Reducing The Rate Of Abandoned Shopping Carts In International eCommerce

Abandoned shopping carts are the bane of the ecommerce marketer’s existence. The problem gets even more pronounced when expanding into foreign markets. For a variety of reasons, the buying funnel falls apart more spectacularly (and inexplicably) once online transactions jump the language barrier.

What goes wrong in these situations? What changed these customers from being ready to buy to abandoning their carts and giving up entirely? And why is customer behavior so different from market to market? The answer might be as simple as a single translation or localization problem or as complex as a lack of understanding regarding how your new customer base buys on the web.

The good news is that this is a fixable problem. With some testing and a few basic principles in mind, you can reduce your abandonment rate in new markets.

Analyze visitor behavior: The first step to solving any problem is understanding more about it. Before you start changing everything, you need to know what exactly is turning potential customers away and causing them not to buy. Start by analyzing visitor behavior on your site. This usually means getting familiar with the ins and outs of Google Analytics (or a paid tool like KISSMetrics) and being knowledgeable enough about the platform to separate out web traffic by language group and market in your account.

How many visitors are coming to your site daily? How much time are they spending and what paths do they take through the site? If you have goals set up, what are the relative conversion rates for goals set along a particular buying path? If the architecture of your international web presence is the same as your domestic site, then understanding what parts of your site are compelling to international visitors especially in the markets where you are having trouble closing online sales is the first step to solving that problem.

In an ideal world, your analysis will show that a particular page or set of pages have a lower “flow through” rate than similar pages on your domestic site. Alternatively, if you have a multi-step checkout process and there is a consistent fall-off at one particular point, then you can fairly easily determine what needs to change.

Find Obvious Mistakes/Miscues: Believe it or not, 13% of all shopping cart abandonments worldwide in 2012 were the result of final prices being shown in a foreign currency. In these cases, the majority of sites had catalog prices that were in the local currency, but had failed to make the switch once the shopping cart created a total for the system handling the actual transaction. Looking for these simple miscues is the first step in addressing abandonment. Be sure that all of your on-page elements at each step in the check-out process have localized language, currencies, and shipping options (lack of acceptable shipping accounts for another 16% of abandonments).

Look for Cultural Differences: Maybe your translation is perfect and your currencies are correct, but you have not adapted to the browsing behavior or payment habits of your new customers. Multivariate testing of the best word choice for the “buy now” or “complete transaction” buttons may be all you need. Alternatively, you might need to dig deeper with a consulting group that can help you determine whether or not your international site’s navigation conventions follow local behavior. For example, many cultures browse differently than we do and, without adapting your cart system, you may find that they are inadvertently adding items to a cart when they only mean to find more items like the one they have already seen.

Additionally, different cultures have different tolerances for the length of the check out process, the methods used to gather information (multi-step checkouts don’t do as well in Asia as in Europe for example), or they are unaccustomed to seeing additional costs like shipping and handling added at the last minute.

The value of testing can’t be stressed enough here. Even in English speaking markets, using the words “Go” or “Next” on an interstitial page submission button is more effective in getting customers to place their orders than “Submit.” This is not the case for every market though and testing different copy for these simple “Buy” buttons can make all the difference in changing abandoned carts to purchased orders.

Influencing shopper behavior: Beyond simple wording, there are other important ways to influence the behavior of your potential customers and avoid losing sales. Placing related products and reviews in key places on your site can increase both how many items your customers buy and if they actually take that final step to complete their order. Again, this is a place where a quality consulting firm can help. Dishwashers are a standard appliance in the US. “Related” products may be other kitchen appliances or large appliances. In other markets, they are a luxury good and you would be better off displaying goods appropriate to that attitude.

In addition, different cultures put varying weights on product reviews from other buyers. Don’t underestimate the power of a well-placed product review in the checkout process. Chinese customers for example are known to rely far more heavily on peer reviews than their Western counterparts. In fact, customers in Chinese markets are almost twice as likely to make a purchasing decision based on a recommendation from friends or family than those in America. This means that social site integrated review widgets that appear as part of the “check out now or keep shopping” phase can have outsized impact on sale completion rates.

The keys to addressing shopping cart abandonment come down to gathering data and then determining if you have a simple translation that needs fixing or a more complicated cultural difference that needs a more involved solution. This variation is why Glyph has concentrated on a “total market” approach to translation work – when clients come to us for help with international ecommerce, we want to be able to dive into the potential cultural issues as easily as we can offer up a simple translation solution.

Got experiences you are willing to share? Know of other ways to optimize the online experience for international buyers? Get in touch and tell us about it!