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Don't Give Your Customers a Reason to Park Their Carts

By Bala Janakiraman
Jul 9, 2009 4:00 AM PT

Up to 70 percent of online shoppers abandon their shopping carts before completing the checkout process, according to SeeWhy, a company specializing in abandonment tracking software. This rate, which rose substantially from 2005 to 2008, is in part a reflection of the intensified comparative shopping that visitors conduct on many sites simultaneously.

Don't Give Your Customers a Reason to Park Their Carts

The ability of consumers to move easily between and among competitive retail sites has increased the likelihood of shopping cart abandonment. For merchants, this abandonment equals lost revenue. Particularly in this economy, it is imperative that merchants do whatever it takes to guide consumer shopping carts through the checkout process to achieve authorized transactions.

Choosing the right payment management platform can make a big difference to help merchants drive conversion through seamless transaction. Below are some things every merchant should consider to improve overall customer satisfaction until the checkout process is complete.

Convenient Shopping

One of the most important ways to ensure that consumers do not abandon their carts is by providing a clean, hassle free user interface. Consumers who feel overwhelmed or underinformed are likely to abandon their carts immediately.

First, assess how many steps are in the checkout process. Nothing is more frustrating than taking 10-20 minutes to complete a transaction; this type of delay will likely drive consumers away. If you require registration for purchases, consider addressing this step before the user reaches checkout. Forcing a user to wait for a confirmation email before they check out correlates strongly with abandonment rates.

Once a consumer decides to buy, be sure to provide a clear and convenient guide through the checkout process and build confidence along the way.

If you need to collect a large amount of information, make sure to break things up. Separate the required fields into two to three pages to make the checkout process less intimidating. Show the consumer all the costs associated with the purchase either in the first step of the checkout process or in the product description. Specifically, place your shipping rates, guarantee, return, privacy, delivery, customer service and security policies in visible and relevant areas throughout the entire process.

The top reason given for cart abandonment in a May 2009 PayPal Checkout Abandonment Study conducted by comScore was high shipping costs. The survey also found that providing shipping costs up front might have resulted in substantially more customers completing their purchases.

Be sure to include your physical address and contact information at the bottom of every Web page. Usability studies suggest adding "About Us" and "Contact Us" links to build further confidence and trust with the consumer. Ultimately, consumers are less likely to abandon a cart if they are aware of estimated shipping costs and anticipated delivery dates, and if they have an option to call or request live service before they even place an item in their cart.

Alternative Payment and Credit Vehicles

Given the current credit crunch, it is getting harder for some consumers to access credit, so alternative payments are being used more widely. For others, alternative payment brands imply a greater level of personal identity security during online transactions. Alternative payments will represent 31 percent of online dollar volume by 2012, estimated Javelin Strategy & Research.

In order to satisfy customers, merchants need to provide early and consistent messaging throughout the shopping experience, making customers aware of alternative payment methods and clearly educating them on promotional offers available.

Twenty-four percent of shoppers cited a lack of their preferred payment option as the reason for not purchasing, according to the PayPal Abandonment Study. Awareness and a standard payment experience create the conditions of consistency that help drive consumer conversion. Among the most popular alternative payment options available today:


By letting customers know that you accept PayPal, you can increase conversion. PayPal is particularly attractive to younger online consumers without credit cards -- a significant segment these days. On average, 21 percent of PayPal shoppers at well known merchants' Web sites would not have made the purchase if PayPal had not been available.

Bill Me Later

Bill Me Later drives incremental business for many merchants because it extends credit at the point of purchase to consumers purchasing high-ticket items. Several merchants have seen a lift beyond 30 percent using alternative payment methods such as Bill Me Later. In addition, Bill Me Later is often recognized for its potential to drive higher order values.

Robust Security

Just as consumer payment methods are influenced by customers' sense of security, so too are their decisions about where they will shop. Prominently display your efforts to secure the check out process and detect transaction fraud.

These will help to reassure your buyers. Always remember that the actual security of your site may not convince a shopper to purchase if the perception of security is lacking.

User Reviews and Product Ratings

Tapping into social media and online communities are some of the new ways merchants are building word of mouth for their products and services. Online comments and reviews are second only to word of mouth as purchase drivers for Web users, according to a 2008 Rubicon Consulting study.

Once you've improved your ability to drive consumers through the purchasing process, you may also want to consider methods such as these to keep them coming back.

The Right Payment Management Partner

Payment processing is significantly more important than most retailers think. Fifty-five percent of consumers think about payments before the final checkout page, for example, according to a report released last year by PayPal and JupiterResearch (now part of Forrester).

Merchants should look at payment management across two fronts:

  • First, what should I do to optimize the user experience so that full shopping carts result in fully authorized transactions? What counsel can I get on how to build general navigation and shopping cart checkout? And what role does my payment processing connection play? For many retailers, this will include consideration of how gateways are or are not used. Faster, direct-to-network connections often result in better authorization rates and less delay for the consumer.
  • Second, what can my payment management partner tell me about solutions for capturing completed sales from more consumers? What role do alternative payments play? Which alternatives are right for my business? What data is available to help me decide what's right for me -- and for my customers?

Not all of the solutions discussed above work for every merchant, but they should be discussed with a payment processing specialist to determine what payment options will help meet your individual business objectives.

This more holistic approach to protecting shopping carts can go a long way in helping you protect, and perhaps grow, your revenue. Don't let consumers abandon their carts. Evaluate your conversion rates, consult with a payment processor, and make sure your site is designed for the ultimate shopping experience -- one that generates conversion.

Bala Janakiraman is a principal product manager for Massachusetts-based Litle & Co., which provides card-not-present transaction processing and merchant services. He can be reached at

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