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March 20th, 2006 by Jamie Estep

Online Stores – Shopping Cart Abandonment – Don’t do this…

Filed in: Ecommerce, Guides |

I was online today purchasing some network hardware for the company, and after visiting about 20 different sites, all with similar prices, it was only one site that ended up getting my business.

Accepted Payment MethodsIt made me wonder why, of all the websites that I visited, and all the shopping carts I added products to, did I chose the one that I did. I then remembered reading a shopping cart abandonment article a few weeks ago, and I put my experience and the article together. I normally don’t write about this specific topic even though it is one of my strongest areas, but so many sites are making the same simple mistakes.

Why I abandoned so many shopping carts:

  1. Required Customer Registration.
  2. Not listing accepted payment methods.
  3. Not listing shipping prices early enough.

You can read articles all you want about shopping cart abandonment and user conversion, and while there are probably hundreds of reasons why a customer might abandon a shopping cart, there are three above all others that will kill your customer base. These three are coincidentally the same three that caused me to leave so many websites.

1. Required Registration: The number one shopping cart killer in my research and personal opinion is requiring customers to register before they can place an order. Customer registration can be a very useful tool, and can greatly improve future experience with customer support and tracking, but don’t require it. Not everyone wants to register with your website. If every website I place an order with required me to register, I would have several hundred memberships each year across the internet. If you require registration, you just lose me, as well as a huge amount of other potential customers from ever ordering from your site.

Offer registration as an option, and give users the specific benefits of registering, but also allow an easy way to place an order without doing it.

2. Not showing what methods of payment you accept: While not quite as annoying, this one comes in at a close second to required registration. When I get to an ecommerce site, especially one that has lots of products that can be found at several thousand similar websites across the internet, I need to know how I can pay. I should know long before I think about checking out, how I am able to pay for the merchandise that I want. What if I want to use the company Amex card, or I need to use paypal today. Let me know how I can pay. If I cant find it at the very latest by the shopping cart page, you can probably consider my business lost. I shouldn’t have to search for this, it should be in a very conspicuous place on every single page of the website. The footer and sidebar make excellent places to put a website’s accepted payment methods.

To compound problems, if you only show your accepted payment methods after a visitor is forced to register, you can probably assume that you are loosing 50% or more of the people who otherwise would have made a purchase from you.

3. Not showing shipping prices early on: Shipping prices allow a bit more leniency because you cant normally give a shipping price until a visitor’s order is summed up, but show the shipping prices as soon as they can possibly be generated. Don’t wait until the payment form. Show them on the shopping cart page if possible. Or, if you have fixed shipping prices, give customers an idea of how much their order will cost to ship.

It doesn’t get any more frustrating than going through a checkout process, to later find that my bicycle handlebar grips which cost $10 are going to cost $35 to ship FedEx ground.

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Unless you sell something that is absolutely unique that everyone wants, or your prices are so low that your visitors are willing to jump through hoops to buy from you, don’t do any of these on your website. Make it as convenient and easy as possible for your visitors to make a purchase from you, and your visitors will reward you for it. Use common sense when designing a website and shopping cart. If something doesn’t have a useful purpose or is confusing, get rid of it. There are hundreds if not thousands of things that can help or hurt a website’s customer conversion rate, but these three will make a marked difference in almost every website’s efficiency.

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