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Shopping cart abandonment: Why does it happen, and how can you stop it?

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If you run an online business, you probably already know that shopping cart abandonment is a big, big issue. And after all the work you’ve put into setting up your business – optimizing your product and landing pages, making sure your site loads fast on both mobile and desktop, writing content, and so on – it’s a killer to fall at the very last hurdle.

Online shopping carts are abandoned at a rate of 68.53%, on average. That’s according to web research company the Baymard Institute. That’s an average, so in some cases it can be much higher. Baymard looked at 31 different studies containing statistics on e-commerce shopping cart abandonment and found in some cases the shopping cart abadonment rate was a shocking 80%!

According to Forrester research, all those abandoned shopping carts add up to $18 billion in lost revenue annually for online retailers. That’s a heck of a lot of lost sales.

So why does shopping cart abandonment happen? Let’s take a look.

Why Shopping Cart Abandonment Happens

The number 1 reason that people abandon their shopping carts is unexpected costs. These could be unexpected shipping fees, or taxes, or other fees. Visual Website Optimizer’s 2014 eCommerce survey found that 28% of consumers abandoned their carts because of unexpected shipping fees. A study by WorldPay found that 56% of shoppers abandoned their carts because of ‘unexpected costs’ more generally.

shopping cart abandonment statistics

There are a couple of fixes for this, some easy, some, perhaps, not so easy. The easy thing to do is to be upfront about shipping fees, processing fees, credit card fees, and so on, on product pages. There’s no point trying to fool your customers, and hoping they won’t notice the add-ons at the end. Cart abandonment rates due to fees give the lie to that strategy. Customers want to know how much they need to spend to get the product they want – so tell them.

The second fix is perhaps less easy – offer them free shipping. Huge online retailers like Amazon have massively raised consumer expectations when it comes to shipping. 66% of consumers say that free shipping is ‘very important’ to them when buying something online, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation. According to comScore, 68% of American online retailers were offering free shipping in Q3 2014. If you want to compete in a crowded and competitive space, you’re going to need to consider offering free shipping. It will not only help you compete, it will push down your shopping cart abandonment rate.

free shipping

68% of American online retail businesses offer free shipping – Does yours?

You might be worried that swallowing shipping costs will bite into your margins. But if you’re clever about it, the bite doesn’t have to be too deep. It’s common for retailers to offer free shipping only over a certain order value. This creates an upside: According to ComScore, 58% of online shoppers reported adding items to their shopping cart in order to qualify for free shipping. That means more merchandise being sold by you as people toss items into their cart in order to qualify.

When Shopping Cart Abandonment is Just Part of the Buying Process

This might seem counter-intuitive, but shopping cart abandonment can be a good thing. Browsing is an important part of the conversion funnel, and consumers will often add items to their shopping cart to ‘save for later’. According to a study by SeeWhy (now hybris), fully 75% of cart abandoners have an intention to buy. To capture the ‘save for later’ consumers in that statistic (as opposed to the consumers who have abandoned their carts due to hidden costs – something you’ve already addressed, right?!) it’s critical that you engage in email remarketing and search and ad retargeting to draw those abandoners back to their carts.

Statistics on the success of email remarketing vary – a study by Shopify, involving a trawl of their ‘Abandoned Cart Recovery’ feature found that 3.6% of shoppers returned to their carts and completed their purchases after a reminder email; EConsultancy, on the other hand, cited a 29% recovery rate for one online cookie retailer. The reality is probably somewhere in between the two, but, for the sake of sending an automated email, even 3.6% recovery is worth it.

Checkout Page Design

In the WebPay survey cited above, website navigation ‘too complicated’ and ‘process was taking too long’ are both big reasons for shopping cart abandonment. If you want shoppers to follow the sales process through to completion, you have to make is as easy as possible for them. From product page to cart to payment to completion should run absolutely smoothly – and fast! In general, you want your entire site to run fast, both on desktop and mobile, but speed it critical in the checkout funnel. Optimize, optimize, optimize. We took a look at some website performance tools, and at why it’s so important, in a previous article – check out Performance testing: What is it, and what tools should you use? at the link.

Monetate have produced a super-handy infographic on checkout page design – it tells you all you need to know. You’ll need to:

  • Include a progress bar: Shoppers need to be reassured that something is happening, and that the page hasn’t crashed
  • Allow cart editing: Customers will become frustrated if common functions aren’t easily accessible to them
  • Include multiple payment options
  • Emphasize security: Reassure customers that their information is secure by prominently displaying badges from any third-party security companies used by your site, such as VeriSign.
  • Make each step completely clear: From the first step to the last, your customers will want to know where they are in the payment funnel. Tell them.
  • Offer your customers help: Whether it’s a phone hotline, an email address, or live webchat, reassure your customers that someone is there to help them if anything goes wrong.
  • Allow them to ‘save for later’: As we pointed out above, many shoppers use shopping carts as a ‘wish list’ of sorts, and come back later to complete the purchase. Don’t prevent them from doing this, or they may never return.

the perfect checkout page

Now you should be armed with enough information to start reducing your own shopping cart abandonment rates. It won’t be easy – if it was, 68.53% of carts wouldn’t be abandoned! – but you can certainly take steps to ensure that when customers add items to their cart on your website, they complete a purchase.

Images: Nick Page (main image) and ePublicist.