Thanks to a range of factors, including increased customer expectations, as well as behavioural factors such as comparison shopping, basket and checkout abandonment rates are rising. 

A recent Forrester survey found that 88% of consumers have abandoned shopping carts, and named the top five reasons given by customers. 

The top five reasons for cart abandonment were: 

  1. High shipping costs – 44%
  2. Not ready to purchase – 41% 
  3. Price checking – 27%
  4. Price too high – 25%
  5. Wanted to save products for later – 24% 

Of course, providing clear delivery charges on product pages and elsewhere so that customers don’t have to add items to the cart to find out total costs would be one improvement, and it also makes sense for retailers to make it as easy as possible for customers to resume their sessions on subsequent visits. 

However, most of the reasons quoted here have something to do with comparison shopping, and except for high shipping costs, there is little that retailers can do. 

These are just reasons for basket abandonment though, so what makes customers abandon later on during the checkout process?

A recent survey of 1,267 visitors to Webcredible’s website found that hidden charges and registration were the biggest culprits: 

In Econsultancy’s recent Checkout Optimisation Guide, author Dr Mike Baxter quotes some stats from Coremetrics which show that abandonment rates have been rising over the last couple of years. 

The data from 300 etailers in the UK shows that, over a 23 month period between 2007 and 2009, checkout abandonment rates increased by an average of 0.1% per month. 

There are two factors quoted in the Checkout Guide which account for this rise in abandonment rates: 

A rise in customer expectations

Customers are less tolerant of problems during the checkout process than they used to be, so they are more likely to abandon sites that are slow to load.

This Akamai study from last year reveals that page load speed is a big factor determining whether customers buy from a site and return for subsequent purchases. 57% of online shoppers quoted in the survey insist on a rapid checkout process, up nearly 10% from the same study in 2006. 

Customers are also lees tolerant of the kind of annoyances uncovered by the Webcredible survey; hidden charges, registration, lengthy checkouts etc. 

Since finding hidden charges and compulsory registration before checkout are less common than they used to be a few years ago, customers are even less tolerant when they encounter these things during checkout. 

Etailers have failed to keep up with customer expectations

According to Dr Baxter, retailers haven’t been keeping up with best practice over the past three years, so they haven’t improved to stay in line with customers’ increased expectations: 

It is difficult to identify any clear trends in the improvement of checkout – there are a few sites where checkout is a joy, yet for the majority of sites checkout is still unintuitive, unhelpful and error-prone. The most frustrating thing is that designing a good checkout isn‟t hard any more.

Losses during checkout have been highlighted for long enough now for best practice to have been identified and, in many cases, proven. If approached systematically, every checkout should be painless and effortless for the vast majority of customers.