When you consider that 71% of all online shopping carts are abandoned before purchase, and that many of them never return, you start to understand why discovering the reasons and seeking to reduce those rates is the core preoccupation of many an e-commerce specialist. Various studies have been performed with this aim, which it’s useful to condense into some brief guidelines.

What we’re trying to do here though is help brands understand the psychology of customers when it comes to making a purchase – in e-commerce they’re looking for value and convenience, for sites they can trust, and which are doing everything they can to give them an enjoyable shopping experience.

But one thing which should be kept in mind is that cart abandonment is not always bad. In fact for some customers it merely reflects one stage in the buying process, which can involve several repeat visits and further abandonments before an eventual purchase. As such, as well as stopping customers from leaving a site, it’s just as important to remember that many will anyway, and to step up efforts such as retargeting emails and keeping carts intact for long periods to keep them returning.

Speed is vital

Amazingly, over half of customers will leave a site if a page takes as much as 3 seconds to load. Clearly we’ve come a long way from the time when we would happily wait half an hour to download a single song from Napster!

There are various techniques to help pages load promptly, a lot of which involve the way the site is coded, but a simple golden rule is, keep text and imagery to a minimum. Obviously, that which is kept then needs to be premium.

Videos

Over 90% of people say that visuals are the biggest single decision-making factor for them when making a purchase – it also means far less chance of returns if they know precisely what they’re getting. So images of products from multiple angles, and that can be zoomed into, are great.

But what really makes a difference is videos. Some 31% of US consumers said they bought products after being convinced by seeing it on film. For example, fashion brands can load videos showcasing outfits on the catwalk, or on the street, so that customers can see how they hang on a model.

Reviews

85% of people read reviews of a product before buying it, seeing them as personal recommendations. Companies should collect and display as many authentic, positive and informative reviews as they can, since people will generally read up to 6 before making a purchase.

Reviews can be collected through followup emails, social media, or forms on the website. They’re also a vital source of customer feedback on other areas of the business, such as checking website performance or brand image.

Newsletters

40% of shoppers don’t enjoy receiving regular newsletters from companies, whereas over 80% of companies think they’re essential, and 30%+ won’t even bother telling visitors they’ve been added to a list. A major disconnect.

Hence – don’t annoy your customers. Make newsletters opt-in, and if people unsubscribe, take them off the list straightaway.

Delivery

Delivery charges cause more people to abandon carts than any other reason. If your brand can’t afford to offer free delivery then alert customers early in the shopping process, perhaps as an additional line on product information next to the price.

Offer customers as many choices as possible when it comes to delivery, especially when it comes to timing. If people know their purchase will arrive within a short, set window they’ll be far more likely to buy.

Checkout

Complex checkout routines cause a lot of customers to click away. The process should really involve no more than 5 separate steps, and if possible returning customers’ details should be retained to make it even faster.

Allowing for guest check-outs will please the 29% of people who abandon carts because they have neither the time or inclination to register an account. Offering a range of payment options, especially PayPal, and displaying security logos for buyer-confidence is also vital.