Cart abandonment is plaguing retailers’ online sales. Consumers use the shopping cart to compare online prices and shipping rates; some treat it as an ongoing shopping list rather than to complete transactions. Trends such as these, coupled with complicated purchase journeys and indecipherable website navigation routes only serve to increase the chances of an abandoned purchase.

With the global economy continuing to threaten consumer spending, it is imperative that online retailers offer a sleek and practical website to secure transactions and avoid cart abandonment.

In the past, shoppers that browsed products selected a few items and then left without ever completing a purchase were often deemed to be worried about the security of disclosing personal details over an unknown medium. We can no longer rely on this assumption: trust in online payments is much stronger among consumers and over complicated payment processes are now seen as one of the main drivers of cart abandonment. It is therefore paramount to ensure that the check-out process for sites is as slick and efficient as possible in order to ensure the collection of online payments.

In addition to difficult payment options, cart abandonment can dramatically increase if customers are hit with abnormally high or hidden shipping costs which appear towards the end of the online purchase, last minute at the check-out. While it's common protocol to charge shoppers for postage, it is imperative to make the charge clear from the outset. The smallest of fees added on at the last minute will leave customers feeling cheated, potentially driving irritated shoppers to click away and see if another site has free or cheaper shipping.

When building a site, retailers must consider the content first, then the navigation, then design. Shoppers don’t like to wait: site loading time is akin to a huge queue in-store and anything that takes longer than a few seconds will significantly increase the bounce rate and consumers will be driven elsewhere. The best websites that achieve high sales and low levels of cart abandonment have a clear focus. Allowing too many clicks between visitors and the information they want will force them to endlessly search around a site, making it more likely for them to give up. Graphics optimised with the best look and smallest fit will allow visitors to instantaneously know what the purpose of the page is. Similarly, if a retailer’s site is too cluttered it can be hard for visitors to separate the information they’re looking for from the visual content.

Site visitors should be given the opportunity to complete an order without being forced to become a ‘member’ and divulge large amounts of personal information. However, in the circumstances when information must be gathered from a customer, retailers need to make it as easy as possible for the user to give their information in a quick, uncomplicated fashion. The best sites will only ask for the information they absolutely need and split the process into manageable chunks. Technology such as address auto-fill can dramatically shorten the checkout process by ensuring your customers don’t have to manually type out their address, and also prevents the risk of errors with the data entry. Furthermore, sites selling to a global audience must make sure the addressing software works across different address formats to cater for overseas markets.

Although a number of factors come into play when a customer makes a decision to buy online, none other is more important than trust. Even in 2013, many people are still uncomfortable buying goods online or via mobile sites. Customers will only purchase products if they feel safe and confident about the retailer's business and reputation online. Consequently, it is imperative that all shopping sites align to industry-accepted protocols and standards. Customers may not hold conviction in certain sites but they will trust their peers, so testimonials clearly publicised on sites will encourage confidence and reduce the risk of cart abandonment.

Like many other creative projects, building eCommerce sites can be challenging in a crowded marketplace. While there is no cure for cart abandonment, online merchants that attack the issue from multiple angles will mitigate the damage it causes.

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