PayPal and ComScore recently conducted a study on shopping cart abandonment and discovered customers' top reasons were
- Shipping charges too high - 43%
- Total cost of purchase more expensive than anticipated - 36%
- Wanted to comparison shop at other Web sites before making a purchase - 27%
- Could not contact customer support to answer questions - 16%
- Forgot usernames and passwords for store accounts - 14%
Though it ranks third, I believe the key here is "wanted to comparison shop at other websites before making a purchase." If a customer has true purchase intent (not just browsing or running out the clock at work), if you don't ease the FUDDs, he or she is going to find a wabbit (e-store) that does.
Free Shipping - King of Counter-FUDDs
44% of shoppers surveyed by the e-Tailing Group's research in late 2006 reported they typically compare 3 stores when making a decision, and 84% cited free shipping as "very to most influential" when buying gifts online. It could very well be a dealbreaker between buying from you or a competitor.
So online stores that offer free shipping have an advantage over stores that don't, right? Not unless the free shipping message gets through to the customer.
Example: I Googled "Jack Lalanne juicer free shipping" and found several products:
I hate to say this is among the worst product pages I have ever seen. Aside from the large block of text and the absence of a buy button, this page actually ranked above the other examples in organic search. As a customer who typed in "jack lalanne juicer free shipping" I expect free shipping and I'm going to hunt for the free shipping information, which you might spot if you have a keen eye:
But what if I came through a comparison shopping engine and had 6 open tabs from different retailers and I was comparison shopping? Would I notice this value proposition? Why is it not in my face near the price and add to cart button?
GNC's got it right. Free shipping is clearly placed between the price and cart button in a bold, red type. It even assures you the item is in stock.
Walgreens' incentive is off to the side and easier to miss.
Wal-Mart's is a bit closer to the call-to-action, but the text link is not as prominent. Again, easier to overlook when a comparison shopper is flipping between online stores.
Overstock has $2.95 shipping which is almost free, especially since it often has very low prices to begin with. Overstock shows the offer at the top of the page above the navigation but not in the content area is not optimal. It's a good idea to have this value proposition in both areas.
Can you see Kohl's free shipping offer? Wouldn't it be easier to see under the price?
You could also include the free shipping offer mid-product description:
Free Shipping on Steroids
As more online retailers jump on the free shipping boat, "free overnight shipping" and "free return shipping" have become the value-added incentives. Again, the key is to flaunt the value proposition whenever possible.
Endless.com offers free overnight shipping and wisely communicates this on product category pages...
...but "drops the shoe" on the product page! Search engine or shopping engine traffic might land right on the product page. Now's the time to shove your value proposition in the customer's face. And if PPC ads mention "free overnight shipping," this landing page has lost its scent.
Pre-Checkout Calculators - Queen of Counter-FUDDs
A customer who add an item to cart from a product page only to experience "sticker shock" in the checkout process likely wouldn't have added to cart had the full price been shown pre-checkout. That's why shipping estimator and tax tools are very effective for reducing cart abandonment and improving your site's usability. Even if you offer free shipping, unless you offer it on everything (no purchase threshold or restrictions on international orders), you should have a pre-checkout tax and shipping calculator.
Know What You're Up Against
A beneficial exercise is to search for a product you carry and check out competitors' offers and compare them to yours. Or grab a few people off the street and do an old-fashioned usability test, asking them to pretend they need to buy a certain product, and show them you and 5 competitors (in open tabs). Ask them who they'd buy from and why. You may gain insight into how your shipping offers fare against others, or how effectively you're communicating your value propositions.