In 1995, Amazon started allowing its users to post reviews on its site. Since then, their review platform has become a big draw. Fifty-five percent of shoppers start their buying research on Amazon, according to a BloomReach survey. Furthermore, half of shoppers said they rely mainly on Amazon for reviews, a Market Track analysis found.
Reviews are just one tool in Amazon’s arsenal — and the playbook of other eCommerce retailers — to reduce customer doubts and encourage consumers to complete the checkout process. Various other strategies can drive checkout conversions such as free shipping, site help, coupons and guarantees. But not all retailers offer these features.
While eCommerce sales in the U.S. are at approximately $390 billion, an estimated $200 billion in sales are foregone due to frictions in the checkout process — a whopping 50 percent, according to the PYMNTS Checkout Conversion Index. Merchants still have a long way to go in bridging this gap: Only six percent of retailers in the index received an “A” rating for checkout conversions — and nearly one-quarter flunked with an “F.”
But these “A” merchants stand out in nearly every feature in the index. So, when trying to encourage customers to buy the items in their shopping carts, here are five features to consider bringing to an eCommerce website.
— A whopping majority — or approximately 92 percent — of “A” merchants offered reviews and recommendations. User reviews can make or break products that appear on eCommerce retail websites like Amazon. A product that has only one review is 65 percent more likely to be purchased than another product that doesn’t have any reviews. And one-third of eCommerce shoppers will not purchase an item online unless it has positive reviews from customers, according to Power Reviews CEO Matt Moog. His company also found that positive reviews can boost sales by 20 percent on merchant sites that do a good job at displaying reviews.
— More than 97 percent of “A” merchants offered free shipping. Online shoppers love free shipping, especially around the holidays. According to some industry analysts, nearly 50 percent of carts are abandoned due to high shipping costs, but the introduction of free shipping can drive more completed purchases. A study by Retention Science found that when offered the choice between a percent discount and free shipping, nearly twice as many people jumped at the free shipping offer. Why? Free shipping may win over traditional discounts because consumers may perceive the costs of shipping to be higher than they are, or consumers may see an added benefit in not having to deal with choosing between various shipping methods based on price.
— Just over 84 percent of “A” merchants offer coupons. Traditional paper coupons — and digital coupons alike — are popular with consumers, even millennials (who don’t shop and just eat avocado toast). Fifty percent of millennials opened and read emails from retailers and gave the greatest amount of attention to direct mail and print advertising. In the digital coupon world, Target overhauled its own mobile app a few months ago to integrate functionality for digital coupon clipping. Walgreens, too, has been busy building direct pipelines from coupon discovery to in-checkout application into its in-store app.
Both upgrades emphasize the ease with which consumers can tap a coupon and have it automatically applied to participating products. The Walgreens’ app will even notify shoppers if the item they’re looking for comes with a coupon they’ve yet to select.
— All “A” merchants offer live help to their customers. Live online chat has been a part of retail strategy for a long time for some merchants. Lord & Taylor, for example, instituted this feature to answer customer questions in 2009. And, in an effort to bring chat in to the future of smartphones, Apple is launching its “Business Chat” as a way for users to communicate directly with businesses within its messages feature on iOS. This spring, large companies such as Discover, Hilton, Lowe’s and Wells Fargo will integrate the feature into their communications strategy, according to Apple.
— Refunds and guarantees are also a popular feature with “A” merchants, with just under 90 percent of “A” merchants offering them. Wish Express, for example, guarantees shipments in five business days — but only for select products from merchants and manufacturers who can guarantee their goods will ship in time to order that guarantee. On the Wish website and in the app, products that qualify for Wish Express have a special indicating badge. Beyond Wish, Amazon is known for its two-day shipping promise for its Prime members. And when a delivery is late, an Amazon customer may be comped for a free month of Prime.
For Amazon, what’s the future of product reviews? Perhaps more social media. In 2017, Amazon launched a feature, Amazon Spark, that looks sort of like Instagram and uses shoppable photos. Through the platform, Amazon customers can post stories, ideas and images of products they enjoy, which others can react to with comments and “smiles” — like Facebook’s “like” button or Instagram’s “favorite” feature. If the past is any indication for Spark, perhaps it will draw consumers to Amazon too.