Cart abandonment occurs when website visitors leave before their order is completed. It is something every online retailer will need to confront.

When tackling the issue, it pays to look at some of the ways techniques among retailers are changing, and how these groups are applying them to increase targets and ensure revenue is not slipping away to competitor sites.

Let’s first define what exactly we mean by online abandonment and where it occurs.

Abandonment can be easily divided into two types: site abandonment rate and basket abandonment rateThink of the exit phase as a shopper leaving your site for any reason, be it boredom, distraction or otherwise. Basket abandonment rate, however, is navigating away from a particular checkout cart or buyer page.

Site abandonment rate

Because of its broad definition, site abandonment rate can be quite high, hovering at around 95-98% depending on such benchmarks as time of day, day of the week or the retail sector you operate in.

Sudden increases in site abandonment rate can come from a variety of origins and inaccurate linking is one of the most common. Put yourself in the place of your prospect: you click on an external link to your website which is advertising a particular brand of vegan cheese and you’re taken to a product page, which displays another brand. In this scenario you’re not likely to try and find the original product – you’re far more likely to just leave the site out of frustration, even if the product you want is actually on the site. This is caused by inadequate indexing of product pages: many large e-commerce sites’ product pages are complex and poorly structured, which can easily create mistakes when direct linking to products through ads.

Retailers experiencing high abandonment rates should also audit product imagery regularly. In surveys by the The E-tailing Group, 75% of consumers rated the quality of product imagery as the most influential factor in their decision. This is common sense thinking: online browsers just can’t handle a product in the same way as when browsing the high street. It’s imperative imagery is of good enough resolution, offers multiple product angles or a 360 degree view, and can be zoomed in to encourage consumer trust.

Also, ensure the attractiveness and visibility is good for your online calls to action (CTAs): if your site abandonment rate is very high, your CTAs may be in desperate need of attention. CTAs should guide the customer down a well-defined path in order to complete a transaction. If this buyer path is unclear, involves too many steps or is too slow to load promptly, prospects are much more likely to click away. 

Basket abandonment rate: what is it, how to avoid it

This area is a subset of overall site abandonment. Think of basket abandonment rates as the percentage of visitors who leave your site after placing something into a checkout cart.

Over the past decade the average cart abandonment rate has hovered at around 69%. Customers who have placed an item in the shopping cart are usually much more ready to provide their payment details, so you’d be wise to devote much of your time to lower abandonment rates at the basket stage.

What are the key things to put right?

Long checkout forms are one of the most common grievances consumers face when paying for goods online. Packing your checkout form with all the fields under the sun may be great for your remarketing efforts, however, it can put the potential customer off. Forms that are overly long and repetitive create unnecessary friction for your customers. A progress or completion bar can help buyers visualise that they’ve almost completed their transaction with you.

Unforeseen, hefty delivery charges or fees can be very impactful on the overall cart abandonment rate. Be clear and upfront: don’t hide your fees until the very end of the process. Customer service research tells us that not informing customers of additional charges or duties can leave them feeling the take-away is not a positive one on that shopping site, or that their loyalty has been abused in some way. According to comScore, 36% of shoppers turn away from websites with hidden or unclear shipping rates. For this very reason, offering free shipping and free returns can be one way to subtly reduce your cart abandonment rate, if you can afford it.

Take a good look at the trustworthiness of your site using pages such as TrustPilot or other tools to ensure customer feedback on payment processing. Visitors should feel comfortable that their payment or account details will not be breached if they use your website. Investing in solid payment encryption or SSL encryption tools as site security is just one more way to ensure that you send potential customers packing.

There are many possible causes to both increased site and cart abandonment rates, and this is most definitely not an exhaustive list. Site abandonment can never be totally reduced away to nothing, but a basic understanding of the most common causes of online abandonment, combined with the right optimisation processes to ensure smooth payment processing and transactions, will see your abandonment rates slowly fall.