The majority of American consumers shop online; many of them do so almost exclusively. The intense demand for online shopping options created by the pandemic led to not only an increase in the volume of online shopping, but it also pushed a wider variety of products into competitive online retail. Groceries, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, entertainment, and education-related products all saw a surge in online demand over the past two years, strengthening the need for online businesses to adopt a digital-first approach.
One of the benefits of shopping online for consumers is that product research is instantaneous. A potential consumer can research pricing from multiple competitors, locate free shipping, and read a plethora of customer reviews and testimonials—all with a few clicks. While the accessibility of instant product information certainly helps increase sales for online merchants, it also leads to a high abandonment rate, as customers can just as quickly “walk away” from an online cart in order to find a better deal on the product elsewhere.
Statistics vary on abandonment rates for online merchants, but—with some variation among industries—online retailers can see cart or checkout abandonment rates up to 50-70%, and even higher among those customers shopping from their smartphones. While some shoppers may only be browsing to research product info and may not have the intention to buy at that moment, many people who abandon their carts in the browsing or checkout stage do go on to buy the product later (possibly elsewhere). Thus, recognizing why people abandon their purchases before completing the process is key to bringing them back.
Far and away, the number one reason shoppers abandon their carts hinges on pricing. Is there a lower price for this product on another site? Will it be shipped for free? Are there hidden fees that don’t appear until the checkout process? Is there a promo code somewhere on the internet that can be applied? Might the price come down at a later time? All of these questions run through a prospective buyer’s mind, and, if the product is not urgent, the purchase is often abandoned.
Companies use a variety of remarketing strategies to coax these prospects back, often providing visual and textual reminders of the abandoned product with invitations back to the site. A follow-up email can be particularly useful in bringing reluctant shoppers back to complete the sale. Of course, an email message can only be effective it it’s opened, so using a catchy subject line will make a marketing email less likely to end up as spam. Including an additional discount and/or free shipping can serve as a positive enticement for your price-wary consumers. Having a good return policy—and reminding customers of it—also helps bring some reluctant consumers around when they realize the risk is low.
Another reason commonly cited by consumers for cart or checkout abandonment is the checkout process itself. Is the account-creation process long and laborious with lots of fields to fill out? Is the customer’s preferred payment option available? Is there a guest checkout? Is excessive upselling obstructing the checkout process? Are the pages taking forever to load?
The journey from product to checkout should be straightforward and streamlined. A delicate balance must be struck between nudging the consumer toward additional products and creating a quick, unobstructed transaction that doesn’t alienate buyers who are busy or on-the-go; a delicate balance must also be struck between trying to capture customer information via account signups, and forgoing some of that so that customers can check out quickly if their purchase depends upon it. Pricing your products competitively, being upfront with shipping fees, offering multiple payment options, and having a good return policy all help online retailers lower their abandonment rate.