Check Out Your Checkout

Simple fixes can reduce the number of abandoned carts cluttering up your site.
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Writer and Author, Specializing in Business and Finance
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This story appears in the January 2010 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Preston Wily couldn't understand why nearly half of his customers were abandoning their shopping carts at sewelldirect.com, his Orem, Utah-based online retailer of computer and electronic equipment. The partner and president of the company suspected the problem was with the shipping and billing information page, where nearly 23 percent of shoppers left their carts.

A couple of simple fixes, including letting customers check out without a password and withholding a request to send them a newsletter until after the transaction had been made, cut abandon rates to less than 20 percent.

Greg Hintz, North American regional business lead for Yahoo! Shopping, offers suggestions for how to check up on your own shopping carts to ensure you're keeping customers from abandoning them:

  • Show additional costs upfront. "A lot of users put items into shopping carts not realizing there will be tax and shipping on top of the price," Hintz says. Eliminate that surprise factor and help convert shoppers into buyers.
  • Make checkout easy. Customers should have the option to not register a user name and password, Hintz says. And, as Wiley learned: "Don't try to market to the customer before the transaction is completed."
  • Apply codes. Customers should be able to input and apply discounts from coupon and gift certificate codes easily. Allowing them to see the effect before they give credit card information can make them feel as if they're getting a deal and proceed.
  • Be safe. Customers look for safe transactions and will bail if they don't see the security hallmarks.

At a minimum, Hintz says, you must have a secure encrypted connection and make sure it is clearly labeled as such.

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