Have you ever gone to a grocery store, filled your shopping cart with food, and then changed your mind and left without buying any of it? Probably not, and most people who saw you doing that would think you were weird for just leaving a cart full of stuff in the middle of the aisle like that. And yet people do the digital equivalent of that at e-commerce sites all the time.
This phenomenon is called cart abandonment, and it’s more ubiquitous than you might think. Every year, thousands of people place items in their shopping carts at online stores, only to log out without purchasing any of it. Chances are you’ve done it yourself at least once. People have their reasons, but it’s a serious issue for any online store. Not only are you at risk of losing a significant amount of revenue, cart abandonment may speak to deeper structural issues with your website that are driving customers away.
From a customer’s perspective, cart abandonment isn’t a big deal. You log onto Amazon, find a weighted blanket, and put it in your cart for later. Then when later comes, you’ve changed your mind. Perhaps the cost of shipping was too high, or maybe you just decided you don’t need to spend a large chunk of your paycheck on a weighted blanket today. The only thing you lose when you abandon that cart was the time you spent filling it in the first place.
If you’re the vendor who is selling weighted blankets, whether it’s on Amazon or your personal Shopify site, that abandoned cart is one weighted blanket you didn’t sell. Fine, you can’t win them all, and there will always be some users who simply will not buy that blanket no matter what you do.
However, studies have shown that many cart abandonments are preventable. After taking steps to streamline their site to fix this issue, many e-commerce sites demonstrated a 35% increase in conversion rates. That’s a lot of weighted blankets that you are not selling due to cart abandonment.
A subset of cart abandonment is sometimes called browse abandonment. This is when a shopper browses your website, looks at products, but doesn’t even put them into the cart. The interest is there, but they’re not taking the next step towards making a purchase. To go back to our grocery store metaphor, they’re the customers who enter the store, handle the fruit, take long lingering looks at the baked goods, then ultimately leave without ever actually picking anything up. When you look at the numbers on most e-commerce sites, less than half of all traffic results in viewing a product, and only 14% makes it as far as putting those products in the cart.
Cart and browse abandonment is a problem for every industry out there, and marketers have been puzzled for a long time about what could possibly be causing it. The problem is one of old-fashioned wisdom being applied to new technology. As fond as we are of the grocery store metaphor, there is one major difference between physical shopping and online shopping that it doesn’t cover. Cart abandonment is just not an issue for meatspace shopping.
If you want to buy groceries, you have to make an effort. You need to get dressed, figure out which store you want to go to, get in the car, and drive over. Going grocery shopping takes commitment, and marketers know that. The goal of advertisements is to get you into the store, because they know that you’ll buy something once you get there. People don’t just leave shopping carts full of food and go home.
That philosophy doesn’t apply to e-commerce. Marketers are experts at driving traffic to a site, following the same principals they’d use to drive traffic to a physical store. However, getting to an online store takes absolutely no effort on the part of the consumer. You type in a URL, and don’t even need to get out of bed. There’s nothing stopping you from going through every product on a site without purchasing a single thing.
This might look like a problem without a solution. After all, you can’t control your customers. If they decided that they don’t feel like buying something, you can’t force them to do it. Even if they are just about to hit the checkout button, the only one who can click on it is them.
What can you, the business owner, do about it?
As it turns out, there’s plenty you can do about it. There are a dozen factors that can cause cart abandonment. A few of these are things beyond your control. Window shoppers are always going to be around, and it isn’t uncommon for people to use their cart as a way of saving items they want to learn more about, even though they don’t intend on buying today. That kind of user is not worth worrying about. There are other kinds of users who abandon their carts, and their presence is indicative of larger problems.
User experience is an essential part of any website, but it’s particularly vital to e-commerce. The flow from browsing, to selection, to checkout should be quick and intuitive. The more bumps you put in the road, the less inclined your users will be to following it all the way through. It may seem fickle, but people are likely to abandon a purchase entirely if you force them to fill out unnecessary forms, create accounts they don’t want, or simply navigate from page to page to page.
Another area where e-commerce seems tied to analog business practices is hiding costs.
How often have you been shocked at how much tax and shipping adds to your total order at checkout time? Has it ever been high enough to make you stop ordering it altogether? Don’t lie, of course it has. The shock of that price jump can be enough to cause cart abandonment, even if the final price is still within the user’s budget. Hiding those costs from your users is a relic of an earlier internet age, and ultimately hurts your bottomline.
We’ll be covering some particular solutions to these issues in greater depth later. But if you’re seeing more cart abandonment than seems normal, then you might have a UX problem. If your website is unintuitive, unfriendly to mobile devices, or even visually unappealing, you’ll find yourself at the mercy of cart and browse abandonment.
When it comes to e-commerce, consumers almost always judge a book by its cover. No matter how good your product is, a poorly designed website is enough to turn them away.
If you’re running an e-commerce site, then you simply cannot afford to ignore cart abandonment. Every day you don’t take action to address it is costing you hundreds in lost revenue. On top of that, you may be alienating potential customers without even realizing it. Luckily, the solutions to cart abandonment are simpler than you may think.
Running a business is a constant uphill climb, and it’s even tougher when you’re breaking into the crowded field of e-commerce. If you want to turn a profit, you can’t let yourself be held back by conventions that haven’t been relevant since the 90’s. Cart abandonment can only be solved by adapting to your new environment. It’s time to evolve.