The Reasons for Shopping Cart Abandonment and How to Prevent It

6 Minutes
Mark Gregory

Shopping cart abandonment, where consumers place goods in their online basket and then fail to go on to complete the purchase, can be a nightmare for online retailers and it happens perhaps more frequently than you might expect. Year on year more than two thirds of all shopping carts are abandoned prior to sale.

Those businesses that are able to discover and analyse the reasons for shopping cart abandonment and provide solutions to the shopper are those that are going to see their sales figures rise. Research from BI Intelligence estimates that some 63% of abandoned shopping carts can be recovered where retailers are able to address the reasons for the initial abandonment.

Reasons for Shopping Cart Abandonment

Before anything can be done about basket abandonment, we must first understand the issues or factors that may be causing this. There have been eight main reasons identified as to why so many shoppers abandon their carts before completing purchase. Knowing what these reasons are helps retailers to put systems into place to prevent re-occurrence, or to offer the customer an incentive to return to the store and complete their purchase.

  • High shipping costs and sales tax. A whopping 44% of all customers who abandon shopping carts do so because they are shocked at the hike in price of their purchase when shipping costs and sales taxes are added, especially where these additional costs are not advertised before checkout.
  • Security concerns. Shoppers are understandably wary about inputting personal data and credit or debit card details where they are unsure the site they are using is secure or where they have never used that particular site before.
  • Leaving computer. In some cases shopping carts are abandoned simply because people need to leave their computer or because of a connectivity issue. Some may intend to return, some may forget all about it.
  • Conducting research / making price comparisons. In some cases consumers will visit a number of websites and place the item or items they want in their shopping basket only to make a price comparison across different vendors at this stage.
  • No guest checkout. Many websites require customers to open an account in order to make a purchase but there are many incidences where individual consumers may be put off by filling in forms, be unwilling to share the information required to open an account or are simply in a hurry and want to head directly to payment. Where this is not possible they often leave and find a site that lets them checkout quickly as a guest.
  • Not enough / the right payment options. Where merchants have a limited number of payment options and a customer cannot use their preferred method of payment they are likely to find somewhere else where they can.
  • Not enough / the right shipping options. Some customers are going to need their product in a hurry, some are going to be more concerned with keeping shipping costs down, some might require in-store delivery or other shipping options. Where the preferred option is not available the customer may choose to shop elsewhere.
  • No mobile payment option. More and more people are choosing to shop via their smartphones or tablets either from home or on the move. Where there is no option to pay securely through mobile they will find a store that does offer that option instead.

Shopping Cart Abandonment Prevention

Now we know the reasons why customers abandon shopping carts we can begin to look at how to combat these reasons one step at a time. Most ecommerce agencies will be able to implement such changes on their platform, or third party ecommerce platform.

  • Shipping costs. With almost half of all abandonments occurring due to high or surprise shipping costs, sales taxes and other costs added on at checkout, it is easy to see what steps retailers must take. Wherever possible include a free or flat shipping fee. Where this is not possible ensure that customers are informed of all charges on the product page, ideally with a calculator letting them know the total cost of their overall purchase before they click through to the checkout.
  • Security. Online merchants need to have measures in place to reassure customers that their details and data will be securely stored. Adding security measures and credibility boosters such as VeriSign or Secure Socket Layers (SSLs) helps customers to feel safe and therefore more likely to make a purchase.
  • Leaving computer.While there is very little online retailers can do to keep people seated at their computers, it can be possible to encourage return visits. Where the customer’s email address is on file, a simple reminder about the items in the shopping cart can be enough to ensure they return and complete the purchase. Where there are no contact details it can be helpful to have software in place that simply stores the shopping cart as it is until next time the customer returns to the site, acting as a memory jog.
  • Research / comparisons.It may not be so easy to tell if the reason a customer has abandoned their shopping cart has done so because they were merely conducting research or making price comparisons, but it is simple to draw these customers back where an email address is available. Extending an offer of price-matching or an enticing free gift could be all the customer requires to come back and complete their purchase.
  • Guest checkouts.While it can be very beneficial in the long-term to have as many customers as possible open accounts, not providing the option to skip this step can result in loss of sales. By all means encourage new customers to open an account by displaying the benefits of doing so, such as one-click payment on future purchases. However, ensure that those customers who are in a hurry or simply not interested still have the option to make this purchase here and now with the minimum of fuss.
  • Payment options.Having as many varied payment options as possible helps to avoid losing customers simply because they do not have a Visa or Mastercard. Be sure you are set up to receive payments across multiple channels including all major (and minor) credit and debit cards and third party payment services such as PayPal.
  • Shipping options.Offer a range of different shipping options on each product including next day delivery where possible and make sure there are both fast and affordable options.
  • Mobile payments.With so many people choosing to shop while on the move or having tablets and smartphones as their main internet-accessible devices, having a site that does not have a mobile payment options means alienating a large proportion of the consumer demographic. Invest in the right software and security measures and you could find your sales figures increase dramatically.

Website Design

There are a few other ways in which many online retailers can improve the shopping experience and help nudge more site visitors towards the checkout with a full basket.

Displaying clear pictures of goods with shots from different angles where necessary and the option to zoom in and see more detail helps people feel confident that what they are thinking of buying is right for them.

Display solid, informative product information alongside the images.

Displaying a clear call to action can also help funnel customers to checkout – ensure that the shopping basket can be accessed from every page of the site and the button for proceeding to the checkout clearly stands out.

Using contrasting colours for the checkout button makes it immediately visible. Include any further calls to action or incentives to buy clearly as well, such as the opportunity to sign up for a new account and receive a discount.

By streamlining the process from browsing to purchase and by ensuring that customers do not come up against unnecessary obstacles, retailers will see a lower rate of shopping cart abandonment.