Since 2011, ecommerce has remained a hot investment ticket, with tens of billions pouring into the sector in recent years. New ways to buy, sell and discover products online appear every week.

And yet, despite VC and corporate investments and retailers like Walmart and Waitrose getting in on the game, ecommerce still has a major revenue flaw: cart abandonment rates. In recent years, ecommerce investments have increased. But so has the cart abandonment rate.

The cart abandonment rate has gone up from 65 percent in 2012 to 69 percent today © iStock/LDProd
The cart abandonment rate has gone up from 65 percent in 2012 to 69 percent today © iStock/LDProd

In 2012, the average was 65 percent; a figure taken from 33 different studies. That figure stands at 69 percent as of January 2016, according to the Baymard Institute. Business Insider calculates this costs retailers $4 trillion a year.

Imagine that was a store or supermarket. One hundred people walk in, fill their baskets, then 69 walk out and leave. A store owner would have to rightly assume they had a serious problem. Online retailers do, and the first step in solving a problem is admitting there is one. We can’t pretend to have all the answers, but with decades of experience designing websites that convert, we can suggest a few ways to reduce cart abandonment rates.

1. Simple, short checkout forms increase conversions

The more input fields your checkout forms have, the fewer sales they generate. This means watching out for unnecessary redundancies and duplications. Mobile forms need special attention. Keep them short and sweet. Time is everything when staring at a small screen. Customers will give up sooner.

2. Provide guest options

Imagine walking into a store for a one-off purchase, then being asked to fill out a loyalty card form before you can buy what you came for. Most of us would leave. Not giving a guest option means sacrificing a sale for an email address.

Make registration optional after the sale as a kind afterthought - let us save your details. You will have a happy customer, plus their details, instead of an abandoned basket and unhappy visitor who won’t come back

3. Reassure all the way to the bank

Parting with money can be emotionally painful for some customers. Even those who aren’t price sensitive can shudder at the thought of spending their hard-earned cash.

Retailers need to work harder to mitigate this perceived loss. Studies indicate using a smaller font for the price, removing currency symbols and using neutral colours all help make spending money seem less scary. Customer reviews and star ratings also support the sales process.

4. Free shipping

One of the main reasons carts are abandoned is the total isn’t clear until the end. Shipping can make an item too expensive, so be sure to make the cost clear throughout, or make it free, whilst showing them how much they’ve saved.

5. Apply print rules for web design

Heat map studies show that when web visitors are in a hurry they will click on the most compelling image or CTA button. In most parts of the world, people read left to right, with 69 percent of online shoppers taking information from the left side of the page: ensure you place images and content accordingly. Web visitor attention spans are short and getting shorter, so always put the critical features above the fold.  

And finally: finish strong. Use clear calls-to-action and guide shoppers into simple, efficient shopping baskets that encourage them to click and purchase, rather than walk away.

MBJ London offers Websites as a Service (WaaS), including website management, from branding to content.