Whenever I take some time to think about shopping cart abandonment, I picture real life stores, their aisles cluttered with abandoned half-filled shopping carts in a kind of post-apocalyptic store manager's nightmare.

The reality of online shopping cart abandonment may not be quite this bleak, but it is a big problem for online businesses.

Online customers are fickle, impatient, easily distracted and uncommitted to online purchasing. According to a study conducted by the Baymard Institute, an average of 67.5% of shopping carts are abandoned. But why? And how can eCommerce sites battle these statistics to boost their conversion rate and capture the most conversions possible from their traffic? Well hold on to your hats, that's what we're going to find out...

Abandonment: What's Really Going On?

The first step towards reducing those abandoned carts is to get into the mindset of those fleeing almost-customers of yours. Why are they leaving before they've reached your checkout? What puts the brakes on their transactions? There's an overwhelming multiplicity of reasons at play. Some of them you can tackle directly - some of them are in the hands of the internet gods. With a very broad brush, however, research by econsultancy demonstrates that among abandoned carts, the reasons for abandonment include:

  • 57% are not ready to purchase

  • 56% are saving items to purchase later (window shopping!)

  • 55% are put off by additional shipping costs

  • 51% are sent packing when items do not qualify for free shipping

  • 38% aren't happy with a shipping time of 8 days+

  • 25% don't feel confident enough to buy when no shipping date is shown

As you can see, the problems here fall into two main categories: Shipping and Window Shopping. We’re going to take a look at each and find a few ways you can help push those customers over the finish line and earn more conversions.

Problem 1: Shipping Costs

Free shipping and free returns are a huge conversion-boosting factor. In fact, a study by Usability Sciences found that when free shipping was made available, both the number of completed carts and the average value of those carts increased significantly. Another study by AlixPartners found that up to 50% of consumers would be willing to wait a full week before making a purchase, just for the opportunity to have free shipping.

If you're offering either, make sure you display this fact right up front and centre like the clever folks over at ASOS:

Problem 1: Shipping Costs

ASOS also make excellent use of contrasting colors to draw attention to the “free delivery” section of the site. We'll talk about contrast in just a moment.

Meanwhile, if you're not offering free shipping, make sure you're not hitting your potential customers with an unexpected fee right at the point of purchase when they go to check out. An additional shipping fee is an enormous conversion turn-off and is what sends that 55% we mentioned earlier off and running.

Buyers often feel cheated if their grand total is more than they anticipated, so flag the shipping costs up from the get-go in your basket like clothing retailers “bebaroque” have done, shown below:Problem 1: Shipping Costs #2

Still, it may even be worth considering whether offering free shipping could be worth it for your business in the long run. In a survey, Compete.com found that 93% of consumers would be encouraged to buy more products online when free shipping was available, while TheFind.com saw a 23% traffic increase for retailers who ran free shipping promotions.

Problem 2: “Window Shoppers”

Once you’ve taken care of the “shipping costs” problem, it’s time to tackle the "saving it for later" type of online shopper. A small percentage of this group will return to make their purchase, while most others will simply forget or decide against their compulsive “almost-buy” in the cold light of day. It’s time you stopped losing those conversions, and turned “almost” into “purchased”.

Two courses of action can help: remarketing, and some good old fashioned conversion rate optimization.

1. Remarketing

The 'window shoppers' who ditch their carts at the last minute are extremely valuable leads. They're interested in your product and they're almost all of the way through their buying journey - there's just one last hurdle to cross. This makes them ripe for remarketing via targeted paid advertising and email marketing.

There are various tacks you can take here. From follow up "Have You Forgotten Me?" emails when a cart is abandoned, to paid ads which follow interested customers around the web. I particularly like this surprisingly helpful ad from Specsavers which popped up after I looked for a branch in my area (the friendly font and lack of salesy pushiness make it a real winner amongst a crop of more aggressive ads):

Book an eye test now

Either way, investing some of your marketing budget in dragging back cart-abandoners is a smart use of your dollar. Companies like Yankee Candle, for instance, saw a 600% conversion boost and a halved cost-per-conversion. Their remarketing strategy took a less fluffy approach, instead focusing on special offers for those with abandoned baskets. The results speak for themselves.

2. Work on Your Persuasiveness

But what about preventing those shoppers who are humming and hawing from ever leaving in the first place? After all, isn't prevention better than any cure?

There are several approaches you can take to make visitors feel as confident about purchases as possible and as comfortable with their buying journey as possible. This entire process falls under the “CRO” banner, which ultimately means tweaking, testing, re-tweaking, re-testing and tweaking over again. Hard work, but the pay-off is very real.

If you're planning on optimizing your conversion rate with on site tweaks but you're not sure where to start, here are a few ideas to try out:

We promised we'd come back to this. Look at the ASOS homepage:Work on Your Persuasiveness

Black, white and orange - pretty sharp, huh? CRO wunderkinds like to talk about the psychology of color on CTA (Call to Action) effectiveness but, in truth, very little draws the eye like stark contrast. Color can differentiate, but contrast steals the attention.

Keep your color choices palette simple and enhance your key messages with clear, eye-catching contrast if you want customers to notice a particular heading, benefit statement or call-to-action.

Picture Perfect
Content may be the talk of the web, but a picture speaks a thousand words. One of the biggest buying problems on the web is that shoppers can't see or feel their purchases. Detailed imagery helps them to feel confident in their potential purchase decision. This is especially important for niches like fashion and food, where the senses are usually critical in making a purchase decision.

Make sure products are clearly photographed from multiple angles and in great detail (high-res). To help quell customer fears surrounding how they might look or feel while using your product, use images that show that product in context (as with the headpiece below).Work on Your Persuasiveness #2

KISS on the Checkout
Keep it simple, stupid! The age-old adage applies on the web as much as anywhere else. When it comes to checkout time, don't overcomplicate and don't ask for too much information from your customers. The faster your process is, the better you'll convert. Here are some key principles:

  • Don't ask for too much information – request only what you need. Shoppers are wary about giving out their details and (sadly) expect that you will spam them or mistreat their information. Asking too much makes them uncomfortable and slows down the process. Take only what you need to complete the conversion, and earn the rest later once you have the customer’s trust.

  • Set up a guest checkout option so that shoppers do not have to register prior to purchase. This makes buyers feel they're less likely to get spammed by you in future.

  • Absolutely no pop-ups or surveys should be anywhere NEAR your checkout.

  • Calls to action should be front and centre on every cart page.

  • Cut out any unnecessary information or links which could carry buyers away from completing their buying journey. That said, make sure your shopping cart shares the same design features as the rest of your site (don’t make it look like they’ve gone to a totally new domain) to maintain trust and confidence.

Less Abandoned Carts = Bigger Bottom Lines

While SEO and paid ads can help pull in new customers, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as converting the existing leads you’ve already pulled in, without having to splurge on a major campaign. These abandoned carts are the low-hanging fruit; it’s time you took advantage.

Put all of this into practice (and remember to test every new feature in isolation to discover what works best for you) and you should find fewer abandoned carts rolling around your ecommerce store!