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Nobody likes hidden fees. From credit cards to cable bills, people just want to know what the cost is up front. Why is it, then, that we wait until the last second to hit our customers with shipping charges? This is actually the number one reason for cart abandonment according to a Forrester Research Study, accounting for 44% of all abandoned orders. And it’s because customers are adding products to their carts to get the full picture before deciding to buy from you or from one of your competitors.

So what can you do? Here are a few helpful tips to mitigate cart dropoff and entice your customers to convert.

1. Offer free shipping

It’s a no brainer: if you can afford to, give the shipping away for free. Aside from immediate availability, shipping cost is one of the few advantages brick and mortar retail has over e-commerce. Make it easy for your customers to decide to buy from you rather than someone else.

Of course, if you are going to offer free shipping, make it REALLY obvious to your customers.

If you can’t offer free shipping across the board, offer free shipping over a certain threshold, as this can often work to increase the total value of a cart.

2. Make your shipping policies obvious and straightforward

Many people can’t offer free shipping, and that’s fine. If you will be charging for shipping, make sure it’s really easy for your customers to see how the charges are assessed — spell it out in plain English. A robust and informative page that outlines the details takes the ambiguity out of the checkout process.

3. Research what your competitors are charging

It’s not enough to simply know that you compete on price with your competitors. What happens when you add products to cart? Do they offer free shipping? If so, is it apparent from their site? Which carriers are they using and what do comparable products cost to ship from your store versus theirs? Make sure you are as competitive as possible.

A common alternative to free shipping is to split the shipping costs with your customers. Offering a flat rate or by weight/order total option that calculates slightly less than you will be paying is a great way to undercut your competition.

4. Remember that price isn’t everything — options and speed are important too!

Some customers are willing to pay more to receive products quickly or the way they want. Offer multiple options to appeal to as many people as you can. In addition to free shipping, a flat rate expedited shipping option might be worth looking at.

Some people have their preference of carrier as well. For instance, FedEx won’t ship to PO boxes, so offering USPS may help some customers buy form you instead of your competitors.

The long and short of it is this: shipping is the dirty laundry that nobody wants to talk about. But it’s an integral part of e-commerce. so make it work for you rather than against.

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