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8 Reasons Why Customers Abandon Shopping Carts

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It's an odd sight in brick-and-mortar stores: a shopping cart, full of items, standing alone in the middle of the aisle. Usually, it means that the customer who filled it had to leave due to some sudden exigency. In the ecommerce world, however, the digital equivalent of this scene isn't unusual at all. Customers abandon their shopping carts all the time, for various reasons.

This can be frustrating for merchants who are left wondering what they could have done differently to see the sale through to completion. Why do customers abandon their shopping carts, and how can merchants motivate them to complete their purchases?

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Shopping cart abandonment may not cause as many problems for merchants as fraud and chargebacks do, but each abandoned cart represents lost revenue and possibly a bad customer experience as well. Nearly 70% of online shopping carts fill up but never check out, and abandonment rates can be even higher for merchants who sell vehicles, luxury goods, and other expensive products.

Some customers add items to carts while browsing and never intend to actually purchase them, but a large number of abandonments happen because of shipping costs, authentication requirements, and other factors that the merchant has some control over.

To reduce shopping cart abandonment, merchants need to understand why customers are choosing to walk away from the purchases they've initiated.

Abandonment can be highly dependent upon a merchant's specific site design and policy choices, which means that two similar merchants in the same industry can both experience high cart abandonment rates, but for very different reasons. Once you know why your customers are bailing out, you can start to take appropriate action.

What is Cart Abandonment?

Download the eGuide, 4 Reasons to Hire a Chargeback Management CompanyShopping cart abandonment occurs whenever a customer fills up a shopping cart on a merchant's website but then navigates away from the site instead of checking out and finalizing the purchase.

Depending on how the merchant's shopping cart software is configured and whether or not the customer logged in to their user account, the cart may remain full and accessible for some time after abandonment, or it may be reset once the customer's browsing session is terminated.

All merchants will experience cart abandonment, but it can be edifying to calculate your cart abandonment rate to see whether your customers are abandoning in higher or lower numbers than average.

You can do this by dividing the number of completed purchases within a given timeframe by the number of carts created during that period. Subtract the result from 1 and convert to a percentage and you've got your abandonment rate.

For example:

  • 60 completed purchases / 200 carts created = 0.3
  • 1 - 0.3 = 0.7, or an abandonment rate of 70%

Even if you have a relatively low abandonment rate, it's always possible to address some of the issues that are causing your customers to have second thoughts about checking out.

Why Does Cart Abandonment Happen?

The reasons behind cart abandonment have been studied extensively. Usually, it boils down to two underlying causes: either the customer decides at the last minute that they aren’t getting a good value for their money, or they get frustrated and impatient because they’re experiencing too much friction in the checkout process.

Here are eight of the most common reasons:

  1. Mandatory account creation. Some merchant sites won’t let the customer check out without a valid user account. Customers may feel that creating an account takes too long, or requires too much personal information.
  2. No coupons. Shoppers are always on the lookout for a good deal, but if they can’t find a working coupon code when they’re ready to check out, they might decide to shop elsewhere.
  3. Shipping issues. Customers may get sticker shock from the shipping costs, or they might not see the delivery options they need.
  4. The website crashed. Browser incompatibility, lack of mobile optimization features, and other technical issues may cause your site to crash at checkout for some users. There’s no guarantee they’ll come back to recreate their order.
  5. Checkout is a hassle. Customers can get annoyed if checking out requires them to navigate through multiple pages, or if you’re interrupting the process with lots of attempts to upsell them.
  6. Unsatisfactory return policies. It’s always a good idea to make sure the customer reviews your return and refund policies before checking out. This can help prevent chargebacks down the line, but if your policies are too restrictive, the customer might change their mind about buying from you.
  7. Payment card declined. If a card transaction doesn’t go through and you don’t offer any other payment options that the customer can use, you’re probably going to lose the sale.
  8. Too much security/too little security. Protecting yourself and your customers from fraud is vitally important, but complicated authentication processes and false fraud flags can create a lot of friction. On the other hand, customers who don’t see you taking any security measures may not feel safe giving you their card information.

How Can Merchants Reduce Cart Abandonment?

It’s not always easy to figure out which of the above reasons apply to your customers, but feedback, data analytics, and an honest assessment of your website and policies can give you insights.

Once you’ve identified potential problems, you can address them—by adding more payment and shipping options, for example, or making your site more mobile-friendly—and see if your abandonment rate goes down.

You can also implement retargeting campaigns that follow up with cart abandoners to try to get them to come back and finish their purchase.

One key step that all merchants should take is balancing out their anti-fraud tools and other security measures to minimize friction without sacrificing protection. This can be done by analyzing your fraud and chargeback data to determine exactly what tools and methods will provide the greatest benefit.

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