There are a wide range of digital marketing tools and techniques available to the modern e-commerce website, with each appealing to different types of online businesses, depending on the objectives they have.

Each tool has a particular strength and stands out in their own right, so often no one technique can be called better or guarantee greater success than any other. Having said that, there are some that have proven to be more versatile than others; for example, those that tackle shopping cart abandonments.    

A worrying symptom

Online advertisements targeting individual users who’ve abandoned their shopping cart before completion are widely utilised by digital marketers and are often successful at converting a dead prospect into a sale. However, in spite of the undeniable proficiency of remarketing and retargeting campaigns, the fact of the matter is an abandoned cart is more likely than not a symptom of a wider issue.   

Shoppers, online or otherwise, rarely show interest in a product that they have no intention or desire to buy, and if they go so far as to place it in their cart you can bet that they’re keen. A high cart abandonment rate infers that something during the check-out process is putting potential customers off, prompting them to search for a more agreeable alternative elsewhere.

Adverts targeting abandoned carts provide positive results when a preferable option does not present itself, but falter when customers are able to find another option that better suits them.

Minimising cart abandonment is the name of the game.

The age of the consumer

Starting with one of the famous seven Ps of marketing, the price that a product is offered at is always going to be a major deciding factor to consumers.

The way that products are priced online has changed a great deal over the years in order to adapt to changes in buyer expectations and comes across as more appealing within the layout of search engine adverts. At the end of the day, however, businesses have margins, overheads, and targets to think about, which cannot help but be reflected in their pricing.

Unfortunately for retailers everywhere, we have entered into what is widely being referred to as the ‘age of the consumer.’ Shoppers are more savvy than ever and online marketplaces are overflowing with sellers happy to take a hit on price in favour of a higher sales; leading to many e-commerce outlets feeling like they have little choice but to get creative with their pricing. This is where cart abandonment rates start to rise.

One of the most common tactics sellers employ is to spread their costs over multiple pricing points. For example, product listings might be priced at a loss to encourage buyers to fill up their cart, only for 20% VAT and a high delivery rate to be added on at the last stage of checkout. Some customers may not mind and place the order, others may not realise until it is too late, but a good many will simply close the page and start their search from scratch.

Duplicitous pricing strategies may appear to pay off when or if a sale is made, but analytical data will inevitably prove that the majority of potential buyers are fleeing before completion. Don’t believe it? Log onto Google Analytics, and all the information you need can be found at Behaviour > Site Content > Exit Pages.

Careful with shipping

Delivery is another common cause of cart abandonment, and while cost will no doubt factor in, there a lot of other possibilities for online retailers to consider. The reputation of your courier, for instance, plays a massive role in the decision-making process. A site can promise free next day delivery all it likes, but if customers are convinced that a particular courier service is prone to delays, or are likely to damage or lose parcels, they are unlikely to complete the transaction.

The time it takes for a delivery to arrive is another point of consideration. Some buyers will be happy to wait over a week if it means making a saving, whereas others would rather pay a little extra for same day or next day delivery. In any case, cart abandonment rates have been shown to increase when customers are not offered several shipping options to choose from and rise further still if the estimated delivery date range is unreasonably wide or ambiguous.    

Price and delivery, while important, are not the sole cause of abandoned carts. Many buyers, for example, are accustomed to certain payment options and will leave a site if they cannot pay through a preferred third-party payment service. Others may be discouraged from placing an order if there is no guest checkout available and they’re only able to make a purchase after creating an account.

No website will be able to please everybody, but reducing the number of barriers between potential customers and the end of the ordering process will result in a vast reduction in the number of abandoned carts.    

Reducing the rate

As you can see, there are numerous reasons why a customer might abandon their cart, but essentially they all boil down to the following: cost, shipping, convenience and distractions. There is not much a website can do to prevent users from becoming distracted by external events, however, it is possible to streamline the ordering process so that there is less opportunity for distractions to occur. One-click checkout would be perfect in this case, as it encourages impulse buying, but eliminates the opportunity for distractions to arise.

Reducing prices and the delivery charge so that services can be advertised transparently is the ideal solution to cost-related carts abandonments, however, what is ideal is not always what is possible. A credible alternative to lowering prices would be to provide customers with added value; be it through ongoing after-sales support, tracked delivery, warranties and so on. Adding value will not eliminate cart abandonment, but its effect on the online baskets left at the checkout rate will be directly linked to how much worth these additional features are perceived to have by customers.

Another means of reducing the overall cost of your service would be to negotiate a rate reduction with your courier, or find a less costly delivery service provider. Couriers and online retailers have a symbiotic relationship, which is to say they rely equally upon one another for their success. When an e-commerce platform advertises its delivery rates and capabilities what it is in fact doing is advertising the courier’s delivery rates and capabilities, so it is in the courier’s interest to offer various shipping costs and options. Of course couriers have overheads too and can only offer so much, but a successful website makes for a great partner so a competitive service is in the interest of both parties.

Lastly, convenience. It’s easy to confuse minimalist with convenient, but by keeping things straightforward and ‘uncomplicated’ you may well be depriving customers of a service or option that they prefer. Let’s take the payment issue mentioned above. You might think that by offering a basic on-site payment process you are appeasing everyone, but not everyone will trust it.

You might have developed and implemented the most secure and efficient payment service ever conceived, but shoppers trust what they know and what they know are things like SagePay, WorldPay, PayPal, Pay With Amazon, Apple Pay, Android Pay, and so on. Integrating one or more of these services with your site may seem unnecessary when there is already a payment service in place, but appeasing the whims of potential buyers will always get you further than being obstinate.         

Cart abandonment is one of the final hurdles that e-commerce websites have to overcome, which is why it is generally not covered as often as SEO, PPC, and other methods of attracting site traffic. Fact of the matter is there’s no point covering either without the other, at least as far as optimising shopping platforms is concerned.

None of the options recommended above are fool-proof, but implementing one or more of them will result in the reduction of abandoned carts and an improved e-commerce conversion-rate.