How Learning to Sell Can Improve Online Sales


The Center for Media Research recently quoted a Catchpoint report that shopping cart abandonment costs online resellers between $15 and $20 billion annually. This is consistent with data that peg abandonment rates at 60 to 80%. There are many reasons why the majority of shopping carts are abandoned. They include the following:

  1. Sticker shock when shipping and other fees are added.
  2. Comparison shopping (looking for better prices on other sites).
  3. Failure to find online coupons that work with the current site.
  4. Webrooming (the opposite of Showrooming) where buyers do their research online and end up buying the product in a physical store.
  5. Poor Web site design.

If online resellers could do a better job of closing the deal once buyers put items in an online shopping cart, they could make a lot more money. What's the solution? Incorporating better selling techniques into the Web experience can definitely help 1 through 4 on the above list. To do that, it would behoove Marketers and Web designers to beef up their selling skills. In particular, they need to learn how to answer objections and close the sale.

Answering objections

With traditional sales, good sales people answer objections in face-to-face interactions, by phone, or mail (including email). With online sales, answering objections is usually not as easy. When online buyers put items in the shopping cart and they learn about shipping, taxes and other fees, many experience sticker shock. This is to be expected, but few if any Web sites anticipate this problem and do anything about it. What can be done?

  1. Pop up asking why leaving. Once the site detects they are abandoning their shopping carts, it could generate a pop-up window asking them why they are leaving.
  2. Answer the objection. Upon processing the reason, it could offer answers with verified proof to support them via chat or algorithm. If they say the shipping charges are too high, it could compare shipping charges with the cost of driving to a physical store (gas, shopping time, parking wear and tear, traffic hassles, opportunity costs of using that time to earn more).
  3. Explain now to qualify for free shipping. If the above options are not appropriate or don't work, the site could provide information on how the buyer could qualify for free shipping - buying more, receiving a coupon on the next purchase, or some other offer that would counteract the shipping charges.
  4. Benefits of buying now. Depending on the situation, via chat or algorithm, the site could offer other benefits for the online shopper to buy now - turning the convenience of buying now into tangible time and money savings.
  5. Price match guarantee. While this is not recommended because of the processing time that might be involved, the site could also offer a price match guarantee similar to what physical stores do after the buyer shows written proof of a lower price for the same item.

Providing proof

The Web site should have links to data that proves how shopping online on the current site saves significant time and money over other options. What people want is reassurance that they are not paying more than is required for the same item. Buyers do not like to think of themselves as stupid shoppers. They need rational proof that demonstrates they are not being economically disadvantaged by buying the items they want on your site from you.

Closing the sale

Experienced sales people know that some people have difficulty spending money without some help. They need reassurance that they are buying the right product at the right time from the right place and that they are getting a good deal. If the brand identity of your site does not give them that reassurance, you have to help them in other ways. Simply asking them to buy in a professional way or providing site reviews from others can provide the nudge they need.

Marketing Information System feedback

While there is a lot of research on cart abandonment, Web owners can collect and analyze their own feedback by simply asking those that abandon their carts why they are leaving. This question, of course, should be asked in a way that is a benefit to the buyer. For example, you could say something such as, "It would help us to help you better if you tell us why you are leaving our site without buying." Not everyone will answer, but you don't need everyone. You simply need a statistically significant sample of Web visitors. You can even offer them something, such as an online coupon, for taking their time to provide you with the answers.

Art and science

Selling is both art and science. The data on cart abandonment shows that too many Web sites do not provide shoppers with the assistance they need to make the final buying decision. Those involved in creating their Web sites can provide shoppers with this help by applying sales skills and techniques to improve the online selling process. Good luck.