8 Reasons Your Customers Fail to Complete Purchases

How often do you see a shopping cart sitting abandoned in a supermarket aisle, laden with items that will never become purchases? Chances are it's less than 75% of the time, but that's the average proportion of ecommerce shopping carts which never made it to checkout in 2015.

So why do about three quarters of online shoppers take the time to browse, select, place items in their cart and then simply 'walk away,' and what are ecommerce retailers supposed to do about it?

Just browsing

According to Statistica, 37% of shoppers 'were just browsing'. There's not much we can do to stop browsers from abandoning their carts as we too have all been there before.

However, these visitors often intend to buy in the future. So, you may want to consider sending them a reminder email if they do walk away, possibly offering them a coupon code to encourage them to complete their purchase.

Hidden charges

I've often paid more than the product's retail value in postage costs just to get the thing delivered to my doorstep. (being located in Europe and ordering stuff from the US can be a bit pricey) . It didn't always sit well with me, but the feeling that "that's just what it costs" made it easier to justify.

High shipping costs are an obstruction in themselves, but that's not the heart of the issue. Many retailers try to keep shipping costs hidden until a customer is interested in a product, then quietly tack on the extra charge at checkout. This is what turns that feeling of "oh well, that's what it costs" into "damn, so that's what it costs?!", pushing customers away from their carts and ultimately damaging the way they see their relationship with the retailer.

Always make sure your customers have a way to find out what will it cost to ship the item to their location – don't just throw the shipping fee (and any other hidden fees) in their face at checkout. If you don't have a shipping calculator available, at least list the fees on a separate page and make it easily accessible. Your customers will thank you for that. I always do.

Coupon code incentives

Ironically, another problem which can instantly bounce customers away from the checkout is a coupon code feature. Simply being reminded of the possibility of discount may send shoppers searching for a code. At this point they've already left the site – if they can't find a code, they may never feel like coming back. It doesn't matter whether you have the best price on the market – the existence of discount codes in general can turn that empty field into a sort of failure.

One way to combat this is to email relevant coupon codes to customers who abandon carts which were eligible for discount, hopefully also re-engaging those who were just browsing or having second thoughts. There are various services like CartRescue that can do this for you and let you set up automated recovery email campaigns to contact visitors who left their baskets on the shelf.

Your virtual store layout

The way you lay out your checkout process is a huge part of ecommerce cart conversion. There isn't a definitive answer to that, however – some sites perform better with single-step checkouts, some with multi-stage checkouts. According to Smashing Magazine, 28% of the top 100 retailers had a five-step checkout process, with only 1% offering a one-step checkout.

I personally love single page checkouts as they're much more pleasant to go through. In either case, the main thing is simplicity. Often, basic design choices like proper use of negative space and bold input field outlines can enhance the impression of clarity and usability. Try both and see which works better!

Perceived level of security

Security is clearly an issue, but customers as a collective seem uncertain about this. Various surveys suggest that shoppers are both concerned with site security and frustrated by excessive security checks, both reassured and dissuaded by security logos displayed on sites.

So, definitely try out a few different options and see what works best for you. You may want to try running A/B split tests and look at how your customers interact with various security badges like McAfee Secure and Hacker Safe.

Payment options

When people want to give you money, make it as easy as possible for them. An analysis of conversion rates by SeeWhy found that conversion was up 101% for mobile users and 86% for desktop users where alternative payment was made available, making alternative options one of the biggest factors. If you ship internationally, use the customer's apparent location to display prices in their local currency.

Level of support

If you can, offer support at checkout. You may want to stick a customer service number on the page or consider offering a live chat feature.  If there's a question they have, make it easy for them to get it answered.

Making sure your potential buyers get the information they need when they need is a big part of keeping them on the checkout form until they've hit 'submit'.

Persistence in obtaining customer data

First, you do want that data. Almost every choice you make will be based on how well you know your customers. So, it can feel tempting to force registration and extract this information from your users. However, please don't do that.

I can't emphasize this final point enough. Some of the users might sign up and you'll get some CRM metrics out of the process, but in general, forcing ecommerce customers to go through a time-consuming process which they know is unnecessary is one of the most toxic things a retailer can do. Identifying guest users is easy enough and there are various services to help you do that. For example, Rejoiner can identify guest users who enter an email but never hit submit. If you really want that data, encourage social login rather than sign-up.

Ultimately, bringing customers through checkout and actually taking their money boils down to ease of use, transparency and options. Simplicity and usability, though, are at the very heart of the online shopping experience. This is exactly what the fickle 75% of online shoppers abandoning their carts seem to be searching unsuccessfully for. Make sure you are easy to deal with and your customers will love you!

Martin is the founder of MultiMerch who has dedicated his life to building great products.