How to Turn Window Shoppers into Purchasers

How to Turn Window Shoppers into Purchasers

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In our last article, you learned a number of tips for getting people to your Shopify store and ensuring they stick around long enough that you can make a sales offer. But just because someone didn’t bounce doesn’t mean they’re going to evolve from a window shopper to a first-time purchaser.

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In fact, if you’re already running a Shopify store or have any experience in e-commerce, you know that even if someone puts a product in their shopping cart, they’re still a window shopper until they complete the cart process. According to Statista, the average shopping cart abandonment rate in 2020 was 88%! That means only 12% of consumers on average who visit a site and plunk an item into their digital cart actually become purchasers.

In this article, we’ll cover six tactics you can use to turn window shoppers into purchasers in your Shopify store.

Transparency and Policies

People are wary of buying online, especially from e-commerce stores they haven’t shopped before. That consumer cynicism has legit roots, too: scams, stolen credit cards, hacks, bad service or long shipping times are all reasons people hesitate to buy from online stores.

You can’t single-handedly change the culture of online shopping or put an end to unethical practices. But you can be as transparent as possible about your own activities and provide easy-to-find and understandable policies in your website design for existing customers and potential buyers.

Here are just a few things potential purchasers want to know before they press the buy button or finalize their payment:

  • How you use their information. Do you collect any information, including IP address? What information are you saving when someone makes a purchase? Tell people how you use it—especially if you don’t share the information with any third parties. Consumers like to know that their information is safe.
  • Whether they can return items. Purchasing with a shop for the first time is a risk. Consumers might wonder whether they can return items if quality, fit, or other features aren’t as expected.
  • What your refund policy is. Let shoppers know whether you refund or give store credit. Be specific about refund windows, such as whether returns are allowed for refunds for a certain amount of time and how you provide processes to facilitate returns. Will consumers need to foot the bill for shipping, or do you provide printable labels for returns?
  • What your shipping policy is. How fast will people get their items? If you can let them know this before they enter their payments, you can help grease the wheels for a purchase.
  • How much shipping might be. One of the top reasons people abandon carts is that shipping fees are more than expected. Let people know what shipping is before they get to that point and make it easy to find information about shipping options and prices.

Welcome Emails

Take a moment to imaging two scenarios:

  • A person comes to your e-commerce site. You have around 30 seconds—if you’re lucky—to persuade them that they need a product bad enough that they complete a purchase.
  • A person comes to your e-commerce site. They sign up for your email newsletter in those 30 seconds. Now you have plenty of time to persuade them they need your products.

Ensure your Shopify store has a newsletter option and that it’s easy for people to sign up for it. But don’t just sit on those email addresses! Launch communication immediately with a welcome email.

A welcome email is sent to a new subscriber within 24 hours of signing up. That way they’re likely to still remember your shop and why they were there. The email itself can remind them they needed to or wanted to make a purchase, which might bring them back to complete the shopping cart process.

Other things a welcome email accomplishes include:

  • Connecting more deeply with the online window shopper. If they were a physical window shopper, the welcome email would be like a sales associate opening the retail store door to invite them in. It’s friendly and increases customer experience. 
  • Expanding your message. You get a small window in a welcome email to sell yourself or your shop. You might do so by showing off your friendly brand or pointing to a top-selling product.
  • Making an offer. A welcome email is a great place to offer a discount, free shipping, or other perk to help persuade someone to make a purchase.

1st Purchase Programs

First purchase programs are specific deals and perks you offer only to first-time buyers. They’re meant to entice people to take that risk and buy with you, so they can experience your top-notch service, get your quality products, and hopefully return for more in the future.

You can run first-time purchase programs in a number of ways, and many e-commerce shops actually put a few programs into action at the same time to maximize returns. Here are some ideas for first purchase programs you might want to consider:

  • Percent off. A discount can often be the deciding factor in whether someone is willing to make a purchase, especially for the first time. You could offer a 10, 15 or 25% off coupon for a first-time purchase or go deep with 50% off a single product. Obviously how much you offer depends on your business model, profit margins and what you can afford to spend to gain a new customer. The better the deal, the more people are likely to take it.
  • Free shipping. Free shipping is a big motivator in online purchases, but not every store can offer it for every purchase. Many shops offer free shipping on purchases above a certain dollar level, but first-time buyers may not be confident enough in your store to spend that kind of money yet. Offering free shipping on first-time purchases of any size can help convince someone to make that first purchase.
  • Risk-free shopping. If you don’t normally offer refunds or returns, consider doing so for the first-time shopper. This can reduce the risk they feel they’re taking when shopping with a new company.
  • Tell-a-friend programs. Tell-a-friend or referral programs are a great way to reward loyal customers while also enticing new first-time purchases. They usually work by offering a reward to both parties if a first-time purchase is made. For example, the loyal customer might give someone a referral code for 10% off. If the code is used, the loyal customer also gets 10% off their next purchase. These types of programs have the added benefit of making your existing customers potential allies in marketing.
  • Freebie with purchase. You might throw in a free item if someone makes a first purchase with you. For example, a Shopify store that specializes in art supplies might offer a free pencil sketching set with first-time purchases of a certain amount.


General promotions for all shoppers — not just first-time buyers — can also help conversion rates. Coupon codes, for example, are proven to increase how likely people are to buy as well as how much they will buy. On average, people who have a coupon code will spend 24% more than those that don’t. And close to 30% will make a purchase they didn’t originally intend to make if the right promotion shows up.

The type of promotion you run impacts the result, but that varies by audience. You’ll need to spend some time testing various promotions to find options that work best for your consumers. Some options include:

  • Free shipping
  • Percent off of purchase (10% off, 25% off)
  • BOGO (buy one get one free, buy one get one half off, etc.)
  • A specific amount off ($10 off a $20 purchase, $15 off a $40 purchase, etc.)

Remember that promotions can’t help drive a window shopper to become a purchaser if they never see the offer. Consider placing promotion messages in prominent locations, such as the top banner on your site as well as shopping carts, product description pages and welcome emails.

Cart Abandonment Emails

Remember the statistic about cart abandonment rates being around 88%? They can be much higher depending on your industry. Here are some average 2020 cart abandonment rates from various industries:

  • Automotive: 96.88%
  • Baby and child: 94.36%
  • Luxury goods: 92.61%
  • Fashion: 90.68%
  • Gardening and DIY: 90.34%
  • Cosmetics: 85.73%
  • Consumer electronics: 85.49%
  • General retail: 84.51%
  • Sports and outdoor: 84.21%

(Source: Statista)

The TL;DR from all those numbers is that no matter what type of shop you run, people are going to put things in an online shopping cart and then click or tap away. Cart abandonment happens for a number of reasons, including:

  • The final price, including shipping and taxes, may take people by surprise
  • People are interrupted by life and forget to come back and make a purchase they intended to make
  • Someone may realize they need a credit card and go to get it and forget to come back
  • People often put things in carts while comparison shopping or browsing

No matter why someone abandoned their cart, there’s a proven method for bringing them back to the fold. If you ask people to sign in with an email address or enter an email address when beginning the cart process, you may be able to send them a cart abandonment email. That’s a message that says, “Hey, we noticed you left this item in your cart. Just reminding you about it in case you wanted to circle back and complete the purchase.”

Obviously, your emails shouldn’t say exactly that. You can try some different tactics with cart abandonment emails to see what works with your audience. Common examples can include:

  • The friendly reminder. You’re just doing them a quick favor and reminding them about the purchase they were in the middle of.
  • The urgent reminder. You’re letting them know time is of the essence. Maybe the price is changing or you’re running low on that item, so they should act today to complete the purchase if they want it.
  • The deal sweetener. You remind them of the item in their cart and offer a deal to help convince them to buy it. You might offer a BOGO or 10% off discount if they complete the purchase by a certain time, for example.
  • The price reduction. Perhaps you lowered the price since someone put an item in their cart. That’s something they may want to know and might be a reason for them to go ahead and complete that purchase.

Retargeting Campaigns

Retargeting campaigns are similar to cart abandonment emails in that they remind someone of hopefully unfinished business. They work like this:

  • Someone visits your site. Their IP address is noted.
  • You create a retargeting campaign in your PPC ad software.
  • You set the retargeting campaign with parameters such as “Any IP address that viewed a certain product.”
  • The ad campaign then shows your ads to people that match your criteria.

Here’s an example of the result of a retargeting ad campaign: Someone visits your site and looks at three pairs of red shoes. They don’t make a purchase. Tomorrow, they’re on Facebook or another social media platform and see an ad for one of those pairs of shoes and a link to your site. Then they’re on a news site and see the same thing.

The goal isn’t to stalk someone digitally. It’s to create enough touchpoints that they remember they wanted those shoes and return to buy them.

Getting that first purchase can be a challenge. But once you get someone to buy, it’s usually easier to get them to buy again—which is what we’ll talk about in the next article. 

Itching to circle back to the gardening metaphor before reading on? You may have picked a few tomatoes, but in the next article, we’ll discuss how your watering schedule and pruning can grow your harvest ten-fold.