It’s a sad story that has become so common, that it just kind of blends into the background — like that awful elevator jazz that some coffee shops play (Thelonious Monk would NOT approve), or economy class in-flight meals (there’s less sodium on a salt lick, and you don’t get rammed in the ankle by a cabin trolley). Alas, we’re talking about the cart abandonment epidemic.

And epidemic is indeed the right word, because this problem is not local or limited. Forrester Research pegs the number of customers who bid adios to their cart at 87%, with 70% of them choosing to do so just before checkout. Overall, $18 billion worth of products each year are left to languish in digital trolleys.

Here are four common and costly cart-based reasons why customers flee the sales funnel, rather than triumphantly complete the buyer’s journey:

  1. Unexpected costs.

Customers don’t merely dislike unexpected costs like shipping, or nebulous “handling” fees (what, are people buying plutonium or something?). They absolutely hate them. There might even be a clinical psychological aversion to this called “unexpectedcostphobia.”

The solution: be transparent about all automatic or potential costs by advertising a clear and realistic estimate, providing a delivery calculator on the home page (not buried at the end of the checkout process), and if possible, offering free shipping for a minimum purchase.

  1. Obliging customers to create an account.

A decade or two ago, customers didn’t mind creating an account to purchase something online, simply because they didn’t know there was any other way. It was part of the deal, like the turning of the earth or standing in line for longer than you should at the post office. It’s going to happen.

But now, customers have enjoyed a taste of the guest checkout experience — and many of them love it; especially if they’re suffering from security fatigue and wince at the idea of remembering more login credentials. Naturally, e-commerce sites that fail to cater to this preference set themselves up for plenty of cart abandonment.

The solution: if creating an account is mandatory, make the process as simple and fast as possible (and then make it even simpler and faster). In addition, give customers an incentive to create an account such as a discount offer, special gift, or anything else that has value and isn’t going to lead to a bankruptcy filing.

  1. Long and winding checkout process.

In 1970, The Beatles sang about the “Long and Winding Road” and scored yet another U.S. Billboard #1 hit. However, e-commerce sites that have a long and winding checkout process aren’t going to be certified platinum. They’re going to be certified terrified, because cart abandonment rates will be far higher than their competition.

The solution: ruthlessly streamline down the checkout process to the bare minimum, and use as few fields as possible. Yes, getting as much glorious customer data is important — but it’s not as important as getting customers on the roster in the first place.

  1. Bugs, bugs and more bugs.

Even entomologists don’t like website bugs and other completely preventable technical errors that make online shopping irritating instead of enjoyable. Even one of these bugs is enough to trigger cart (and brand) abandonment — let alone a bunch of them.

The solution: use a reputable third-party platform to constantly monitor all important web pages and multi-step processes — such as login, signup, checkout and so on — to proactively detect and destroy bugs, or anything else that makes customers miserable like slow page loading. Learn more about this here.

The Bottom Line
Completely eliminating cart abandonment isn’t possible, because there will always be customers who pause or stop the purchase process. But solving all of the problems described above significantly increases the chances that both carts and customers will get to the finish line, and be inspired to come back for more. And isn’t that the whole point?

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