December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

Five steps you can take today to reduce abandoned shopping carts

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What percentage of users come to the site but never look at a product? If the number is high, it might point toward a site design that isn’t compelling people to click beyond the home page

Of customers who browse the product information on your site, do you know how many move on to put items in their shopping carts? And what about the people who use your search engine-how many products do customers call up and consider before putting the an item in their carts? The answer to any of these questions might point toward the fact that customers simply can’t find the information that they are looking for on your site.

Perhaps most revealing is the percentage of users who enter the checkout process but abort the process. If this number is high, you really need to ask why. Perhaps your customers suffer from shipping shock. Maybe your checkout form has too many fields. Or maybe it’s simply unclear or poorly constructed. As you begin to make changes to your site design, revisit this number and check to see whether the change improved sales.

5. Mix-n-match

Mixing and matching these techniques will give you tremendous knowledge about the behavior of your customers. And along the way, the rate of abandoned shopping carts on your site will decline. Zero in on your most valuable customers and find ways to make them even more valuable. Study your middle-of-the-road customers and test theories about why you aren’t more successful with them. In the end, it’s likely that each customer segment will respond to different stimuli.

Customers who browse only one page might be put off by your site design, so an improvement there could mean big results. Moderate users might be price-sensitive. A slight discount or special promotion could encourage them to shop your site more often and spend more when they do. And an easier-to-use site, coupled with bonus points, might motivate your most valuable customers even more.

Once you begin to understand these dynamics, you can make more educated decisions about where to invest your resources to create a site that sells. The key lies in mixing and matching the many possibilities with the best results. That way, instead of merely hoping that a design tweak or a special promotion will lead to fewer abandoned carts, you can be sure of it.

Eric Richard is chief technology officer at net.Genesis Corp.

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