The top eight reasons for basket abandonment – and what they can tell you about your business


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  1. Introduction
  2. What is basket abandonment?
  3. The top eight reasons why basket abandonment occurs
    1. 1. Unexpected costs at checkout
    2. 2. Complicated checkout process
    3. 3. Website performance issues
    4. 4. Lack of trust elements
    5. 5. Limited payment options
    6. 6. Mandatory account creation
    7. 7. Ambiguous return policies
    8. 8. Out-of-stock items
  4. Why it’s important to know the causes of basket abandonment
    1. Capturing revenue
    2. Improving the user experience
    3. Gaining operational insights
  5. How Stripe can help

There are many reasons why a prospective customer might leave straight before they're about to commit to a purchase. Understanding these factors – whether it's unexpected costs, a complicated checkout process or security concerns – can give businesses a unique perspective on the strengths and shortcomings of their online operations, and enable them to create a strategy that reduces friction at checkout.

This article will describe the most common reasons for basket abandonment across industries. By understanding these challenges, businesses can reduce basket abandonment and refine their online checkout experience.

What's in this article?

  • What is basket abandonment?
  • The top eight reasons why basket abandonment occurs
  • Why it's important to know the causes of basket abandonment
  • How Stripe can help

What is basket abandonment?

Basket abandonment is when potential customers begin making a purchase online – such as adding items to their shopping basket or starting to sign up for a subscription – but leave the site without completing the transaction. It's equivalent to the brick-and-mortar retail scenario in which shoppers walk around with items in their basket only to leave them at the checkout and exit the shop without making a purchase.

The top eight reasons why basket abandonment occurs

Preventing basket abandonment starts with understanding the reasons why it happens. Recognising the challenges that customers face during their shopping journey allows businesses to implement proactive solutions and improve customer satisfaction.

Here's an overview of the top reasons why customers abandon their baskets when shopping online:

1. Unexpected costs at checkout

  • What it is: additional charges that a customer only discovers when they're ready to finalise their purchase, such as delivery fees, taxes or handling costs.
  • Why it happens: businesses might choose to display these costs only at the final stage, thinking it can lead to a higher initial commitment from customers.
  • Prevention: transparency and clear communication are key. Make sure that all potential fees are visible from the start or provide a clear estimator tool as a minimum early on in the shopping process.

2. Complicated checkout process

  • What it is: a multistep, confusing or lengthy checkout process that deters customers from completing a purchase.
  • Why it happens: businesses sometimes prioritise data collection over user experience or fail to optimise the checkout page.
  • Prevention: simplify the checkout process. Opt for a one-page checkout if possible and require the customer to only provide the information that's absolutely necessary.

3. Website performance issues

  • What it is: slow-loading pages, crashes or glitches that are experienced by customers as they shop.
  • Why it happens: Insufficient website infrastructure, lack of site optimisation or high traffic volumes can lead to these issues.
  • Prevention: monitor site speed on a regular basis and invest in robust hosting solutions. Implement content delivery networks, and optimise images and scripts for faster loading.

4. Lack of trust elements

  • What it is: the absence of security badges, customer reviews or clear return policies, which can make customers sceptical about the purchase.
  • Why it happens: newer or smaller businesses might overlook these elements, thinking that their product quality will speak for itself.
  • Prevention: display security badges prominently, especially during the checkout process. Include customer testimonials, transparent return policies and multiple contact methods to establish trust.

5. Limited payment options

  • What it is: fewer payment methods to choose from, which might not cater to all customer preferences.
  • Why it happens: businesses might start with just a few payment methods for ease or because they are familiar with them, without meeting the expectations of diverse audience segments or providing regionally popular payment methods for specific markets.
  • Prevention: offer a range of payment methods, including credit and debit card payments, bank transfers, digital wallets and, where appropriate, buy now, pay later (BNPL).

6. Mandatory account creation

  • What it is: forcing users to create an account before they complete a purchase.
  • Why it happens: although businesses like to gather customer data for marketing efforts, it creates an extra step for the user.
  • Prevention: offer a guest checkout option. Although it is often beneficial to encourage account creation, making it mandatory can deter many users.

7. Ambiguous return policies

  • What it is: unclear or hard-to-find information about returns or exchanges.
  • Why it happens: some businesses bury their return policies deep within their sites or use convoluted language, making it challenging for customers to understand their rights.
  • Prevention: present return policies clearly on product pages and during the checkout process. Use straightforward language and consider highlighting key points, such as the return period and any associated costs.

8. Out-of-stock items

  • What it is: products that appear to be available when a customer adds them to their basket but are then unavailable at the point of purchase.
  • Why it happens: inventory management issues and delays in updating the website can lead to discrepancies between actual stock and what's shown online.
  • Prevention: integrate a real-time inventory management system to ensure that the website reflects current stock levels. Inform customers promptly if a product becomes unavailable, ideally before they reach the checkout stage.

Why it's important to know the causes of basket abandonment

For businesses that accept payments online, each abandoned basket does represent lost revenue, but it also provides insights into challenges in the online shopping experience. The basket abandonment rate is a key performance indicator and a tangible metric that monitors the effectiveness of a business's online sales funnel.

Basket abandonment trends can highlight business opportunities in a few primary areas:

Capturing revenue

Each abandoned basket represents potential revenue that didn't materialise. Recouping even a fraction of these losses can amount to significant sums over time.

A single transaction, when viewed in isolation, might seem minor. But retaining that customer and encouraging repeat purchases can drastically increase their lifetime value to the business. Addressing basket abandonment can lead to higher retention rates and foster longer-term relationships with customers.

Improving the user experience

Each basket abandonment provides feedback about the user experience. Perhaps the checkout process is cumbersome or customers discover unexpected costs at the last minute. Optimising your checkout to address these issues creates a smoother experience, encouraging immediate sales and repeat visits.

Trust also plays a pivotal role in online transactions. A customer abandoning a basket because of concerns over payment security or unclear return policies indicates a breakdown in trust. Addressing these concerns directly can solidify a business's reputation as being trustworthy and reliable.

Gaining operational insights

Abandonment because of out-of-stock items offers valuable insights into inventory management and demand forecasting. It can signal which items are in high demand and thus warrant restocking or more aggressive procurement strategies.

Abandonment rates can also demonstrate the efficacy of marketing campaigns. If a promotion leads to high traffic but increased abandonment, there might be a disconnect between advertising messaging and the shopping experience.

The implications of basket abandonment extend beyond lost sales. Understanding the reasons behind basket abandonment enables businesses to refine their strategies, improving the customer journey, and increasing customer retention and lifetime value. Addressing these challenges requires a blend of analytics, user experience optimisation and strategic decision-making to convert these near misses into confirmed sales.

How Stripe can help

Basket abandonment is a challenge that many businesses face, typically because their checkout process is too lengthy or complicated. Stripe offers multiple ways to streamline the checkout experience, making it more appealing for customers to complete their purchase. Here are a few ways that Stripe can help to reduce basket abandonment:

  • One-click checkout
    The checkout process with Stripe Checkout or Link's one-click checkout is intuitive and fast. When a customer opts for one-click checkout and stores their information, their payment details and delivery information are populated automatically for future purchases. This feature speeds up the checkout process and removes the tedium of entering details manually, encouraging purchase completion.

  • Mobile-optimised experience
    Stripe delivers a mobile-first checkout experience that is optimised for screens of all sizes. The user interface is clean, simple and designed to minimise typing. This can be especially helpful for reducing basket abandonment rates, as mobile users often cite ease of use as a deciding factor when making online purchases.

  • Customisation capabilities
    Stripe allows businesses to customise their checkout flows. With application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs) readily available, businesses can tailor the user experience to fit the specific needs and preferences of their target audience. Customisation can extend to the look and feel of the checkout page, the types of payment accepted, and the language and currency options. A more personalised experience typically leads to higher conversion rates.

  • Payment flexibility
    Stripe supports a variety of payment methods, from credit cards to digital wallets, such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. This variety caters to different customer preferences and increases the likelihood of a completed transaction.

  • Security measures
    Security is a focus for Stripe, and it features built-in fraud-detection and risk-management systems. These are designed to instil confidence in customers, making them more likely to finalise their purchase.

  • Reduced loading times
    Checkout speed is another area in which Stripe excels. The platform is designed for quick load times, which is a major factor in keeping customers engaged all the way through to the purchase confirmation page.

Stripe's multi-faceted approach addresses various elements that contribute to basket abandonment. The one-click checkout is a significant feature, and coupled with customisation, payment flexibility and a mobile-optimised experience, businesses can improve their conversion rates significantly. To learn more about Stripe Checkout, go here.

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