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Why are shoppers abandoning your website?

11th Apr 2016
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Laura Gee, head of affiliate partnerships at Ve Interactive, explores the reasons why retailers suffer from abandonment and what they can do to stop it

Abandonment: it’s something that every ecommerce retailer has to deal with on a daily basis, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. What causes online shopper abandonment, and how can retailers squeeze some extra revenue out of their site visitors by preventing even a small fraction of them from leaving?

It will be useful to start from first principles and understand exactly what abandonment is. In eCommerce, abandonment is defined as the proportion of visitors who leave your site before completing their purchase, and is usually written as a percentage. If the abandonment rate is high, it can generally be taken as a strong indicator that there is something going wrong on your site.

Abandonment in ecommerce can be generally divided into two types depending on where the user is within your purchase flow. Each type has slightly different causes and resolution, so let’s look at each below:

Site abandonment rate

This is the percentage of visitors who leave your site at any stage. Because of this very broad definition, site abandonment rate is usually quite high, averaging at about 95-98 percent depending on the usual factors such as time of day, the day of the week or the retail sector you’re working in.

Sudden increases in the site abandonment rate can come from a variety of origins, and inaccurate linking is one of the most common. Place yourself in the shoes of a prospect: you click on an external link to your website which is advertising one brand of shoes, and you’re taken to a product page which displays another brand. In this scenario you’re not likely to try and find the original pair of shoes on this site you’ve landed on, or use the search feature: you’re far more likely to just bounce off the page completely out of frustration, even if the shoes you want are actually on the site. This is caused by inadequate indexing of product pages: many large ecommerce sites’ product pages are complex and poorly structured, which can easily create mistakes when direct linking to products through ads.

Retailers experiencing high abandonment rates should also audit product images. In a survey by The E-tailing Group, 75 percent of consumers rated the quality of product images as the single most important feature of a product page. This is common sense: since online shoppers cannot examine a product online as they would in store, it’s imperative that images are of high resolution, offer multiple angles of the product and the ability to zoom in for more detail in order to encourage trust in the consumer.

Finally, your Calls to Action (CTAs) may be in need of attention. CTAs should guide the customer down a well-defined path as they are led towards completing a sale. If they are not clear, it will take surprisingly little time for the user to feel as if they are lost and navigate away. CTA buttons should be visually appealing, using bright colours set within white space, 3D effects and other tactile cues to invite the user to progress - retailers underestimate these subliminal cues at their peril.

Basket abandonment rate

This is a subset of overall site abandonment rate: basket abandonment rate is the percentage of visitors who leave your site after placing something in your basket. Over the past decade the average cart abandonment rate has hovered at around 69 percent. This is therefore less common than overall site abandonment rate but it’s in some ways more important, as these users are people who have already selected what product they wish to purchase. They are much closer to parting with their cash, so you would be wise to spend more time trying to lower abandonment in this area.

Long checkout forms are one of the most common grievances consumers face when paying for goods online. Packing your checkout form with all the fields under the sun may be great for your remarketing efforts, however it will put the customer off from actually completing a transaction. Repetitive, long and complicated forms are to be avoided, and introducing things like inline validation can help speed your customers along the process. A progress bar should also be present in order to encourage users to keep going.

Surprise delivery charges have a very negative effect on cart abandonment rates. It’s always best to be clear and upfront about additional charges your customers will face, rather than leaving it until the end. It may sound counterintuitive, but surprising customers with fees right after completing a form to purchase can leave them feeling betrayed and that their time has been wasted.

According to comScore, 36% of shoppers do not purchase from sites with shipping costs. Given this, offering free shipping can be an effective way to reduce your cart abandonment rate - just make sure you can afford it.

Lastly, take a long hard look at how trustworthy your site seems. Your visitors must be completely confident that their account and payment details are in safe hands, and that deliveries will reach them intact. The rising number of hacking scandals in recent years has pushed trust and data security higher up the agenda for many online shoppers, and if your site looks like it’s seen better days or doesn’t display payment encryption and the standard security badges it’s likely to send would-be customers on their way.

There are many possible causes to site and cart abandonment rate and this is hardly an exhaustive list. Your abandonment rates can never be reduced to zero, however a basic awareness of the common causes of abandonment combined with the right tools to ensure continual online optimisation can see your abandonment rate slowly shift lower than your rivals, giving you real competitive advantage.

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