A recent survey says the rate of shopping cart abandonment for US online retailers has increased slightly year on year, reaching 59.4% in Q1 2008.

So why do customers abandon their shopping carts and what can be done about it?

According to the survey, which was covered by eMarketer, the top five reasons are:

  1. Expensive delivery costs

    This was the main reason for 43% of US online shoppers surveyed by PayPal, but is something that retailers should be able to rectify.

    Retailers should be looking at their abandonment rates and  experimenting with lower shipping costs to see how this affects conversion rates.

    Better still; offer free delivery on orders over a certain threshold, then the customer has an incentive to spent a little bit more.

  2. Hidden costs

    36% of those surveyed cited the total cost of the purchase being higher than anticipated as their reason for bailing out.

    This is something that can irritate customers intensely and there is no excuse not to be upfront about any costs. Delivery charges should be made clear on product pages, as well as any other costs like gift wrapping.

    Retailers should also refrain from adding extra items to shoppers’ baskets without asking. I noticed this recently on Currys’ website, when an internet security program was added to a laptop purchase automatically. This is guaranteed to annoy people.

  3. Comparison shopping27% said they were just checking out prices and would look at other websites before deciding on a purchase.

    This isn’t necessarily a problem for etailers as online shoppers tend to take their time, especially with more expensive products.  

    A recent survey found that people take an average of around 34 hours from their first visit to actually making a purchase, while they do some comparison shopping.

    Therefore, retailers should make it as easy as possible for customers to do this, by making prices and delivery charges clear, and also by allowing customers to save their baskets so they can easily return to make a purchase.

  4. Unable to contact customer service

    This was the reason cited by 16% of respondents, something that retailers should be aware of.

    When considering a purchase, customers may often have questions about products or charges, and will require some reassurance.

    This can make the difference between making and losing a sale, so a contact number should be provided on every page so shoppers don’t have to hunt around for contact details.

    Sony.co.uk provides a good example of this, with a clear contact number on every page of the website:

    Sony - contact details
  5. Forgetting usernames / passwords

    For 14% of shoppers, forgetting login details was the reason for abandoning their shopping baskets.

    To prevent this, retailers should remember user data across sessions, or make it easy for customers to find out or reset their passwords.

Related research:

Online Retail 2007: Checkout Special

Related stories:

How to plug leaks in your shopping basket

Basket Abandonment – we have to focus on How, not Why