“Help! My customers are leaving without purchasing anything!”
If this is you, then your eCommerce business might be in trouble. But fret not! You’re in the right place. We’ll discuss the various stages the customer goes through, their possible reasons for leaving without purchasing anything, and how to change that.
Table of Contents
Cart abandonment is one of the biggest challenges that eCommerce stores face – on average, the cart abandonment rate is 69.80% according to Baymard Institute, and one study found that nearly 59% of all U.S. online shoppers have abandoned a cart within the last three months.
As a Shopify store owner, one of the best ways to increase conversions and profits is to optimize the customer checkout flow, identify bottlenecks in the process, and improve customer experience.
What is the Customer Checkout Flow?
The customer checkout flow is the process that your customer goes through when making a purchase. It is their journey, starting from the moment they first encounter your business and product up to the moment they complete the payment.
The typical flow is this:
1. Product View
This is the customer’s first interaction with the product. If the incoming traffic arrives directly at this page, then it is also the user’s first encounter with your business and website, given that they don’t know you from before.
Some businesses do not take this step into consideration during customer purchase, but the “first touch” is a necessary part of the journey. It evaluates the “Attention” phase of the purchase funnel.
2. Add to Cart
If the customer is interested in your product, he will click on a button to add it to his cart. This is the “Interest” phase.
Sometimes, the act of adding the product to the cart automatically redirects the user to the Cart page. However, some eCommerce websites simply open a pop-up cart so that the user will not be confused when taken to a different page.
Alternatively, customers may be presented with a “Buy Now” button on the product page if they are only planning on buying one product. Buy Now automatically skips the main shopping cart page and takes the user directly to the start of the checkout process.
3. Cart Page View
In this step, the customer heads to the main shopping cart page to review the products in their cart. The user can decide whether to immediately proceed with the purchase, continue shopping, or immediately add more products to their cart.
This is the “Decision” phase. It is where they decide whether or not to proceed with the purchase.
Some sellers use this space to Upsell or Cross-sell to their customers by showing related products and products frequently bought together.
Once they click on the “Continue to Checkout” button, they start the checkout process. This is the “Action” phase.
Customers are often prompted to either register and create an account with the store or proceed as guests.
This is the most tedious part of the customer purchase journey because of the number of fields that users have to fill in. This portion is further broken down into the following sections:
1. Billing Page
The customer will select their preferred payment method and enter their billing information. In short, this is the information needed to process the payment. This can also be the place where customers can add discount codes.
2. Shipping Page
The customer will provide their shipping information. This is where the product will be delivered to, if what you are selling is a physical product. The billing and shipping steps are often reversed, so customers have to put in their shipping details before their billing details.
3. Shipping Method
Customers are provided with a list of courier companies or shipping options (standard, express,next-day delivery, etc.), coupled with each option’s rates.
(Image from Sana Commerce)
4. Preview Order
This allows the customer to double-check their order and ensure that there are no mistakes. Sometimes, the discount code can be applied here, too.
The final preview page is where the total of the order can be found, including the shipping and handling costs and less the discounts.
5. Payment Page
This is where the user proceeds with the purchase.
The payment process depends on the payment option chosen. For instance, if the payment choice is a credit card, the user will be redirected to the card page. If via Paypal, then the user will be redirected to the Paypal payment page.
Once the payment has been confirmed, the user will be redirected back to the confirmation page.
Typical Problems with the Customer Flow and How to Solve Them
Now, all different parts of the process can cause the customer to jump ship and totally abandon his intention to purchase. Let’s analyze each one:
1. Leaving after Viewing Product
No matter what you’re selling, you’re sure to notice that a significant subset of your website visitors do not interact with your shop beyond looking through the options available to them. This is similar to the way in which people visit brick-and-mortar shops to look through the shelves without having much of an intent to actually make a purchase (a.k.a. when they are window shopping).
Low Buying Intent
If a customer is not in a “buying mode,” there is a good chance that they will leave your website without taking any major action. This doesn’t only mean that they won’t make a purchase, this also means that they are less likely to sign up for newsletters, SMS updates, and any other similar offers that you may be running.
The product is not desirable enough
The images, videos, and text content are not convincing enough to the user, or the user doesn’t feel that it is necessary in their lives. It could also be that the product description does not provide enough information about the product in question.
The latter concern makes it more likely that visitors will navigate away from your website to conduct relevant research so they can decide whether or not they want to buy the product in question.
The moment your customer leaves to do some research, you may not see them come back.
The price is too high
When there are limited options and the only option they see is priced higher than they expect or higher than the average for that specific product, they will surely leave.
There is no urgency
The customer doesn’t feel like he should purchase the product right now or immediately, so he leaves. This happens when they feel like the product will always be there in case they need it.
The page does not look trustworthy
If the user takes one look at the page and flees, one huge possibility is that he saw it as an untrustworthy site. In this age and time when phishing scams and fraudulent transactions abound, people have become wary of websites that don’t look like legitimate businesses.
The page is not loading properly
A user will leave immediately if the page loads really slowly or the elements in the page are distorted for his device.
Too Many Options
This is not a very common concern but is a legitimate one. If you offer multiple product variations, your customers will have what is called Analysis Paralysis. They will take too long to make a decision to the point that they are not able to make a decision at all.
To solve these problems, you can do any of the following:
Provide complete and useful information
Make it so that all information that your customers need can easily be found on your product page.
Highlight the Benefits over the Features
While informing your customers about features are also important, you must highlight the possible benefits the user will get from purchasing this product.
- What problem will it solve?
- How can it make a task easier or simpler?
- How can the product change their lives?
Adjust pricing or utilize pricing techniques
Determine if the price of the product is the best that you can offer and adjust if you can. If it is the best price you can give, then utilize pricing strategies to make the item still desirable even at a high price.
The following are pricing strategies you can use:
- The Odd Pricing
How about letting go of a few cents from the original price to give it a lower price feel? For example, instead of saying the price is $100, you can say $99.99 or $99.69.
- Package Deal
This type of pricing allows the user to receive a discount when he purchases more of the same product or when he purchases specific products altogether. He will feel that the more he buys, the bigger the discount.
Reduce the Number of Options
The sweet spot of how many options you need to present depends on you and your customers. But generally, if you have reached a dozen options, it’s time to trim it down to a manageable number.
Add Trust Signals
It’s essential to remember that, in the process of making an online transaction on your website, customers are trusting you with sensitive information. This includes their credit card data, personal information like their name and address, and contact details, including their phone number and email address.
Users evaluate your trustworthiness even if they have not yet given you any information yet.
If customers trust that their information is safe with you, they are more likely to go through with a transaction. While returning customers may trust you due to longstanding experience, it’s essential to make sure new customers are able to have the same trust in your website.
Trust seals can help provide this confidence. These are badges or seals that can be added to your online store to verify that your website is legitimate and secure. These seals are provided by independent third-party companies who use data to confirm your business is authentic.
(Image from CXL.com)
48% of people said that they were more likely to trust a website or online store that used trust seals, with the badges that inspired the most confidence for customers shopping online including:
- Norton Secured
- McAfee Secure
- TRUSTe Certified Privacy
- ScanAlert Hacker Safe
- Secured by Thawte
Trust signals are those that give your customer confidence that you are a legitimate business. Aside from privacy and security seals, trust signals can come in the form of:
- Customer Reviews — this gives the customer confidence that other people have already tried the product and liked it;
- Purchase pop-ups — this one gives the user a boost since other people are purchasing the item, too;
(Image from Care Cart)
- “Featured in” signs — if the product has been featured in or mentioned in popular shows or by popular celebrities, you can add them to the product page. The trust that people have for popular shows and celebrities somehow wears off to the product mentioned.
Inducing urgency can be done in a number of ways:
- by showing that there’s a limited number of stocks for that particular product (X stocks remaining);
(Image from EConsultancy)
- that the discount or sale will be ending soon (Countdown timers);
- that someone else is looking at the same product as you.
We will discuss more on this topic in the next part.
2. Navigating Away from the Website After Adding to Cart
Another cart abandonment pain point that businesses need to address is of customers who add products to their cart and then navigate away from the website without ever starting the checkout process.
Like with the previous issue, the biggest reason that this happens is that customers don’t feel the urgency to make a purchase. This may be because they don’t need to use the product in question immediately, or simply because they feel the product will be available later down the line and so do not have to make a purchase as soon as possible.
In order to address this issue, you will need to engender a sense of urgency in your customers as we previously discussed.
(Image from Beeketing, a Shopify urgency app that provides countdowns, stock numbers, and social proofing.)
If you are running a limited-time sale, or if the product in question will only be available for a limited period of time before being pulled out, it’s important to make your customers aware of this fact with a timer. Having a clear indication that waiting can cause them to miss out on the product will push them to make a purchase immediately.
Aside from placing the countdown timer on the product page, you can also add it to the Cart. This works well for items on sale -- you can show how many minutes are left before the sale ends so that the customer will be prompted to complete the purchase ASAP.
If the product you’re selling has limited stock, keep a running counter that will let customers know how many pieces you have remaining. This is particularly useful if you have a small amount remaining, for example, if your stock is currently lower than 20 pieces and you don’t expect to restock the product.
Like with countdowns, this engenders a sense of urgency and makes customers feel that if they don’t make a purchase immediately, there will be a chance they will never be able to buy the product in question.
Some businesses actually use this “running out of stock” technique in order to induce urgency, even if they still have a lot of the item in stock.
If your product is currently on-trend, you can utilize the power of FOMO (“fear of missing out”) to make customers want to buy it immediately. However, it’s essential to make sure you use this technique carefully, as you will only be able to elicit FOMO if people are worried that others will have the product in question while they won’t if they don’t buy from you immediately.
One popular product that capitalized on this idea was the reversible octopus plush toy. After the plushie went viral on the social media app TikTok, stores raced to make sales before the craze died down.
To induce FOMO, you can simply add a pop-up that displays how many people are currently viewing the same product. If there are a lot of people viewing and only a handful of stocks remaining, the customer would likely grab the chance.
If you’re using Shopify, you’d be happy to know that there are several Shopify apps that you can use for this purpose. Check out list of the best Shopify Apps that will help increase your sales.
3. Leaving after Viewing the Cart Page
The cart page is where the users evaluate the items they are about to purchase.
Customers rarely drop off at this point, but when they do, it could be any of the following reasons.
If you’re constantly trying to upsell to a customer, there’s always a risk that they may get aggravated and annoyed. After all, constant pop-ups each time you navigate to a new page on a website isn’t a pleasant experience.
It’s essential to make sure you test your upselling strategy thoroughly before implementing it on your website. Also, take feedback into account constantly so that you can make any tweaks and adjustments that may be required.
Extra Fees such as Tax Added
Some businesses do not include the tax in the product price. Once the customer sees the price increase due to tax, they would feel like they are feeling duped.
Confusion when it comes to Payment Options
Many stores advertise Paypal and Paypal Express with a large, easy-to-notice button but advertise the other payment options they accept with smaller buttons or images. This may cause customers to think that they are the only payment options available and that you do not offer the payment method they prefer.
(Image from Pixel Union)
Interest Waning Off
If the product you are selling is an impulse buy, then the longer the customer completes the checkout process, the lower the chances of them completing the purchase. It’s because you are giving the customer more time to think and evaluate his choices.
Reduce Upsells and Cross-sell
It is best to reduce the number of upsells and cross-sells on the cart page while only displaying options that are valid for the product. For example, if the customer wants to buy diapers, it makes sense to offer baby clothing or soft toys since these are of the same category.
However, if the customer intends to buy lipstick, it would be rather strange to offer her some baby clothes and diapers, right?
Collect Other Fees Upfront if Applicable
If you need to charge value-added tax on the order, why not include it already in the price? This is so that your customers will not be surprised by the increase in price.
Or if you really have to separate it, make sure that this is indicated clearly on your product page. It will reduce confusion when customers see their total amount later on.
Remove the Express Payment Options or Adjust their Button Size
Edit the page so that your checkout button for other payment options is also noticeable. Or, if you can't adjust it, then remove the express payment button as it might confuse customers who want to use other payment options.
Make sure to list all the accepted payment methods clearly, with equal importance given to them all. Some websites display the available payment options on the product page; others include the logos of the accepted merchants in the e-store’s footer.
Remove the Cart Page Altogether
If the customer has already clicked on the "Buy Now" button or the "Checkout" button in your floating cart, then it would be best to skip this page altogether and direct the customer to the start of the checkout process.
If you can, go for the floating cart page which displays all of the items the user wants to buy. It only appears when the user adds an item to the cart but does not take the user away from the product page.
Remember that the extra page to view and the extra button to click, albeit very little, can cause friction.
4. Abandoning Checkout
The checkout stage is where most cart abandonment happens.
A cart abandonment survey has shown that the reasons for abandoning a cart vary, but there are certain factors that contribute to it more than others, and these include:
Long and/or Complicated Checkout Process
Different businesses have different requirements for their payment methods which can mean that you will need multiple steps during your checkout process.
For instance, having separate Billing and Shipping pages that both need almost the same information can irritate customers. Why do they have to fill out both forms?
The more fields they need to complete and the more pages they need to visit to complete the process, the quicker you'll lose them.
If there is a vast difference between the design of your website and your checkout page, then the user will immediately jump ship. People are wary of phishing scams, and a change in the theme and environment can cause them to doubt whether or not they are providing their information to a legitimate business.
Account Sign-up or Login Required
Not everyone will be keen on creating an account in a webstore before they are able to make a purchase. For one, if they don't plan on making another purchase sooner or later, why would they create an account? It will be a waste of time for them.
Email Address is Required
While almost everybody who has a smartphone has an email address, not everyone uses it as regularly as digitally-adept individuals. Many will find adding an email address to be inconvenient.
High Shipping & Handling Costs
To some customers, the increased shipping and handling costs may be a deal-breaker. If they feel that you are charging too much for them to get their items shipped to their home, they will not bother with your store anymore.
Sometimes, the customer could not calculate their total order cost up-front so they go through the checkout flow just to see the cost of shipping and handling (at which point they may find it too expensive and would abandon the cart).
Not Enough Payment Methods Offered
Different people are willing to use different methods of payment, and only offering a few might reduce your conversion rate.
An optimized checkout page can address many of these concerns, helping reduce your store’s cart abandonment rate. Indeed, another Baynard Institute study estimates that simply reducing the number of form elements can cut down your cart abandonment rate by as much as 20-60%.
Given this research, it’s easy to understand why checkout optimization should be at the front and center of your website strategy for your Shopify store.
Before optimizing your checkout process, consider conducting a survey with your own customers to understand the main reason your store sees cart abandonments. It will make it easier for you to target the main reason your customers exit your store without making a purchase. It will also allow you to optimize the pages associated with your checkout process to meet your customers’ needs.
Some steps you can take to make the checkout process easier and more attractive for your customers include:
Incorporate a progress bar or other similar tool that allows your customers to determine how far into the checkout process they are. This will allow them to see how they are proceeding with the checkout process and how close they are to reaching the end.
(Image from Stack Overflow)
Display Your Logo and Maintain Your Theme
Use the same theme and look, such as font type, font size, background color, etc., on your checkout page, just like how the rest of your store appears. While checkout pages cannot be fully customized in Shopify, the platform still offers ways for customization to help give it a unified look and feel as the rest of your website. And don’t forget to add your logo.
Make Account Creation Optional
As mentioned above, one of the major causes of cart abandonment is your customers feeling compelled to create an account that they are not interested in. This can be a particular issue for customers who are looking to make a one-time purchase or a purchase that will serve as a gift and will not be repeat customers in the future.
To reduce the risk of this happening, offer your customers multiple checkout options. While prompting them to create an account is important, it’s just as important to ensure that they are able to progress through the checkout flow as a guest. In doing so, not only do they not feel forced to register if they don’t want to, but there’s also a chance that they will be able to move through the flow faster.
Not requiring accounts doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to collect customer information. While allowing for guest checkout, you can also add a space where customers have to fill in their email addresses or phone numbers. This will allow you to send them a digital invoice and transactional messages, while at the same time keep the contact information for marketing messages in the future.
Reduce the Number of Form Fields
If your checkout forms have a significant number of form fields, you risk customers feeling intimidated at the prospect of having to fill them out. This is made worse if the optional fields are not clearly labeled, as users feel as though they will have to fill out every field.
Where possible, it’s essential to cut down on the list of form fields you offer during the checkout flow.
Some optimizations you can make include:
- Collapse fields that may not be relevant to every customer, such as “Company Name” and “Address Line 2,” behind a link.
- Label the optional fields so that users immediately know they can skip these.
Allow input of Phone number instead of Email address
Since a lot of people prefer receiving updates on the status of their order via text message, you can provide the option to input their phone numbers instead of email addresses.
Not only will you make your customers happy, but you also get the chance to increase your SMS subscribers list. Don’t forget to provide a checkbox underneath the field that gives the user the chance to opt out of promotional messages for SMS Marketing Compliance’s sake.
If you are already using an SMS Marketing app like WinBack, you can set this up so that the customers will be added to your recipients' list and your website can automatically send cart retrieval messages an hour or so after they leave the website.
Combine Billing and Shipping Forms
Make the default setting during checkout “billing address is the same as the shipping address.” Many eCommerce websites still default to offering two different forms for billing and shipping addresses, which can make the checkout page look daunting to customers.
If they need to input separate information, they can simply click a button to enable separate shipping and billing forms.
The change this switch makes is significant – for the average checkout flow, just this one change will reduce the number of fields to be filled out by more than a third.
Offer Multiple Payment Options
One of the major reasons for cart abandonment is the lack of sufficient payment methods. While you will never be able to offer every payment option possible, it’s vital to offer as many as you can.
This allows customers to pay via their preferred method of payment and will be less likely to abandon cart because they won’t have payment issues.
Some options you can offer include:
- Major credit and debit cards like MasterCard, Visa, and American Express
- Google Wallet
However, keep in mind that if you were to put too many options on your checkout page, it can confuse some users and will end up giving up before they even get started.
As such, try tailoring your payment options to apply to the widest audience possible to make sure that as many people as possible have access to their preferred form of payment.
Talk About Shipping Costs Early
One of the biggest challenges that customers face when starting the checkout flow is uncertainty regarding shipping costs. Many stores do not clarify the cost of shipping until partway through the checkout process.
This means that customers are forced to start checking out products without being confident that they will actually make a purchase. They can only make a decision over whether or not to buy when showing the shipping costs, which are frequently found in the “Shipping” or “Shipping Method” portion of the checkout flow, rather than the “Cart” section.
By providing details about shipping costs earlier in the process, you allow customers to make decisions about whether or not to buy before going too far in the purchase process. Not only does this reduce cart abandonment rates, but it also means that when previous visitors have the budget to account for shipping, but they are also more likely to visit your website over competitors, as your checkout process was upfront and transparent.
To do this, you can make announcements throughout your website via pop-ups and banners about fixed shipping rates, options for discounted shipping, and even a separate shipping calculator page.
Offer Free Shipping with a Minimum Order
Many customers are mentally prepared to face high shipping costs. This means that they are more likely to keep cart values low, as they are budgeting for expected additional costs.
If they are aware of your store’s offer of free shipping (as well as any conditions that may be associated with it, such as minimum order price), they will be able to shop without having to worry about additional costs. This, in turn, allows them to spend more on your products, as they can now spend their entire budget on products from your store.
Other Optimizations You Can Apply to Reduce Cart Abandonment
There are several more ways you can optimize your eCommerce store to improve user experience and eventually increase sales. These are:
Capture Contact Details Early
You can prompt your customers to fill in their email and phone details even before they start the checkout process. This will make it easier for you to get in touch with them with marketing emails and messages in the case of cart abandonment.
You can also use the data captured to provide auto-fill options the next time they visit your website, allowing them to complete future checkouts quicker and easier.
One way to capture email addresses or mobile numbers early on in the checkout process is to allow customers to create an account on your website and sign in via social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google. This makes sign-in easier for them, but it also allows you the chance to grab valuable customer information you can use later.
One-click sign-up apps can help simplify the tedious process of creating a new account. An example of such an app is One-Click Social Login.
You can even utilize pop-ups that ask users to subscribe to notifications and promotions, just like what Fat Daddy Meats did ever since it started using WinBack to get customers back.
Address Website Performance Issues
If your website is taking too long to load or is crashing too frequently, there is a good chance that customers will decide against shopping with a look for a website that offers them a better customer experience.
It’s essential to make sure that you measure website load times, responsiveness, downtime, etc., to ensure that customers aren’t choosing to abandon cart due to the amount of time your store is taking to load.
Optimize Website for Mobile
Given these statistics, it’s easy to understand mobile users are a key demographic that no eCommerce or Shopify store can afford to ignore. While optimizing your checkout flow, it’s also essential to make sure that the flow is optimized for the convenience of mobile users.
Some ideas you can use to optimize mobile checkout include:
- Conducting a mobile funnel analysis to understand where you are facing a challenge with mobile users;
- Providing immediate information when a person adds something to their cart on mobile, such as a number next to the cart icon to denote how many items are currently in the cart. You can also add animation when a person transfers a product to the cart, adding a sense of fun to the online shopping process.
- Making the cart easy to access and exit, with the cart icon prominently displayed on your user interface.
- Adding clear calls to action that direct the customer into completing the transaction.
- Offering an auto-fill option for key fields such as name, number, and address, making it easier for them to complete forms and move through the checkout flow without experiencing frustration.
- Offering the option to save payment details for customers logged into their accounts, which would make future purchases easier (and faster) to complete.
In general, optimizing for mobile checkout is relatively similar to optimizing for desktop checkout. While certain elements may be different, by and large, they remain the same.
However, businesses should thoroughly check their website before sending it live, as that allows you to identify optimization issues you may not have noticed before.
Find the Point Where Your Customers Bounce Off
Before implementing optimizations, you should have a clear idea of why customers are abandoning their carts on your website. Once you have a better idea of their reasons, you will be better able to tailor all pages to meet their needs.
For example, if customers are mainly abandoning carts due to high shipping costs, discounted or free shipping will help bring them back to your website.
However, if they are abandoning carts due to technical issues with the website, you may find that improving the website, providing them with a direct checkout link, and sending a discount code they can redeem at any time works better.
To find the point where your customers leave, you should consider linking your Shopify account to Google Analytics. This way, you can monitor where your customers enter and where they leave, giving you an idea of where the bottleneck in your purchase process may be.
Customers are more likely to abandon carts than ever, and figuring out how to reduce the abandonment rate is key to ensuring both long-term and short-term success.
While an optimized checkout flow will not eliminate cart abandonment altogether, it can get the numbers down significantly. This, in turn, means greater conversions, more profits, and a better reputation for your business.
But what if the customer has already left the website, is there no way to chase them back? Of course, there is! One of the best ways is to send them an SMS Message through WinBack, with a direct link to the product they viewed or even their cart. Try SMS Marketing today with a 14-day free trial.