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Not Wanted: Abandoned online shopping carts

Small details may be scaring customers away from completing purchases

Great news: A customer has clicked on your dealership’s website, shopped your PG&A and put some items into an online cart. … Except, one problem, he didn’t complete the transaction.

What’s a dealer to do? How can a reoccurrence be prevented?

Website providers say small details can make customers who were otherwise certain to buy panic and abandon their carts. If a dealer wants to know if this is happening, many dealer website providers offer tools to analyze at which step in the process customers leave the website; third-party software is also available.

If customers are leaving, don’t panic. It actually happens more often than most people think.

“Two percent of anything that’s in a cart is going to checkout,” explained Jeremy Johnson, business development manager for 50 Below.

Abandoned carts are a fact of life for e-commerce retailers, but some cart deserters can be convinced to buy if retailers would change a few aspects of their website.

Sweating the small stuff
One of the biggest deterrents is shipping costs. Experts at ARI, PowerSports Network (PSN) and 50 Below recommend dealers consider 1) free shipping, 2) free shipping when a certain dollar amount is reached (usually $100), or 3) at least, flat rate shipping. Flat rate shipping allows a customer to ship for a specified fee, say $5, regardless of the purchase amount.

“You’ve got to keep your shipping costs competitive,” said Al Jenik of PSN.

Also high on any e-commerce retailer’s list should be acceptable payment methods. It’s recommended that dealers accept as many payment methods as possible, including all credit cards and PayPal. An option for a customer to be billed at a later date also should be made available.

“PayPal can make up almost 30 percent of what people can use as a payment method,” Johnson reported, adding that many people have funds built up in PayPal accounts that they may want to use.

Payment information should also be easy to enter. For example, if a credit card is being used, sites should offer a drop down for the expiration date that includes numbers, rather than months, since most credit cards feature numbers only, said Brad Smith, director of product management and general manager of aftermarket at ARI.


“Similar to that, you want to give users helpful hints as to how to enter that information,” he explained, adding that photo examples, especially for the card’s security information, and tips as to what can and cannot be entered into boxes are beneficial to the customer. A system should also be put into place, so customers don’t lose their information if one piece is inputted incorrectly.

Smith also recommends allowing customers to login to a site, so their information can be saved for future purchases. However, he suggests allowing guests who choose not to register to make purchases as well.

When customers enter information — especially payment detail — into a website, they want to make sure it’s secure. Along those lines, websites should make sure their sites shows “https” in the URL at the point of purchase to verify the site’s security. Also, security software logos should be clearly visible during the shopping process.

As few clicks as possible
The number of pages to get from the product page to completed checkout can also deter a customer. Some websites offer one page with a slew of information necessary from the customer, while others offer five to six pages with tiny amounts of data needed.

“Studies show that usually a two- to three-page checkout balances conciseness of information and short steps,” Smith reported. “Providing an indicator of which step the customer is on — such as ‘Step 2 of 3,’ will help customers understand what is required of them.”

To prevent customers from straying in the event of confusion, PSN recommends using an instant messenger program, which allows a customer to type a question and a dealership staff member to respond similarly.

“That’s the quickest and easiest way to communicate with a customer who at that moment is having any type of questions,” said Jon Seese, director of client services at PSN.

Not only should all of these tips be implemented on a site, but shipping costs, payment methods accepted and security measures should be apparent from the first shopping page a customer lands on.

“Focus on how you’re working with customers on the showroom or the e-commerce,” Jenik said. “People are willing to pay a little bit more as long as the price is close, and they’re getting really good service.”

Smith also recommends dealers promote their high-quality customer service, return policies, or charitable donations, if applicable.

It’s also important that a dealer follows through with top-notch customer service, from the shopping process to the time of the package’s arrival.

“Make sure the whole experience is a good experience,” advised Laura Reinders, marketing manager of PSN. “Pack the stuff well, so it’s a good experience; ship on time.”

Additional sales tactics
Sometimes the little things aren’t the only obstacles preventing a sale. One of the most obvious is pricing. Though some competitors’ prices can’t be countered due to MAP pricing or a brick-and-mortar dealer’s overhead, others can be addressed.
PSN recommends dealers look into buying discounted closeout product from manufacturers, then boost the price a bit to add margin.

“They can sell those out as specials through their e-commerce,” Reinders explained.

Johnson recommends promotional pricing that’s lucrative enough to get customers off the couch, such as buy-one-get-one deals or at least 25 percent off.

“If you’re going to do a promo code or discount, you have to make it worthwhile for the consumer because you want them to buy now,” he said.

However, he advises dealers to be careful when offering those sales to primarily local customers, unless they’re running the same specials in store as those that are online, so in-store customers aren’t getting shortsighted.

“If it’s local, we really tend to discourage doing big discounts on your website. As a consumer, I’m going to my local store, and I expect the price on the tag to be the price I pay when I get to the register,” Johnson said, explaining that customers who see a special online may want that same deal in store.

If a deal is being offered, an easy-to-locate promotional code box should be used. However, Smith advises that the box be removed if no promotion is in place, so customers don’t leave the site looking for a code.

The goal of using deals is to get customers to come to the site. Once they arrive, they should see promotions for related items that they may want to buy. However, Smith recommends those options be available only on the shopping pages and not after the buying process has begun, so as not to deter customers from completing the purchase.

Boosting e-commerce
Emailing customers who have left a cart can be an option for saving online sales. PSN says dealers should tread lightly when doing so, to assure that customers still feel secure shopping on the site.

Smith recommends sending special offers, such as 10 percent off, to those who abandon carts, to encourage them to complete their purchase. However, he cautions that dealers should pay attention to who is getting these offers, so the same customers don’t become programmed into thinking an extra offer will always come.

The key to increasing e-commerce sales is first getting a customer to get on the site, then dealers can focus on the small details. For that to happen, it’s best to have a clear plan for how to get traffic there and keep them on the site through the purchase.


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