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on Conversion Rate Optimization

An Open Letter From a Cart Abandonment Queen to eCommerce Websites

My dear not-so-caring eCommerce website owners,

You know what shopping is to me? It’s the very essence of my being. Ah! How I love shopping. The excitement of browsing through the new collection or gadgets as soon as they’re out and that anxiousness mixed with exhilaration that you feel when you click the “buy” button and it’s all yours. And trust me, I speak here for majority of women, and some great shopaholic men as well.

Annoyed Queen!

I earn mainly because I’d want to afford all those lovely items you display so beautifully in your online stores. Savings, future plans can many times take a backseat when I’m lured into buying the amazing stuff that I never even knew I needed before I saw it on your website.

Okay, I’m not writing this post to tell you what a crazy shopaholic I am. The reason why I’m telling you all of this is — yesterday, I was amazed to see that even a frantic shopper like me has been guilty of cart abandonment. I saw three of my persistent carts on different websites and that’s when I took a moment to think about why I didn’t go ahead with my purchases on those websites.

And being the psychology enthusiast that I am, it didn’t take me much time to figure out that there are so many basic fallacies that you online marketers love to stay ignorant about.

Let me tell you something — if you do not understand the minds of your target audience, there’s no way you’ll be able to influence their actions. That’s the law of persuasion, you can say. And this also happens to be one of the most crucial things that no eCommerce website should take lightly.

Now if there are any elements on your website that are spoiling the fun for me, I ain’t got time to complain about it. I simply switch to your competitor’s website in the next click. That’s how it is, whether you like it or not!

So next time you crib about your rising cart abandonment rate, take some time to analyze the checkout elements of your website before you speak another word about it.

Get That Registration Form Off My Face

For a person like me, form-filling is real pain. The task is so mundane and mind-numbing; I’ll do what all I can to escape it, whenever possible. But the truth is — we all are often stuck with them in various situations, from course registrations to apartment rentals when we have no choice but to fill the damn thing.

As if this was not enough that you people have now started to ask for registrations/form-filling even when I’m shopping online. I mean what’s up with that? Okay, you need the billing address and all but why do you have to ask me for the shipping address AGAIN? The task is so tedious in itself and you’re annoying the hell out of me by adding another field that I don’t see why is relevant to my purchase.

Sure, now you’ll argue that maybe someone is getting it delivered to some other address for any which reason (gifting or any other). And the billing address and shipping address will be different in that case. Agreed! But let’s face it — for a good majority of your visitors, this wouldn’t be the case. So why not make the whole experience smoother for people like me by automatically filling the shipping address, as soon as I fill in the billing address in a prior step?

Amazon Billing Page

As rightly pointed out by Christian Holst in his article, The State of E-Commerce Checkout Design, it’s not so much about how many steps should you include or exclude from your checkout process so that it isn’t hurting your conversions. It’s more about how much can I, as a customer, justify the information you’re asking for my purchase.

Better still, why would you want to take the risk of making me go through the entire registration process (that takes more of my time and I so hate!)? Include the awesome guest-checkout option please and put me out of my misery. And please don’t forget to make the guest-checkout more prominent than the “register as a new user” option (use some typography and design elements). It’s a win-win for both of us. You make the sale. I get what I ordered. Simple.

For Me, Registration For a Purchase = Forced Sign-up For Your Annoying Newsletters

Yes, I do get it. All this while you wanted me to register only because you wanted to sneakily slip in your pre-checked newsletter that you think is so important. But guess what? I’m the customer. I take the shots here. So if you think you’re being so smart by not providing me the prominent opt-out in your newsletter that I’m most probably not interested in receiving, I might not care to register any further only because I do not want to receive those annoying newsletters.

Am I not making sense? See the image below and you’ll know. Yes I know, the image from a registration page would have made more sense, still this checkout page snapshot can give you a good idea about how deceptively these “newsletter signups” are placed on the page. And my dear pretty precious, if you do not have a rightly-positioned guest-checkout that I’m able to track within those miniscule fraction of seconds when I’m looking for it, too bad. I’m outta your website before you know.

Forced Newsletter Signup

Let me give you a clearer picture of what just happened — you lost a sale because you left me with no choice but to believe that registration on your site would get me enrolled for yet another forced newsletter opt-in. But I’m not falling this time! You didn’t respect my privacy and there you have it — a higher cart abandonment rate. Yeah, it’s pretty much “either my way or the highway” kinda thing when I have the wallet, you see.

And those of you who just “assume” that I need your stupid newsletters and sign me up for them automatically on registration would then argue and cry about how it’s mentioned in your “Privacy Policy” page. But you know what? I don’t care what your justifications are when I can switch to another website in a click. And who knows, I may even place the order with them because they respect my “inbox” and do not abuse it by sending in unwanted newsletters every day.

Blame Your Coupon Codes Box, Not Me!

Fine, let’s say that all these things are taken care of. And you’ve even included the coupon codes box in the checkout process, which makes me love your site a little more. But…Oh sh*t! I just realized that I do not have the coupon code for your website.

So does this mean that I’m going to pay you more than I should because I do not have the coupon codes? No way! I’d rather google and find them first. So I’m searching for them…4 minutes…5 minutes…and look what I found? A coupon code for half off on I so wanted to buy that expensive lavender evening gown from that site. And now I can totally afford it! Umm…but I only have $600 to spare.

What should I do? I’m stuck in a dilemma. I can either look further for coupon codes to buy accessories for my car that are sitting in my shopping cart on your website, or use this other code to buy my gown from, which I know, is available at a great bargain. Sorry but I think I’ll buy car accessories some other time.

Now don’t give me that sad face. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened in the first place had there been no coupon code box. Okay, now I don’t want you to remove that magical bargain box unless you don’t have any active codes for my purchase. Maybe what you should consider doing is, add a “where do I find these?” option below the coupon code box and ask for my email address and send those codes directly to my mail box? Or, you’ll be an angel if you could simply offer them automatically.

So if I have the code with me, I can simply enter them and go ahead with my purchase. Or, you can provide me one without distracting me from my purchase.

Sephora Promos Box

You take care of my needs and I assure you, you’ll soon see those mountains of cart abandonment rate crumbling down in no time. Don’t want to take my word for the suggestions above? Cool, go ahead and start on with your A/B testing to check these variables and we’ll see how it turns out.

The Cart Abandonment Queen

Comments (4)

Leave a Comment
  1. > It’s a win-win for both of us

    A win-win outcome is defined as an outcome in which both parties win.

    Please contrast this with a win-lose outcome, or zero-sum game, in which for one party to gain, the other must lose.

  2. Enjoyed the different style to this post Smriti. You verbalized things I hadn’t when shopping online. Like the idea about providing a coupon at checkout because it’s a feeling of loss when you don’t have a code.

    I’m unsure about your second point with the “forced newsletter optin”. You not unchecking a box is forced optin and you’re not going to buy because of this? Obviously we could theorize it, but it’d be interesting to hear test results about pre-checked optin on the checkout page.

  3. @Len, it would be a win-lose outcome when the customer visits your website, leaves because of forced registration process and buys the same thing from some other website.

    About the zero-sum scenario, I’m not sure how it applies here. What do you think?

    @Joshua – I’m glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂
    And I do understand your confusion about the second point. Thanks for bringing this up. I’ve replaced the image for a better idea of what I’m talking about. I would gladly un-tick a checkbox on the page if I could spot it easily. But if I have to hunt for it, my motivation just goes down the drain.

    These sites hope that you don’t notice the small print so that you come back and pay them more money in future after receiving their promotional offers (like I’ve shown in the image in the article).

    According to me, pre-checked signups is like thinking that your customers are stupid! eCommerce websites really need to learn that we’re NOT! If I’m very interested in a website, I will sign-up for its newsletter MYSELF! So instead of trickery, include a prominent “signup for our newsletter” option with an easy opt-out is what I want. Or, I LOVE guest checkouts! They’re the best.

    Some websites do not even care to provide the opt-out option on the page. And this practice has become so rampant that for so many people like me, signing up for a website means that we should be ready to get spammed. This is also one big reason why I HATE registering for a website.
    Sites bury this fact of default newsletter signups in privacy policy pages to save their a**es, or they find out sneaky ways of mentioning them on the checkout page. Provide me with a guest checkout and we’re all good!

    Here’s the quote from a Smashing Magazine article for your reference that talks about a user-testing survey:

    “One reason why customer hate being required to create an account to complete a purchase is because they have a mental model of account = newsletter. This became evident during the user testing, where we heard the same complaint over and over again: people hate creating an account when buying online. When we asked the test subjects why, 40% told us that they “didn’t want any newsletters”.

    For any further information on this, you can check out this article:

    The problem is that so many websites try to maintain a long term relationship when a good majority of shopaholics like me are only interested in a one-time experience.

    I know the list of sites I like to buy from on my fingertips. Receiving forced newsletters almost every day from sites I’ve bought stuff from is plain annoying.

    I hope this makes my point clear now? 🙂

  4. I was being pedantic.

    A “win-win for both of us” is redundant. It is either “a win-win scenario”, or “a win for both of us”.

    Some nights, I cannot sleep when somebody is wrong on the internet. 🙂

    Otherwise, I liked the article.

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