In one of my recent digital marketing stats round-ups I cited a study that found overall basket abandonment rates are currently 76.6%. 

Though a certain degree of basket abandonment is expected, I still find that an incredibly depressing statistic and I think we can all do better. 

In light of that, I’m going to cover 12 ways I believe ecommerce sites can increase the chances of customers seeing a purchase through to the end.

1. Simplify your forms

This sounds extremely obvious but it’s amazing how many sites seem to want to make you jump through hoops just to give them your money. 

Nobody likes filling in forms, so make them as painless as possible and avoid asking annoying questions about whether third-party companies can send them marketing guff they’ll never read.

For more on this, read 21 first class examples of effective web form design.

reduce basket abandonment

2. Shorten the checkout process

If your checkout process requires the user to load eight different pages in a row, you’re likely to lose them by the fifth. If you’re lucky. 

I covered AO.com in a recent post and noted that its checkout page, while four stages long, is confined to a single page.

Clicking ‘Scroll to next step’ jumps you down to the next section rather than having to wait for a whole new page to load. 

basket abandonment ao.com

3. Use progress indicators

It’s important to let people know where they are in the checkout process and how long they’ve got left.

You can use a progress bar like in the picture below to illustrate this, or simply say something along the lines of: ‘Step X of Y’.

4. Be up-front about delivery charges (or any other charges)

Nothing saps a person’s trust in your checkout process than going all the way through the end only to be stung by previously hidden charges.

If you charge for delivery, some kind of tax, or anything else, tell people early on in the checkout process so they can make an informed decision about whether they want to continue. 

basket abandonment delivery charges

If people get to the card details stage and suddenly the price has gone up, there’s a good chance they’ll be annoyed enough to leave without paying.  

For more on this, read 12 excellent ways to present ecommerce shipping information.

5. Be persistent with the basket summary

Ultimately you want to avoid people leaving the checkout process in order to find out the contents of their basket, so provide this information clearly throughout the process.

6. Don’t force people to register before they pay

Personally this is an instant red flag for me, unless your site happens to be the only place on the internet where I can get that particular product. Which is extremely unlikely. 

Yes, it’s good to get people’s details and encourage them to sign up to your newsletter. But don’t make them fill out an incredibly irritating form just before they’re about to give you their money. 

7. Include a clear call to action at every stage of the checkout process

Everyone needs a bit of encouragement from time to time. Make sure you include a clear call to action between every stage of the process between the basket and the payment page. 

basket abandonment call to action

Try to avoid ambiguous phrases like the one below. If people aren’t 100% sure what is actually going to happen after they click, they might just not bother. 

basket abandonment calls to action

8. Reassure people

It took years before I could convince my parents they could safely buy things online without fear of their bank accounts being immediately emptied the following day and their identities being stolen and sold to terrorists. 

Not everyone is as cautious online as my parents, but some are. Put their minds at rest by illustrating how safe the process is. 

basket abandonment reassure people

You can also include customer testimonials to help reassure people at the critical payment stage. 

9. Display contact details clearly

I’m impatient. If I have a single issue during a checkout process I’m gone. But there are better people than me out there who, when presented with a problem, are happy to talk it out with somebody before giving up altogether.

Make it easy for those people by providing clearly displayed contact details throughout the process. Preferably a phone number, although a decent live chat is also a nice touch.

reduce basket abandonment clearly display contact details

10. Remove distractions

Humans are fickle creatures, and the internet is packed with plenty of shiny things to drag our attention from one direction to the next. 

But when you have your customer ‘in the zone’, card in hand, ready to give you their money, the last thing you want to show them is a shiny thing. 

Your checkout page should be free from anything that might distract people from the ultimate goal: getting them to click pay.

11. Reduce load times

This is a technical point and one that should apply to all areas of your site, but it goes without saying that if people have to wait too long for the next page to load they may get frustrated and abandon their basket. 

Similarly, long pauses after pressing the ‘buy’ button are a cardinal sin of the highest order.

12. Send follow-up emails

Everything I’ve mentioned so far happens before the person has actually abandoned (or not abandoned) their basket. 

But if you want to encourage them back after they’ve left, basket abandonment emails can be one of the most effective ways to do that. 

Jack Simpson

Published 3 November, 2015 by Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

We find that basket abandonment is about 60% (not 76.6%) and has fallen in 2015.

This is much lower than the figure quoted above, probably because marketers are taking the problem seriously. One big reason for the discrepancy is that a shopper may start on one device and switch to another to complete their purchase. Fresh Relevance doesn't count this as cart abandonment (because it's not), and we can often detect and ignore this scenario. But some other systems count it as abandonment followed by recovery - inflating both numbers.
https://www.freshrelevance.com/blog/cart-abandon-rate-falls-7-2-percent-year-on-year

Here is additional advice that covers similar ground to the article, in a shorter form:
https://www.freshrelevance.com/blog/how-to-reduce-cart-abandonment

about 2 years ago

Jake Braswell

Jake Braswell, Sales manager at Almacs

Hey Jack! Thanks for the article.
Uh, the rate is devastating.. E-commerce guys really need to do something about it. I’ve also noticed that all the images have security pictures, like PayPal, MasterCard SecureCode, etc. I’ve read that these reduce the cart abandonment rate of your website if they are present. It seems that you haven’t included this point. Any feedback on that? Also, I’ve been helping with 1 project and we’ve used a cart abandonment tool called picreel. It was cool. The guys are over here picreel.com. Have you used any tools to reduce the rate? Perhaps, they need to be listed in a separate article..

about 2 years ago

Mike Smee

Mike Smee, Business Development Country Manager (UK) at Devatics

Basket abandonment in inevitable on eCommerce sites. This problem has been rife during by 12+ years in online selling working with SMEs to FTSE 100 brands and best practice and goalposts are constantly moving....I don't think it's realistic to try and eradicate it (I mean have you never added items where you have no real intention of buying? :)).

Being aware of evolving best practice is the key to staying on top of it and this article I would say covers most contemporary thinking...All I would add is that we have seen great success (across multiple sites / brands) combining the re-targeting email theme with auto generated personalized product recommendations...You often find that presenting cheapest / most viewed / best seller / bought with / previously viewed alternatives in the re-targeting email can knock significant percentage points off abandonment overnight!!....MVT alternative product recommendation strategies and tune as appropriate.

about 2 years ago

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Renin Ratnaswamy, CRO Consultant at Cloud.IQ

one-stop-shop for quick hacks to optimise conversion here Jack. i think the real problem is that businesses focus too much on acquisition and fail to put any effort towards turning more browsers into buyers. while PPC/SEO campaigns and affiliate networks are all the rage, CRO is often an afterthought or a reactive strategy; someone trying to keep their job.. ;) some of the points above are so in-tune with the psychology behind the buying process, which is sadly, often over-looked. the average user in today's e-commerce landscape faces an information overload on the homepage and no engagement on the checkout stages. it is like we cast a wide net and then leave them to rot. whatever happened to creating a personalised "unique" experience?

https://uk.linkedin.com/pub/renin-ratnaswamy/73/999/168

about 2 years ago

Hayden Sutherland

Hayden Sutherland, Director at Ideal Interface

I think that one of the points missed in this article is "make sure your checkout works on all devices". We work with a lot of clients who have focused to much on the desktop eCommerce experience, only to 'bolt on' a mobile experience as an afterthought (even some responsive eCommerce checkouts make it incredibly hard to transact on a small screen).

about 2 years ago

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Darren Ward, Director of Product Marketing at User Replay Ltd

One of the key things organisations need to do is measure the customer experience in the checkout so they can understand the struggles and blockers customers are coming up against and can prioritise those that have the biggest revenue and conversion impact. We sponsored some research recently that showed organisations think they are aware of only 50% of issues that customers are having on their sites.

It is also great to see Hunter Boot and Crate and Barrel called out in the article for best practices as they are also applying best practice for monitoring their online customer experience - using UserReplay as their chosen technology for this.

about 2 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

@Mike Smee. Agreed. Adding automated real-time product recommendations in cart and browse recovery emails is a great idea. See point #6 and the example from illy here:
https://www.freshrelevance.com/blog/how-to-design-shopping-cart-abandonment-emails

about 2 years ago

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Dan Berry, Operations Director at Kagool

Totally agree with Renin's post. I think many of the points in the article good sensible suggestions but should almost be seen as hygiene factors now. Driving up conversion has to be tied to customer experience and getting the consumer into the basket in the right frame of mind through a meaningful contextual personalised experience wherever possible.

about 2 years ago

Tony Barker

Tony Barker, Director & Founder at eEnablement - Online Interim Management & ConsultancySmall Business

The other point I would add is due to users using the basket as a sort of "bookmarking" or "wish list" function - particularly where a site doesn't offer these functions ie an easy way to come back and see items you are thinking of buying (maybe so you can compare across other sites before deciding to buy)

about 2 years ago

Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson, Writer at Econsultancy, Centaur Marketing

@Pete - Thank you for the stats and links. Interesting stuff around the idea of switching devices. You're right: technically this isn't basket abandonment so it almost certainly skews the numbers slightly.

@Jake - I don't have any stats to hand but based on my experience I would say reassuring people through familiar security images like the ones you mentioned can only ever be a good thing. Not everyone is sensitive to security, but some are (including my parents, as I mentioned in the post! :)). I was thinking of doing a post about cart abandonment tools so cheers for the heads-up on Picreel, I'll check it out.

@Mike - Really good point. It's not necessarily enough just to send a follow-up email. Brands need to go further than that to tempt customers back (particularly if price was a deciding factor in them abandoning their basket in the first place), and offers/discounts are a good way to do that.

@Renin - I completely agree. So much focus in the last few years has been on getting customer TO the site, which is great, but I think an increasing number of brands are starting to realise that overall customer experience is what really matters, from the very first time you communicate with a potential customer to the moment they click the pay button.

@Hayden - Again, very good point. This is going to be even more important in the next few years as mobile's share of ecommerce continues to grow.

@Darren - Absolutely. As with everything in this business it all comes down to measuring and adjusting, because one brand's customers may not have the same wants and needs as another so you can't just take a blanket approach and expect it to work perfectly. Thanks for the stat - quite worrying that half the issues are going unchecked! No wonder basket abandonment rates are so high if that's the case.

@Tony - Very true. I actually do this myself, particularly in the run-up to Christmas. Thanks to my sieve-like memory I have to add present ideas to my basket as I think of them or else they're forgotten by the next day, and that doesn't necessarily mean I'll end up going through with the purchase on that particular site (usually Amazon to begin with, but then I'll shop around to make sure I can't get it cheaper elsewhere).

about 2 years ago

Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson, Writer at Econsultancy, Centaur Marketing

@Dan - Again, couldn't agree more. The complete customer experience should be the focus, and this post just highlights one part of the process.

about 2 years ago

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