Shopping Cart Abandonment Demystified – Part 1

- May 1, 2008

Shopping cart abandonment happens when a visitor initiates the order by starting the check out process, but leaves before the purchase can be completed. The rate at which visitors abandon the cart is a critical indicator of website performance. For online businesses with their main goal of selling products, shopping cart abandonment can mean the difference between profitability and loss.

According to various industry publications the average shopping cart abandonment rate is currently around 40% – 60% for most online merchants. That means that roughly one out of every two visitors who adds an item to their shopping cart ultimately abandons it instead of completing their purchase. Although the rate of abandonment is alarming, the opportunity for improvement is significant. E-commerce businesses have to learn how to identify and implement effective strategies to streamline and optimize their ordering processes. Understanding the causes of shopping cart abandonment can help any online merchant convert more visitors to buyers.

Leading causes of shopping cart abandonment, involve a lack of effective conversion marketing strategies. Some of the most common reasons people abandon their shopping carts are:

– Comparison shopping and browsing – The Internet makes comparison shopping easy. Consumer performs shopping research before buying, which causes a time delay between initial visit and actual purchase. It’s not unusual for consumer to add items to the cart to determine the total cost of purchase including tax and shipping or save items for later purchase. Visitor may return later after further comparison shopping on other websites or may completely abandon the site and buy elsewhere.

– Confusion in regards to checkout process – Consumer is intent on buying, but can’t determine how to complete the checkout process. Consumers may be confused about added costs such as shipping or distracted by other elements on the pages.

– Impatience and frustration – Consumer becomes impatient if the checkout process is too long, shopping cart pages load slowly, site requires registration before purchase, or requests non-purchase related information. Client gets frustrated when facing shopping cart technical problems like receiving a form error message but not being able to figure out what was in error, or has been returned to the form to find the original data cleared as well when facing payment issues i.e. the site doesn’t take certain credit cart type. Out of stock and back ordered products may also irritate customers, they will not want to wait for the product and may purchase from other site or offline instead.

– Privacy, Safety and Security Fears – Consumer is concerned with providing personal information, including credit card. A lack of confidence and trust in an e-commerce business is a sure sign of shopping cart abandonment, especially with the rise of spam, identity theft and other fraudulent activities. Anything that seems a little out of the ordinary or order forms that ask for too much personal information may scare potential customer away.

– High shipping prices or long delivery times – High cost of shipping and the lack of shipping options may discourage customers from purchasing products online.

– Total Cost of Purchase ends up being more than expected

Shopping cart abandonment is a significant problem. The many ways to reduce it will be discussed in Shopping Cart Abandonment Demystified – Part 2.

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