From security concerns to annoyances around hidden charges or high delivery costs, there are a number of possible reasons why not make a purchase from an online retailer. 

An Econsultancy survey of 2,000 UK consumers, conducted using the TolunaQuick tool, looks at the reasons why customers choose to abandon online purchases. 

Of the 2,000 respondents, just 12.8% don't shop online, the other 87.2% shop at least several times per year. 

Some highlights from the survey after the jump...

Deciding whether to shop on an e-commerce site

An e-commerce site needs to convey trustworthiness to potential customers. If you are Amazon or John Lewis, then you already have a brand that conveys this, but in the case of less well-known brands, what signs are customers looking for?

48% of respondents said trustmarks would help them to decide to shop at a particular site. I have argued in the past that good design is more important, but trustmarks can be effective for smaller retailers. 

Clear contact details was cited by 46% of respondents, while 41% would use a site if recommended by friends or colleagues. 

Design factors, such as a professional look to the site and good performance and load times also help to engender trust. 

If you are shopping from a retailer you don’t know well, how would you decide whether to trust the website?

Reasons for abandoning sites soon after arriving

We also asked customers why they would quickly abandon a site, the main reasons being slow loading pages, poor design, expensive prices, and concerns about security.  

Product page essentials

Ideally, product pages should convey all of the information that customers need to see before they can decide whether or not to make a purchase. 

The best product pages need the five things in the chart below, while the experience can also be enhanced with use of video, 360 product views, effective cross-selling, and so on. 

Among the 'other' responses given were alternative payment methods, details on size and measurements, and reassurances about security. 

What information do you need to see on product pages to help you decide whether to make a purchase?

The survey also highlights the importance of information on returns polices. 46% said they always check returns policies before making a purchase online, 43% sometimes check this, while just 11% never bother.  

Basket abandonment

I separated basket from checkout abandonment in this survey, because I think that, though there are common issues, people abandon baskets for different reasons than the payment process. 

Some of the reasons given here, such as high delivery charges (74%) and high prices (49%) are nothing to do with good basket design, and this is information that should be conveyed on product pages so customer do not have to use the shopping basket to find out. 

Another key barrier to purchase is compulsory registration, something which would make 26% of respondents abandon the shopping basket.

Many retailers are now providing a guest checkout option, or optional registration once a payment has been made, but there are still a few that insist on it, including many mobile commerce sites. 

After adding items to your basket, what would make you abandon your purchase?

Checkout abandonment

There is plenty that retailers can do to optimise the checkout process, including enclosing the process to concentrate the customer's mind, and handling checkout errors effectively. 

The main issue cited by respondents was hidden charges, for which there is really no excuse. Retailers need to be upfront about total prices and delivery costs well before the checkout.

Customers aren't going to continue with the purchase just because this information is revealed late in the process. In fact, it's likely to make them more annoyed. 

Once you are in the checkout process, what would deter you from completing the purchase?

Security concerns (58%) and technical problems (44%) also cause customers to abandon the checkout, followed by a long process (37%) and lack of contact details (33%). 

23% cite security measures such as Verified by Visa. It is now widespread on e-commerce sites, and retailers do seem to implementing it more effectively than before - embedding it into branded pages, advising customers etc, but this process itself still presents a major barrier for some. 

Remembering one more password can be an issue (it certainly is for me) which means that customers have to go to the trouble of resetting the password. A quick search on Twitter shows that many online shoppers are still frustrated with this. 

Image credit: wstryder via Flickr

Graham Charlton

Published 6 July, 2011 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (19)

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Annie Pettit

I didn't see my main reason here. I'll often go nearly all the way through a check-out process just to see how much it WOULD cost with shipping and handling and taxes included. Then at some point, if I do decide to make a purchase, I'll know the real online price versus the price I'll see in a store.

almost 7 years ago


Derek Gray

I'm sure alot of these issue will be common themes across non retail sectors however I work in the travel industry and it would be great to see how this various - particularly on the checkout abandonment. If anyone has anything then please share!?

Really interesting none the less.

almost 7 years ago


Wool Overs

It's good to see these stats, and the more we can all improve the checkouts the better. Although you can never account for the sheer randomness of customers and their buying habits. We can't rely on csutomers to buy 76.5% of the time, there will be slow weeks/days/months + other factors so keep this in mind before making any drastic changes, and consult a wide range of data.

almost 7 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@ Annie - I think the hidden charges answer covers that, though i would argue that customers shouldn't have to go that far to discover the full cost.

@ Derek - perhaps we'll do a similar survey on online travel at some point.
We do have a post on online travel usability, based on user testing videos, that you may find useful:

almost 7 years ago


David Quaid

Brilliant article Graham - totally ties in with our thinking on consumerism - trying to by the best products based on performance, quality and buying it from the best place possible. That means shipping, trust and getting the best price.

almost 7 years ago


Beth Matheus

In addition to hidden charges another annoyance is the fact that many sites try to fill up the shopping carts with unwanted items. Some may add a camera case if the user wants to purchase just a camera. Another annoyance are confusing check boxes where the user gets really confused whether the box should remain checked or unchecked.

almost 7 years ago


Lace Llanora

I think having a social media outreach such as a Facebook Page can help in increasing an online shop's trustworthiness. Especially when the customer sees familiar faces (friends, relatives) also "Like" the online shop and customers have posted some positive feedback.

Definitely having an FAQ page is essential and saves time and money for both seller & buyer.

almost 7 years ago

Peter Leatherland

Peter Leatherland, Online Sales Manager at Ethical Superstore

@Annie - I agree, this will take up a significant percentage and is nearly always ignored when looking at abandonment. I have done this many times to find the final cost but it is very rare that I would go halfway through a checkout then stop at the last minute, I usually have the decision made when I go into the checkout, and this may involve going through some of the steps and leaving the checkout, then coming back later, especially if this is a complex or expensive purchase and I want to compare retailers.

E-commerce site should be aware that people do this and it is part of their decision making process and they may not be ‘abandoning’ it at all. A physical retail checkout is different form an online one, in a retail store you generally go to the checkout and make your purchase, you rarely abandon the checkout as there is a social cost, i.e. you wouldn’t walk around a physical shop, fill your basket, go to the checkout, get your stuff scanned, open your wallet then suddenly change your mind... you would look silly, so you only go to the checkout when you are sure you will buy. An online checkout is different, there is no cost to you abandoning so people will do it essentially as part of their browsing and decision making process between retailers. Just because someone abandons it doesn’t mean the sale is lost, just that they may not be at the final purchase point yet.

almost 7 years ago


Depesh Mandalia, CEO & Founder at SM Commerce

@Derek - having worked in travel the most difficult thing to overcome is the need to try and add extras into the basket process that you don't do so much in retail, or at least not so much in the actual checkout, like excursions, room upgrades, dining, insurances etc.

This makes travel checkout abandonment far more tricky (in my opinion) than retail, where you're less likely to try and x/up-sell customers once they're in the checkout stage yet it is the norm to push this in travel - get it right and your average booking values go through the roof, get it wrong and you'll convert fewer customers and this is the tough balancing act.

(note: I'm not saying Retail checkout abandonment reduction is easy, but I do think travel is tougher)

almost 7 years ago


Julian Moskov, Search Manager at Boden


almost 7 years ago


office guy

We have a lot of trouble with people dropping out from our website. The thing is that we show the VAT quite late on and since we sell office supplies the assumption was that people would not mind as they can claim the VAT back... However they do mind.
If we show Vat upfront we look expensive so the bounce rate goes up - if we show Vat later on people drop out.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

almost 7 years ago

Conrad Morris

Conrad Morris, Director at Match Me Now Limited

Very interesting and valuable research. The caveat as always this this type of research is what people say and what they actually do can be very different.

almost 7 years ago



It's not a surprise that trust is one of the main factor. You can't blame them especially when you hear about all of these warnings that you should be careful. If you need to be careful when you need to something like shopping online, then obviously it would make them think twice.

But the problems for the smaller brands is that they can't compete against the big names. People immediately that if you don't have a big name, you are not a genuine business, which is extremely naive. Small retailers can be as trustworthy (if not more) than the bigger retailers.

almost 7 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@officeguy that's a tricky one. i would say its generally better to be upfront about prices, as people may be more annoyed if they have to go all the way to checkout before they find out.

Maybe you could have a 'VAT calculator' tool or table on the product page next to the price so that people can find this information if they want to.

almost 7 years ago



Nice Blog Spam, it doesn't even read properly.

"you need to be careful when you need to something like shopping online"


"People immediately that if you don't have a big name"

I can only assume that worldofdeals is a seriously spammy pathetic affilate blog.

almost 7 years ago


Pragmatic Design Wolverhampton

Very interesting article- thank you.

It's astonishing how many people abandon the purchase right at the end. Personally, my number 1 reason for abandoning a purchase is delivery charges. There are too many websites that seem to subsidise their product price with a sky-high delivery charge.

almost 7 years ago


David Sealey

Quick tip I'll share on basket and checkout abandonment is to segment the rates by browser/OS. This will enable you to see if there are any technical issues. One major retailer I've worked with and a Javascript issue on the Next button in IE 7. Fixing this instantly increase conversion rates.

Obviously thorough cross browser testing would have stopped it getting to this stage ;)


over 6 years ago


Vikas Jain

Very interesting and informative article thank you.
Apart from the Security, Speed and Prices (including hidden charges)approx delivery date, user friendliness of the checkout process (hard to define in comment) matter a lot also the third party tracking codes like for re marketing etc make the site much heavy and more suspicious.

about 6 years ago


Peter Plant, Cartoonist at Cartoonery

I abandon all online purchase which require registration.

almost 3 years ago

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