End to End View: What it Takes to Win the Holiday Buying Season

Posted by SiteTuners on 23 November 2012 | Comments

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If you’re an online retailer, this week is Superbowl. 

You’re about to receive a significant amount of extra traffic- traffic from visitors whom you’ve known for a while are coming. That’s the good news. The bad news is that if it’s tough to convert on a normal week, this week is hell. Research shows that abandonment rates are brutal. Last year, November 23 showed an 89.2% cart abandonment rate - close to 9 out of every 10 visitors adding items to carts and then doing nothing.

You can do better.

SiteTuners CEO Tim Ash, Charles Nicholls, and other pros chime in on how you can maximize that traffic, reduce cart abandonment, and boost completed transactions. We run down the strategies from soup to nuts.

Expectation Setting

Before the first holiday visitor ever gets to your landing page, you should have your strategies down. If you’re selling items with high price points, or products that fall under consumer electronics, your products will tend to have higher abandonment rates.Given this, you should gather emails, and then prepare content and technology teams to display on-exit events, follow up with emails, or display retargeted ads to target people who abandon their cart.

Landing Page

Vocus has a nice interview with Tim Ash that focuses on the different aspects of cart abandonment. Head over there for the full text (it’s a quick read) but we have a quick rundown of the landing page strategies here.

There are the elements that you always need to have - good usability, clear navigation, good information architecture, professional design. From a cart abandonment standpoint, you need to go a little further.

“The best way is to align visitors’ intent,” Tim opens, “with what happens on your landing page.” This means that what you show on the landing page should be something visitors can trust. Ideally, shipping should be free, (Comscore says 64.4% of transactions last year had free shipping) but if it is not, or if there are other charges, this is where you show that type of information. Getting visitors through a series of steps, and then hitting them with hidden charges down the line, is a great way to piss off visitors and supercharge cart abandonment.

Upstream Consistency

Once you get visitors past your landing page, you need consistent messaging, and dead simple checkout steps. Avoid any steps that are not essential. Do not make people register just to purchase something on your site.

Abandonment Tracking

Now, even if your steps are incredibly simple, you’ll still lose people along the way. Before you launch your contingency plan, make sure you’re segmenting properly. Charles Nicholls, founder of SeeWhy, notes that mobile abandonment is not a problem.

On mobile, your job is to make sure things like product prices and store locations are easy to access – optimizing the checkout need not be a priority, as that’s not where the purchases typically happen. 

Following up With Emails

So let’s say you did everything right, and the visitor still left in the middle of the process. You’ve tracked the types of people leaving, and you’re leaving mobile visitors alone, letting them come back through organic traffic.

For those who abandoned the process on desktops and laptops, the next step is a gentle email nudge. If you’ve been collecting emails over the landing page, you have a chance to get the customer back. Your email timing is critical. Have an email sent soon – there’s a good discussion about timing here, but in general, do not wait. As Charles Nicholls cautions, an offer usually connects with emotion and that emotion dissipates rapidly so it is better to connect with abandoners early in the abandonment process. Tim notes that you may be able to recover 15 to 30% of abandoned transactions.

Following up Without Emails

If you don’t have the email off the bat, you have a couple of options open. One is to try and get the email by having the page display a Lightbox that will only display on exit. At that point, you can request for the visitor’s email address, and proceed to follow up via email.

Your other option is to try and get the visitor to complete the process using retargeted ads. You need to tailor your message carefully if you are to convince the visitor to come back and complete his or her purchase. If you have Google Analytics and Google AdWords set up and linked, there’s a great rundown here about setting up filters for behaviors that will trigger retargeted campaigns on the Google Display Network.

That’s pretty much what you have in your arsenal, from the visit to the retargeted  ad. Even with perfect execution, you’re going to lose some of that traffic, but we’re hoping you were able to pick up a technique or three.

Now it’s your turn. What has worked well for you for Thanksgiving? We’d love to hear your thoughts at the comments. 


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