Basket abandonment remains a big challenge for ecommerce retailers, with the latest stats suggesting a global abandonment rate of 76.9%.

How to reduce this is just one of the topics discussed in Econsultancy’s Ecommerce Best Practice guide, which also delves into other important areas of ecommerce such as search data and landing page design.

Subscribers can download the full report here, but in the meantime, let’s concentrate on a few reasons why consumers typically abandon their online shopping – and how ecommerce marketers might counteract this behaviour.

Feeling pressured into making a purchase

Checkout isolation has previously been cited as an effective way to reduce basket abandonment. By removing all navigational elements, it theoretically means that consumers are less distracted, and therefore more focused on completing their purchase.

However, this tactic also has its downsides, potentially reducing overall performance if the consumer feels like they’re being pushed prematurely towards a purchase. It might be an unconscious feeling, of course, but sensing that they could be forced into buying before they are ready or have done enough research elsewhere could be enough to send consumers fleeing.

Instead, it might be better to avoid forcing a too linear path, allowing people to go back onto the site if they want. Similarly, it’s important to avoid information loss – for example if customers are required to move through multiple stages, the data they’ve entered should be temporarily stored so they don’t need to re-enter it if they navigate between stages or away from the checkout.

Warehouse is one retailer that stores this type of info, and while it also encloses the checkout to avoid distraction, it effectively highlights the steps to confirmation so that the customer knows exactly where they are in the process.

Using the shopping basket for research

According to PwC, 52% of global shoppers prefer to research clothing and footwear purchases online, with this rising to 62% for electronics and 68% for books, music, and video games. 

Unsurprisingly then, this is one of the biggest reasons for consumers abandoning their baskets without making a final purchase, with many planning to shop around on other ecommerce sites to ascertain the best price or service. 

In this instance, consumers can often be tempted back into the purchasing journey with relevant and well-timed communication. An email reminding the consumer that their basket is still there waiting for them can effectively do this, with elements of personalisation (i.e. drawing on names and other data) also adding extra value. 

Not only does Kate Spade take this approach, but the US retailer also ramps up temptation to buy with the offer of a 15% discount on top.

Intent to buy in the real world

Alternatively, consumers doing research online might abandon their basket with the aim of purchasing from a physical store (and not necessarily from the same retailer). In this case, retargeting or sending an email reminding them of their basket contents might not be enough. 

So, instead of trying to tempt them back to complete the online checkout, it makes more sense to align to their own needs or behaviour – which means facilitating the in-store purchase. This could be achieved through incentives, such as a mobile voucher or discount to increase levels of convenience and value.

Another way is to consider offering alternative steps during the checkout process or when the user clicks away, such as “find this item in-store” or “save basket contents to a wish list”. That way, the shopper might be prompted to convert using Click and Collect or an in-store pick up there and then.

Clothing retailer Barbour includes a “save for later” option at the checkout, which is a good tactic to encourage consumers (both researching with or without online buying intent) to convert at a later date.

Lack of trust

When it comes to purchasing online, consumers need reassurances throughout the entire journey.

First, with online consumer opinions being the second-most trusted form of communication, user reviews are a great way to instil trust.

At a basic level, the simple act of handing over card details means that people need to feel certain the site is safe and secure. While some visual signals can of course be reproduced by underhand means, web browsers can fortunately refer to third-party issued certificates that demonstrate security compliance. SSL certificates - which often come in the form of a padlock at the end of the address bar, or a green highlighted area – are one of the most common signs.

Alongside this, consumers like to be reassured that they are buying the right product, so another way to instil reassurance is with a persistent basket summary. This helps remind users of the contents and the total cost of their order so they don't have to leave the checkout to find out.

Bicycle and outdoor apparel retailer Wiggle is a good example of this, reminding users what they are buying throughout the checkout.

Frustration over delivery options

In a survey by Walker Sands, nine in 10 respondents cited free shipping as the number one incentive to shop online. Unsurprisingly then, unexpected delivery costs are one of the top reasons consumers might change their mind at the point of checkout.

To prevent this from happening, it’s important to communicate delivery options upfront and as prominently as possible, meaning people don’t get halfway through the checkout process and quit in frustration if you’re not providing them with the service they want.

Similarly, it's a good idea to offer help during the checkout (perhaps with a live chat icon, for instance) to avoid customers abandoning the process due to unanswered questions.

Schuh is a good example of this, asking shoppers to choose their delivery preference as the first step. Also note other effective features like Google Reviews and the reassurance of a secure checkout.

Don't forget to check out the Ecommerce Best Practice Guide in full here.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 3 November, 2017 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (5)


Bill Su, CEO at Humanlytics

Nikki, great article. Really appreciate that you mentioned the fact that a large portion of checkout abandonment are actually normal user behavior and forcing users to convert will only make them feel more pressured and less likely to buy.

Question for you, I guess, is what marketer should do given these insights? Obviously some checkout recovery steps such as follow up emails are needs to improve conversion rate, but what else we can do to cover other signals (such as research, and intention to buy in the real world) explained in this article?

8 months ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Good article. Basket abandonment is a serious issue, but we've been tracking this for 3 years now and have seen marketers gradually reduce the abandon rate to 57%.

This figure is less than the 76.9% quoted in the article, because Fresh Relevance is pretty good at stitching together sessions from different devices. E.g when someone researches on their phone and switches to a larger device to buy, which happens increasingly, unlike others we realize this is not an abandonment.

Here's how the figures have changed over the years...

The article downplays the most vital technology for optimizing your checkout - cart and browse abandonment emails. We see our clients getting 11% extra sales from sending emails to call back forgetful shoppers.

8 months ago


Andrew Baird, Operations and Delivery Manager at Test Partners

Our experience is that a lot of customer behaviour is driven by trust and unfortunately websites still have a tendency to behave differently between desktop (or laptop) and mobile (or tablet) (see Pete's comments above). If the checkout experience your customers learnt from your desktop journey doesn’t equate to the mobile journey, they can experience degrees of cognitive dissonance. Trust is hard won and easily lost – and customers are in heightened awareness when at the purchasing stage.

8 months ago


Gerard, Director at Caressa

The discount offer in follow up emails is becoming too well known as this email indicates

"Dear Sir/Madam

I wanted to order a *******, and thought your prices were really good compared to the same elsewhere.

I got your e-mail this morning about me not finishing my shop with you, but was expecting to get an offer of a discount, like many other shops offer.

is this possible please, if so, I will gladly order from you

I look forward to hearing from you

Mrs C ********* "

8 months ago


Shana Pilewski, Senior Content Marketer at Dynamic Yield

Great piece on a serious issue -- currently eCommerce brands lose a staggering $18 Billion in yearly sales revenue because of it!

And with $4 trillion worth of merchandise predicted to be abandoned in digital carts next year alone, brands can no longer afford to ignore cart abandonment.

You make some great points for helping reduce cart abandonment, and there are definitely tons of optimizations to be made to push users along.

This tool, using iframes, allows you to fully preview use cases for minimizing and recovering abandonments on your own website, which is super helpful:

-- Shana

8 months ago

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