Turning browsers into buyers

Optimizing the online shopping experience

Not long ago, many consumers showed patience in the face of less-than-ideal online shopping experiences, chalking them up to retailers' growing pains in an evolving space. But those days are becoming a memory – and today's customers demand more.

The online marketplace has matured immensely over the past few years," explains PayPal Senior Marketing Manager Reid Bork. "Customers have very high expectations, and online retailers that understand how to deliver on them are raising the bar for all retailers.

Tips to increase conversion

One technique is retargeting. This involves tracking consumers, usually those who haven't converted into customers or leads, as they browse online. Such customers see display ads featuring brands and products viewed on other sites, encouraging them to come back to those sites to buy (and often to take advantage of special offers).

Shopping cart optimization is another strategy. Persistent carts, for instance, are now used by most successful online retailers. A persistent shopping cart stores a long-term tracking cookie in a visitor's browser. Customers who return to the site days or weeks later can view items left in their carts – and complete their transaction. Several companies now offer persistent cart technology that provides a "multichannel" experience, enabling consumers to start and revisit a shopping experience across multiple devices including smartphones and tablets.

88% of US web buyers have abandoned an online shopping cart

Be transparent about total costs

You ask online shoppers to fill out a lot of fields – name, delivery address, payment information – before completing a purchase. They reach the critical stage when they can review and submit their orders, and then – wham! – you hit them with the total cost, which includes hefty (and possibly unexpected) shipping fees and taxes.

At this point, many consumers will abandon their carts. In fact, a May 2010 study by Forrester revealed that 88% of U.S. web buyers have abandoned an online shopping cart. Don't give shoppers a reason to leave by being less than transparent about costs.

"Retailers need to set clear expectations up front about the total cost of the transaction," says John Amir-Abbassi, Senior User Experience Researcher at PayPal. "Lack of transparency not only leads to a bad user experience in one transaction, but can also damage the long-term relationship between consumer and merchant."

Simplify the checkout experience

Fast, easy, and secure online checkout can motivate shoppers to complete a purchase, which is why many leading retailers use simplified and secure checkout solutions such as PayPal Express Checkout. According to a February 2011 comScore study, PayPal users were more than twice as likely to complete their purchases and check out than were shoppers who used other checkout and payment options.

PayPal users are more than twice as likely to complete their purchases

Reduce distractions

Another common stumbling block for online retailers is generating too much "noise" at checkout. Explains Amir-Abbassi, "Even retailers that have minimized the steps in the checkout process can undermine their good work by creating distractions within the checkout flow."

In PayPal's usability lab, Abbassi has found that users often complain of being bombarded with upsell and cross-sell offers, or forced to remember a login for yet another merchant site. "This just adds to the cognitive load and causes frustration – increasing likelihood that users will abandon their carts," he says.

Keep it clean

Both Amir-Abbassi and Bork emphasize the importance of good simple site design. A targeted redesign that reduces visual clutter allows consumers to focus on products they want to buy, rather than distracting them with too many options as they move through the site. The bottom line: E-commerce optimization is all about the details. If you want to convert browsers to buyers on your site, think about the simple things – from being up-front about shipping fees to streamlining the checkout process to delivering outstanding customer service –each makes a measurable difference.

Want to know more? Contact your PayPal Account Executive or email us.