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Whether you are a local independent retailer or a multinational retailer with a national/international focus, your website must be optimised to improve profitability. Your website is your online shop window; it needs to convert sales and minimise abandoned baskets.

This, simply put, comes down to two key points:

  • Getting prospective customers to your website
  • Getting prospective customers through the checkout

In this article, we look at the second point – getting prospective customers through the checkout – and what considerations retailers must make when selling online. This is particularly important after a period in which Black Friday and Cyber Monday broke online sales records this year. On Black Friday, in particular, there are indications that online sales were to have passed £1bn on a single day for the first time. Online sales figures have grown by more than was expected, unlike on the high street, underlining the online shopping revolution in the UK

A retailer’s digital presence is becoming increasingly important

With online sales continuing to grow it is becoming increasingly important for retailers to optimise their website and online marketing strategies. With more and more customers now shopping on the move, it is perhaps unsurprisingly to see that mobiles and tablets are also becoming the go-to device when shopping online. A retailer’s website must therefore be screen responsive (i.e. the content on the page is suitable for a mobile or tablet) if it is to convert sales. This is particularly important when marketing through email and social media channels.

But what about a retailers website? Is it converting sales online?

Almost 70% of baskets are abandoned at the checkout

Basket abandonment is unavoidable for online retailers, with the average number of abandoned shopping baskets sitting at around 65%. Some e-commerce sites may have basket abandon rates as high as 80% or even 85%, but is there anything they can do about it?

Pete Wilmer, Partner at Hawsons, notes: “Online retailers often overlook their basket abandon rates as a matter of course, but there are a number of ways this ongoing strategic challenge can actually be turned into an opportunity.”

“By taking the time to review the design and functionality of a website, understanding the customer journey and the potential frustrations customers experience when trying to complete a purchase, savvy retailers can streamline their checkout process and increase conversions.”

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“The retail industry is more competitive than it has ever been, particularly with the growing prevalence and ease of online trading. Streamlining the online checkout process to reduce the number of baskets being abandoned at the checkout must now be a primary management focus. After all, an abandoned shopping basket is a lost sale; and lost profit.”

What can retailers do to increase online conversions?

“One of the key strategies retailers have looked at to counteract high abandon rates has been to retarget customers that leave by offering discounts to return. For example, a customer that leaves a checkout before purchasing may get a personalised email an hour later with a 10% discount code. They return and the retailer completes the sale, albeit at a lower price.

“Now, this approach works to a point, but it is becoming more about shrewd customers taking advantage of retailers than retailers actually optimising online conversation rates.”

“Other approaches and strategies that retailers can use to optimise online conversions include website (and checkout) responsiveness, delivery costs/flexibility, payment methods and progress indicators…we have listed some more in a checklist below.”

Some key areas to consider

“One of the keys areas that retailers should focus on is ensuring that delivery costs are competitive and delivery options are flexible. Research shows that nearly one third of all basket abandonment is due to delivery costs, so pricing must be competitive.”

“Another key area is the amount of time it takes to complete an online purchase. Only request the essential information and look into using a progress indicator so that the customer understands the checkout process, what they have completed and what’s left to do. Retailers should definitely see this as an opportunity to optimise online conversations whilst also gaining an advantage over the competition.”

Action point checklist for retail websites:

  • Ensure website is responsive on mobiles, tablets and all other devices (does the checkout process work on all devices?)
  • Ensure website is responsive on all browsers
  • Ensure delivery costs are competitive
  • Ensure delivery options are flexible and cover a range of dates/times
  • Ensure there are no unexpected costs added on at the end
  • Ensure there are a range of payment methods available
  • Ensure you provide payment security assurance to give customers the confidence to complete the purchase
  • Use a progress indicator so that customers understand the checkout process
  • Do not make it mandatory for customers to create a new account.
  • Request only important information so that the checkout process is quick and simple

More from our retail experts

You can find all of our latest retail sector news and newsletters here.

If you are looking for advice in a particular area, please get in touch with your usual Hawsons contact.

Alternatively, we offer all new clients a free initial meeting to have a discussion about their own personal circumstances – find out more or book your free initial meeting here. We have offices in Sheffield, Doncaster and Northampton.

Pete Wilmer heads up the firm's Corporate Finance service offering. Having worked in the corporate finance arena for many years with a national accountancy practice and with a major corporate bank, Pete has a wealth of experience and a track record of delivering first-class outcomes for clients. You can contact Pete at [email protected] or 0114 266 7141.

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