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Comment: Why do shoppers abandon your shopping cart and what can you do about it?

Reviewing your website statistics and seeing shoppers coming to the site, your website only to abandon it in droves, is a depressing experience for any online retailer. By Stephen Pratley


Comment: Why do shoppers abandon your shopping cart and what can you do about it?

Figures published by Econsultancy suggest that abandonment rates during the cart and checkout process can vary from 15% to 90%. But, what are the reasons for such huge variations, and what should you expect as a reasonable level of conversion to sales? Also, what can you do to improve your own figures?

The first step in understanding website abandonment is to look at the process that a shopper goes through in a typical purchase. This usually starts away from your website with them clicking on a link in Google, on an email, a banner advert, or maybe typing your site’s address into their browser, if they know the address already.

Each shopper’s expectations are set before they arrive at your site. If they don’t find what they expect they will quickly turn away. For example, a shopper that comes from a price comparison website, who then discovers a different price on your site or higher shipping charges is likely to turn on their heels and go elsewhere. This is known as the ‘bounce’ rate. These are shoppers who come to your website, and leave after viewing just one page.

Assuming that the shopper is not put of at this point, and chooses to look around your site, and then decides to add an item to their basket, the next step is whether or not to continue to the checkout and an eventual purchase.

In order to understand basket abandonment, first of all you need to watch how different shoppers use this part of your website. Often the basket is used more like a shopping list than an intention to buy. For a fashion website it’s like a  virtual clothing rail for many, where a selection of products can be stored before the final decision is made.

With this in mind it’s important to look at how your website treats shoppers who spend a long time shopping, swapping about between your store and others, and even closing down their browser windows. Are they easily able to retrieve their baskets at a later visit? Although typical apparel website abandonment figures of 50% or more look high, they may not be so bad when the above practices are taken into account.

Once a shopper has made the decision to purchase, their next step is to find out the total cost of their order, including shipping. As many sites don’t show shipping costs until after they have taken delivery address details, this can have an impact on abandonment, as shoppers become deterred by the high shipping costs.  In this instance, abandonment of the basket is happening at a much later stage in the shopping process, but nevertheless, it is happening. And, it is imperative for retailers to address this.

A significant number of shoppers, female shoppers in particular, have very real concerns about security when shopping, so using secure certificates, and prominently displaying your certificate provider’s logo is recommended.

Clear display of delivery expectations and returns policies is also a must, and a prominent helpline phone number provides reassurance to far more people than will actually use it. Live ‘chat’ tools that work like MSN Messenger are also becoming more commonplace.

Don’t fall into the trap of trying to ‘hide’ behind your website. Real customer service and a known business are normal expectations of today’s shoppers, embrace these and you’ll capture more trust and – inevitably – sales.

Many large stores can offer additional options in the checkout process, but do so against a base of data that allows them to measure the effect on the business.

Stephen Pratley is managing director of Shine Marketing

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