It doesn’t matter if you are a consumer or a seller, if you buy or sell online then you are most probably aware of, if not guilty of, shopping cart abandonment.

The term “shopping cart abandonment” is applied when a consumer has gone through the process of choosing items, adding them to their virtual shopping cart, only to back out of the sale for some reason.

In this article, we are going to look at some of the common reasons this happens, and in the next article try to help you understand the steps you as a seller can take to help you reduce shopping cart abandonment on your e-commerce site.

How big a problem is Shopping Cart Abandonment?

In 2010 there were several surveys done to try and determine just how big the problem of shopping cart abandonment actually is for online sellers. It was revealed that somewhere between 52 and 55% of carts were abandoned; alarmingly more recent surveys have revealed that these figures are now hovering around the 72% mark.

As you can imagine, that is a huge chunk of potential sales just being left behind, but to understand how to reduce that shopping cart abandonment, you have to look at the whole process from when the consumer places an item into the cart to the moment they leave the site. Only by looking at the whole process can you hope to understand why the cart is being abandoned before payment, and see what you need to change.
So where do we start?

As mentioned above, before you can sort out why people are abandoning your shopping cart, you need to understand why they are doing it.

Out of nearly 3,000 people surveyed in 2009 by Forrester, the reasons that shopping carts were being abandoned fell into 4 basic categories, including User Experience, Indecision, Technical Issues and Total Order costs.

Let’s take a deeper look at these four categories…

User Experience:

I am sure we have all encountered sites like the one I am about to describe and if as an online seller, your site falls into any of these traps, it may be worth you revising your site as it may help reduce your cart abandonment.
Most people don’t like sharing huge amounts of information online, while they understand that an email address is normally required so they can have a receipt sent to them, they prefer to shop quickly, and anything that slows them down may cause them to become frustrated and abandon their cart.

Some of the common mistakes made include:

  • Registration required before using the site – It is important to balance your need for customer data against your sales. Requiring your potential customers to register before they purchase from you, especially if you are asking for several pages of data on registration is likely to break them out of the “buying mood”, sites that offer a guest sign in often fair better as they are allowing the potential customer to make the choice about how much time and information they are willing to give.
  • Returning Customer sign-ins – Although for shoppers that can remember their usernames and passwords logging in during the process of shopping will save them time as they won’t have to re-enter their shipping and payment details, for many people it can cause them to back out of the site if they cannot for whatever reason remember their password or username. According to the survey done by Forrester, 14% of the shoppers questioned abandoned their shopping carts as they couldn’t remember their log in details.
  • Number of pages – According to the analysis conducted; there is an average of 5.6 pages from the cart to the order confirmation. This is likely to bore your prospective customer and cause them to back out, however, don’t try to put too much on one single page as the information overload could confuse shoppers and again, cause them to abandon their cart.
  • Up-selling pages – These are pages that are placed within the check out process to try and entice the customer to spend more money, or sign up for a deal, for example, branded credit cards. By doing this and disrupting the train of thought of customers who wouldn’t be interested in this offer you could derail their buying process completely.
  • Complex sites – Another complaint that was brought up during the survey was sites that over complicate things. If your navigation suddenly changes between the shopping side and the cart side then it can confuse your potential shoppers, always make sure that the path the shopper needs to take to check out is clear and not cluttered with other options or set up that it is easy for them to click on a wrong link.
  • Customer emotions – It is important to keep in mind the emotions of your customers when using your site, the fewer number of pages that a shopper needs to view, digest and complete during the checkout process will help to keep them engaged, but if you can’t avoid a longer process then help remind them why they are there. If they have added a product to their cart, then they are already engaged with your site, you don’t want to dampen their enthusiasm while they complete the payment process, having a picture of the product they are buying during the checkout process can help keep them engaged.

Customer indecision:

People who abandon their carts due to indecision can be some of those that are most receptive to post-abandonment messaging. If you understand the behaviours that cause the indecision, then you can start to shape your post-abandonment marketing strategies.

  • Changed their mind – If you are in a supermarket, you are much less likely to just leave your shopping then you would if you are shopping online, this is because online you can come and go as you please without a sense of guilt that is attached to leaving your trolley at a supermarket checkout full of goods.
    If they have put an item in their cart then their initial interest was high enough to start the process, factors that could change this could include the price, the shipping costs or times, or simply deciding that they no longer want the item.
  • Not Ready – The main reason for this one is that the customer has seen something they like, and want to own, but simply do not have the required time or funds to complete the purchase at this point. They put the item into their shopping cart intending to come back for it when the obstacle has been removed, but don’t wish to have to search through the site to find the product again.
  • Decided to save the product – Online shopping tends to be impulse driven; most people’s shopping habits will mean that they will add everything they like to the shopping cart with no intention of buying all the items. They may wish to buy them at some point, but will prioritise the cart before completing the purchase only purchasing the things they really want or need at that point in time. If your cart has a feature to allow people to store their choices without having to purchase them right away or remove them from the cart before finishing the order, then it is likely to lead to pipeline sales in the future.

Technical Issues:

  • Security – People are becoming far more security conscience online, and with the amount of reported identity theft increasing, this is a wise precaution. With this in mind, if a site appears unstable or unreliable then prospective customers won’t purchase from your site. Displaying a security certificate during the checkout process helps reassure them that you have a commitment to the security of their personal data.
  • Site behaviour – Many people are suspicious of sites that don’t behave as they expect them too, so sites that are slow to load, or seem to hide the product information they are expecting to see and cause them to become bored, or just wary of the site and they will back out before completing purchasing.
  • Promo codes – Promotional codes are a good way to encourage sales, but keep them simple. Long strings of random numbers and/or letters aren’t easy to remember and although may be offering a good deal, are likely to cause the potential customer to become confused and frustrated. Keeping it simple the way Graze or Buy V2 Cigs do with their codes, is the best way to ensure that there is a conversion.
  • Customer support options – Online shopping lacks the ability in most cases to ask a shop assistant for help if they come across a question about the product or there is a technical issue with the site. Although many provide phone numbers to reach customer support, the reality is many people would rather just go to another site without the issues then pick up the phone.
  • Directed away from the cart – There are several situations where the customers are directed away from the purchasing process, for example to create an account, or enter a shipping address in a different system to the cart – and if they aren’t returned to the purchasing area, may well abandon their cart.

Total Order Costs:

Studies by online payment providers like Paypal have shown the 36% of people abandon shopping carts because the total purchase price was higher than they anticipated it would be. This is often due to shipping, any taxes and associated costs of purchases that can add a significant amount to the total bill causing the abandonment – many shoppers however don’t see this until they reach the cart and have spent more time focusing on choosing sizes and colours of their items rather than the total fees.

  • Price Comparison – according to studies done by Forrester 27% of shoppers don’t pay for what it is their cart as they added items they wanted to compare prices of before making a purchase from whichever site was cheapest. Previously this behaviour was only seen with big money purchases, but is increasingly been seen in smaller purchases too.
  • Shipping costs – One of the major downsides of online shopping is that you don’t get the same instant gratification that you would if you were shopping on the high street. But even though people want to receive their purchases more quickly, they are only willing to spend a few pounds extra on their shipping, not understanding that their desire for the product is considered a premium.

As you can see there is far more going on in the mind of someone that abandons their cart then you may first think – but having understood that, you can adapt your online shopping cart to ensure you get less cart abandonment and come up with effective Post-abandonment marketing initiatives to help ensure you get the sale.