Why Shoppers Abandon Online Shopping Carts and What to Do About It

Boost revenue by combatting these five causes of cart abandonment.
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Lower the risk of customers abandoning their shopping carts by streamlining your checkout process. (Photo: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

In e-commerce, shopping cart abandonment is ubiquitous. A meta-analysis conducted by the Baymard Institute found that about 70 percent of all online shopping carts are abandoned.

Don’t write this off as an unavoidable annoyance. Do something about it.

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“If customers are abandoning carts because the product’s price is too high, the business should evaluate making a price change.” -Chris Hood (Photo: Chris Hood)

“This should never be something that a store owner just ignores,” said Chris Hood, a digital strategist with more than 15 years of experience in e-commerce. “The first thing a store owner should do is determine the reasons people are abandoning the purchase.”

You can learn a lot about why customers didn’t complete a purchase by asking them. Hood suggested popping up a multiple-choice survey on the checkout page if a customer tries to exit.

“If you’re able to capture their email, you can also send them a message and ask why they abandoned the cart. Offer them a 20 percent discount for completing the survey. That way, you’re incentivizing them to give you the information you need and it might turn into a sale.”

Once you collect that data, it’s time to take action. Here are some of the reasons you might discover for cart abandonment and smart ways to react.

Related: 10 Tricks For Boosting Sales in Your E-Commerce Store

Your prices are too high

The most common reason customers change their mind about a purchase is the price, said Hood.

“If customers are abandoning carts because the product’s price is too high, the business should evaluate making a price change,” he advised.

To evaluate your prices, Hood recommended conducting a competitor analysis and launching a customer survey. See what other stores charge for similar items and ask shoppers what they would be willing to pay for that product.

“After collecting several responses, you’ll get a better idea of the average price range customers are comfortable with.” -Chris Hood

You could also launch an A/B test, Hood suggested. Create two different price points for the same item and use an A/B tool so customers see one price or the other. If you notice lower cart abandonment rates on the lower-priced item, it might be worth charging less.

“And finally, never shy away from a coupon code, discount event or exclusive offer,” said Hood. “The trick is to always try and get something from a customer first, such as an email address or social media share.”

Related: 7 Ideas for Growing Your Customer Email List

Your checkout process is tedious

A tedious checkout process is a fast way to get customers to shop elsewhere.

“Some stores ask customers a ton of questions before allowing them to make a purchase. The more information you try to collect from a customer, the higher likelihood they’ll get frustrated and abandon the cart,” said Hood.

If survey responses indicate your checkout process is tedious, streamline the experience. Hood recommended minimizing the information you require from a customer and spreading requests for data across various touch points.

“One of best ways to capture a customer’s email address is encouraging them to sign up for a newsletter. If you can get them to create an account before they get to the checkout process, that will reduce the complexity of completing the order.”

You may find that cart abandonment rates go down when you offer a guest checkout process, but Hood warns there are some downsides to this option.

“The more information you have from somebody, the more you can advertise to them with newsletters and coupons. If a customer is a guest and they’re anonymous, you get the sale but you might not get the shopper to return. It’s a balancing act.”

Your product descriptions are vague

Writing thorough product descriptions can take a huge chunk of time. But without enough details, customers may be wary of going through with a purchase.

“If customers respond that they abandoned a purchase due to a lack of product information, ask them to share details about what they were looking for,” said Hood. Then revise your descriptions accordingly. Provide a size chart for apparel and give customers details on the materials, size, exact color and other features of the product.

“The more information you can supply about you products, the better. The descriptions should hopefully answer all questions your customer might have, and they also help with your store’s search engine rankings.

Your site isn’t streamlined for mobile devices

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If it is difficult to shop on your website via mobile, customers may abandon their cart after becoming frustrated. (Photo: Mr_Mrs_Marcha/Shutterstock)

Have you tried shopping on your site using your iPhone? How about other mobile devices? If your site isn’t mobile friendly, it might not be as easy as you hope.

“The challenge today is ensuring that the store’s experience is working fluidly on a phone. A lot of times when I go to make a purchase on my phone, it requires too much scrolling. Shoppers will decide they need a computer to finish the purchase and they’ll abandon the cart.”

Make sure customers don’t have to scroll through long pages or manually tap into many different fields when paying on a mobile device. Each obstacle a shopper faces makes it less likely she’ll complete the purchase.

Hood also emphasized the importance of integrating new mobile-friendly technology into your store.

“We have Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, which allows customers to go to a counter and pay through their phone. As we move toward the future, I think you’ll see more of that seamless experience in e-commerce, where you could potentially use a fingerprint to automatically connect to a credit card and pay for a product.”

Your shipping charges aren’t transparent

Many stores now offer free shipping, but paying for shipping isn’t always a deal breaker for shoppers. Unexpected shipping fees and lengthy delivery estimates, on the other hand, can drive customers away.

“You have to be very clear about what the shipping rates are. If you can be more honest about shipping up front, before customers get to the checkout stage, it’s more likely that they’ll complete the purchase. People don’t like to be surprised by shipping,” said Hood.

If you offer free or flat rate shipping, promote it at the top of your store in a banner. Let customers know in the product descriptions if shipping will vary by the size of the order, along with an estimate on the cost — don’t wait until the checkout page to reveal this information.

“If people are not happy with your shipping rates or turnaround times, you’re going to have to look at alternatives. It’s going to ultimately be a business decision to figure out how to resolve that and improve it,” said Hood.

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