The numbers are scary for
online retailers: for every online shopper who completes her transaction,
another abandons his shopping cart without ordering. So what should be a
story about online success often becomes a tale of lost opportunities.
Don't let your site suffer. If you know why customers abandon their carts,
you can take steps to correct the problem.
Online Sales Increase...
...And So Do Abandoned Carts
By any measurement, $54.9
billion dollars in sales is impressive. That's the US Census Bureau's
estimate of the total ecommerce sales in 2003. The
The Register Web site reports that total retail sales in the United
Stated during the fourth quarter of 2003 increased just 6.2% while online
sales increased by 25.1%.
Those numbers are
astounding, but don't tell the whole story because they could be even
larger! Different studies of online behavior estimate that between 50 and
75% of online shoppers regularly abandon their shopping carts and that 77%
have done so at least once. DataMonitor statistics suggest that incomplete
online transactions could deprive retailers of up to $63 billion in
revenue this year.
Why People Abandon Their Carts
You've probably abandoned a
cart at least one - and probably a lot more often. This isn't a problem
with beginning users either. Experienced Internet users are actually more
likely to dump a shopping cart because they know there's always somewhere
else they can go online to purchase the same item.
There are as many different reasons for
ditching a shopping cart as there are visitors, but various Web surveys
have pinpointed the most common causes:
|Reasons Shoppers Abandon
Their Carts Source: Yankee Group
||Shipping charges were
||The item was
||The site was too
difficult to navigate
||The order wouldn’t go
||The order form was too
||They were unable to use
coupons or discounts
So what's up with customers and shipping
charges? Surely any reasonable person knows that it costs to pack and ship
Of course they do, but these reasonable
people still suspect that the shipping and handling costs they're asked to
pay are sometimes unreasonable.
A study by Ernst and Young seems to back them up.
- 89% of online retailers charge for
- 11% used delivery charges as a
- Many charge based on the cost of the
item and not its actual shipping costs.
The idea of charging for
shipping based on cost infuriates customers the most. It makes sense if
you're ordering something that sells by the pound, but what if one
customer orders a $70 scarf and another orders a $25 scarf? At most online
merchants and catalog retailers, shipping costs for the $70 item are
higher - even though there's no real difference in weight or packing
An ecommerce study by the
marketing firm NFO CFGroup found that "…59 per cent of online shoppers
believe they're being gouged for further profit on shipping costs." At
least 11% of the time, they're right!
Help For Orphaned Shopping Carts
We touched on the issue of
shipping charges in the last Webmaster Tips article: "7
Ways To Increase Your Online Sales", but there are other issues you
can address to keep visitors with their carts all the way through the
- Shorten the process!
Visitors get frustrated easily with a shopping cart system that asks
for huge amounts of duplicate information - as in forcing visitors
to enter both billing and shipping addresses even if they're the
ecommerce case study published at MarketingSherpa.com found that
when the Web site PersonalCreations.com redesigned their shopping
cart system to eliminate an entire screen, their cart abandonment
rate dropped from 45% to 33%.
Fewer clicks move the process more quickly and give visitors fewer
chances to click away from your cart.
- Make it snappy!
Forms that process slowly irritate your visitors just as much as
slow-loading pages. Check your page load time with NetMechanic's
and use our Server
Check tool to verify that your server responds quickly when
visitors submit the form.
- Check for errors.
Test your forms thoroughly to make sure the information is
processing correctly. Also check to make sure the form displays
correctly in all browsers. A simple coding error like a
misplaced input tag can prevent visitors from submitting the
form they took the time to fill out.
- Give visitors another
chance. According to the
MarketingSherpa.com case study, the designers at
PersonalCreations.com experimented with another method that resulted
in a 25% average improvement in sales.
They added a pop-up to the shopping cart system. Customers who
abandon their carts see a pop-up window that offers $5 off the
purchase they abandoned - but only if they immediately return to the
shopping cart and finish the transaction.
Most visitors say they hate pop-up windows, but that's because the
pop-ups are often for products they aren't interested in. This
technique gives visitors something valuable. Learn how to create
pop-up windows in our
- Safeguard personal data.
You're asking visitors trust you with their personal information and
credit cart numbers. Make sure they feel comfortable doing that by
transactions, and requesting only the information you need.
Ideally, you should ask for personal information as late as possible
in the ordering process. Personally, I click away from any site that
requires my credit card and contact information before they tell me
the final cost of my purchase - including shipping charges!
- Answer questions!
Each shopping cart and product page should include a prominent link
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page. Visitors can refer to it
to get information about shipping times, ordering options, contact
information, returns policy, and any other questions they may have.
Contact information is important. The NFO marketing survey found
that customers like to know they can contact a live person and might
not have abandoned their carts if one were available:
"22 per cent said a 1-800 number to call customer service might have
changed their minds, while 15 per cent said live text chat with a
customer rep would have helped."
- Make it user-friendly.
Shopping cart usability is essential to the success of your online
business, so you should always test early and often.
There's more to testing than just checking the HTML code for errors
with HTML Toolbox.
True usability testing gets actual users in front of your site so
you can evaluate their user experience. Of course you can use the
site because you designed it.
But can your visitors order your products, input information, and
complete their transactions? You need to know that before you
launch, not after!
Our July 2002 Usability Tip "Test
Early, Test Often" outlines the testing process and explains how
to conduct a usability test on a limited budget.
No matter how carefully you
design your site, test your ecommerce system, and price your products,
some shoppers will always leave without buying. Not every customer in a
brick and mortar store buys something on each visit either.
Visitors are more likely to
buy if they perceive that your site is trustworthy, provides good value,
and is easy to use. That perception is vital to your online success.
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