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Source: Internet Day

Posted on June 29, 2001

      People don't abandon shopping carts without a good reason. And the phenomenon of the abandoned shopping cart -- this blight upon the Internet retail landscape -- is not merely a wayward hobby, Internet prank or something hackers do in their down time. These are real shoppers, potential customers with products in hand, evaporating before your very eyes.

      Statistics indicate that more than 60 percent of online shoppers abscond before completing an online transaction. Some sites report a 90 percent consumer etherization rate after a product has been selected for purchase. What's going on? What's giving these people the shakes? Did Bob the Web designer forget to include the "Buy Now" button?

      The fact is, there is no single trigger for the abandoned shopping cart phenomenon. Rather, there seem to be several impacted causes -- many of them obvious. But even after we eliminate the obvious, there are other more insidious Web site factors and e-commerce influences that can initiate consumer trepidation or the dreaded shopping cart "panic reaction."

      Let's start with the obvious. Imagine you are shopping online and have selected an item. It's in the cart. But now you need to log in or get a password or fill out interminable forms or confront required fields for seemingly irrelevant personal data or you may not even understand what the procedure is and there are no instructions, help features or telephone numbers to get you through the transaction.

      Or the item in your cart is an impulse buy. By the time you get through this maze, you ask yourself if you really, really need this particular item. Doubt sinks in. You get shopping cart remorse. Or you smell the toast burning. Or the coffee buzz begins to wane.

      Or you select a product but then there are these questions, these important, lingering questions you need answered about product specifications or shipping. There's nothing in the FAQ, not enough in Features and Benefits. Product's there, in the cart, but you really need these questions answered, you need to be reassured, and there is no one to talk to, no communications interface, no support number, and the customer service e-mail contact is ten web pages back, somewhere in the About Us section.

      Or it's time to submit your credit card data and you realize that you are on a unsecured, non-SSL order page. No https, no encryption, no security, certainly no real-time authorization, and no concern for the safety of your personal data.

      Whatever the cause -- technical, obstacle or communicational -- you bolt. You have abandoned the shopping cart. And as you can see, these all-too-common shopping cart protocols have instantly become barriers between your desire to buy, the actual process of buying, and reaching the past tense bought.

      That's the obvious side of shopping cart abandonment. The solutions: simplify the protocols, shorten the forms, eliminate password log-in or make it optional, highlight customer support numbers, offer clear navigational paths to your FAQ, Features and Benefits pages, include shipping details and use state-of-the-art payment processing with SSL security.

      Now let's look at the less obvious reasons for your customers to take wing:

      Sometimes it's the technical components of the shopping cart itself that turn your customers away. Many of the widely available free shopping carts do not have the capacity to be customized or fail to provide product attribute options like color, size, quantity etc. When consumer choice is restricted, consumers bail. Free or cheap sure sounds nice -- until you find out that your customers think your shopping cart ain't the cat's meow. Then they vote with their feet.

      Additionally, a low quality shopping cart -- or a poorly designed catalog interface -- will undermine your online credibility instantly, even if your homepage looks professional.

      And that's the main problem with these newer stopgap payment processing solutions, where you basically send your customer offsite and off-world to some generic shopping cart or order page. These solutions look low-tech and that makes them high-risk for shopping cart abandonment.

      More than that, you can't work with design or attribute options. No logo or company identity. No familiar color layout or navigation bar. Primitive e-commerce. And to make things worse, besides scaring most of your customers away, these types of payment processors will probably take a nice percentage out of your proceeds.

      The point is, if you do e-commerce the right way, intelligently and seriously, you will radically decrease the rate of shopping cart abandonment on your site. Full-featured shopping carts that integrate seamlessly with Web site design, that simplify the buying procedure, that function intuitively, that are streamlined for sales, that signal secure, state-of-the-art e-commerce -- all this will help you close the deal.

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