Shopping cart abandonment – 7 reasons why it happens (and what to do about it)

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A potential customer searches Google for a product and quickly locates a website that can provide it at the right price. Within seconds, he has clicked on the link and with credit card at the ready; he is ready to make a purchase. Sixty seconds later this hottest of hot leads is now history. Having browsed through a few pages, he abandons ship, returns to Google and ultimately buys what he wants somewhere else.

So what went wrong? For the sake of argument, let’s assume this was a customer with serious intent to buy. What’s more, he selected the site from one of several on the first page of Google search results and was more than happy with the deal on offer. And yet, somewhere between the home page and checkout, he lost interest and decided he would rather shop somewhere else.

So why do customers drop off websites, even when they are disposed to convert? Well, there can be many reasons, of course, not least that the customer simply changes his or her mind. But often it’s a problem with the site itself.

So what are the top reasons for customers abandoning a site? Here are seven of them.

#1 Navigation is difficult

When a customer arrives at a site from a search or price comparison engine, the chances are that he or she has a limited amount of time available. It may be that the customer is on a lunch break or needs to pick a child up from school. Whatever the circumstance, time is often of the essence. Ease of navigation is absolutely essential.So what happens if the terms on the navigation bars are confusing, if key links are hidden off-screen when the site is accessed on mobile devices, or if a link is broken. Answer: the customer goes elsewhere.

#2 Badly executed content

So here’s the good news. The customer finds the appropriate product quickly but wants to know more about it. The sale is not yet a done deal. The customer clicks on the specifications tab and is greeted with comprehensive information. So far so good. Now the customer clicks on “product description”. That hasn’t been filled in yet. The page is blank. And without the additional information the customer abandons ship.

#3 The registration barrier

Many site owners require that customers give something away (usually an e-mail address) in return for more information – say a newsletter or catalogue download. This can be an effective tactic, particularly on B2B sites but it can also deter potential buyers. The challenge facing businesses is knowing whether a requirement to register is delivering leads or driving people away. Requiring customers to register ahead of making a purchase can also be a deterrent.

#4 Faulty software

Whether it’s a “useful” tool, a registration form or a shopping cart, poorly written or faulty software can cause havoc with conversion rates. For instance, a form that doesn’t accept hyphens will stop anyone with a double-barrelled name from proceeding further.

#5 Hidden delivery costs.

Customers may also be deterred by delivery costs. Indeed, this can be a deal breaker. Think of it this way. The customer has made it to the check out and thanks to some expertly flagged promotional material, he is looking forward to “œnext day delivery”. However, on arrival at the checkout he clicks the appropriate delivery option only to be confronted by an unexpected charge. Some will bite the bullet and pay. Others will bail.

#6 Content that can’t be read

A customer registers and is then asked to prove that he or she is human by looking at a randomly generated group of letters and numbers generated on screen and then keying them into a box. Easy, except the letters are in an odd script that the customer finds difficult to read. It’s the end of the road.

#7 The site isn’t mobile friendly.

In a variation on this theme, the customer accesses the site on mobile and finds he can’t read important information on the small screen. What’s more, on this page the information can’t be zoomed larger.

Equally, key links or buttons may not be immediately visible on the mobile screen unless the user scrolls to find them. Some will persevere. Others will drop out.

So what do you do?

All of the above represent barriers to conversion. Or to put it another way, they make it more difficult for customers to progress towards check out and the result is a lower than expected conversion rate.

The challenge is to identify aspects of the site that are causing customers to drop off. And sadly the causes may not be easily apparent. For instance, the navigation bars may look intuitive to your team while confusing many customers. Equally, if some software has a glitch or a link is broken, how will you know?

Well the simplest way is to observe your users by recording and replaying selected customer journeys on the UserReplay platform. That will enable you to detect problems by watching customers, page-by-page and click-by-click as they encounter issues. And by watching a replay you’ll be able to see how serious the problems are (how many drop off) and what they’re costing you. Once you know that, you can prioritize repairs.

There are many reasons why customers drop off a site but by watching replays you can remove many of the barriers.


Photo: Maria Elena/flickr cc