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The Real Reasons for Shopper Drop-Off & What You Can Do About Them

eCommerce Best Practices
UX and Digital Marketing
Visual Search and AI
Sarah HillelSarah Hillel | September 8, 2020

How many potential sales have you missed due to shopper drop-off?

Every year, an astounding $4.6 trillion worth of merchandise is abandoned in shoppers’ digital carts. This number is so high it’s almost incomprehensible, but when you consider how often shoppers drop off, it begins to make sense.

In 2019, the rate of cart abandonment was 69.6%, slightly higher than 69.2% in 2018. It’s even worse on mobile devices, with an estimated drop off rate of 81%. And these are just the numbers we know — we can assume a much higher rate of drop-off occurs earlier on in the shopping journey, before visitors even add items to their carts.

eCommerce sales are on an upward trajectory, but lost business due to shopper drop-off is still a primary area of improvement for many online brands and retailers. Overcoming this means companies must detect and diagnose every flaw that could be driving customers away and fix them as quickly and effectively as possible.

Cart Abandonment is More Complex Than We Think

We tend to oversimplify the causes of shopper drop-off, often with the good intention of focusing on what’s easiest to fix. But the truth is, the problems that lead to cart abandonment are often far more complex and nuanced than we think.

The most obvious factors that discourage site visitors from spending time on your online store or completing a purchase are poor UI and a broken sales funnel, both of which add frustration and inefficiency to the customer experience.

cart abandonment

When the onscreen experience is full of friction and difficulties, key aspects of the shopping journey (such as product discovery, product comparison, inspiration, and research) also become harder to manage.

From the shopper’s perspective, they wonder why they should spend time and money on your site, when they can probably have a more seamless, enjoyable shopping experience on another.

Here are five factors that could be driving your shoppers away and how to fix them.

1. Too Much Complexity

Today’s digital shoppers have short attention spans and thin patience for complex user interfaces or confusing website navigation. Difficulty locating menus, non-intuitive layouts, hidden buttons, lengthy check-out processes, and time-consuming navigation all add friction to the customer experience. They are major turn-offs, enough to dissuade even motivated shoppers from making a purchase.

In particular, the checkout process should be as short and simple as possible. While on one hand, it’s important to prove that your credit card payment system is secure, overcomplicating the process with superfluous steps can lead to high rates of drop-off. In fact, one study found that checkout optimization alone can recover $260 billion in eCommerce sales.

The solution: Get back to basics. Discover and implement UX principles to create a more inviting and engaging customer experience, such as captivating design, intuitive navigation, and product pages that are designed to convert.

Eliminate all nonessential fields from your checkout process, and get rid of unnecessary text or distracting headers. To prevent shoppers from veering away from the page, provide all of the information they will want to know on the page, such as your return policy and shipping details.

By creating a simpler and more direct path to purchase, you’ll eliminate user friction as a barrier to checkout.

2. Difficulty Finding Relevant Products

People usually don’t have the time or will to endlessly scroll through dozens of product pages in order to find the items they want. Requiring them to do so creates a lengthy, disengaging, and dull customer experience. Today, shoppers desire a digital experience that holds their engagement, offers authentic inspiration, feels personal, and respects their time. Without it, their basket is likely to remain incomplete and idle.

cart abandonment

The solution: The emergence of Visual AI technology is revolutionizing product discovery and helping create engaging and personalized shopping experiences. Visual AI produces highly individualized recommendations based on the actions of each shopper. It understands and interprets the minute details in the product images that shoppers interact with to create a sophisticated web of similar products a shopper might be interested in.

With this added capability, your shoppers won’t need to manually search for items that interest them or rely on generic recommendations produced by statistical algorithms. After they begin browsing on your site, they will start to receive relevant recommendations that suit their unique tastes, context, and intentions.

3. Low Intent

People might casually browse your site and add items to their basket, but if they don’t feel excited or motivated to complete a purchase in the same session, they’re more likely to leave the page. While they might eventually return, more often than not, they’re goners.

The solution: The right solution in this case is focusing on how to transform low-intent browsers into highly engaged and excited buyers. To this end, you can employ a few different strategies.

You can direct emails or ads at them with a reminder of the products they left behind, or offer time-limited sales to add some urgency. But the best solution is to generate authentic excitement by providing inspiring content.

Brands and retailers are increasingly including inspiration boards or carousels to their pages, which give shoppers the opportunity to identify new products and trends that pique their interest. Combining these visual galleries with the power of image or camera search, makes it possible to create completely new moments of inspiration and motivate higher purchase volume.

With camera search capabilities, shoppers simply select an inspiring photo and the Visual AI platform automatically identifies every item in the picture. Shoppers click on the item they’re interested in, and instantly, all of the similar products on your site appear on their screen.

4. Lack of Trust

Trust is an essential component of successful eCommerce and customer retention in general. Although online shopping has become ubiquitous, many people still have reservations about entering their credit card information online. If your website seems to lack security, shoppers might get cold feet before it’s time to pay.

The solution: There are a few steps you can take to improve customer trust and boost conversion. First, make sure your technical infrastructure is PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards) compliant and equipped with fraud prevention tools. Recognizable symbols, like security badges on the checkout page, help allay many shoppers’ concerns.

Building a strong brand can also help you enhance your trustworthiness. By becoming a recognizable brand and showcasing your followers on your website, you’ll have the power of social proof to motivate shoppers to buy.

cart abandonment

5. Surprise Shipping Costs

Sometimes surprises are fun. But when the surprise is needing to spend more money, customers stop having a good time on your site. Today’s shoppers have become used to rapid and cheap shipping. They also expect all relevant information to their purchasing journey to be readily accessible at the beginning. Hidden costs are a significant deterrent on the path to purchase.

The solution: The most obvious solution is to reduce the cost of shipping, if possible. If not, another approach is to include shipping costs in the actual product prices. However, it’s important to disclose this information clearly, as hiding it from shoppers can hurt trust. A third option is to ask for customers’ location when they arrive at your home screen and provide them an estimate of what the cost of shipping will be before they even begin adding products to their basket.

Shopper Drop-Off is Not a Lost Cause

High rates of shopper drop-off can translate to thousands or even millions of dollars in missed sales, depending on the size of your store. Despite the prevalence of this challenge, cart abandonment is not an impossible problem to solve. By identifying the root causes of this issue and taking a proactive approach to resolving them, you will encourage shoppers to be more inspired, engaged, and eager to buy.


Sarah Hillel

Sarah Hillel

Sarah is the Global Events and Marketing Manager at Syte. From conception to evaluation, Sarah is passionate about delivering impactful events that enhance the organization's image and brand to client experience.

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