If you’re an eCommerce merchant, you’re likely familiar with the term cart abandonment which refers to the more than 80% of online shoppers who add items to their cart and fail to complete their purchase. Some of the biggest names in eCommerce (Stripe, PayPal, and Baynard Institute) provide our industry with hard data to analyze the problem. With hundreds of articles already detailing the problem, two important factors are often overlooked:
- Most functional cart abandonment issues are directly related to the checkout experience.
- Improving checkout functionality is typically complex and expensive.
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If you’re looking for a way to better understand the checkout abandonment piece of cart abandonment and want actionable advice for fixing the problem, this article is for you!
Why the term “Cart Abandonment” Doesn’t Address The Real Issue
Let’s look at a specific hypothetical. Your customer discovered your store online and, by the way, those shoes were so drool-worthy on Insta. They went to purchase them (yay for impulse buys — the favorite for any eCommerce merchant). All is good so far. They even added another pair of shoes to their cart because of that great coupon they found (winning!).
Only, they ran into a block. They didn’t abandon the shoes or the cart. It’s the checkout experience that didn’t offer a convenient way to pay. So is it the cart or the checkout that is the real problem?
The customer is ready to complete their purchase but your checkout doesn’t offer Apple Pay, GPay, or PayPal. Your checkout solution doesn’t remember credit cards. Will that customer get up from the couch and find a credit card to use? Maybe not. It’s the checkout experience that lost you a sale, not the cart.
Introducing Checkout Abandonment
According to a study by Adobe (1), the U.S. eCommerce conversion rate is on average around 3% for small retailers, and 5% for large retailers. So the bounce rate is between 95% and 97%. That’s a lot! But at what point in the conversion process can a potential customer’s bounce be presumed?
If we’re talking about an online store, the sales conversion rate defines the number of purchases in relation to the number of page views. Conversions are the real Key Performance Indicator (KPI) you need to track (2).
Let’s be realistic. Not every bounce of a potential customer can be prevented. Nevertheless, it’s important to know the possible factors for the bounce rate in order to successfully carry out a possible checkout optimization. With that in mind, what’s one of the biggest trampolines in our store? That’s right. The checkout experience.
The checkout process is the most critical part of the online purchase. But if you’re going to optimize it, you need to ask yourself the big question: “What does a Perfect checkout experience look like?”
Improving Your Checkout Experience
To improve your online shop’s checkout experience, you need to understand why customers are leaving after adding items to their cart but before completing their purchase. Addressing the correct problem allows you to solve it better.
- What should my checkout ideally look like?
- What information should be requested?
- What should never happen during the checkout process?
By creating the best conditions in your checkout process, you can reach more customers, present your products in the best light and run an online store designed to turn visitors into customers.
Don’t Let This Be You
The product actually fits perfectly but is then not purchased. This is probably one of the most annoying scenarios in online retail. After all, the customer was actually already convinced about how great your product was. What then causes the deal to fail?
Don’t worry. We’re going to help you optimize your checkout process by looking at 5 reasons customers leave us standing at the checkout, and how to address them.
Top 5 User Experience Issues Leading to Checkout Abandonment
After eleven years of research, the Baymard Institute (3) has found that the design and flow of the checkout experience is frequently the sole cause for customers abandoning their purchase during the checkout flow. They are either angry or unsure about some part of the process that they simply don’t have any other option but to leave. Remember that the checkout experience is about functionality, security, and trust. The design (4), flow, and speed matter as much as a variety of payment methods.
Checkout Abandon Reason 1: The Site Wanted Me to Create an Account
This is something we can probably all relate to. After spending almost twenty minutes of your time choosing Christmas gifts for all your family members, you are finally ready to check out.
However, when you return to your shopping cart and click the checkout button, you’re surprised to find that you have to create an account first. Ugh. Why? Perhaps with a web store you’ll never use again. Believe it or not, users care about their online privacy. They don’t want to create another account on a website just to complete a checkout process.
While it’s great that you offer the option to create an account, it can also become a friction point. The customer may wonder how long it will take to set up an account and password. Is it really worth filling out such a long form if they don’t plan on coming back?. They may prefer to buy from a store where an account is not necessary. Bounce. That’s not cart abandonment; that’s checkout abandonment.
Required user registration increases the chances of a bounce or abandonment during the buying phase. Guest orders give the impression that the buying process is faster, too, because they are.
Configure your eCommerce platform to create accounts after the order is created instead of requiring it beforehand. You can also add a checkbox to your checkout page asking for permission to send emails to the customer. The most modern solutions available even allow for saving form information automatically on a customer’s next return to the checkout (some headless-powered solutions like Perfect Checkout and Bolt even populate that info for customers on other stores).
Checkout Abandon Reason 2: The Checkout Process is Too Complicated
Ads, unnecessary text, and cute images, are all distracting factors that unnecessarily disrupt the checkout process. And please don’t place cross-selling offers in the shopping cart! The checkout process is not a pleasure for customers, but a chore. So keep it as short and sweet as possible. Save cross-selling for retargeting ads and email re-engagement campaigns.
If your checkout process is long, show your customers how far they’ve gone with a progress bar. A seamless checkout process eliminates the need for a progress bar — PayPal and Apple Pay have their own. Long loading times and annoying pop-ups are absolute non-starters during checkout.
Checkout Abandon Reason 3: I Didn’t Trust the Site with my Credit Card Information
Trust is paramount to eCommerce. Brick and mortar stores have the option of accepting cash. As an online retailer, you do not. Your online presence is essentially virtual and we’ve all been training people to screen for fraud. For older merchants and large brands, trust has been established. As a start-up or smaller merchant, on the other hand, you have to earn the trust of your customers.
Trust should, of course, be created prior to the checkout through an efficient design, an authentic and professional appearance, and trusted seals of approval (such as Trusted Shops)(4). Make it clear to the customer that their personal data is transmitted encrypted and that your store is secure. An online privacy page seals the deal (5).
Make sure you’re following PCI compliance best practices and include these signals on your checkout. PCI-compliant eCommerce shops are:
- using https encryption with a valid SSL certificate;
- utilizing fraud prevention tools;
- and, providing a well-known (and compliant) payment processor options such as Stripe and Paypal.
Let customers know that their orders are secure by declaring so underneath the order button. Invest in brand recognizable services that provide badges you can put on your checkout page (Norton Verisign for example).
With a bit of code and a pricey Shopify Plus plan, Shopify merchants can add additional messaging to their checkout pages to increase trust (such as an FAQ section or money-back guarantee message). WooCommerce merchants using a number of solutions (including Perfect) can add additional messaging on the checkout page without needing to touch any code. Whatever platform you’re using, these reassurances provide a personal touch that’s worth the effort.
Checkout Abandon Reason 4: The Website Had Errors or Otherwise Crashed
Technical problems are particularly annoying during payment, the last phase in the checkout process. Whether it’s an error or even an element placed in the non-visible area on the user’s mobile device, technical complications slow down the buying process.
Complications, even small ones, can cost you a sale. This is when you’ll want to ensure your store’s payment gateways are properly connected to your bank and your thank you emails are set up and delivered. As we say in technology, test all the things. Stripe even provides demo credit card numbers to help online merchants (6) test payments.
Test, test, and test some more. You should try to place orders on your website using every type of common device and browser. What works for your desktop on Google Chrome might cause an error for someone else on their iPhone. If a customer is nice enough to bring an error to your attention, you can be sure that there were 10 customers that didn’t and left your store instead. (Failed payments are checkout abandonment, not cart abandonment.)
If you’re planning a large sale and haven’t experienced a big increase in website traffic before, make sure your store can handle it. If you’re self-hosting your website, it’s important you ask your web host how many concurrent customers your store should be able to handle. Most self-hosted stores aren’t ready for an influx of traffic and sadly lose a ton of sales as a result. This is where a quality host who can instantly scale your traffic is worth the extra cost.
Checkout Abandon Reason 5: There weren’t Enough Payment Options
Most buyers use a preferred payment method — especially when shopping online — from which they are reluctant to deviate. Offering a variety of payment options increases the likelihood of keeping for the individual buyer. Standard payment gateways include PayPal, Stripe, Amazon, and Google Pay, and of course, the major credit cards. Offer as many payment options as you can! It would be a shame to think of that lost sale as cart abandonment when it was the lack of offering GPay; that’s checkout abandonment at its core.
Experiment with different payment options and study which ones get used the most on your store. Three to four payment options is typically the sweet spot for most eCommerce merchants. If you have too few, you are most certainly leaving out large swaths of potential customers. Too many and you may overwhelm your customers. Of course, your niche or industry is unique and your customers may prefer certain payment methods. This is why testing your data is important.
At the End of the Day, Maybe it’s Not You. It Might be a Browsing Problem
At the end of the day, probably 35% (7) of all online shopping is browsing and the checkout abandonment has more to do with them than you. After all, window shopping has always been a popular pastime, and now we can visit any store via our phone. So, you may have a perfect online shop, but the lookie-loos are still going to be window shopping, placing things in their cart for the dopamine hit (8), and leaving you wondering what happened at the checkout. Not to worry! You haven’t lost them as a customer — this is where your marketing savvy kicks in!
Want it to Work? Keep it Sales Simple
Don’t complicate your store’s checkout experience with plugins. Don’t offer features users don’t actually want. Instead, offer rock-solid functionality using the most proven selling tools.
- Wang, Ye Diana and Henry H. Emurian. “Trust in E-Commerce: Consideration of Interface Design Factors.” J. Electron. Commer. Organ. 3 (2005): 42-60. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Trust-in-E-Commerce%3A-Consideration-of-Interface-Wang-Emurian/c459aa660e33adf5019fbf8379e509cd3f6371f5