Today’s guest blog is brought to you by UserTesting, a fast and easy usability testing platform. UserTesting has watched thousands of videos documenting the frustration customers go through while navigating online stores, a unique perspective that has given them an enormous amount of insight on some of the most common reasons for shopping cart abandonment. Even better, they’ve learned a few things about what ecommerce retailers can do to prevent it.

If you’re like most e-commerce merchants, you’ve suffered the heartbreak of watching a customer fill their cart with items, start to check out, and then… nothing. While it can be disheartening to think about all of those lost sales, you might be comforted to know that you’re not alone in your predicament. Baymard Institute cites 24 studies from 2006 to 2013 in determining that 67.89% is the average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate. That means the average store owner has better odds of correctly guessing a coin flip than converting a customer. What’s more, this statistic holds true for e-commerce giants as well as smaller online merchants.

Here’s what we’ve learned the about the reasons behind shopping cart abandonment – and what you can do to prevent it.

1. It’s not you, it’s me

Nobody likes to hear these words, but in the context of your relationship with your customers, it’s just something you have to accept sometimes. It’s possible that it’s simply too early for the customer to commit to making a purchase.

One of the best things about shopping online is being able to hop from store to store in a matter of seconds and without ever leaving your seat. This makes it very easy for customers to compare prices to find the best deals. While this is great for consumers, online store owners like you probably don’t feel the warm fuzzies when you think of customers leaving your site to go hunting down lower prices elsewhere.

What to do?

Since comparison shopping isn’t going away anytime soon, the best way to keep customers on your site is to offer a great experience. Make sure to let your brand’s personality shine through. Focus on customer-centric features, and don’t distract customers with too many different choices or confusing navigation. For new visitors, the first time they visit your site is like a first date. If they like what they see, they’ll come back when they’re ready. You can’t force them to commit — you just have to make sure you leave a good impression.

2. The checkout process is too difficult

Whether it’s the lack of a guest checkout feature, confusing sign-in options, or the inability for a customer to use their preferred payment method, there are a number of potential pitfalls that can cause a customer to abandon ship as they’re checking out.

What to do?

  • Don’t require registration. Many customers don’t want to go through the effort of creating another account with another password they have to remember — especially if they only plan on buying from your site occasionally. If you absolutely have to make your visitors register, consider giving them the option to register using their social media accounts to make the process faster for them.
  • Include all popular payment types. We’re not just talking about popular credit card types, but also popular online payment methods. Are you already using PayPal or Google Wallet? If not, these payment methods and other similar services might be worth exploring. Not only do they give your customers more payment options, they also make it that much easier to check out.

3. The customer gets distracted

While customers are shopping on your site, there’s always a chance that their experience will be interrupted by something beyond your control – a ringing phone, an email notification, or the sudden realization that they need to get up for coffee. Although you have no control over the external stimuli that could potentially distract your customers, you can take a hard look at your site to see if you could be sabotaging yourself.

What to do?

  • Test the relevance and placement of additional items. The ubiquitous impulse buying section that works so well in brick-and-mortar stores doesn’t always translate into online stores. Customers don’t necessarily like blatant up-selling. What’s worse, the additional items could distract the customer to the point that they forget to return to their cart.
  • Be smart about popups. While popup banners can be very effective in collecting feedback and email addresses, you have to be careful about how you use them. Most of us find them annoying, so make sure that any popups you use are serving a genuine purpose.

Closing thoughts

Making the checkout process as easy as possible and removing distractions are a great place to start reducing shopping cart abandonment. We’ve also learned from thousands of user tests that customers don’t like being surprised by additional shipping costs or taxes at the last minute, and they need to be assured that they can trust you with their credit card information.

Even equipped with this information, there really is no magic formula to prevent customers from abandoning their carts, because every online store’s customers have different needs. What works for your competitors may not necessarily work for you. The only way to be certain of what works is by testing your online store regularly.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that the likelihood that a customer will make a purchase is based on his or her experience on your site. If you provide an easy, enjoyable experience, you’ll see fewer abandoned carts and more happy customers