Shopping cart abandonment is a problem that is all too familiar to online retailers. Shoppers come to the site, browse around, add products to the cart, only to promptly disappear without making a purchase. And it’s a problem that is costing retailers a lot of money.
Research by the Baymard Institute suggests that around 67% of carts are left abandoned in their virtual aisles, and in an industry that is expected to turn over $1.3 trillion of business this year, that is no small beer. Experian estimates that in the UK alone around £1bn of business is lost due to shoppers that don’t check-out.
Those looking for somewhere to lay blame are not short of targets – complex websites, high prices, hidden delivery charges, poor customer experiences or simply indecision on the part of customer, there are many credible reasons for such dramatic abandonment numbers.
But while there is a lot of alarm regarding cart abandonment, it’s not necessarily as bad as it sounds.
“I never like those big industry stats for cart abandonment when they’re read as a failing of the industry,” says Chloe Thomas, author of the eCommerce MasterPlan. “When you’re walking round a High Street store, you’re mentally building a basket because you can walk back and see it, whereas on a website you tend to add things to the basket as a bit of a wishlist. There will always be a level of cart abandonment.”
James Dunford Wood, COO of Ometria, adds: “Retailers should not be afraid of abandoned carts per se, as cart abandonment can just be a symptom of the way people browse and shop online.”
Indeed, it’s estimated that around 75% of cart abandoners will return, with a 48% chance of cart recovery amongst those that have abandoned carts before – though this number falls to only 18% amongst first-time abandoners.
But with a recent study by SeeWhy reporting that 99% of visitors won’t buy on their first visit, clearly those etailers that more successfully convert visitors into buyers stand to gain an enormous advantage over their competitors. And so making the checkout process more successful is a must. But where do you begin?
The obvious response is to ensure that the process is as simple as possible.
“Don’t give shoppers the opportunity to get distracted in the middle of a purchase, when they’ve added products to their basket but haven’t yet completed the sale,” says Max Childs, marketing director at Amplience. “You need to delete that limbo-like middle ground by cutting down the number of steps needed to buy – particularly on your mobile site, where customers are least likely to have the desire or ability to concentrate for long.
“You can also give customers visual cues to complete their purchase, like displaying a thumbnail image of each item that is added to basket. This acts as a reminder of why the item was chosen in the first place, and also gives the customer an overview of the ‘bigger picture’ of their purchase – how it fits into a complete outfit, or a dinner menu. Research indicates that visual baskets have around 10% higher conversion rates.”
“Abandonment can start before the consumer even hits the checkout pages as shopping begins when an item is added to the cart,” warns Simon Horton, founder of ShopIntegrator. “Therefore, ensure the online store has large clear call to action buttons such as 'Start Checkout' which are visible to the shopper at all times. Consider increasing the size of your checkout buttons and giving them a strong stand-out colour to set them apart from other navigational buttons on your website.”
Chris Fletcher, research director at Gartner, points to the work that online giant Amazon has done to simplify the shopping process with its 1-Click Ordering initiative. “Once you get an Amazon identity established it’s a very quick process,” he says. “Once you find your products to click a button, you’re logged in, click a second button and you’ve paid, you’re out of there and they’re following up with you with an email confirming they’ve got the order and giving an expected delivery date. So I think that’s the Holy Grail here – making that buying process efficient and quick. It does require that the consumer has some level of self-identification or a log-on – which is easier to do with an Amazon or an eBay or a site you go to frequently rather than one you don’t go to frequently - but I do think you can replicate that level of experience that you need from the consumer.”
Other pieces of advice to keep cart abandonment to a minimum…
When you walk in to a High Street store, particularly one that you haven’t visited before, the first few seconds or minutes will often determine how long you will stay. Likewise, on the internet, the same rules should also apply, but often don’t.
“Not only should a visitor get a good idea of what’s on offer and where to go next, there should also be a facility to welcome and/or direct them to what’s of interest to them,” advises Dino Forte, managing director of Ventrica.
“Whilst some potential customers are happy to navigate a site themselves, you can increase the length of visitor times and ultimately sales, simply by giving the option of talking to a customer sales representative. This can be done cost-effectively through live web chat or a call back facility. Ask yourself this, how common is it to come across a supermarket trolley left in the aisle? Then compare this with the online equivalent where it’s nigh impossible to find a live method of contacting a sales advisor….gets you thinking doesn’t it.”
Provide sufficient product information
Research by Oracle has shown that consumers are dissatisfied with the lack of access they have to information, products, processes and personalised interactions when shopping. 38% said they would spend more with brands that could provide them with more product information and availability details. Customers don’t want to have to dig for details, and with it being so easy to pop onto another site to make a purchase, it is important that information is clearly presented.
Don’t ask for too much information
Too many etailers ask for more information than they really need.
Thomas explains: “You’ve got Google Analytics to tell you where they came from, so you don’t need a drop down to ask them where they came from. I use thetrainline.com a lot, and they have a complicated enough checkout process, but in the last couple of months they’ve decided to add a drop down to tell them what the reason for your journey is. You don’t need that. Email me afterwards and ask me that information; you don’t need it during the checkout process. Why you would ask for that kind of information during the checkout process is beyond me, it’s not going to help with checkout rates. Get rid of it and improve conversion, keep people focused, keep it straightforward. Do what Amazon does and remove all other navigations from the checkout so they can checkout and they can checkout only.”
Alleviate security concerns
Alleviate customer security concerns upfront so they are confident to proceed to the checkout process. “Clearly display the secure payment badge of your chosen payment processing provider that shows the types of accepted payment methods,” advises Horton. “Further boost customer confidence by displaying recognisable website trust marks such as McAfee Secure or the Norton Secured Seal.”
Provide clear contact details and returns policies
Display clear contact details across your website for email, phone and if possible a live chat option. “The greater number of contact options means it's easier for the shopper to get in touch with a pre-sales enquiry instead of abandoning the order,” says Horton. “It also makes a shopper feel confident that they'll be able to reach you if they have any problems once the order has been placed. Most customers want to know what your returns policy is before they place an order so clearly display a link to this page. The customer will know where they stand if their order isn't right for them after all.”
Be transparent about delivery charges
In a global survey of 6,000 consumers carried out on behalf of LivePerson, 70% of respondents cited unexpectedly high delivery costs as the main reason for abandoning a purchase.
“None of us like shocks, and unexpected delivery price hikes can be a real conversion-killer,” says Tony Heyworth, international marketing director at LivePerson. “Ideally, delivery charges and timeframes should be included alongside the product at the browsing stage. Adding charges at the last minute is not a good idea.”
If you have free delivery beyond a given order value, also consider adding a feature that flags up a message saying ‘Spend £X more for free delivery’.
“Choose a shopping cart solution which is optimised for mobile users,” recommends Horton. “Otherwise it could be a painful experience completing the checkout on a small screen. As the number of people shopping on their hand-held devices increases this will result in an increased abandonment rate.”
Offer checkout choices
Offer cart checkout choices - via Sage pay, or PayPal, or via Amazon checkout or another alternative. “Giving customers a choice of which route to pay by can have a positive impact if you’re able to get that set up,” says Thomas.
Don’t force visitors to register
Give customers the choice of completing the checkout as a guest, avoiding mandatory account registration before purchasing. Horton adds: “Provide an optional customer logon so repeat customers can choose to retrieve previously saved info, such as a delivery address, to speed up future orders.”
Provide postcode look-up
“On many websites now you can enter your postcode, click, and it has your address,” says Thomas. “It’s so tedious when you actually have to type it out. It’s such a cheap thing to install and to have on a website, that’s one issue which is very easy to fix.”
Don’t forget remarketing
Many consumers will shop for a product on a number of different sites before purchasing. Therefore, brands need to ensure they continue to remarket to bring them back and ensure that they ultimately checkout with them.
“I wish ecommerce businesses would look at it more widely rather than they do at the moment, where they just look at the individual bits on the page. These are worth looking at but often the question is actually a bit bigger than that - it’s more about is the product right, is the pricing right, is the range right, have we got the upsells they want to see, are we giving them the information they need to complete the purchase.
“And of course, it’s important to have the marketing in place to bring them back to the website, and have abandon cart emails in place to remind them, because a lot of people do tend to use a cart or a basket as a wish list, as a reminder shopping list to come back and buy it later, and they forget. So, to put in place a very simple cart abandonment email can have a very big impact on improving conversion rates and improving the number of people you get through to sale.”
About Neil Davey
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.