Famous Last Words: The Case for Secret E-shoppers

I have spent more than 40 years writing and designing direct mail.

One basic rule hardwired into my DNA: Before committing a mailing to print, always hand samples over to strangers to make sure everything makes sense and it’s easy to order. These could be relatives or folks in the office who work on other projects.

Some of the obvious screw-ups:

  • Are the benefits and offer easy to understand?
  • Are the pricing and payment options clear?
  • So the customer can order via the method most comfortable, are the street address, 800-number, fax number and email address included in the order form?
  • Does enough room exist to write in the name and full address?
  • Does enough room exist to fit the credit card account number, expiry and ID number?

If the prospective customer has trouble anywhere along the line, the mailing will be put aside and you’ve lost the order.

This is the equivalent of the abandoned shopping cart online.

Several months ago, I needed new rotary blades for my Philips 8240XL electric shaver and went shopping all over the Internet. At a number of websites, it was not clear how to order. I abandoned a slew of shopping carts and wound up ordering from Amazon.com.

According to a survey by the Web researchers at baymard.com, the average online shopping cart abandonment in 2012 is 66 percent.

Imagine the mayhem at supermarkets and retail stores if 66 percent of all customers walked out leaving shopping carts full of food and merchandise to clog the aisles and checkout lanes! More to the point, imagine leaving 66 percent of your potential revenue on the table for someone else to pick up!

Why Do Shoppers Abandon Carts?
Linda Bustos of GetElastic.com came up with nine main reasons for shopping cart abandonment:

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

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  • David Fleck

    This is a very educational article and just reading it made me think of changes that I must make to my website. I also really like the idea of asking strangers. Thank you for your article. I always say "you will never learn until someone with more experience tells you that you are wrong"

  • Ben Gay

    Denny, as always, I loved your article . . . especially the Mystery Worshipper! That really drove the point home! Keep up the good work!

  • Wash

    Denny, Good reminder of fundamentals often overlooked online. My problem in direct mail was working with designers whose esthetic sensibilities were bruised if I demanded print all customers could actually read.
    As for clarity of the data by the lady from GetElastic.com, phrasing of her statement about dropped shopping carts leaves details a bit hard to sort out. I.e., she cited a total of 417% of customers were lost for her nine reasons–an impossibility, of course. Many or those were mutually exclusive (hence the 417 figure). Some might be related conditions that combine for a No Sale, but which ones weren’t exactly clear.