Shoppers don’t like shopping; for most of us it’s a chore that has to be done. On the Internet it seems that we dislike shopping even more than we do in the “real world”. Why? Because so many shopping carts get abandoned.
Imagine for a moment that you are a major supermarket operator, such as Tesco or Walmart. You take a look at the queues in line at your checkouts and notice that around 50-60% of people give up waiting, leave their shopping trolleys full of stuff they’ve taken off your shelves and then walk out of your store. Wouldn’t you be even a little bit curious?
In fact, people did used to abandon physical shopping carts some time ago (it’s much rarer these days). Supermarket owners wanted to know why and they found out – people don’t like waiting in line. So that led to barcodes, scanning and more checkouts to help speed up the buying process, in turn leading to less shopping cart abandonment; we don’t like waiting to pay.
Imagine also that you waited to pay in line at the “Pay Here” sign in a clothes store. You’ve just bought a new suit and all you want to do is pay for it and get back to your car and head home to watch your favourite team’s match on TV. You get to the counter to pay and the first thing you are asked is “have you registered with this store?”. You say you haven’t so you are asked to complete a form to register – only registered people can buy there. So you will in the form while the assistant calls over another shopper.
Once they are out of the way, you hand over your completed form and then you are asked (again) for your name, address and other contact details. After going through that you are then told the options you have to pay – cash, cheque, a list of credit cards, debit cards and so on. You choose your option to pay and then you are given a laminated sheet with the stores “terms and conditions”….and so on and so on.
If all this happened in a real world store, you’d be out of the door, fuming with anger in seconds. Forget that new suit, let’s just go and watch the match. Frustration with the speed of paying is the number one issue for real world retailers and they do everything they can to make the process quick and easy. The more they do that, the more likely we are to return to the store. We simply do not like waiting to pay.
So, it is not shopping we dislike, it is paying. In fact, the reverse of what we say is true; we actually do like shopping. But what we like is two-fold – the choosing items that make us feel good about ourselves and the social side. Indeed, one of the reasons why many women say they like shopping is because unlike men they turn it into a social experience – a day out with their mates.
But online shopping is completely different. The whole buying process makes us go through hoops that we don’t have to do in the real world. Many sites make us register first, unlike real world shops. Others make us read terms and conditions, unlike real world shops. Many make us fill in our name and address details when they don’t need them, unlike real world shops. Is it any wonder that almost six out of ten shopping carts get abandoned online? If that were happening in the real world, the shop would be out of business rapidly.
Yet, online marketers don’t seem to care. The figures for shopping cart abandonment online have changed little over the years. A study from 2006 shows that what online retailers think is happening at their shopping cart is actually far from the truth. Most online retailers think there is much lower abandonment than that which is actually taking place.
Plus, for small businesses, there is another problem. Most shopping cart software is notoriously difficult and time consuming to set up. You either need to be a technical genius or you need to get never-ending help from the support desk. Shopping carts don’t only waste time for shoppers, they waste time for businesses as well.
Most small businesses don’t need a shopping cart – they just need a payment process. So, consider the simple approach first before you think about a shopping cart. Things like “send a cheque to this address”, “take cash to this address”, “order online and pay in person at our store” and so on could all be useful and simple ways of paying. Less simple, but not as complex as a full shopping cart, are PayPal “buy now” buttons.
But whatever you choose, you need to focus on two things. How simple is it to set up and how quickly can shoppers get through the buying process. Aim for simple and quick and you will do well. Many ecommerce stores these days are focusing on the wrong end – they are looking at functionality and ease-of use-in the shopping process rather than in the buying process. For instance, some online clothes retailers are providing people with the option of seeing the item through 360 degrees, or seeing it on models of different shapes and sizes. All very well, but these additional easy shopping features pale into insignificance if the buyer then has to go through hoops at the shopping cart.
Concentrate first on the buying end of the transaction. Just like real world shops, make that easy and quick and your site will start selling more.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+