Skip to Main Content

Apr 27, 2011 | 3 minute read

Checkout Optimization: Are You Testing The Wrong Thing?

written by Linda Bustos

If your cart abandonment rate is, say, 58% - where do you start to fix the problem?

Many marketers would jump in with optimizing the checkout process by reducing steps, slicing and dicing form fields, changing button colors and adding security badges.

But what if most checkouts were not abandoned because of anything “confusing” or broken in the checkout process?

According to Forrester Research, only 11% of consumers report their last abandoned cart was due to a long or confusing checkout. Only 12% believed the site was asking too much information, only 14% were unwilling to register with a site.*

The most common reasons customers bailed boiled down to “sticker shock” (due to high shipping charges, taxes or other fees, or a high product price), the desire to comparison shop, and simply not being ready to check out at that moment. (Good ol’ FUDs).

No matter how pretty your cart button, how short your checkout process or how clear and usable your form fields, you can’t save these sales. But that doesn’t mean you can’t optimize your site for non-usability factors of shopping cart abandonment.

Let’s take a look at 5 top reasons why customers abandon, and how you can address each Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

Shipping costs too high

1. Make free shipping or shipping discount applications very prominent

  • Pre-checkout shipping estimate tool helps the customer judge the shipping charge

I was not ready to purchase the product

1. Create urgency

  • Include value proposition of “owning it today” (this will depend on your product and the purchase context)
  • Highlight any limited time offers/discounts – don’t bury them below the fold or in graphic elements that may suffer from “banner blindness”
  • Highlight financing options like $X/month (when applicable)
  • Show stock availability / mark products with high sellout risk

2. Allow customers to log in to save their carts

  • 30% clear cookies daily, a saved cart safeguards against wipeout
  • Enables registered customers to retrieve their carts across devices
  • Abandoned carts can be remarketed to (triggered email program) when you have an email address

3. Persistent cart

  • To support those who will not choose to save the cart

I wanted to compare prices on other sites

1. Reinforce your unique value proposition

  • Value props are not just for home pages and landing pages - the cart is perhaps the most important place to convince the customer to buy from you and nobody else

2. Suppress your coupon box

  • The presence of a coupon box may send your customer huntin' for deals from your affiliates, costing your margin and commissions. This is a form of comparison shopping - where can one find the best deal? Handle this issue by hiding the coupon box for customers who have not been referred by an email or affiliate with a discount (using cookies), or auto-apply any discounts these shoppers may receive

Product price was higher than I was willing to pay

1. Financing, if you offer it, could make the price more digestible

2. Boldly highlight (in red, green or orange) any auto-applied savings or sale prices

Just wanted to save products in my cart for later consideration

1. Use a persistent cart and enable saved carts, save-to-wishlist

  • Track % of "save-to-wishlist" actions and deduct from your cart abandonment rate

While these tips won't take care of your cart abandonment completely, addressing these issues before getting into design and usability will get you further than UX alone. Stay tuned, next post we'll look at the design/usability things that make a shopping cart page effective.

* Forrester Research has also reported that 23% of customers would abandon carts when asked to register. Because many sites do offer guest checkout, 14% abandonment due to required registration does not mean that customers care less about site registration, rather, less customers encountered them.

Looking for help with A/B and multivariate testing? Contact the Elastic Path consulting team at [email protected] to learn how our conversion optimization services can improve your business results.