7 ways to decrease shopping cart abandonment

You got your customers this far. Don't lose them.

Shopping cart abandonment is the bane of a business owner’s existence. Every time a customer starts the process and bails, that sound you hear is the entrepreneur pleading, “No… wait! Please! Come back!”

Want to turn potential customers into actual customers by reducing your shopping cart abandonment rate? Here are tips and strategies any business can use:

Save every shopping cart. Some potential customers bail fully intending to return later. If you sell thousands of products, some customers may feel it’s more trouble than it’s worth to search for every item to repopulate a newly empty cart. When a registered user does leave before completing a transaction, save the contents of the cart and consider emailing the user to let her know. It’s worth the effort, even if only a small percentage of customers return to check out their previously filled carts.

Where e-commerce is concerned, ease almost always equals sales.

Display product availability. Few things are more frustrating than finding out at checkout that an item is not in stock. Either show stock levels on the product page itself or alert the customer when they try to add that item to their cart. Don’t worry about displaying an actual number; “In stock!” or “Currently out of stock” is sufficient.

Eliminate registration. In his article "The $300 Million Button," Jared Spool describes how one company decided to allow customers to make purchases as guests rather than as registered users. The number of customer purchases increased by 45 percent and an additional $300 million in sales in the first year. While every business hopes to increase the lifetime value of a customer—and registration makes that easier–some customers don’t want to register. Make checkout easy for those customers.

Even though you can’t market to people who don’t register, a one-time sale is always better than no sale at all.

Describe shipping costs up front. The longer you wait to share shipping costs the nastier the potential surprise. One easy way to avoid surprises is to offer fixed-rate shipping. If that’s not possible—especially if you sell products that vary widely in weight and dimension—provide estimates as early as possible. Best case, show shipping costs when each item is added to or subtracted from the customer’s cart.

Make it easy. One of the reasons Amazon is a leader in e-commerce is the fact checkout on the site is simple and intuitive. Yours can be too.

Accept multiple forms of payment, including PayPal and Google Checkout. Make it easy to edit quantities or remove items. Include contact information. Let customers save their cart for later. Do everything possible to ensure the checkout process involves no more than three steps—preferably less—especially for repeat customers. Your checkout system should best serve the customer, not you.

Always consider what is easiest for the customer, and adapt your systems and processes accordingly.

Build trust. Security icons, guarantees, and warranty, service, and contact information should be easy to find on every page. While relatively few customers will access that information, the fact it exists is reassuring and promotes a sense of trust and reliability.

Test incessantly. A Tealeaf survey found that retailers could have lost more than $44 billion in online sales as a result of transaction problems on their websites. Thirty-two percent said they abandon a transaction if they encounter a problem, and 27 percent said they would turn to an online or offline competitor. While 66 percent said they would contact customer service if they encountered a problem, why incur that cost—or risk losing a sale entirely? Test, test, and test some more.

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