Strategies to Reduce Abandoned Cart Rates

By Julie Knudson | Posted December 18, 2014

Why do customers abandon their shopping carts? Some people use their cart as a place to store items they don't intend to purchase immediately but want to remember later. Others may leave a purchase unfinished because they discover the shipping costs too much, or they hope to dig out a coupon code.

Before small business ecommerce operators can create a plan to reduce their abandon rate, they must first better understand why customers typically walk away from shopping carts. Ryan Urban, co-founder and CEO of Bounce Exchange, a behavioral automation platform provider that looks at conversion rates and exiting shoppers, says some consumers may not even realize they had an active cart going.

Understanding Shopping Cart Abandonment

The problem typically springs from flaws in a website's design. "When you add a product to the cart—when you click that button on the product page—you're not actually directed to the checkout process like you used to be," Urban explains. Because customers aren't funneled toward completing their purchase, the fact that they've created a cart sometimes goes unnoticed.

Stop shopping cart abandonment

Other shoppers may not be entirely convinced that they want to complete a purchase at all—at least not on your site. "There is a rash of trust issues," says Bruce Ernst, vice president of product management at Monetate, a firm that focuses on tools that let businesses create and gauge the effectiveness of personalized marketing campaigns.

The alarming number of data breaches in the retail sector translates into hesitancy in consumers' minds when it comes to buying online. It can be an especially difficult problem for small and midsized businesses (SMBs). Customers "may not have heard about them much or may not know much about them," Ernst says of small business ecommerce sites. A shopper skeptical of a site's security probably won't be comfortable entering payment card information or other personal data.

Catch Shoppers Before They Abandon Carts

Reconnecting with shoppers once they've left your site is difficult (and nearly impossible if you didn't get their email address). Small business operators who keep shoppers connected to their carts in the first place face better odds. To that end, Urban says eliminating unnecessary friction is a good step.

The "mini cart" used on many sites—where a small popup message tells the customer they've added an item to their cart, but then returns them to a product or landing page—is one example of unnecessary friction. "Turn that thing off," he says Urban. "When someone adds to the cart, make sure they go to the shopping cart itself." This tweak puts customers closer to completing their purchase, while still allowing them to continue shopping if that's what they want to do.

Because security concerns may be one factor behind cart abandonment, reassuring customers that your site is safe is another good strategy. Many shoppers likely know what the "https" means in the address bar, but less savvy consumers may not; a banner or button that confirms the cart's security could be helpful.

Ernst says two straightforward but effective approaches include "saying your data is safe, or putting a seal of approval from an encryption authority that says this is safe." Depending on the customer base, a Better Business Bureau badge may also reassure shoppers that the company has a good reputation.

Offering additional payment options sometimes provides the encouragement customers need to complete the sales process. Many small businesses take only credit cards, but Urban says, "They should definitely accept PayPal." He reports that conversion rates often increase when consumers have the option to use PayPal, and he adds that if shoppers aren't familiar with a particular small business, they know that "PayPal gives them recourse and is more convenient."

Accepting PayPal also has the potential to reduce cart abandonment for mobile shoppers, since few people are comfortable typing payment card information into a mobile browser, but they will happily use an existing PayPal account.

Ernst says that mobile shoppers complete the checkout process more often when you make your website easy to navigate and easy to read. "It's the ability to hit the next button, or to choose a box in a checkout cart," he explains. "When you have mobile customers, you need to make this process as simple as possible, and giving them too many options doesn't help."

Research conducted by IBM showed this year's Cyber Monday mobile sales were up 27.6 percent. As the number of shoppers using mobile devices continues to increase, converting these site visitors into buyers will become even more important.

Julie Knudson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in technology magazines including BizTech, Processor, and For The Record. She has covered technology issues for publications in other industries, from foodservice to insurance, and she also writes a recurring column in Integrated Systems Contractor magazine.

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