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Why do people abandon online shopping carts?

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Shopping cart abandonment has always been a problem in retail – even in physical shops it can happen that people give up on purchases before making them. In ecommerce, however, it is a much more common thing, and is also easier to measure.

Website statistics suggest that $4 trillion a year in products are added to carts and then abandoned. While this may not be a true indicator of loss of spending, as in many cases people will have bought the products later from someone else, this does show that $4 trillion in potential sales were lost by the retailers that customers may have bought from had something not caused them to rethink the transaction.

Shopping cart abandonment rates do vary from year to year, but they are a lot higher than many people think – OptinMonster report that an average 67.91 per cent of carts are abandoned which pulls ecommerce conversion rates down massively. This means that the vast majority – well over two thirds – of things customers choose and place in their online shopping carts do not get purchased.

But what are the reasons for this? Why do people who were looking to buy items on a given website decide to abandon them later in the process?

Mobile unfriendly checkout processes

2016 was the first year where mobile internet searches exceeded those performed on a computer. This trend has continued into 2017 and this means that mobile friendly sites are key for making the most sales. While most ecommerce sites have now adopted responsive web design, meaning selecting products and browsing the catalog on a mobile device is easy, many haven’t really made the checkout process work well on a phone or tablet.

Usability testing for your checkout process is important here. If people are forced to enter a lot of long winded details using their touchscreen keyboard and it is hard to navigate around the form, they may decide to simply buy later when they are at home on their computer. Sadly, 90 per cent of leads go cold after an hour – they may never make that purchase, just because it was too annoying to do it on their mobile device.

Extra costs

One of the most often cited reasons for abandoning a purchase is how much the price of the item went up when the user got to the checkout. Shipping costs that seem unfair for the item are a big factor in this. In some cases, there are things like taxes that the retailer can’t avoid, however it is generally better to show the full price when the item is advertised rather than a cheap retail price which will then go up a lot when the consumer actually tries to buy it. Low retail prices attract visitors but when they aren’t the true end cost, they lead to a lot of abandonment.

Free shipping has been proven to be a huge incentive for shoppers for this very reason, however when a retailer can’t offer that for theirs, shipping prices should be kept as low as possible rather than used as a hidden way of gaining more profit – something shoppers react badly to.

Lack of preferred payment option

Another reason why people drop out before buying on a website is that they wanted to pay using a method the site doesn’t accept. In many cases this might be an online payment system like PayPal, as almost all sites accept major credit and debit cards, but it can also be that they wanted to use American Express rather than the more widely accepted Visa or Mastercard.

Sites can obviously avoid this by offering these payment methods in the first place, however if for business reasons an ecommerce brand has decided not to accept a given type of payment, they can avoid this kind of cart abandonment by making it clear what they do accept for payment on the homepage – allowing customers to decide how they want to pay before selecting items.

Forced registration

A lot of people want to buy their items as a guest user. This is not necessarily because they are averse to giving the site they are buying from details like an email address – they’ll need to do that anyway in the buying process – but because creating an account, verifying their email address and coming up with a password is slow and clunky. Really, they just want to make their purchase, and if it seems like too much of a pain, they’ll give up and shop somewhere easier.

While allowing people to register for a site does encourage people who may want to make repeat purchases, those who want to buy something as a one off don’t necessarily want to go to that trouble. The most successful ecommerce businesses tend to offer sign in as an option, so repeat customers don’t have to keep on entering things like payment details, but also allow people without accounts to buy without a lengthy registering process.

Security concerns

Any site where users are going to make financial transactions needs to make it very clear to customers how their security works. If customers begin to suspect their payment details won’t be secure, then they are very likely to back out of a purchase. In the early days of ecommerce, shoppers in general had concerns about how safe their data would be. These days people tend to be a lot savvier about the internet and are more trusting of online tools, however they do tend to mistrust smaller vendors if it isn’t made clear that their purchase info and personal data will be kept safe using the technologies expected. Sites that ask for data that the customer may not see as relevant to the purchase may also suffer from drop-off before sale – for instance making their phone number a required field.

Distraction during shopping

A final common reason for people abandoning shopping carts is not really the fault of the website at all. Sometimes people just lose their connection, or experience another distraction that makes them stop during the process of placing an order. A website owner cannot prevent this from happening, but they can try and ensure that the customer returns and completes the purchase by making sure shopping carts are saved using the site’s technology, and, if the customer is registered as a user, then perhaps by using automated email approaches to contact them and remind them of their shopping cart.

Some businesses do well by adding in a special offer such as free shipping when they contact customers who have abandoned carts in this way, or by adding a sense of urgency by indicating that the item is about to go out of stock or that a promotion related to their purchase ends soon.

Shopping cart abandonment is a massive problem in ecommerce, but with the right tools and approaches, an ecommerce company can try to remove the obstacles that cause shoppers to leave before they finish a transaction. A good analysis of how your own ecommerce business performs when it comes to shopping cart abandonment is also a big key, which can be done using tools such as MonsterInsights. – you need to know where the problems lie to be able to put in place strategies to fix them and improve customer purchase completion.




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