Curtail Online Cart Abandonment With Faster, More Positive Checkout

Approximately $4.6 trillion worth of merchandise was left unpurchased online last year
February 16, 2017Andrea Lillo

shopping cartNEW YORK—While consumers are increasingly comfortable turning to digital devices to research and shop, they also have no problem abandoning their online carts before checkout, which frustrates retailers and leaves trillions of potential sales on the table.

This doesn’t have to be the case, according to experts. Even though some reasons for abandonment are unavoidable, others can be remedied and sales recovered. Approximately $4.6 trillion worth of merchandise was left unpurchased online last year, said BI Intelligence, which estimates that about 60 percent of that is potentially recoverable. Digital marketing platform Listrak pegs cart abandonment at 77 percent for the past six months.

Almost 60 percent of online shoppers in the United States abandoned a cart within the last three months because they were just browsing or not ready to buy, said Baymard Institute. Extruding those consumers, the top five reasons people gave for abandoning carts were that the extra costs of shipping, tax or fees were too high (61 percent); the site wanted them to create an account (35 percent); the checkout process was too long or complicated (27 percent); they couldn’t see or calculate the total order cost up front (24 percent); or the website had errors or crashed (22 percent). Just creating a better checkout design alone would result in a 35.26 percent increase in conversion rates, the institute estimated.

Matt Sargent, a retail analyst at Magid Associates, also named lack of understanding the return policy and how to use that product in the home as other reasons. Overall, cart abandonment “affects all retailers, but particularly retailers where the purchase is less frequent and requires more up front research, such as high-priced items” like furniture, he said. Consumers do more research with those types of items and “thus want to take the research process all the way to the end with multiple retailers, before they decide on a final solution.”

Cart abandonment is a bigger issue when it comes to smart phones, as the smart phone user “is more distracted to begin with,” said Igor Faletski, CEO, Mobify. A call might come in or their train arrives while consumers are on their phones, for example, he said; there’s “competition for attention.”

Poor user experiences—if the process takes too long or it’s too awkward to type in their credit card numbers, for example—also cause mobile consumers to abandon their carts, said Faletski. (Forty percent of customers will leave a page, if it takes three seconds to load, Mobify said in a recent report; meanwhile, the average U.S. retail mobile site takes 6.9 seconds to load.) Quicker checkouts, such as one-touch payment methods like ApplePay, would solve some of these issues, he said. Push messaging reminders that the consumer has items in the cart, with perhaps discounts given after a period of time, also help encourage consumers to complete their purchases.

Forty-four percent of retailers send at least one cart abandonment message to consumers, said Megan Ouellet, director of content marketing, Listrak, in a recent research report, and 66.1 percent sent the first message within 24 hours of abandonment. In these messages, Ouellet suggests retailers recommend different products in each message to aid in product discovery—but they should make sure products are within the same price range, and withhold recommendations until the second or third message to avoid distractions. More than one cart abandonment message should be sent to optimize revenue, she added.

In addition, if the retailer has physical locations, it can link its online activity to let the consumer know which store closest to them has the item, said Faletski. “It helps the customer make the decision,” he said. “It drives that shopper to continue their shopping journey,” and more likely, the shopper will make the purchase. Some shoppers use their online carts as a temporary storage space or a wish list for in-store shopping, and “it’s important that retailers realize that.”

Transparency will also help dispel some of these challenges, they said. By disclosing price, shipping costs and fees before the final checkout page, for example, “customers [will] know they are getting the best deal possible without any hidden details,” said Sargent. “This will then incentivize the customer to return to the site to make another purchase as the retailer becomes a trusted source for goods.”

Andrea LilloAndrea Lillo | Fashion Editor

Andrea Lillo has written about a variety of topics, from beer gardens in Queens to kitchen design trends to residential caves. Having joined Home Furnishings News in 2006, she serves as Fashion Editor.


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