Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate Part 2 – The Messy Middle

In part 1 of our examination of shopping cart abandonment, we defined the issue and we outlined some actions you can take to help prevent it.

But the “messy middle” is a problem that all ecommerce businesses face and it is not something that’s easily solved. Navigating the messy middle can take time and money.

But there are things you can do to make sure that your business survives the “messy middle”. With a bit of work you can keep your awareness of your offering high and be the best option when your customer is ready to make a purchase.

Let’s start our journey into the messy middle…

The messy middle as illustrated by a roundabout...
Photo by Ádám Berkecz on Unsplash

What is the Messy Middle?

If a customer is “researching” at the moment they are in the checkout on your site, there is not a lot you can do to stop them leaving.

Google refers to this stage of the purchase journey as the “messy middle”. It is a space in the purchase journey that is tricky for retailers to navigate, and customers can be found or lost.

Google suggests that customers have two mental modes in the messy middle. One is exploration and one is evaluation. Exploration is expansive, people gather information here from lots of sources. Evaluation is reductive, customers start to eliminate some of the purchasing options they have gathered. 

A customer can move between these two mental modes many times before completing a purchase. Especially for more expensive items.

So while customers may leave, they may also come back. Retailers can employ strategies to make sure they are being considered when the time comes for the customer to make the purchase.

Commerce businesses can succeed in the messy middle by combining Google’s 6 bias factors. They limit the time customers are exposed to the competition. And they keep your brand at the front of the customers mind.

Here are the 6 bias factors and some actions you can take.

Category Heuristics

This covers product descriptions. Make them short, descriptive, relevant and useful. Product descriptions are often neglected. But good ones will put you ahead of the competition.

Power of Now

This covers timeliness. The longer a customer waits, the weaker the proposition becomes. You can aid this by not putting barriers in front of your customer (like requiring an account) or offering quick delivery times.

Social Proof

This can be helped with customer reviews. It can also help keep customers on your site rather than researching elsewhere.

Scarcity Bias

A product that’s limited is very appealing. But too much of this can annoy customers, which is something to bear in mind.

Authority Bias

This can be achieved with reviews from powerful influencers. If you’re a B2B company, testimonials from well-known brands can increase trust in your brand.

Power of Free

This can be added to your proposition with “free gifts” or “free delivery”. It can be a powerful differentiator and can push people to purchase.

In their tests, Google used a fictional cereal brand and compared it directly to an established favourite. Google discovered that when some of the bias factors above were combined, the fictional product managed to get 28% of shopper preference. Despite the brand being unknown. In this case they used social proof in five-star reviews and an offer of 20% extra free. In another example they “supercharged” a fictional car insurer with all 6 bias factors and won 87% share of consumer preference.

If you can utilise some of these factors in your value proposition, your business can thrive in the messy middle.

Being present in the messy middle as illustrated by a hand in a field
Photo by Daniel Jensen on Unsplash

Being Present in the Messy Middle

We’ve all been in the messy middle. If you have shopped online you will almost certainly have visited lots of webstores and marketplaces, filled up the cart and then researched for a while.

But what made you choose one store over another, if the price was equal?

Price is not always a driver, though it can be a powerful motivator. Google trends can often show this, particularly when you look at the keywords “cheap” and “best”.

If we compare “cheap phone” and “best phone” in Google Trends, you will see that the volume of searches for “best phone” is much higher than that of “cheap phone”. In fact it is around ten times higher in favour of “best phone”. But if you asked most people in eCommerce, they would often assume that “cheap phone” would be higher. 

This neatly illustrates the messy middle. Consumers often do not behave in an obvious way. They are also not always driven by price, it is more about perceived value.

Luckily, you can always give your customers value. You just need to create a proposition that appeals to the customers you are targeting.

Here are some actions you can try

Be Quick

This relates to the “power of now” described above but there are technical issues at play too. If your site is slower than a competitor, your customers are much more likely to pick them and not you. In fact some say conversion rate drops by 4.42% every extra SECOND of load time.

Be Present

Use Google Ads to appear on search terms where your customers might be conducting research. And use Remarketing to catch customers that have visited your site but not completed a purchase.

Be Flexible

This is an organizational action that can help you better serve your customers. Build cross-functional teams that break down the silos that can exist between branding, performance and technical teams. Everyone needs to work together.

Be Bias-aware

Mix together the 6 bias factors to create intriguing value propositions for customers.

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Talk to MAQE

Do you need help with shopping cart abandonment? Do you need to increase conversions? Talk to us via [email protected]. With a sound personalization and customer experience strategy we will stop you from falling into the messy middle!