The Top 5 Reasons Why Visitors Abandon Your Checkout and What You Can Do About It

Posted in  Blog   on  October 18, 2016 by  Marc

Checkout abandonment (aka cart abandonment) means that you’re losing a visitor in the cart or checkout of your site.

Actually, you’re not losing just a visitor. You’re losing a buyer. Think about it. They’ve added something to their cart and many of them have even proceeded to the checkout. They weren’t your average visitor anymore. These people wanted to BUY something from you. And yet, they didn’t.

According to a study by the Baymard Institute, a sad 68% of all e-commerce visitors abandon their shopping cart. That’s almost unbearable. On average, more than two-thirds of all visitors go through the trouble of finding the right product, adding it to their cart, maybe even starting the checkout, but still don’t complete the purchase.

Check where the biggest drop-offs happen

Before we dive in, check your Google Analytics account. More specifically, look at your funnel data. How many people don’t go beyond your cart page? How many drop out on each step of your checkout? If you haven’t set up your funnels correctly in Google Analytics, stop reading this article and go fix that now. Or have us fix that for you 😉

You need to know where in the cart and checkout your biggest problems are. This way you can work on those pages first. 

Top reasons for abandonment and what you should do instead 

The Baymard Institute found that these are the most important reasons why people abandon their cart or checkout: 

#1 Extra costs

The study shows that 61% of the respondents say they have abandoned a checkout in the last three months because of extra costs like shipping, tax, or other fees. This means that you can improve your conversions by lowering, or better still, eliminating, all the extra costs.

People just don’t like surprise costs. They’ve most likely already done some comparing with other e-commerce sites, they see a price on your product page, and they decide to go ahead and click on your add-to-cart button (instead of your competitor’s). But on the next page, they see that you’re charging a lot for shipping, or that your price on the product page was without VAT. That will stop them in their tracks. They’ll most likely go back to the other sites and compare the total prices now – including all extra fees. Chances are, even if your all-in price is similar to your competitor’s, they won’t be coming back to your site.

shipping costs

Ikea charges $10 for shipping of a $19.99 item. That’s a huge conversion killer!

If you don’t add any extra fees in your cart, then don’t start doing it further down the checkout either. Don’t add +3,15% for VISA payments. I know you pay fees on those payments, but those should be integrated into your product price. Those fees are your problem, don’t make them your customer’s by charging them for it. 

It’s simple. Don’t add any surprise costs in the cart or checkout. 

Be clear about your total price on the product page. Any cost that’s being added further along in the process will only make your visitors feel like they’ve been lied to or tricked into a purchase. And you don’t want them to think of you as a liar, do you?

Offering free shipping is a big step for some e-commerce sites. But it’s really going to pay off if you take that step. Your best option is to just include the shipping price in the price of the product. Yes, your product will be more expensive. Even though it sounds irrational, people are often more willing to spend $50 on a product with free shipping than $40 + $5 shipping on that same product. 

If for some reason free shipping is impossible, you can work with a free shipping threshold. If you have a lot of returning customers you could also offer free shipping to members, like Amazon Prime does.

#2 Forced account creation

35% say they have abandoned a checkout because the site wanted them to create an account. This is actually easy to fix, just offer a guest checkout. And make this the default option. Remember, people are on your site to buy something from you, they don’t necessarily want to enter a relationship with you. You’re often the only one who wants that relationship. Do you know what that makes you in real life? A stalker. Don’t force your buyer into a relationship with you.

forced account creation

Tinyprint forces you to create an account. Moreover: their form is so long it’ll scare even more buyers away than the classic name+email account creation form.

This confirms another study by Econsultancy that found that 26% would abandon a checkout if they’re forced to create an account. That’s massive! You can expect a drastic increase in revenue if you make this one small change.

By the way, there’s a great way to offer your visitors the option to create an account without forcing them. Think about it. What makes the difference between a checkout where you create an account and a guest checkout? A password. That’s it. Nothing else. Offer your visitors a guest checkout, and on the order confirmation page convince them to create an account. The order is in, so no risk here to lose a customer. The only thing they need to do is add a password. 

Pro tip: don’t ask if they want an account, give them a damn good reason to do it. For instance:

  • It’s easier for you to follow the status of your order,
  • You can change your order.
  • Get a discount on your next order.

#3 Too long or complicated checkout process

27% say the reason they left a checkout was because the process was too long or complicated. Time to evaluate your checkout again. Can you make it any shorter? Does your checkout follow a typical flow (address – shipping – payment)? That last point is important because people have an understanding of how a checkout is supposed to work. They’ve been through a lot of them before, so you need to follow the flow they’re used to from all those other e-commerce sites they’ve bought from. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Follow the prototypical checkout flow.

Yes, a long checkout process can be the reason they abandon their cart. But this doesn’t mean that you should replace your multi-page checkout process with a one-page checkout. There’s a lot of debate around this topic and there are quite a few A/B test case studies that advocate either a multi-page or a one-page checkout. The problem with most of these A/B tests is that most of them don’t just test a single page versus a multi-page. They make a lot of other changes to the B-version at the same time. That makes it impossible to isolate the impact of just changing the number of pages in the checkout.

The problem with a single page is clearly the layout. Your page will look cluttered because you’re trying to cram three or four pages into one. That can scare your customers away because it seems like too much work.

Long story short: you have to test it for your own site. A one-page checkout could work better for you. Or not. That’s the beauty of A/B testing 😉

#4 Technical problems

22% have left a checkout because the site had errors or crashed. This is something that shouldn’t occur. Take the time to do a thorough QA of your site. You need to make sure it looks good and works as it should on every browser and every device. In theory, your development partner should do this, but due to a lack of time, it’s not always done thoroughly. Also, new browser versions are being released on a regular basis, so it’s sometimes hard to keep up and make sure your checkout is working on all versions. Don’t rely on your visitors getting in touch with you to tell you it didn’t work. Some of them will, but most of them won’t. It might take several weeks before you find out that you have a problem. That could mean a lot of dinero being left on the table.

Even though it requires some time, fixing technical errors is extremely low hanging fruit and can boost your conversions enormously. Imagine your checkout not working on Firefox desktop while 12% of your desktop visitors are using Firefox. Just by fixing that, you can bump up your conversions on desktop overnight.

Take your time to do a thorough QA. It’s important that you try your checkout on all browsers and devices that your visitors are using

Use a simple Google Analytics report to see which browsers are most commonly used by your visitors. Go to Audience > Technology > Browser & OS and apply a desktop traffic, mobile traffic, and tablet traffic segment and then sort by the number of sessions (high to low). It’ll look something like this:

Google Analytics

Now you can see the most used browsers for each device type.

Start at the top and work your way down. Don’t go through your checkout like your ideal customer would. Not everyone will go through the process linearly. A lot of your customers will go back one or several steps at some point. What happens then? What if you use the back button of your browser? Does that work? Or does it only work when you click on the back button on your site? What happens when you make a mistake in a form?

It’s nearly impossible to have all the devices and browsers yourself, but there are some QA tools that can make your life easier. We like to use Browserstack. With Browserstack, you can simulate different browsers and device combinations and see how your site does.

In order to get an idea of where you may have technical problems in your checkout, you can look at the enhanced e-commerce reports in Google Analytics. Go to conversions > shopping analysis > checkout behaviour and apply a device category segment (mobile, desktop or tablet). Next, select a segment based on a browser and click on the ‘abandonments’ tab. You’ll see a report like this:

GA funnel analysis

These are the drop-off rates for every step in the funnel, per desktop browser. If one drop-off percentage is a lot higher than the others, you might have a technical problem. Repeat this process for mobile and tablet.

Zuko is a great tool that will help you find the problem fields in your checkout forms. We use it for all our projects. What you may notice in Zuko is that people drop off AFTER they clicked the checkout button. Which means they click on it, but never make it to the next page. In our experience, this usually means one of two things. Either there are a lot of error messages or there’s a technical problem.

Last but not least, install Hotjar and record visitor sessions. You’ll learn a lot watching your visitors going through your checkout. You might also discover things that aren’t working as they were intended.

#5 Credit card information – lack of trust

18% of the respondents in the Baymard study abandoned a checkout because they didn’t trust the site with their credit card information. There are several solutions to this, but not all of them are short term.

Let’s start with the most difficult, and long-term, solution: working on your brand recognition. Make sure your brand is known, liked and trusted by your target audience. Yes, this takes time. And in an era where most marketers focus on the direct response approach, branding seems a bit old fashioned. But in the long run, it definitely matters.

Some short-term tactics or changes you can implement:

  1. Make sure your site is on https. If not your entire site, at least your checkout. This will make your visitors feel more secure.
  2. In case you’re running an A/B test on the payment page (or anywhere else in the checkout for that matter), make sure there’s no blinking. Blinking occurs when the A-version is shown right before the B-version is loaded. This will give the impression that there’s something wrong with your site. There are a few ways you can minimise or even eliminate blinking:

    • If the code snippet of your testing tool is integrated into the site through a tag manager like Google Tag Manager, take it out and manually put it on your site.
    • Place the test tool snippet as high as possible in your code.
    • Work on your site speed. And if the above doesn’t help:
    • Make it a split-URL test.
    • Use another test tool. We recommend convert.com for this. There’s no blinking whatsoever, unlike some well-known other tools. 
  1. Add trust logos. Which logos you use depends on your visitors. We recommend that you test this. A ConversionXL study revealed for instance that 20 to 30 year-olds are more likely (19%) to say that the Google Trusted Stores badge instils trust, but only 3% of people over 50 say the same. Trust seals can also vary from country to country. If you sell in the US, the BBB Accredited Business can help to inspire trust. However, it won’t be much help for visitors from the UK.
trust logos

These are good first steps towards lowering your checkout abandonment rate, but there’s more that can be done. If you need help figuring out what exactly you should be doing, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

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