Shopping Cart Abandonment – Why it Happens and How You Can Stop It (Part 1)

Not too long ago I had made a stop at the grocery store up the street from my house to pick up a few things. There, in the middle of the pet food aisle, sat a shopping cart carrying a handful of assorted items, with no one in the vicinity to claim it.  I went on about my shopping, but before I hit the checkout lanes I made my way back to the pet aisle, and sure enough there sat the cart, still untouched and unclaimed in the otherwise empty store aisle.  No one was coming back for it.  It had simply been abandoned.

In real life you don’t see shopping carts abandoned in the middle of a store aisle too often.  As many online retailers will be quick to tell you though, the world of eCommerce is quite the opposite.  Email marketing platform providers Listrak maintain a real-time calculator of overall online shopping cart abandonment; at the moment it’s measuring an abandonment rate of almost 75% as a six-month average.  Three of every four visitors to your online store are dropping out of the purchase funnel after they have begun the process!

Whether in the real world or the virtual, one can only guess wildly at why a particular cart gets abandoned.  It could be one of the reasons I’ll list for you in a moment, or it could be something as unexpected as a power failure disconnecting the shopper or an emergency pulling the shopper away.  Overall, though, there are a few standard reasons folks give for online shopping cart abandonment.  Knowing what they are and planning to address them before they happen can help you reduce your abandonment rate considerably.

Shipping & handling prices too costly

One of the hard facts of life in eCommerce is that items almost always need to be shipped somewhere, and there is a cost for that service.  It’s also well known that many folks greatly dislike having to pay those shipping costs, especially when they can at times exceed the cost of the item purchased!  It’s great to offer free or discounted shipping as an enticement to purchase now and again, but unless you are one of the giants like Amazon or Overstock, you can’t afford to give shipping and handling away all the time.  Often, online sellers try to downplay the shipping costs and bury them several steps deep in the purchasing process with the hope that you’ll just click through.  You can guess the more likely result: an abandoned cart.  Be up front about your shipping and handling costs.  Offer discounts when and if you can, but always make it clear from the start what the full costs will be.

Preferred payment method not offered

I will admit that I am guilty of abandoning a cart or two in my time over this one.  I like PayPal, and use it whenever I can.  Most online retailers will accept it these days, but not all do.  Credit cards in general are a fairly ubiquitous method of payment, but not all sites accept all cards.   As with the shipping charges above, it’s not uncommon to only discover that your Discover card won’t fly or PayPal is verboten when you’re knee-deep into the checkout flow.  Some folks are rather loyal to their preferred payment vehicle, and this can be reason for cart abandonment more often than you might think as your shopper goes looking for a website that will let him pay the way he pleases.  The more payment methods you can offer your customers, the better; and again, be transparent about which methods are and are not accepted.

Does not want to register account/provide personal information

Even in today’s overly-connected world, people are leery about giving out too much information, especially when that information is perceived to likely to result in an email inbox stuffed with spam, a phone ringing off the hook with over-eager telemarketers or unwelcomed junk mail arriving at the door.  Beyond that, folks who are coming to web store just want to buy something; demanding that they become a registered member of your shoppers’ club or what have you is more than they were prepared to bring to the interaction.  As a result, more and more eCommerce sites now provide the option to register if you wish to, but if not they will allow to complete your transaction simply as a “guest.”

Checkout process too complicated

Regardless of whether your checkout process requires a registration step, if your visitors find the process too involved or complicated, they will bail out before completing the purchase.  Some online stores have seemingly endless screens asking for coupon codes, offering add-on deals, offering gift-wrapping services, asking if you’d like to donate to a charity as part of your purchase and so forth.  Again, most people just want to place their order, make their payment and be on their way.  One or two screens should be able to accomplish that; if your checkout process involves more than three screens, you’re running a very high risk of losing customers.  One of the oldest sales adages truly applies in this case: the simpler you make it for people to buy, the more likely people will buy!

Armed with this knowledge, you have the ability to design your eCommerce website to be customer-friendly enough to help you reduce cart abandonment rates before the abandonment happens.  You can create an in-all-ways ideal site, however, and you will still deal with abandoned carts.  In Part II of this discussion, we’ll look at what you can do to greatly help in recovering some of those lost sales and turning abandoners into returning and potentially regular customers.

If you’d like to discuss how we can help design and build an award-winning eCommerce site for your company, start a conversation with Synapse today!

Read Part Two: What To Do After the Cart Has Been Abandoned >

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