That call was still in progress when our colleague said he’d had enough and left.

How do you stop losing customers online?

  1. Remove all the obstacles that stand in the way of a good customer experience

  2. Put all the essential information up front, and avoid surprises

  3. Install a progress meter to show customers how much distance there is left to cover

  4. Have a specialist tempest-test your sales process for traps and obstacles

  5. Offer an instant chat option or virtual assistant to help customers who strike problems

Here’s another suggestion: reminding abandoners by email that they’ve left items in their online shopping carts can recover between 10% and 30% of lost sales.

How do you stop losing customers in store?

  1. Make sure your train your people in how to deal with customers, and re-train them often
  2. Ensure there’s a supervisor at hand who can override systems and keep the process
  3. Make sure supervisors are trained to observe and intervene early
  4. Have your systems and processes tempest-tested by specialists
  5. Have senior managers spend a day a month behind the counter

The last point ensures that clunky support systems will get fixed in a hurry.


Kim Brebach
Content Chief

I've always loved people and words. As long as I can remember, I've been a story-teller and the team here says I'm pretty good at it. That's probably why I head up the Content Team: I create the arc of the story and others add their magic. 

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