When you run an e-commerce site, one of the most important things that you can do is make the process of purchasing the things that you sell as easy as possible for your customers. This doesn’t just make the shopping experience better for them and make them more likely to have a positive view of your brand, but also makes it more likely that people will continue right the way through the checkout process and actually complete their purchases.
Shopping cart abandonment is one of the biggest problems both in physical shops and online, and to gain success as an e-commerce company you have to be able to understand the reasons why it occurs, and how to prevent it in the situations where you do actually have some control over whether or not people complete their transactions.
What Is Shopping Cart Abandonment?
In order to plan for and reduce shopping cart abandonment, you first have to understand exactly what it is. Shopping cart abandonment is the term given when somebody has initially decided to buy something, put it in a shopping cart, but then decided not to make the purchase before checking out.
The best way to avoid this is to understand exactly where the customer is leaving, and to develop a new plan to keep the customer captivated. Software such as OptinMonster has specialised features designed to reduce cart abandonment among other functions such as email marketing that are quite popular with e-commerce sites.
Cart abandonment can happen at any time in the shopping process. For instance, if somebody drops out of making a purchase right before payment, this would class as shopping cart abandonment, but so would closing the shopping window on their browser on the first screen of the checkout process.
Why Does Shopping Cart Abandonment Occur?
As you can imagine, shopping cart abandonment happens for a wide range of reasons. Some of these are things that happen unexpectedly to the shopper, for example their card is declined because they don’t have as much money as they thought, or they find that they lose their internet connection during the purchasing process. In a bricks-and-mortar shop this could be something like the person suddenly receiving an important phone call and leaving the store or discovering that they left their wallet at home.
Naturally, shopping cart abandonment can also be something that happens because the user decides they no longer want to make the purchase. This can happen because they no longer feel the price is suitable (for instance because there are extra fees for shipping costs that are more than they are willing to pay), because they discover that the website doesn’t accept the method of payment they want to use, because they don’t feel the site is secure enough to trust it with their payment details, or simply because they find the checkout experience on the website to be too complicated or too much hassle and they lose interest in making the final order.
When is Shopping Cart Abandonment Avoidable?
When we look at the examples given above as to why people may abandon their shopping carts, it is clear to see that some of these things are outside of the control of the website owner. We can’t do anything about it if someone suddenly realises they can’t afford the item, or something happens on their end from a technical point of view. What we can do when purchases are disrupted in this kind of way is make sure that the shopping cart is saved and that we keep engaging with the customer where we can so that they will come back and make the purchase at a later time.
However, where it is the customer’s conscious choice not to complete the transaction, this is usually for reasons that are within the control of the e-commerce site. By making the site as easy to use as possible and offering the customer transparency about fees, as well as giving them as many options as is feasible for the business when it comes to things like shipping and payment methods, a lot of the obstacles to customers can be overcome.
Let’s look at these instances in more detail.
If a customer is not able to pay using their preferred method of payment, they may well abandon their shopping cart. Naturally the easiest way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to accept the methods of payment that are standard on the web, including PayPal and all major credit and debit cards. Web page layout can have a surprising effect on this, for example, if for some reason you are not able to accept a given payment method it is important that this is featured on the homepage. You can find easy tips for website layout here if you use WordPress, which might prove useful when finding the perfect place to feature payment information, for example in your website footer.
This is because even though the customer may not be able to pay the way they want to, they will have a better view of your website and business if they haven’t wasted time attempting to pay for something before they find this out.
Don’t Request More Data Than You Need
Something else that is within your control as a website owner is what you ask for when someone completes the checkout process. While of course you will need things like their delivery address and their payment details, there is no reason to have things like a telephone number as mandatory fields. People want to complete their purchases as quickly and conveniently as possible and so will question any form fields they feel are unnecessary. At best they will see these as an annoyance, but at worst they were suspect that there are untoward reasons why you want more data about them than they feel you require to send them the things that they’ve ordered.
Make Costs Visible from the Start
Another thing that you need to do to avoid (or at least minimize) abandoned shopping carts is make sure that things like shipping fees and additional taxes are shown as early as possible in the purchasing process. If customers find as they go through the checkout that the item will end up costing them significantly more than it appeared to on your online catalog once these things are added, they may well decide it is not the good value deal that they thought it was and leave it.
Make Shipping Options Clear from the Start
You should also make it clear whether or not items are in stock, and whether things like express, next day or weekend delivery are available on them right at the catalog stage. If people find out later in the checkout process that they won’t be able to get the item when they want it, or that you do not deliver to where they live, then they will naturally fail to make the purchase and leave with a negative view of how your site handles this.
Save Shopping Baskets
For the things that you cannot reduce simply by making the processes on your site easier to use or providing more information earlier on in the buying process, a good approach is to allow a simple registration on your site and to save any active shopping baskets so that the next time someone visits your site they will be able to pick right back up and make their purchase without having to search for the items again. This may help you when it comes to the situations where the buyer had to drop out unexpectedly.
As you can see, shopping cart abandonment is something that happens for a number of reasons and it is also something that is estimated to cost the retail industry billions every year in missed sales. While you will probably never be able to ensure that nobody ever abandons one of your online shopping carts, you can certainly reduce instances of this by following the advice set out here.