Un-Abandoning Carts

Will this shirt fit me well?

Am I getting the best deal on this purchase?

Will my order get delivered to me before my birthday?

Isn’t our mind usually buzzing with these questions before paying on an ecommerce site? How many times did you end up just abandoning the shopping cart and not buying anything?

It turns out that more than 7 out of 10 shoppers don’t end up completing their purchase, i.e. abandon their carts. In e-commerce, there is nothing more frustrating than knowing that potential consumers visit often, browse, select, build their cart, but leave without making the purchase. Cart abandonment is common across sectors – finance, travel, retail, and fashion. The finance sector has the highest cart abandonment rate, i.e., 83.6%; followed by the travel sector at 81.7%. Retail and Fashion sector are next in line with 72.8% and 68.3% rates respectively.

Contrast this with the physical world – how often do you see hordes of people in a supermarket spontaneously abandon their half-full shopping carts and just walk out? Not very often! But this is precisely what is happening online. 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.

Card Abandonment: What are the drivers?

  1. Hidden Charges
    Many online hotel booking websites often fail to show the total cost before check-out. It is estimated that one-third of carts are abandoned because consumers felt that additional costs were added at the checkout stage. Why not show the total amount to be paid upfront when the user selects a product, along with the breakup of the total price (room tariff, fees, and taxes). Booking.com is a good example of this kind of transparent approach to costing – they show the total cost upfront when a hotel is selected and the exact amount during checkout without the addition of any extra charges.
  2. Forced Account Creation
    Imagine a shopping experience in the real world. You have spent considerable time browsing through the aisles and filling up your cart. You finally reach the cash counter, whip out your credit card, ready to make your purchase and be on your way out but you are asked to first fill out a form with your personal details and sign up for the store’s loyalty program. Annoying, isn’t it? This might sound like a strange thing for a physical store to do but that’s exactly what happens on online platforms.

    Most ecommerce platforms require users to create an account before buying. This creates unnecessary friction and leads to user frustration. Approximately 1 out of 3 consumers do not complete their purchase when they are required to create an account before buying. Unavailability of a guest checkout can be a big deterrent to shopping cart conversion.

  3. Decidophobia
    It’s the fear of deciding between options. And sometime this fear paralyzes us to the point that we cannot decide anything. This is represented by a philosophical concept, “Buridan’s Ass”, which states that, given the option of two equally wonderful piles of hay, the ass will starve to death, because it cannot choose. Similarly, when it comes to shopping online, consumers decide on a few great products, adding them to the cart for later consideration. The problem is that we get hung up in deciding on the “best” outcome.
  4. Fine Print
    3 months back, I found an unbelievably good online deal on Bluetooth ear pods. I promptly purchased it, bragged about it to my friends and family but to my shock and surprise, what came to my doorstep was just an earphone cover case. What followed was embarrassment and a refund process. Needless to say, it is upsetting when we get misled by pretty product images into buying something. All of us have stories of being fooled into buying fake products and getting scammed while dealing with online vendors. The fear that it could happen again is always at the back of our mind.

    It goes without saying that adding upfront detailed specifications, photos, or videos demonstration goes a long way and generates confidence in consumers. 58% of consumers consider companies that produce video content to be more trustworthy, and hence are more likely to complete the transaction. Another way to counter this fear is to use trusted seals like Flipkart verified, Amazon’s choice, etc.

  5. Overwhelming checkout process
    No one likes to fill forms. This is because humans are cognitive misers who often chose the path of least resistance. Very often, that path leads to cart abandonment, especially if the forms are lengthy and appear cumbersome. You would have experienced this while signing up for a health insurance. Even after you overcome decidophobia, understood the fine-print, and created an account; a typical health/life insurance forms feels like a Q&A session with over 40 questions. Argghhh! “I will do this some other day” tendency kicks in.
  6. Distractions on the payment page
    The payments page is the last step in the process. The objective – get paid! However, it is so common to be distracted by promotional offers, coupon codes, cross-sells and advertisements. No doubt these are important but it would be better to share these details at the shopping cart stage of the check out process. This way, the user can see the product details and payable amount along with discounts and combos available. Once they are on the payments screen, get out of their way!

5 ways to tackle cart abandonment

  1. Bring your product to life
    Imagine you want to buy a loaf of bread online. To choose one of the many available choices would be a challenge considering it’s not possible to touch or feel the freshness of the bread on a screen. Wouldn’t it be great if you could actually hear the sound of biting into the crust of toasted bread, get a feel for the aroma or watch videos showing the multiple ways you could use that loaf? Rich video & audio content combined with vivid & well written copy can do exactly that and help bridge the gap between the digital and real-world experiences. The objective of product descriptions has shifted. It’s no longer about just writing long paragraphs and bullet points outlining technical details; it’s about bringing the product to life.
  2. Personalize. Personalize. Personalize
    It’s a no-brainer that personalization helps overcome decidophobia. Imagine a shopping experience in which suggestions for outfits are personalized based on the user’s body type, skin tone, hair, and eye color, as well as a personal sense of style. After all, we buy the looks that the outfit offers, and not the outfit itself. An AI driven personal assistant can help users with fashion advice and at the same offer them a visual treat highlighting how the products will look on them.
  3. Allow guest check-outs
    Guest checkouts have proven to be an effective way to reduce cart abandonment rates. And this need not come at the cost of losing a customer relationship. Rather than requiring them to make an account during checkout, give your customers the option to “Save your information for next time” on their order confirmation page. This way, you can strike a balance between first time conversions and enabling a fast and frictionless checkout in the long run (by tagging their payment and shipping information with their account).
  4. Make all relevant details available
    Users often tend to go back to check product details that they might have forgotten while adding the product to the cart. Product details shown in the cart should give users everything they need (for example: vendor/product ratings) to make an informed decision. This makes consumers comfortable about their decision and gives them the assurance that the products they have added are trustworthy.
  5. Give away a sweetener
    Who doesn’t like surprises, especially unexpected discounts. Giving away complimentary gifts with each order can drive conversion rates up. It might work particularly well while bundling, such as including free sample perfumes with a clothing order; sports accessories with a sport gear, or a coupon code that can be availed during consumer’s next purchase.

UX is a feeling

Ensuring that your customers don’t back out from making a purchase is 80% psychology and 20% mechanics — what price point you sell at and what discounts you offer won’t matter if you don’t create the experience that puts your customers in the right mindset that makes them “feel right” about the purchase.


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