To answer the question, let’s start with a definition of cart abandonment from Webopedia:
“Abandonment is an ecommerce term used to describe a visitor on a web page who leaves that page before completing the desired action. Examples of abandonment include shopping cart abandonment, referring to visitors who add items to their online shopping cart, but exit without completing the purchase.”
Cart, or basket, abandonment may be the most obvious, but there are several types of abandonment across different sectors.
This refers to abandonment within the travel industry, where a customer has begun to book a flight, hotel or other travel product but left without completing a purchase.
Unlike retail abandonment, customers may have selected dates they are interested in, as well as the specific travel product.
Abandonment rates on travel sites are typically higher than those in retail and the overall average.
Travel products like flights and holidays are often major purchases for shoppers, and many tend to spend time researching their options, finding the best deals and checking with other travellers. They may begin to book several times, often across different sites, before finally making a booking.
Another reason for higher abandonment rates is the relative complexity of the booking process.
It can take many steps, and plenty of time, to select holidays, extras like seats and insurance, and enter details for all passengers. A long and relatively complex process can mean more people bail out before booking.
Long forms tend to be an issue here. Lots of detail is needed, and it can take a while to complete some financial applications.
Forms on finance sites often have to be long, as plenty of detail is required.
So, for example, a car insurance quote can take time, making it more likely that some customers will leave the site before finishing the form.
Browse abandonment refers to those shoppers who browse a site, viewing category pages and products on site, but leave without placing items in their basket or making a purchase.
Even though these browsers may not go on to complete a purchase, they are expressing an interest in the products they viewed, and might be persuaded to return to checkout. This is when a conversion rate optimisation solution can help you convert more browsers into buyers.
The stats below show that 43.8% browse product pages on retail sites but don’t go on to add items to their shopping carts or make a purchase on that visit.
The Latest Cart Abandonment Stats
Our latest cart abandonment data from 2018 puts the global average cart abandonment rate at 79.17% across all sectors.
Cart abandonment rates vary by sector, as sites have very different purchase processes and customer behavior.
For example, fashion purchases are often faster and easier (and relatively low-price) so customers don’t take so much time to make a decision. Hence lower abandonment rates.
As the online experience becomes more complex and the typical research phase longer, then we begin to see higher abandonment rates.
However, even if the purchase process is a little longer, sites can still reduce abandonment rates by making sure that the site is well optimised and easy to use.
Why Shoppers Abandon Carts
The reasons will vary by sector, and our abandonment survey data can provide some of the answers to this question.
For the retail sector, these were the most common reasons for abandonment:
- 34% were ‘just looking’ i.e. not ready to buy.
- 23% had an issue with shipping.
- 18% wanted to compare prices.
- 15% decided to buy in-store instead.
- 6% abandoned due to a lack of payment options.
- 4% experienced a technical issue.
The reasons for booking abandonment are similar, though research and price comparison are more commonly cited:
- 39% wanted to do some more research.
- 37% felt the price was too high, or wanted to compare prices.
- 21% needed to check with other travellers.
- 13% felt the booking process was too long or the checkout too complicated.
- 9% experienced technical issues.
- 7% had an issue with payment or felt there weren’t enough options.
How Brands Can Reduce Cart Abandonment
The good news is that there’s a lot that brands can do to minimize cart abandonment, or to recover these sales after customers leave the site.
There are a number of steps retailers can take to address cart abandonment:
Helping Customers to Research Products
Some shoppers just aren’t ready to buy. The research process can take time, but the key is to provide the information that shoppers need, and to do what you can to keep your site in mind.
For example, travel sites can provide destination guides to help visitors decide if a particular holiday is suitable for them, and sites can provide impartial reviews from other shoppers to help them to decide, which can be a great tool to increase your social proof.
Or, if customers simply aren’t ready, offering to save their booking details or cart for later is a great way to keep your brand and products front of mind.
Shipping, Returns and Payment Options
These details matter to shoppers. If they want a dress for the weekend, but your site doesn’t offer next day delivery, then they’ll go elsewhere.
Likewise, if their preferred payment option isn’t available, or returns are not easy and convenient, that may be enough to abandon a purchase.
Details like this matter to shoppers, and retailers need to match or out-perform their competitors in areas like this.
In the case of delivery, customers are looking a mixture of speed, convenience and price. Some shoppers may be prepared to wait a few days if delivery is free, or much cheaper.
Others are prepared to pay a premium for faster and more tailored delivery options like next day or nominated time slots.
The ideal ecommerce delivery offering would provide various options to customers, allowing them to choose the best one for them.
Here, Schuh offers seven different options for shoppers, which should cover most preferences.
An easy and clear returns process can help ensure that customers are happy to make a purchase, as they know they’ll be able to return them if they need to.
Returns can be an unwanted cost for retailers, so it’s important to do as much as possible to reduce returns rates. Good product information, great images and extras like product video can help by ensuring that customers know what they’re getting.
However, retailers will never avoid all returns, and an easy returns process can ensure that people are happy to buy again.
Form-filling is a necessary part of buying online, and it’s an area where shoppers can easily become frustrated.
To minimize form abandonment, sites need to make them as easy as possible to complete. This means things like providing shortcuts for users (such as address lookup tools), helping customers through the trickier form fields, and monitoring analytics data for common issues which trip customers up.
Use Relevant and Timely On-site Messaging
When a customer is on-site and about to abandon, sometimes all they need is a little more information or reassurance to complete the transaction.
Messages shown on-site at the point of abandonment can offer help, offer to save cart details and remind customers later, or perhaps provide a little nudge to prompt customers to complete a purchase.
Improve the Checkout Process
A well-designed checkout process and – crucially – one which works well on mobile as well as desktop is vital.
Well-designed forms matter, but sites can also reduce friction for shoppers in other ways.
For example, providing guest checkout removes one barrier for users, while details like defaulting to the appropriate keypad for touchscreen users makes checkout forms easier to complete.
Cart Abandonment Emails
Once shoppers have abandoned a purchase, that needn’t be the end of the story because the next chapter is to find the best time to send an abandoned cart email.
A well-timed cart abandonment email or cart abandonment SMS message, sent within an hour or two of the customer leaving a purchase, can persuade them to come back and complete the booking or purchase.
Email Reminders and Callbacks
If customers aren’t ready to buy, or perhaps need some more information before committing to a purchase, then there are options.
One is to offer to email customers with cart contents or booking details so they can be come back to the site when they’re ready.
Another option, useful when customers need some help, is to offer to call customers that need some extra help. Prompts can be served up to customers when they’re about to abandon – when they’re heading for the browser back button for example.
Timely help from customer services can be enough to answer customer questions and help them through the purchase process.
Even if customers don’t return to complete a purchase, finding out why they abandoned can help retailers to reduce future abandonment rates.
The 2021 Ecommerce Stats & Trends Report
The latest data on ecommerce trends and online customer behaviour
Graham Charlton is Editor in Chief at SaleCycle. He's been covering ecommerce and digital marketing for more than a decade, having previously written reports and articles for Econsultancy. ClickZ, Search Engine Watch and more.