Online Shopping Cart Abandonment: The Next Challenge for Retailers


No digital retailers are immune to shopping cart abandonment. It’s so prevalent that in 2016, e-commerce businesses lost $4.6 trillion worth of sales to users leaving sites with loaded carts.

Why are retailers experiencing this? Customer expectations are at an all-time high. Businesses are no longer competing on price, product, promotion and placement alone – experience is now the biggest differentiator. If retailers do not provide a flawless experience from the second customers land on the site through to checkout, they will buy elsewhere. In fact, 86% of web users stop doing business with a company after a poor experience online.

Cart abandonment rates vary by retailer based on how well the checkout flow is designed and optimized. Some, like Amazon with one-click shopping, make it incredibly easy to buy, whereas others, either knowingly or unknowingly, make it exceptionally hard for customers to convert.

Ultimately, no matter what a retailer sells, better digital experiences reduce cart abandonment. When retailers fully understand their customers’ digital body language and state of mind, they can optimize for experiences rather than conversions, making it easier and more appealing to complete purchases and repeat business.

Red flags of poor customer experience

To deliver the best possible experience and reduce cart abandonment, retailers should measure behavioral patterns that indicate a frustrating experience, such as: multiclick (meaning a link might be broken), bird’s nest (the user is unsure of where to go next) and device rotation (the site might not be optimized for mobile use). It’s estimated that improving checkout flow and web design alone could lead to a 35% conversion rate increase.

The adoption rate of “on-the-go” shopping is making cart abandonment more prevalent. By not having mobile-optimized websites and apps - a major cause of poor experiences - merchants are missing out on the potential for online revenue. Mobile phones represent 46% of global ecommerce traffic but only 27% of purchases, according to Criteo, indicating that conversion rates are still low on mobile.

Retailers have the power to fix it

Sometimes shopping cart abandonment can be attributed to a natural consequence of how people shop online, like window shopping, price comparison, or saving items for later, which are largely unavoidable for retailers.

However, there are digital experience issues that can be easily understood and fixed, and online retailers can’t afford to ignore them, including: a complicated and lengthy checkout process, website errors, unexpected shipping costs, requiring shoppers to create an account, lengthy delivery times or customers not trusting the merchant with credit card information.

Often cart abandonment does tie back to poor digital experiences. Retailers must go beyond short-term conversion wins and instead put strategies in place to optimize websites to deliver engaging experiences and foster strong relationships and returning customers.

The rise of digital might be enabling retailers to sell more products, but don’t let a bad customer experience stop progress. Retailers must perfect the digital journey from beginning to end to ensure the shopping cart abandonment epidemic is treated.

-Ben Harris, Decibel Insight CEO and co-founder

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