The Six Sins Of Ecommerce: Why Your Shopping Carts Keep Getting Abandoned

What if I were to tell you that you’re only getting 20% of the sales you could be? That there’s a huge reservoir of customers who were this close to buying, but backed out last minute?

A 2017 estimate set the percentage of eCommerce shopping carts abandoned at 80%. It’s a high estimate, but even the low guesses are high enough to shock many business owners—even modest estimates won’t set the rate below 50%. A huge number of your conversions are walking out the door without ever buying, and if you can secure even a fraction of them then your overhead will soar.

Today we’re going to break down the top reasons for eCommerce shopping cart abandonment, to help you get those carts back.

Sin #1: Mandatory Account Creation

Up to 20% of users will abandon a cart immediately if it forces them to create an account in order to purchase. This is a tricky one: you really want them to create an account so you’ve got them on the mailing list and have an easier time securing future purchases, but making it mandatory will kill you. This is one of the largest single factors for cart abandonment, and removing it is one of the most reliable ways to get an instant boost in conversions.

Generally speaking, first-time users won’t have a level of investment with your brand or products sufficient to make them give up their contact details, and forcing them to means they’re never going to become second-time users.

Luckily, you can have the best of both worlds: encourage users to create an account but don’t require it. A few simple reminders (“we can remember your details for next time! 10% off your next purchase if you sign up now!”) but carrot is a much better way to do things than stick.

If you’re a bit techier, you can use an API like the Google Identity Platform to let users log into your site using their Google account; since users already use their Google account daily, it doesn’t feel like creating a new account and this lets you sidestep a lot of the issues you run into here. If you’re having trouble setting this up, you could always hire an eCommerce developer.

Sin #2: Hidden Costs

The other big one: between this and account creation, you’ve accounted for over half of all (salvageable) abandonments. What this means is that if something is $5 on the store page and then $35 in the carts, users will abandon it in droves.

There’s a whole lot of reasons why this might be happening: unexpected shipping costs, currency conversions, even deceptive store owners just straight-up lying. If you subject a user to any of these, don’t be surprised if they leave without buying anything.

My personal recommendation is that you display shipping costs on your product pages. Yes, this will absolutely stop some users from buying, but if they weren’t going to pay when they saw the price up front, they’re definitely not going to pay if you bushwhack them with it. You’ve lost a user, but you haven’t lost a user who was actually going to buy anything, and you’ve made yourself more appealing to users who will actually pay.

Also, make sure you’re displaying the correct currency to the correct user—an Australian user who sees “$60!” is almost certainly going to abandon it when it turns out it’s USD and they’re actually looking at a $100 price tag. Even if it’s not intentional, it makes users feel tricked and is a sure-fire way to never have them come back.

Sin #3: Not Looking the Part

Users these days are very aware of online scammers, and if you give off a scammy vibe then they can immediately jump to your competitors in a second or less. This comes in on two levels: you want your site to be technically secure (e.g. SSL certificates installed) and you want it to look right from a design perspective.

Think about ecommerce website design as a trust-building exercise: from the point the user arrives, you want them to feel comfortable and safe. You’re asking them to give you money, after all, and we don’t give money to people we don’t trust. If you went into a store and there were holes in the roof and the door didn’t open properly so you had to squeeze in, you’d probably be less likely to buy: the same principle applies to websites.

There are a number of factors to consider here from a design perspective: branding, typography, the number and placement of popups or ads, how easy it is for users to find what they’re looking for.

Be aware: poorly-optimised design elements will tank your load speed and slow load times affect conversion rates.

Sin #4: Forgetting the Small Screens

Mobile officially overtook desktop as the #1 vector for eCommerce transactions in 2017, and the gap between them gets bigger every year. If your checkout is poorly-optimised for mobile, then people are going to get lost or confused, and leave before they can purchase. In 2019 and 2020, this means that your entire checkout process needs to be responsive.

This also means you need to keep your mobile load times low—at this point we’ve all seen the data, and we know that load times over 3 seconds are a death sentence. If you’ve got 5 stages to your checkout funnel and each one takes 5 seconds to load, don’t expect users to stick around.

Sin #5: Overcomplicating Things

The perfect checkout—the platonic ideal—is a customer seeing your product, and suddenly they’ve got it in their hands and you’ve got their money. That’s not attainable of course, but the further you get away from that, the less conversions you’re going to get.

This breaks down in a couple of ways

  • Too many pages
  • Too much content on each page
  • Too many decorative elements on each page
  • Too many pathways pulling users away from the cart

Every second the user isn’t moving towards a purchase is a second where they could abandon your cart and go somewhere else. Don’t distract them, don’t try to lead them down a different road, just keep things simple and try to stay out of their way.

Sin #6: Trying to Get Them All

Some users you just can’t get back, and trying to get them back is going to waste time and money. A significant number of abandoned carts are just users who were browsing and had no intent to purchase, or changed their minds last minute for reasons totally out of your control. When launching plans to start recovering abandoned carts, it’s important to set reasonable goals about how many you’re actually going to get back. In my experience, a successful endeavour of this sort will bring back maybe half of your abandoned carts, but any recovered carts are worth celebrating.

If you’re not done reading, my recommended piece to further inform yourself on these top ten tips for beating eCommerce cart abandonment.

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