Conversion Optimization: 3 Steps to Reducing Shopping Cart Abandonment

January 8, 2014

Optimizing your checkout page is crucial if you want to increase sales and stop customers that are moments away from completing their purchases from jumping ship right in those crucial final stages of conversion.

Shopping cart abandonment is one of the biggest conversion hurdles that e-commerce sites struggle to overcome.

As an ecommerce site, it’s ultimately your job to make it as easy as  possible for shoppers to purchase your products. Yet somehow, the average ecommerce site suffers from shopping cart abandonment rates anywhere from 59.8% (according to MarketingSherpa) to as high as 83% (according to SeeWhy).

So why are your customers fleeing the scene before you can seal the deal?

It turns out there are a number of common checkout page mistakes that many e-tailers fall prey to.

1. Understand Why Customers are Using Your Shopping Cart

Before you can begin to understand why shoppers are abandoning their carts, you have to take a look at why they’re using them in the first place.

It may sound like a weird question to ask yourself, we know. But customers aren’t always placing items in your cart with checkout in mind. Some shoppers merely want a place to keep track of the items they’re interested in as they search through your site, some use shopping carts as “wish lists” of sorts, others use them to price check or see what the total might look like after tax, and shipping, and if they really got each and every item they wanted.

2. Analyze Why Customers are Abandoning It

When shoppers leave without making a purchase, it could be for a number of reasons.

According to a recent study by Statista that investigates why online shoppers leave without paying, there are a few fairly common reasons shoppers mention, including:

  • they discovered unexpected costs
  • they were “just browsing”
  • they decided against buying
  • they found better prices elsewhere
  • the total turned out to be too expensive
  • they found the website navigation too complicated
  • there were excessive security checks
  • they were concerned about the security of payment
  • the website timed-out or crashed
  • the process was taking too long

These, and a handful of other reasons, are the predominant cause of shopping cart abandonment and the prevailing factors that could be preventing your site visitors from becoming your newest customers.

As an ecommerce business, some of these factors are a little out of your control–you can’t always stop your customers from deciding against buying–but others can be fixed, some relatively easily by qualifying traffic, optimizing your site, and enhancing your checkout process.

3. Optimize The Process

From start to finish you need to make sure you’re making it easy to get your customers all the way to the end goal: making a purchase. You need to make the checkout process as intuitive as possible and create a conversion funnel that feels like each step is as obvious as the one that came before it. To make feel logical, you first need to make the process of checking out linear.

Weed out wishful thinkers from potential customers. To weed out those who are using shopping carts as wish lists, try having a “add to wish list” button as well as an “add to cart” button (Amazon’s a perfect example of this in action)–this will help you get clearer understanding of who’s really abandoning right before a purchase versus those who were just “perusing” and reduce the noise that clutters those crucial statistics.

Make it linear. Don’t have payment methods that result in pop-up windows or new pages can distract a potential customer, lead them away from the page and act as dead ends in the checkout process.

Make it quick and easy. Confusing calls-to-action, a cluttered checkout page, a slow site, an automatic time-out, and more can all be huge deterents for potential buyers. Take a good look at your checkout page and look for areas (both technical site fixes as well as stylistic ones) that could be hindering the purchasing process.

Encourage Trust. Risk-reversal is one of the most powerful tools in marketing and advertising, and it shouldn’t end just because a shopper has finally put your items in their cart. Encouraging trust is the best way to ensure a sale, so make sure that you make your payment options secure and most importantly, don’t throw in last minute charges or shocking shipping fees. If shipping is expensive, or if prices are slightly higher than your competitors, don’t try to hide it until the last minute. This will turn customers away, and not only that, it will leave them with a sense of being fooled and a bit of a sour taste in their mouths. Instead, be transparent with your shoppers from the get-go, so that nothing comes as a “surprise” when they’re ready to make the final purchase.


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