Are shipping fees costing you customers?


Online retailers are becoming incredibly sophisticated in their ability to impact conversion rates based on hundreds of different variables.  New technologies allow purchase screens to be customised based on user data (i.e. where a customer is purchasing from, time on site, location, previously browsed items, etc.), meaning that e-retailers can be super-specific in their targeting to increase conversion rates.

There’s already been a lot of work done to get the customer to the stage where they are ready to click “add to basket”.  You’ve attracted customers to your site, you’ve encouraged them to commit to a product, and it’s in their virtual basket – ready to be purchased.

So what is stopping customers from moving forward to complete the purchase?

It’s all comes down to one decision – to buy or not to buy.  Psychology sits at the heart of these decisions, and understanding the reason for your abandoned cart rates can help you to break down the psychological barriers that are stopping customers moving forward.

In a report from UPS (1), the number one reason for abandoned carts globally was that shipping costs increased the overall purchase price more than expected.  If we think of the psychological process at play here: customers firstly decide on a product, are happy with its price and features, and then add the product to their basket.  The customer is mentally calculating the overall price as they add their different products to their basket.  They then move forward to complete their order and shipping costs get added.  The price is more than they were expecting.  Or maybe it is the price they expected but mentally it pushes the overall basket value above their desired purchase price.

And this is enough for customers to abandon their cart and leave their items.

One factor that could be causing the high rates of abandoned carts is that customers are testing the shipping costs and how they will be applied to their purchase.  The cart isn’t really abandoned as it was never a serious purchase – it was an elaborate calculator to help gauge the shipping costs.

Even removing this factor, the addition of shipping costs is still a blocker for customers moving ahead with their purchase.  So what can you do to step in and impact the psychology of your buyer so the sale has a higher chance of moving ahead successfully?

How could retailers address this issue earlier?

Is it an option to try and put this (even potentially unattractive) shipping time and cost information upfront so that customers are not surprised when they see shipping costs added?  Could shipping costs be added to the basket subtotal when any items are added so that the increased cost is not a late addition to the purchase journey?

The other option is offering free shipping and removing shipping costs altogether.  This could put a strain on profit margins, but it might be a worthwhile activity to calculate the cost of abandoned carts to the business – i.e. what revenues would you have achieved if even just 10% of those customers had completed their purchased, and compare that to the cost of offering free shipping costs to all customers.

If this is a psychological blocker that is preventing customers from buying then increasing product costs ever so slightly across the board to account for the cost of offering free shipping could mean the difference between high rates of abandoned carts and winning lots of new customers.

In Europe, 49% of consumers abandoned their cart because shipping costs were too high (which is actually lower than the averages in the US at 54% and Canada at 61%).  Sometimes this is because orders haven’t been large enough to result in free shipping qualification.

Is the problem actually worse than we expect?

However, some reports show even higher numbers of abandoned carts due to shipping costs.  A report highlighted in eMarketer by FuturePay (2) said that 86% of surveyed respondents said that the cost of shipping resulted in cart abandonment, so it’s clearly a problem for retailers to get right.

Amazon has tried to combat this barrier through its free shipping option for Prime members.  A report by cg42 (3) found that 91% of Amazon Prime members said they signed up for the service based on the lure of free 2-day shipping.

What appears to be a common theme amongst many of the reports and surveys is that better communication about delivery options and associated costs in order set more realistic expectations earlier on.

A report by Meta Pack (4) found that 66% of consumers would move to another brand if there were more attractive delivery options available – so shipping costs and delivery times are clearly at the top of the agenda for customers when deciding whether to complete a purchase.

An article from the Royal Mail highlights an interesting point from a Deloitte report (5), saying that retailers will need to move quickly to better respond to consumers’ expectations – with same day delivery becoming more standard in our online shopping experiences. Some reports are also suggesting many consumers are now expecting free same-day delivery which is obviously ahead of many retailers’ current offerings.

So with the huge impact that delivery costs have on customers’ decision making, combined with the availability of suitable delivery options, retailers will be looking at ways to make delivery option information more prominent on their sites to enable consumers to be updated earlier in the process.

 

References

(1)   https://www.ups.com/media/en/gb/ups_global_paper.pdf

(2)   https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Cart-Abandonment-Really-Come-Down-Cost/1015092

(3)   http://cg42.com/

(4)   http://www.metapack.com/report/delivering-consumer-choice-infographic/

(5)   http://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/consumer-business/articles/global-powers-of-retailing.html

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