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Abandonment Solutions

Dec 1, 2007
by Kevin Gold

Working hard attracting visitors, motivating them to add items to their cart, while later having them abandon the ordering process without buying is despairing. Shopping cart abandonment, a measure of the number of shoppers who purchased divided by a larger number who put something into their cart, is a formidable barrier to increasing website sales.

A September 2006 article presented the results of a shopping cart abandonment survey study of 1,100 ecommerce marketers. The average reported cart abandonment rate was 59.8%. Roughly one out of every two visitors who added an item to their shopping cart ultimately abandoned the site, instead of completing their order.

This alarming statistic amplifies a need for e-commence businesses to streamline and optimize their ordering process. The top shopping cart abandonment reasons include:

  • Window shopping: A visitor adds items to their cart to determine the total cost of buying including tax, shopping and product costs.
  • Confusing process: The visitor intends to buy, but can't determine how to complete the checkout process.
  • Frustration: A visitor becomes impatient waiting for a checkout page to load, or being requested to provide a great deal of personal information. Receiving form error but the shopper can't figure out error, or has retuned to the form to find their original data cleared.
  • Privacy, safety and security fears: A visitor is concerned with providing personal information, including their credit card. A lack of confidence and trust in an e-commerce business increases the chances for shopping cart abandonment.
Although the rate of abandonment is alarming, the opportunity for improvement is significant. It involves identifying and implementing effective website conversion strategies. Below are proven strategies to help reduce shopping cart abandonment.

  1. Disclose shipping and sales tax on the product pages.

    Reveal the total costs of ordering prior to the checkout process. The product cost is only one factor in a buyer's decision process. They want to know the shipping costs and if taxes are associated with their order.

  2. Promote benefits of registration.

    A growing number of e-tailers are moving to a multi-option registration process, where they offer new visitors either a guest option which allows them to avoid registration or a registration option. The key point is to clearly communicate the benefits of registration including order tracking, quicker repeat orders, notification of special discounts and automatic inclusion in a customer loyalty club, if applicable.

    As noted in an article in CIO Insight titled, "E-Commerce Performance Often Checks Out During Checkout", a guest checkout that gives customers the choice of registering, logging in, or just allowing them to make purchases on a credit card, is a key consumer perception driver shown to reduce abandonment.

  3. Show product availability.

    Communicate directly on the product page, or sooner if possible, whether the product is in inventory or out-of-stock. Do not force a visitor to add an item to their cart to later to find that it is not available.

    If an item is out-of-stock, communicate the expected time frame for its restocking. Consider the rain check procedure of traditional retailers. Offer to email your visitor a notice when the product is in stock, and offer a discount for their return and purchase.

  4. Display a delivery time frame.

    It is human nature to want it now. Help calm this emotional drive by providing a standard or estimated shipping date. Display the delivery time frame on the product page and in the cart.

  5. Clearly define next steps.

    As with the entire website, the checkout process must be intuitive. Make the "continue" button visible, instructional and separate from the administration buttons like "update" or "continue shopping." Keep button color and size consistent across each step in the ordering process. Use proper button text that clearly indicates what will happen after the button is clicked.

  6. Clarify the product details in the cart.

    Before completing a purchase, customers like to confirm and validate their selections. Provide the most important product details in the cart including sizes, colors, brand names, flavors, and quantities. Depending on your shopping cart technology, it also helps to display a product thumbnail image for each item.

  7. Add security, customer service and privacy assurance.

    Visitors' anxieties escalate as they near the purchase. Reduce these anxieties through placing assurances including SSL security seals like GeoTrust,, HackerSafe, ScanAlert or VeriSign. List shipping, customer support information, e.g. phone, return/exchanges, guarantees and privacy policies on every page of the checkout process.

  8. Don't require customers to complete two address forms.

    Most shopping carts address this strategy by allowing a customer to complete the shipping address form and check marking a box indicating their shipping address is their billing address. Some shopping carts practically hide the same as shipping address checkmark, rendering it invisible to the customer. Clearly present the same as shipping address indicator to ensure ease of use.

  9. Provide alternative payment methods

    Some customers are not comfortable with transacting online. By offering customers multiple payment methods including PayPal, Phone, Bill Me Later, MasterCard, VISA, American Express, fax and mail, a greater array of shopping behaviors and comfort zones are addressed.

  10. Indicate progress and properly label each step.

    Adding a progress indicator on each page of the checkout helps shoppers understand the commitment and time required to complete the order. Use easily understood labels, define the information requirements, and give instructions for page completion.

    Don't be overly concerned with the number of steps in the checkout process. Fewer steps are ultimately more efficient, but not always more effective. It may be a greater detriment to force too much information onto one or two pages, making the ordering process incomprehensible, than to have four or five well-organized and short steps.

Take the Call-to-Action to Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment

Executing an effective website conversion marketing project to reduce shopping cart abandonment is a process; not an event. Carefully analyze your shopping cart abandonment rate by using a funnel analysis in Google Analytics. Identify potential causes and apply the above strategies to reduce it.

Equally important is to understand your customers and how they buy. Define what specific assurances they require to feel confident, safe and comfortable with ordering. After developing and validating an effective plan, execute it deliberately. Measure its influence over a reasonable period of time based on a fair sampling of shoppers.

Reducing shopping cart abandonment is a powerful conversion marketing effort that directly increases website sales.

Kevin Gold is managing partner of Enhanced Concepts, a leading conversion marketing firm specializing in increasing website sales for small and mid-size companies. Kevin is a contributor to multiple national publications and an internationally-recognized expert on converting visitors to buyers. For assistance with increasing your website sales, call 1-877-481-2323 or learn more at

Topic: Business Strategies

Related Articles: shopping cart 

Article ID: 414

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