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Reduce shopping cart abandonment in order to gain more sales

Reduce shopping cart abandonment

Published by

January 23, 2018

When we talk about addressing how to reduce shopping cart abandonment, we’re referring to measurably decreasing the number of visitors who abandon their carts during the checkout process.

As we’ve seen, cart abandonment is a common problem for ecommerce websites. According to the Baymard Institute, 68% of prospects add a product to the cart and leave the purchase process before it is complete. There are seven main reasons for this, according to the research:

  1. Distractions
  2. Poor usability
  3. Suspicion of fraud
  4. Insufficient information
  5. Don’t want to buy
  6. Can’t buy
  7. Additional cost

Let’s go through how to overcome these obstacles one by one.

1. Distractions

Often, customers do not complete their purchase due to distractions. Distractions are generally divided into two categories: internal and external. External distractions represent events that draw the prospect’s attention away from the purchase process — for example, they receive a phone call, or someone knocks at the door, or their kids call for them. Obviously, external distractions are by definition outside the influence of either the prospect or the website.

Prospects who abruptly stop their navigation and leave without taking any other action on the website were probably distracted by external events. You can mitigate the risk of external distractions by shortening the purchase process. The best way to deal with external distractions is to try to re-engage prospects who abandon the purchase process.

The second type of distractions are internal distractions. Internal distractions happen because something on your website has drawn the prospect’s attention away from the purchase process. They may have clicked on a cross-sell, or navigational options drove them away to another area of the website.

Reduce shopping cart abandonment - Crocs
Crocs has a link to its charity – Crocs cares leading prospects away from checkout process

You can lower the risk of internal distractions by analyzing your checkout process and eliminating all the navigational options that may distract a prospect from completing the purchase. For example, show cross-sells and/or upsells only when the prospect completes the purchase.

2. Poor usability

Obviously, poor usability is an issue that should be addressed early in the conversion optimization process. If you have remaining usability issues, these should be relatively easy to detect using analytics, like Google Analytics’ funnel visualization report.

Reduce cart abandonment - Google Analytics funnel
An example of the funnel visualization report in Google Analytics

You can detect usability issues in steps of the funnel where a significant number of prospects abruptly abandon the purchase process (unlike external distractions, which account for a small number of prospects).

But the best way to uncover usability issues is to conduct user testing and observe real people trying to complete the purchase process. The results of this testing might surprise you, as you realize that a step you consider obvious is actually confounding your prospects.

In addition to user testing, you can use session recording tools to uncover elements of the purchase process that prospects are struggling with.

3. Suspicion of fraud

If your prospects don’t trust your website or your offer, there is little you can achieve by improving usability or trying to engage prospects through clever content. Increasing the trust and credibility of your website is a job for every element of your website, from design to copy and social proof. Every little thing can help establish credibility.

Conversely, many little things can destroy your credibility. If your website has cheap-looking or stock photographs, or outdated or unprofessional design, your credibility will suffer. Make sure you follow best practices and established convention — research has shown that people tend to trust prototypical websites more.

For a growing ecommerce website, establishing credibility and dispelling fear of fraud is a critical requirement to continued growth. Some trust issues can be alleviated by using simple methods like guest account creation, social media login options, and third-party payment.

Third-party payment means using a payment gateway like PayPal to allow a customer to pay you without leaving any of their sensitive billing information with your store. If you suspect that there are trust issues involved with completing a purchase, especially at the ultimate step (billing/payment), you should try offering third-party payment options instead of requiring customers to provide you with their credit card numbers. You can also leverage trust indicators like security certificates to increase the perception of safety.

Reduce cart abandonment - Security indicators
An example how an ecommerce store leverages security indicators

To further increase trust, you should make sure your customers are happy with your products. Satisfied customers will be willing to provide ample social proof in the form of stars, reviews, and testimonials, so prospects can see that other people have actually bought the products.

4. Insufficient information

You must provide every possible piece of information about your product. Lack of product information can preclude a prospect from making an informed decision, consequently hindering conversion. Bear in mind that your prospects can’t touch or try on or feel the product you sell, so you need to give them the next best thing.

It’s unlikely that online information can alleviate every possible issue your prospects might have. If you sell clothes, for example, no amount of information can prove that the items you sell will fit your customer. For situations like these, providing a tryout period after which customers can return or replace the item they bought free of charge can make a big difference to sales. (Provided, of course, your bottom line can take the stress without turning red.)

5. Don’t want to buy

One of the most confounding issues crops up when prospects add products to the cart without any intention of buying. Those visitors may just want to compare your prices with other online retailers’ prices, or they’re just not ready to buy yet. It’s the online equivalent of window shopping.

While not much can be done to change unwillingness to buy, you can still try to engage those visitors later on with deals, free shipping, or other benefits that entice them to reconsider. Maybe they didn’t have enough cash at the time they added a product to the cart, but with a nudge, they might buy it at a later date. You can also check the prices of similar products in other ecommerce stores and try to match the lowest price.

Finally, you can use surveys to ask prospects why they abandoned their carts. Sometimes you’ll get an answer that will help you both solve the issue and make the prospect reconsider.

6. Can’t buy

Unwillingness to buy is a problem that’s potentially addressable by guessing. However, inability to buy is often related to real and solvable issues. One of the primary issues detected by the Baymard Institute study was technical issues, such as server errors. Errors resulted in abandoned carts in 90% of all surveyed subjects.

Sometimes, a prospect will not be able to buy because you don’t accept their preferred method of payment. Make sure you cover all major credit cards and offer third-party payment so your customers can actually pay. In addition, provide your shipping policies up front, and if shipping is not available to a customer’s location, notify them immediately.

Reduce cart abandonment - Amazon
Amazon reveals immediately that this product cannot be shipped to the customer’s location, helping avoid cart abandonment

7. Additional cost

People tend to have a low tolerance for unexpected and unannounced costs, so introducing these late in the conversion process will almost certainly result in losing the sale.

Luckily, this issue is very easy to solve by providing all of the price information up front. The best moment to give a total estimated cost of purchase is right before the customer clicks “proceed to checkout”.

Enable prospects to calculate the shipping cost to their location even prior to adding items to their cart. If you offer free shipping to some areas, but not others, don’t try to conceal this information from prospects since they might be led to believe they’re eligible for free shipping.

And if your product requires any additional items to function (like batteries, a cable, or an adapter), state this on the product page itself.

Why should you address these 7 issues?

You’ll reap numerous benefits from addressing the issues mentioned above. Here are three main ones:

  • By reducing the number of abandoned carts, you lower the load on your analytics. Your analytics software will be hamstrung when it comes to differentiating between different types of dropouts from your conversion funnel. Therefore, eliminating addressable issues can make it easier to analyze the funnel and figure out which issues need more effort to solve.
  • Solving technical issues with checkout can have a measurable influence on your costs. Any technical issue, especially if it persists, can trigger calls to your support center. Detecting technical issues as soon as they crop up and solving them promptly prevents the issue from developing into a serious drain on your customer support services. Serious technical issues that keep customers from buying thus represent not only opportunity cost and lost revenue, but also a lost chance to provide technical advice to prospects who need it.
  • You mitigate costs associated with engaging lost prospects. Lowering your cart abandonment ratio saves you the cost of trying to engage those “lost” prospects via email or retargeting ads. These types of enticements are necessary and potent tools to engage visitors, but their use should be limited to prospects who can potentially become loyal customers in the long run.

Speaking of which…

Save money by reducing unnecessary expenditures

Analyzing existing technical issues, missing information, and other potential issues that prospects (or customers) complain about allows you to identify and solve these issues before they become critical. This not only has a positive effect on conversions — it improves your brand image, plus helps you reduce the cost of customer support and recoup the opportunity cost of a missed sale.

In the last section, we covered technical problems that affect the conversion funnel. Now, we’ll analyze other potential technical issues that may have an adverse effect on customer satisfaction.

The most obvious? Issues like incorrectly displayed pages, bad coding, etc., that physically prevent the customer from seeing or purchasing products. You’ll discover these issues with a thoroughly conducted technical audit.

To quickly and efficiently solve customer calls and complaints, you can use an automated web-based platform (such as LiveAgent, or NABD). You’ll frequently see these platforms on websites that sell software or computer equipment. They start by eliminating the most obvious causes of the problem and driving the customer through the steps to fix it on their own. The advantage of this approach is that the support staff doesn’t have to worry about simple problems, so they’re free to solve bigger issues.

Reduce cart abandonment - HP
An example of how Hewlett-Packard handles customer support for simple issues

Automated support also offers benefits in terms of customer experience. First, with this type of support, customers can solve their problems without waiting for a live support representative. Second, customers experiencing more serious issues get served faster by technical staff. Both groups of customers enjoy a better user experience, which helps build a stronger brand image and increase loyalty.

For frequently encountered issues, you can set up a web-based application and walk users through the issue at hand.

Published by

Edin is a Senior CRO Consultant. Edin is into Google Analytics and testing (any A/B testing tool really) and likes to write about it. You can follow Edin on Twitter.