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How your ecommerce store may be leaving money on the table, and what you need to do to correct it

9 minute read

Polly Kay
stack of coins on table

Every ecommerce store wants to increase sales and boost the ROI of their marketing spend, but knowing the best way to do this or how to recognise problems that are hampering your endeavours is not always simple. Failing to identify areas that are ripe for improvement or being unable to identify weak areas that are limiting your growth means that you’re probably leaving money on the table even when you do achieve a sale.

Across any ecommerce store’s own website and external ad collateral, multiple opportunities present themselves to incentivise repeat custom, upsell, suggest accessories and complementary products to accompany each sale, and increase shopping cart values. Knowing where and how to put protocols into place to achieve all of these things can enable any ecommerce store to increase their revenue without a correlating increase in ad spend, and ensure that you’re not leaving money on the table when your customers do make a purchase.

In this article I will outline some of the ways in which your ecommerce store might be ignoring potentially lucrative revenue streams and leaving money on the table, and what to do to fix this.

Why it can be hard for businesses to pinpoint areas where opportunities to sell are being missed

If you’re invested in the success of your ecommerce store, you doubtlessly work hard to maintain and increase sales, provide an excellent customer experience, and to bring in as much revenue as possible to support your business and encourage growth. After all, if you already realised there was a problem or area that you weren’t utilising to its full potential to boost revenue, you would doubtlessly have corrected it already.

However, even large and highly experienced ecommerce store operators that have the benefits of their own in-house marketing team and a significant ad budget don’t always find it easy to identify growth areas and recognise opportunities to increase cart values. This can be even harder for the owners of small and medium-sized businesses with less resources at their disposal.

Failing to keep up to date with what your customers want and need, who you’re competing with, and how your prospects want to shop can all lead to a drop in revenue or hampered growth. On a more macro level, the chances are that there are plenty of steps you can take simply within your own ecommerce store across your existing sales funnels and product ranges to increase the cart value of each purchase.

Once you have already attained a customer or got a prospect as far as populating a shopping cart, it can be tempting to move your attentions on to targeting new clients and revenue streams, and this is certainly an important part of maintaining and growing any ecommerce store.

However, there is a huge amount of value in incentivising repeat purchases from previous or existing customers and ensuring that your new prospects that get as far as beginning to select goods from you complete their purchase, and this is perhaps the main way in which ecommerce stores drop the ball and leave money on the table.

Almost 15% of all ecommerce sales come from repeat custom, and 61% of SMEs report that over half of their total revenue comes from repeat customers too. If you are ignoring the spending power of repeat customers and failing to identify opportunities to increase the value of their purchases, you’re limiting your revenue streams exponentially. But fortunately, once you can recognise where and how this is occurring, it is not difficult to fix.

Areas to review and correct to upsell and incentivise checkouts and additional purchases

If you’re ready to start cashing in on all of the available opportunities to incentivise purchases and increase cart values that your store can integrate, there are a few different approaches and areas to look at improving upon.

First of all, it is wise to take an in-depth look at your website and supporting collateral’s data and analytics, because this is one of the first ways in which you can identify problems or weak areas, even if you cannot initially figure out why they’re occurring.

Review metrics such as where and when people exit your site, your most and least popular pages and products, your bounce rate, the percentage of incomplete checkouts, and how long people spend shopping and browsing.

Identifying where and how people find your site in the first place and how many of your shoppers are making a second or subsequent purchase is important too.

When you have developed a deeper understanding of what happens within your store between a prospect arriving and when they leave (with or without making a purchase), you will be able to identify areas to enhance, incentivise, or improve upon to reduce abandoned carts and increase successful checkout values.

Here are some of the key elements to bear in mind.

Pain points that lead to abandoned shopping carts

If you polled a hundred ecommerce store owners about their largest challenge or source of greatest frustration, you would probably receive a hundred different answers that are all some form of variant of “abandoned shopping carts.”

Identifying and negating the pain points that lead to abandoned shopping carts in the first place is an excellent place to start, because this will help to ensure that both first time buyers and repeat customers are appropriately incentivised to check out without barriers.

Here are some of the main causes of abandoned shopping carts that ecommerce stores deal with:

  • A convoluted checkout process that takes too long and requires too much personal information. If your shoppers are forced to register and populate a large number of different fields within your checkout process that are not all essential to fulfilling the transaction, you’re likely to lose potential buyers.
  • Perceptions about the cost and relative value of shipping; essentially, anything other than free shipping might result in a prospect baulking at the final hurdle, even if your shipping fees are very competitive. You can negate this issue by reducing your shipping costs and offering free shipping wherever possible. If you do charge for shipping, keeping this competitive whilst also making information on shipping costs (such as flat-fee shipping levels, free shipping over a certain order value etc.) clearly visible within the header of your site and on product pages can help too.

This is because ensuring that prospects can see from the outset how much they need to add on for shipping means that by the time they reach the checkout stage, they have already factored in and accepted this additional cost in their minds.

  • Finding that an item is out of stock or cannot be shipped until a later date often leads to abandonment of an entire shopping cart, so if you do showcase products that might not be in stock at the time, make sure that this information is shown on the item page (with details of the date upon which they will come back into stock shown too, if possible).
  • Long shipping times, and particularly shipping from abroad if your website does not make this clear from the get-go can also lead to abandoned carts, as can a lack of shipping options if a prospect is seeking an expedited service.

Upselling and accessories

Upselling has made its way into the mainstream sales patter of virtually every real-world business. If you eat at most large chain restaurants or fast food joints, the waiting staff and checkout operators have a specific script they are trained to use to increase purchase values, such as by offering you the chance to add fries or other sides, upgrade to a package meal, or choose a larger drink or added toppings to accompany a pizza or burger.

Upselling and incentivising the purchase of accessories can be achieved just as effectively online within ecommerce stores as it can in real world retail units, although how you do this will, of course, be rather different.

When a shopper views a product or has previously viewed a range of similar products, a rotating banner of alternative items (at a range of price points, generally higher ones) can inform prospects of other options and advise them of the advantages offered by a more costly product that justifies its price.

Providing shoppers with a range of suggested accessories or accessory bundles tailored to support the sales of your core products is also a highly effective way of increasing cart values. These can be showcased on the individual product pages themselves, and also at checkout. However, be wary of making your shoppers navigate through a lot of extra pages or forms before they can check out, as this can increase cart abandonment rates.

Product suggestions and complementary product marketing

Suggesting products that might be of interest to shoppers based on their shopping and browsing patterns is something that you can roll out across both your ecommerce store itself, and your supporting offsite ad collateral.

This type of automated programmatic advertising can allow you to target and incentivise both existing customers, and people who browsed your site but didn’t make a purchase.

The more relevant and personally targeted each of these suggestions are, the better; so integrate your store’s analytics into your automated ad placement protocols to deliver a personalised shopping experience that provides the final push prospects need to make a purchase.

Incentivising these suggestions and ads for complementary products with discounts, offers and promotions will help to catch the shopper’s eye and keep the idea of a purchase from you in their mind.

Targeting previous buyers effectively

A shopper who has previously bought from you is more likely to return to make a future purchase, and to try your store first rather than visiting a competitor. This is not only because your shopper’s initial sale will have given them the impression that you are the best choice (due to your pricing, availability or other tangible selling points) but because they know what to expect when completing a checkout and making an order with you, and know that the process isn’t going to be overly convoluted or onerous.

Additionally, if your shopper chose to sign up with you to expedite future checkouts, this in itself can incentivise a repeat sale because your buyer knows that they won’t have to fill out pages of forms all over again, only to potentially find a pain point that causes them to abandon their cart in the final moments.

If you can target your previous buyers effectively, you will see your revenue increase significantly over the medium to long term without having to continually seek out and target new prospect pools to achieve this.

Encouraging brand loyalty requires a multifaceted approach encompassing everything from your customer service, the consistency of the level of service shoppers receive from you, and the ability to highlight and showcase the right incentives to past shoppers in the right way.

Loyalty schemes and discounts, free gifts, VIP offers or memberships, and targeted programmatic ad campaigns can all help, as can dedicated email newsletters for existing customers offering exclusive offers, sneak peeks, and the chance to buy new items before they go on general sale.

Analysing your competitors

It is always wise to keep your finger on the pulse of what your competitors are offering, and how they’re angling their marketing approach and incentives too. This is business 101, but your competitors’ approach to the layout, navigation and customer experience within their own ecommerce store can teach you a lot as well.

When you have identified your key competitors, it is a good idea to take a journey through their ecommerce store from the customer’s point of entry right through to checkout; enabling you to see where and how your competitors integrate incentives and promotions, opportunities to upsell and increase cart values, and how they identify and negate customer pain points.

Running a comparison like this side by side with the customer journey within your own store means that you can spot points at which your own customers might run into challenges that may make them navigate away, or where you might be missing opportunities to sell.

Technical issues

We all find broken links, slow loading pages, content that doesn’t display correctly on every device and other technical website issues frustrating and off-putting, and this is particularly true of ecommerce stores. A small technical issue within any website can lead to a loss of custom, and few of us are vigilant about checking every little part of our sites as often as we should.

All ecommerce stores need to be easy and intuitive to navigate, fast to load, and easy to view across all types of devices, and you should also run diagnostics on your site every couple of weeks and manually check the customer-facing elements of them too.

Test your contact forms, cross-links and navigation options manually and where possible, integrate links that shoppers can use to report a problem or a mistake as well. As an added incentive, thank people who do report a problem with a discount voucher or other small token to let them know you appreciate their efforts.

Incentivising checkouts and reaching out to prospects who abandoned a cart

Incentivising that final push at the checkout stage can help to prevent abandoned carts, but every online store will have a level of natural wastage at the checkout, however vigilant you are about removing barriers along the way.

Shoppers who abandoned a purchase and those who browsed and then navigated away or who have previously expressed an interest in your goods can all potentially be incentivised to return if you can identify what they want or provide that final persuasive push.

Programmatic ad placements served to people who have used your store, follow-up emails offering a percentage discount to complete the sale within a certain window of time and other approaches that serve to keep your goods on the shopper’s radar can all help.

However, bombarding a prospect with promotional emails or overly intrusive personalised ads and so on will discourage prospects from making a purchase now, and may cause them to avoid you in future too if they are concerned that simply using your site will generate a storm of promotions that will follow them for the next few weeks.

Take a softer sell approach to this and you can find that re-incentivising a purchase or abandoned cart leads to an increase in revenue over the medium term, and can help you to build a loyal customer base who will return to you for future purchases too.

Monitoring and building upon your success

All of the tips above can help you to boost your bottom line and increase your revenue by ensuring that you don’t miss opportunities to sell or to increase cart values, and you should build in metrics to monitor the efficacy of your approach and help you to identify further areas for improvement.

Polishing up your ecommerce store’s performance and customer experience will take you a long way, but today’s ecommerce market is a fast moving and continually evolving one, and this is something that you need to account for and review on an ongoing basis.

Keep your finger on the pulse when it comes to identifying how people browse online stores, their preferred payment and communication methods, and what they want to see (and how they want to see it presented) when they get to your store.

Utilise any opportunities you can find to collate feedback from buyers and prospects, ask them what they would like to see more of and what frustrates them, and how what they found when they reached your site measured up to their expectations, and why.

Optimising your ecommerce store and supporting collateral can be time intensive and requires regular attention to ensure that it continues to perform well, but an effective approach will pay for itself many times over in an uptick in cart values and purchase amounts that will help to support your business and its ongoing growth and expansion.

Polly Kay is a British copywriter and content writer with a digital marketing background. After studying Marketing (BA Hons) at university, she first honed her skills as a copywriter by working in-house for an award-winning creative agency in London before branching out on her own in 2012. Today, Polly Kay Copywriting and Content Writing serves clients ranging from small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK to well-known multinational brands. Polly specialises in SEO-friendly content writing for online use, and both brand-led and direct response copywriting for all applications.

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