If there’s one issue that plagues all online sellers, it’s cart abandonment. Whether you’re Amazon or a two-person operation , people will put items in their shopping carts and… leave them there indefinitely.
Cart abandonment occurs at an alarming frequency. Adobe found that the average rate for 2016 was 75.50%, which means that fewer than a quarter of transactions were ever completed.
Surveying 1,800 American consumers earlier this year, Baymard Institute research found that shipping fees are the most common catalyst for cart abandonment. But it’s hardly the only reason. More than a third of carts are abandoned because people don’t want to create accounts.
Checking out should be as painless as possible, but a cornucopia of user experience (UX) issues stands in the way. Here are seven ways to improve that:
1. Make sure your page is mobile optimized
Each year, smartphones account for larger percentages of online sales. And yet, some retailers still haven’t optimized their websites for mobile devices, which have 8% higher abandonment rates. It makes sense: a non-optimized mobile experience loads slowly with too-small buttons and pop-ups that take up a disproportionate amount of the screen.
Retailers must remember the smaller screens. Pages should be optimized, rather than shrunk down
, which makes buttons harder to press on a touchscreen device. That leads to the kinds of click errors that cause people to abandon out of annoyance.
Takeaway: Give yourself the mobile-friendly Google test . Make sure you have design guidelines and wireframes, which allow you to focus on the bare bones of a user interface without the distractions of imagery and animation.
2. Keep it simple
Lean checkout experiences generally result in high conversions. That refers both to the number of fields (we’ll get back to that, though) and the prevalence of graphics.
3. Keep it simple (again)
What customer information do you absolutely need in order to complete a transaction? Just ask that. You may value knowing someone’s birthdate as a data set, but does it doesn’t necessarily facilitate the transaction.
An overlong checkout process is cited as the reason for 28% of cart abandonments, and “too much information” falls into that category. Eliminate unnecessary fields, especially if they ask for information people have already provided.
Amazon has mastered this with its patented one-click checkout. In October, eMarketer estimated that Amazon would own 44 cents out of every ecommerce dollar  spent in the U.S. this year, and its frictionless checkout is certainly a factor.
Takeaway: Storing payment data requires a certain level of compliance, which is expensive and calls for periodic audits. Use tokenization, which removes the credit card data from a company’s internal networks and replaces it with a token as a placeholder. The retailers retrieve those tokens and allow consumers to check out faster, without actually storing their sensitive financial data.
4. Make signing in seamless
Baymard Institute analyzed the top 100 grossing ecommerce sites against 63 usability guidelines and found that 24% still require users to create an account, which we’ve already established that consumers hate.
People don’t always want to register… or feel like they’re registering. Long-form checkout sometimes give people that impression, causing them to cancel.
Social logins also speed this process up, allowing people to sign in with their Google or Facebook credentials. Last year, Intel Security surveyed 2,000 adults in the U.S. and found that the average person has 27 online logins
 and 37% forget at least one password weekly.
Takeaway: Don’t make people register; incentivize them to do so. Sears, for example, offers points to registered customers.
5. Be time-sensitive
Stock is often reserved as soon as a user enters the checkout, but it’s not guaranteed forever. Remember, less than a quarter of transactions actually happen.
Some retailers use session expiry because inventory is limited and moves quickly. Others do it as a persuasion tactic or a security measure. Think about how when you do multiple transactions on an ATM, you have to reenter your PIN so the bank can ensure you’re not a serendipitous thief.
Either way, an expiring session can lead to frustration. Clearly communicate when a session is going to expire, and think ahead to the next steps. If an item is out of stock, give the customer an option to request it when it’s next available, for example.
Takeaway: Is there a better example of fast-moving, limited inventory than concert tickets? Follow Ticketmaster’s lead and use a countdown clock to manage expectations.
6. Retain data
Session expiry doesn’t necessarily equal cart abandonment. The Internet is rife with distractions and the customer could very easily get wrapped up in something else, with every intention of completing the purchase.
When online shoppers navigate back and forth through checkout, the browser sends an HTTP request for the relevant URL. If someone hits the “back” button—whether intentionally or by accident, or by default when their session expired—that means the previous URL in the browsing chain.
Because the checkout screen is a form, the data has already been submitted. Retain that data and let people edit it, if need be. The more data someone has to re-enter (especially the credit card number they probably don’t know offhand) the more likely they will be to add to your cart abandonment statistics.
Takeaway: Make sure that when a customer clicks a browser’s back or forward button, the page loads correctly without an error message. Also make sure no preloaded data is lost during navigation.
7. Mind the CTA
The ecommerce checkout experience is littered with calls-to-action (CTA), often on the same page. It’s up to you to design your website in such a way that there’s an obvious CTA hierarchy. What is the most important action for the customer to take? Which ones are secondary?
Design elements make that clear. Color and contrast make CTA stand out on a page, while also drawing attention to any information you didn’t include. Maybe you missed “apartment number.” A good ecommerce page highlights that field in red, so you don’t have to go hunting for it… and possibly lose interest along the way.
Notice how JCPenney prioritizes “continue” over “edit bag” with the eye-catching red.
Takeaway: Decide which are the most important CTAs for you… and which ones you should avoid. If there’s an ad on your checkout page, there’s a chance someone can click it and forget about you.
You’re never going to get your cart abandonment down to zero. Even if you have the most mobile-optimized, frictionless, data-retaining checkout experience that’s ever existed, there are so many other variables at play. Every second on the Internet is marked by 500 hours of YouTube videos uploaded; 149,000 emails sent; and 3.8 million things Googled. Realistically, some of those queries are, “Is this item cheaper on Amazon?”
Still, cart abandonment doesn’t need to be as sky-high as it is. Many factors are related to UX so do what you can to make sure yours is as close to perfect as possible. Think about it: you’ll spend more time reading this sentence than most consumers will spend waiting for your page to load.
- ^ Whether you’re Amazon or a two-person operation (www.clickz.com)
- ^ Pages should be optimized, rather than shrunk down (www.clickz.com)
- ^ Give yourself the mobile-friendly Google test (search.google.com)
- ^ Google’s 2015 “Mobilegeddon” algorithm update (www.clickz.com)
- ^ Images are the main factor (httparchive.org)
- ^ they’re both minified (developers.google.com)
- ^ Amazon would own 44 cents out of every ecommerce dollar (www.emarketer.com)
- ^ the average person has 27 online logins (www.buzzfeed.com)