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A new month, a new checkout abandonment survey hits the inbox. Here’s the number one cause of checkout abandonment: unacceptable delivery costs. What is this madness?

The study, by eDigitalResearch and IMRG, found that 77% of online shoppers have abandoned their basket in the past year, with 53% citing unacceptably high delivery costs as the main reason for bailing out.

Already, alarm bells are ringing. Many years ago we published some best practice research on conversion rate optimisation, and one of our key recommendations was to avoid sending people into the checkout area too early. Before they enter, they should have all of the key facts. That means delivery information, among other things.

Yet this latest checkout abandonment study found that 26% of shoppers placed an item in their basket just ‘to check delivery costs’. 

Are you making this mistake on your website?

Are you burying shipping options and costs in the checkout?

Are you forcing people to enter the checkout process before they’ve been able to fully commit to the purchase?

If you are doing any of the above then I’d suggest - in the strongest possible terms - that you run a test. Be upfront about delivery options on your product pages, and even in the header / footer / sidebars across your site. I’ll wager that your abandonment rates will fall. 

Otherwise, things become confusing for you and your prospective customers.

How do you know if your high abandonment rate is a design issue, or an information placement issue? Why spend a small fortune redesigning your whole checkout to deal with the problem, when all that you might need to do is relocate the information that shoppers need to proceed with a purchase?

Let’s pause and remember Steve Krug’s ‘don’t make me think’ mantra. Don’t make shoppers think, and especially not at the point of purchase. If in doubt, shoppers will always bail out.

Delivery options and costs shouldn’t be an unhappy surprise. Moreover, they can be used to entice people towards the checkout. Consider the success of Amazon Prime, and why people are quite happy to pay for it. Amazon Prime invites regular customers to pay a one-time annual fee in return for ‘free’ next day delivery. It’s popular precisely because it means that shoppers don’t need to think about shipping costs or delivery times. 

Let’s also consider the success of Shutl, the service that retailers use to offer same day delivery, and which has just been acquired by eBay. Shutl is proof that some shoppers are increasingly happy to pay a premium to receive something quickly. I say 'quickly', but sometimes I think this is simply a case of paying a bit more to know exactly when an item is going to arrive. 

Now, consider your own online shopping experiences. Isn’t delivery the one major problem area that many online retailers have yet to get right? 

Understand the real problem. If you bury shipping details and have a high abandonment rate then what’s the point of redesigning your whole checkout process? It’s very probably linked to an information placement issue!

Understand customer mindsets. Shoppers need all of the facts before committing to the purchase. Failing to reveal these facts until they’ve begun the purchase process is only setting yourself up for a fall.

Understand that you’re making things worse. Nobody likes a nasty surprise, and dropping a delivery bombshell on shoppers late into the buying process is going to leave a very bad taste, and more so if you’ve forced these shoppers to register.

Here are the three options that will make me consider buying from an online retailer. If these things aren’t in place I’m highly likely to shop elsewhere. If they are in place then they will help persuade me to buy, so why not shout about them?

Next day delivery

This is pretty standard nowadays. Amazon Prime proves that shoppers will effectively subscribe to such a service, which is obviously good for encouraging repeat business.

Same day delivery

I wish more retailers would do this. Sometimes I will quite happily pay a little bit extra to have something delivered to me on the same day. Argos is one retailer uses Shutl to offer same day delivery (here in London, at least) and I recently tried it out, paying about £5 to have an item brought to my office within the hour. The future!

Delivery windows

Delivery windows were made popular by online supermarkets, and they work well for retailers and consumers. One thing that the supermarkets do that many other retailers avoid is to offer evening delivery, which will appeal to the many millions of people who work during the day. It is odd that this remains a bit of a black spot in online retail.

In some cases I can live with ‘2-5 business days’, for example a non-urgent small package that I can have delivered to the office, but I wouldn’t take a chance on that if it’s a larger item that I need to be sent to my home address. 

Thinking about delivery options, what would make you more likely to buy online?

The IMRG reckons that checkout abandonment will cost the UK economy £6bn in 2013. A big number. Retailers must go the extra mile with delivery, to entice customers aways from the likes of Amazon, which is almost too easy to buy from, and which is undoubtedly doing a lot of things right.

If you want further guidance then be sure to grab our checkout optimisation guide. Econsultancy's David Moth also outlined a bunch of tips that can help you to reduce checkout abandonment, and he also compiled some more facts and figures on this issue, should you need to make a business case

What do you think? As a shopper, what are your own delivery expectations? I’d particularly love to hear from any ecommerce managers who have actively experimented in this area. Do leave a comment below.

Chris Lake

Published 4 November, 2013 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

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Ed Lunos

Not to mention the fact that numerous online businesses hide delivery costs until the end intentionally, in an attempt to defraud customers. On several occasions, I have found a last screen addition, in small print, of a shipping charge 5 to 10 times that of reasonable or customary..

I say 'numerous' but even though it's really in the 1% range, we consumers have to be extremely careful dealing with merchants for the first time.

almost 3 years ago

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Dave

This article appears to be written by a person who has never owned an e-commerce store nor understands Amazon. First and foremost Amazon is fully subsidized by affiliates. Without affiliate income not certain if Amazon would ever earn a dime. Second, no matter what delivery cost is provided the potential customer is never happy and will abandon. Why are abandon rates the same with sites that offer Free Shipping? If shipping rates were truly the sole answer then everyone would either a) provide free shipping or b) would provide shipping fees upfront. No one is trying to dupe anyone in shipping fees it is just some sites are not programmed well to provide it before checkout. The bottom line is shipping costs are real, and whether you absorb them, show the full amount upfront or subsidize part of the shipping fees someone has to pay and that, in the end, is the customer. But sites that continue to absorb these fees in the faint belief that they are gaining a new customer will ultimately find themselves working for free themselves or eventually going out of business. Last question to author - Can you name any other retailer (ecommerce, big box, brick n mortar) that does so much in gross sales yet earns near nothing?

almost 3 years ago

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Ash Khrera, Business Analyst at MTG group

As a shopper, I completely agree the remarks made in the above article.
Upfront display of delivery charges indeed impacts the basket abandonment rate .

If a shopper is interested in buying one low cost item, then estimated delivery charges is always considered . So shopper either buy more items to club the items in single delivery or don't kick off the checkout process.

But this should be seen as only one of the reason of basket abandonment .

almost 3 years ago

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