Do you know what your e-commerce shopping cart abandonment rate is? That’s a critical question if you sell online.
If you don’t know, you may be shocked to learn that according to one study by the Baymard Institute  in December of 2013, as many as 67 percent will abandon their shopping carts without ever making a purchase. Forget all the marketing time and money you invested to get shoppers there in the first place. It’s just wasted if their experience is a bad one once they arrive.
The root causes of abandoned carts include such things as:
- not finding a payment option the customer wants to use (24 percent according to a study by Listrak);
- not trusting the security of the payment options (21 percent per the Listrak study); and
- a complicated checkout process (18 percent per the Baymard study).
Luckily, it’s possible to reduce abandoned carts, provided you know the root causes and you work at fixing them. Here are six ways to reduce abandoned carts and boost completed sales:
1. Pretend You Are a Customer — Identify Issues
Think of your website as a virtual store. What is it like for the customer who arrives at your site?
Of course, you have to think of your business needs. Do you have the right product mix? Do you have return policies outlined? Does the site look great?
But you must also think of your customer. Actually pretend you are a customer. This doesn’t have to be an expensive exercise. Go through the experience yourself and recruit some friends and family. Note where they encounter problems because those are the points at which your customers may also stumble.
Don’t just stop with what the customer sees upon entering the site. The Web is full of sites that look beautiful but have a clunky user experience.
It’s crucial to experience the site — and that includes checking out. Go through the process of buying a few things. Ask a few other people such as colleagues, team members or family members to do the same.
Pay attention to every step — end to end. Check to be sure that:
- Buttons to select the items you want are easy to find,
- Error messages — such as failure to select required options like color or size — are clear,
- The checkout button is prominent,
- You offer a choice of payment options that are readily apparent and easy to select,
- There are no unnecessary steps in the checkout process,
- Confirmation messages are clear and don’t leave customers wondering,
- You can find the cart easily if you want to save it and come back later.
Going through the checkout process will identify your biggest problem areas — or confirm that everything is perfect! Create a punch list of items to fix and address each item in turn. Even if you can’t get to them all right away, you’ll be making incremental improvements.
2. Streamline — Avoid the Camel’s Back Syndrome
You’ve heard the phrase, “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Sometimes one more step in the checkout process can be that straw and send the customer elsewhere.
The more form fields to fill out and the more screens to navigate, the more likely someone is to abandon a purchase. Here are some rules to keep everything as simple and streamlined as possible:
- Use autofill — don’t ask twice. Example: billing and shipping information shouldn’t have to be filled out again in the same form.
- Don’t lose information! Don’t ask the customer to fill out the entire page a second time if only one thing was wrong or missing.
- Draw information from other sources. For example, allowing guest checkouts to use PayPal enables certain information (such as billing and shipping) to be drawn from their PayPal account.
This reduces friction in the checkout process.
3. Keep it Fast by Staying Focused
Consumers today are protective of their data. While it may be tempting to gather extra data for future sales and marketing purposes, you may never get that far if you make it too hard on your customer.
Don’t ask for information such as birth date, how did you hear about us, or special interests. Ask only for what you need to complete the transaction at hand.
Get the first transaction in the can. Afterwards is the time to build on customer preferences and gather other data.
4. Optimize for Mobile
Did you know that 84 percent of mobile device owners use them for shopping, according to data from Nielsen? That data was provided as of 2013, and mobile use continues to grow.
Yet mobile devices with their small screens intensify the factors that lead to cart abandonment. Fortunately there are ways to design your store to reduce abandoned carts:
- Go for a mobile responsive design — Ideally you want a site that adjusts depending on the screen size.
- Go big — Use larger fonts and buttons that are easier to hit with a fingertip than a mouse cursor.
- Keep data entry to a minimum — A “Checkout with PayPal” button increases mobile conversions by up to 34 percent, according to a PayPal A/B test. And mobile purchasers can have it even easier, using a mobile phone number and PIN number to check out, if they have a PayPal account.
5. Map it Out — So Customers Know What to Expect
- Keep shopping cart information visible — As customers add items to their carts, make relevant details (price, description, shipping and taxes) visible and let them see payment options.
- Give the customer a map — Customers want to know where they stand in the checkout process. For example, listing the number of steps and which step they are on, helps reduce abandoned carts, because customers can see their progress and that they are close to done.
- Brand the checkout experience — Add your logo and colors to each page in the checkout process to boost customer confidence. Adding the PayPal button to the checkout page can help boost conversions, too.
6. Make Payment Options Obvious Up Front
Customers want to know which payment options a site accepts, before they start shopping and checking out. Include icons showing the methods of payment you accept somewhere easy to find on your site, such as in the header, footer or side rail.
Include the PayPal logo as one of them. Having a PayPal checkout option is likely to increase completed sales dramatically. A study conducted by Nielsen found that PayPal transactions had a 70 percent higher checkout conversion rate than non-PayPal transactions (see image above).
Remember, once customers have reached your site, customer experience and usability have a huge impact on completing sales. Create a checkout process that is fast, intuitive and follows these six rules — and you will reduce abandoned carts and boost sales.
For more information download the PayPal whitepaper, Six Best Practices to Improve Your Online Checkout .
Image credit: Courtesy of PayPal