Mitigating the High Costs of Shopping Cart Abandonment

Emilee Geist

shopping cart

It happens regularly, and most of us have done it ourselves. A customer is on an ecommerce website, looking at various items, and adding some of them to their shopping cart. Then something happens during their experience, and they make the decision to abandon the website and its associated shopping cart, meaning that the brand lost both a sale and a potential customer.

According to a report from the Baymard Institute, shopping carts are abandoned an incredible 69.57% of the time! Shopping cart abandonment costs brands billions of dollars each year, and yet it can be avoided through usability studies, redesigns, and customer-centric ecommerce practices. This article will look at the various ways brands can avoid shopping cart abandonment and increase ROI by understanding the bottlenecks and pain points that are the leading causes of abandonment.

Top Reasons for Shopping Cart Abandonment

Deborah Goldring, associate professor of marketing at Stetson University’s School of Business Administration shared some of the reasons that customers abandon shopping carts. It’s important to understand that shopping cart abandonment isn’t always about the loss of a purchase. There is also the phenomenon of near-purchase activity, according to Goldring. “Customers use shopping carts as a shopping list and may save items for a later time. They use it for price and shipping comparisons. They may shop online and then purchase in-store,” she said.

Organizations that are successful at customer experience design can reduce shopping cart abandonment and encourage purchases. “Ecommerce sites with the highest conversion rates focus on providing a high level of information, enjoyment, sociability, and aesthetics,“ she said.

Is your shopping cart experience suffering from sub-optimal usability issues? This could be impacting your abandonment rate. Goldring advises that sellers do all they can to ensure they design a customer experience with easy-to-use shopping carts and smooth checkouts capabilities.

“One common usability flaw is to assume that the least number of steps to check out is better and will improve conversion rates. However, usability testing may uncover that for a significant group of customers, this is not the case. A complex check-out process that requires more information than merely an address and credit card number likely cannot be oversimplified into a ‘one-click’ type of check out process,” she said.

The Baymard Institute report indicated that 58.6% of online shoppers in the United States have abandoned a shopping cart within the last 3 months because they were “just browsing/not ready to buy.” Other reasons for abandonment include:

  • Extra costs were too high (shipping, taxes, fees) (50%)
  • The site wanted the customer to create an account (28%)
  • Too long/complicated checkout process (21%)
  • Couldn’t see/calculate total order cost upfront (18%)
  • Delivery time was too slow (18%)
  • Didn’t trust the site with credit card info (17%)
  • Website errors/crashed (13%)
  • Return policy was lacking (10%)
  • Not enough payment options (6%)
  • The credit card was declined (4%)

Related Article: Analyzing the Growth of the Ecommerce Subscription Model

The Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate Metric

One metric that brands should monitor is the cart abandonment rate (the percentage of shopping carts that have been abandoned), as it is specifically connected to customer conversion rates. If there are pain points in the checkout process, it will show up as a high shopping cart abandonment rate. 

Calculating the cart abandonment rate is straightforward: you simply divide the total number of completed purchases by the number of carts that have been created, subtract the result from 1, then multiply by 100. The number that results is the cart abandonment rate (percentage).

[1 – [completed purchases / number of carts]] * 100

As an example, with 200 completed transactions, and 600 total shopping carts created, that means 200 is divided by 600, which equals 0.333333333. Subtract that from 1 and you get .66666667. Multiplied by 100, it equates to 66.666667, or a 67% shopping cart abandonment rate. 

[1 – [200/600]] * 100 = 66.666667 = 67%

Shopping Cart Abandonment Equates to Pain Points

Litha Ramirez, executive director of product management & user experience at SPR, spoke with CMSWire about shopping cart abandonment and how it’s related to pain points in the customer journey. “To avoid the high costs of shopping cart abandonment and ensure a smooth ‘digital-first’ holiday season, retailers must address their shoppers’ biggest digital pain points and enable them to quickly and confidently find what they need, get their products at the right price, and receive them on time,” said Ramirez.

To address all three, she shared, retailers must make sure their search is optimized for word/product variances and then lean into machine learning in order to support predictions and drive shoppers to items they are most likely to buy. “Retailers should also offer discounts to customers while they are on the site — don’t wait for them to leave, and if they do, have a programmatic ad program, to remind them of the products they found of interest,” she said.

Ramirez also thinks it important ot be upfront about shipping and delivery costs when it comes to closing out the transaction. “Don’t make shoppers wait until they are near the end of purchase to see the delivery date,” Ramirez suggested. “Instead, provide that information upfront on the catalog or product details page, or better yet, surface that information on the product search result snippets.”

Additionally, brands need to do everything they can do to simplify the shopping experience and enable the customer to leave feeling emotionally satisfied, and that the brand cares about their experience. “Finally, retailers should prioritize customer service by making sure it is quick and easy for customers to reach out with questions. Include a chatbot and real people to ensure you can address issues in ways that meet a customer’s comfort level,” she said.

Reducing customer pain points in the customer journey is paramount according to, Garin Hobbs, director of deal strategy at Iterable, a growth marketing company. “Close the shipping gap, and offer cheaper/faster shipping alternatives, such as curbside or in-store pickup in your follow up. Keep in mind, however, that we are in the middle of a global pandemic, so provide high-touch options with caution,” he said.

Brands need to become more aware of the lifestyle changes caused by COVID-19 and how they affect the purchasing habits of customers. One example is using “lifestyle” content and imagery that illustrates how the product might fit into and improve the shopper’s day-to-day.  “Brands that are not aware and empathetic won’t connect. We see the relevance of this tactic today; consumers are working from home, so fashion retailers who don’t shift to a casual style and put stilettos and dinner jackets on the backburner are losing loyalty,” Hobbs said.

Related Article: The Top 10 Ecommerce Trends for 2020

Checkout Recovery Emails to the Rescue

Checkout recovery emails are one of the more effective methods that businesses use to recover a sale from a customer that abandoned their shopping cart. It allows brands to reach out to the customer to see if they can entice them into completing the purchase. “Triggered emails for cart abandonment should be customized depending on the length of time an item has been saved to the cart, or the speed with which the customer has exited the purchase process. Personalized emails that acknowledge the abandoned items and make suggestions of similar products to those the customer has browsed can improve shopping cart conversion rates,” said Goldring.

Hobbs provided some valuable insights regarding checkout recovery emails.

  • Replicate the abandoned cart in the email, showing the exact items the shopper left behind. Help the customer visualize what they’re missing out. “There is often emotion in retail purchases, so use that to your advantage!” said Hobbes
  • “Display similar items with lower price points to your customers, based on the products in their abandoned cart, that are currently in-stock, and perhaps may have faster shipping times. “Give them the option to add to their cart, and [provide them with] reliable and attractive replacement options,” Hobbes said.
  • Provide single-click purchases: “Efficiency and speed of purchase is the name of the game in ecommerce shopping,” said Hobbs. “By offering single-click, in-email purchase completion capabilities for customers, you can facilitate a purchase faster. Saving time, and expediting ROI for brand and customer.”
  • Like most effective customer-centric marketing, reducing shopping cart abandonment is an omnichannel experience. “Synchronize messaging across email, mobile, and web channels to create a re-engagement ecosystem,” said Hobbs. “You need to create a layered messaging scheme. This reactive workflow will be able to message to customers based on a series of anticipated user behaviors. In the cart abandonment department, for instance, ‘Come back and buy!’ won’t work on many potential customers. However, combining your message with relevant products, timing, and imagery might just do the trick!”

Offer Guest Checkout

Since 28% of customers abandon their shopping cart because they do not want to create an account, it may be beneficial to provide them with the ability to checkout as a guest. While brands will not be able to collect any customer information during the checkout process, they will still retain a sale. The guest checkout process is typically much faster than the standard checkout process in which the customer is required to create an account with the brand. Guest checkout is also known to increase mobile sales, where the customer is using a smaller screen to enter information, a process that many customers find annoying and cumbersome. 

“A guest checkout policy can make the shopping and payment experience faster and facilitate impulse purchases. In fact, some ecommerce sites allow customers to checkout without a username, password, or even payment information if a service like PayPal is used,” said Goldring.

Guest checkouts can help eliminate the burden of sharing and managing personal information, security questions, especially in those instances where the purchase is simply a one-time order. “The overhead a customer has to endure with account creation can result in cart abandonment or worse, abandonment of the retailer permanently in favor of a vendor with whom the customer already has an account or who allows guest checkouts,” suggested Goldring. Brands that allow customers to check out as a guest can also allow the option of signing in (for repeat customers) or creating an account. Ebay, for instance, allows current customers to use Google to sign in, which is a quick and painless one-click process for the customer. 

Reducing Shopping Cart Abandonment Is an Iterative Process

Like most customer experience initiatives, reducing shopping cart abandonment is an ongoing, iterative process. Brands need to be able to determine which practices work, and which ones do not, through testing and analysis. 

“When sending discounts and options to customers, remember that you must A/B test different messages, offers, and calls to action in real-time to determine what resonates with each consumer,” explained Hobbs. “Down to the color of the button that generates more engagement. You’ll need to do this test for any campaign you run, and multiple intervals during the year. As customers change their preferences, change your marketing strategy. Never stop testing. And never stop iterating based on your results.”

Conclusion

Brands understand that the majority (69.57%) of ecommerce shopping experiences result in shopping cart abandonment, so they must be proactive in their approach to reducing the practice. By understanding the reasons that customers typically abandon their shopping carts, providing alternatives such as guest checkout, and using recovery emails that encourage the customer to complete their purchase, customers can be retained, their journey improved, and ROI can be increased.

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