How to reduce basket abandonment

Well who knew? UK retailers are losing around £18 billion of potential sales per year because of abandoned baskets. This is according to recent research by Barclays, of which more later.

But what exactly is an abandoned basket? We covered this topic last year in an article The Very Sad Tale of the Abandoned Basket. An abandoned basket is when an online shopper puts items into the basket but then never checks out.

Given that online sales continue to grow – and now account for around 18% of total retail sales as compared to 2.8% 10 years ago – the abandoned basket trend is one that needs to be addressed before it impacts even further on the economy. Already it is apparent that shoppers are more fickle when they buy online. 41% have abandoned a basket in the last year, as compared to only 24% who have changed their minds whilst in-store.

The Barclays research in March 2018 surveyed 2,001 adults who had abandoned an item online, and 314 retailers.

The research provided some interesting results. For starters, a list of ten items that are most commonly abandoned. These are:

  1. Women’s knitwear
  2. Leather goods, such as wallets
  3. Women’s lingerie & hosiery
  4. Headphones
  5. Watches
  6. Women’s sportswear
  7. Women’s skirts
  8. Books
  9. Men’s trousers / jeans
  10. Women’s tops & shirts

Items in each abandoned basket cost on average around £30 per month. Multiplying this figure by 12 and then by the total adult population of the UK gives the £18 billion figure referred to above.

Surf and turf shoppers

Basket abandoners have been labelled by retailers as “surf and turf” shoppers; because they surf the net then turf the basket away at the end. Data gathered about surf and turf shoppers by retailers indicate that they are most likely to be millennials (ie aged between 25-34) and perhaps slightly more likely to be women, though opinion is divided on this.

The peak times for basket abandonment are between 6-10pm and the most common months are December, followed by November and January: due to Christmas, Black Friday and the January sales respectively.

Why do people abandon baskets?

But why do people abandon baskets, and what can be done about it?

The image below – produced by Salecycle.com – indicates the six main reasons that baskets are abandoned.

Let’s look at each of them in terms of a typical millennial customer:

Just looking

Most millennials live their lives online. So online is the natural place for them to look when thinking of making a purchase. They are likely to do extensive research, particularly for a larger purchase, and putting the item into the basket is an easy way to earmark it as of interest and have it ready for potential purchase.

In their minds it does not necessarily mean that they are going to purchase the item; they may just be using the basket as a wish list.

Shipping issues

One factor that can very much put people off completing a purchase is dissatisfaction with shipping options. Most consumers expect next day delivery and are likely to reconsider if the delivery time is longer than this. If there are any restrictions on delivery days this can also have an impact.

Also linked to this is the cost of shipping. If delivery is not free it can be perceived as a hidden cost that raises the overall cost of the purchase and makes it a less attractive deal.

Wanted to compare prices

A potential customer may already be beyond the research stage and know what product they want. So they put it into the basket but then leave it there while they go on other sites to compare prices. If they soon discover they are getting a good deal they are likely to return fairly quickly, but if the decision is not as clear cut, the item may lie waiting in the basket for some considerable time.

Decided to buy in store

Even amongst Millennials there are still some customers who like to do all their research on line but then go and see the product in the flesh so to speak. In which case they may then decide to buy it there and then rather than going back and ordering online. Whilst it can be difficult for retailers to attribute such sales accurately, this is not so worrying a case of basket abandonment as the retailer still gets the sale. In fact, they may even get a better opportunity to upsell to the customer while they are in the store.

Lack of payment options

This can be a major issue for potential customers. Millennials can perhaps be viewed as the PayPal generation, an an online retailer is very likely to miss out if they do not offer PayPal or similar methods of electronic payment. Many customers do not want to enter their card details online or if using their phone. So it is essential for a retailer to offer viable alternatives, especially those that are popular with the target market.

It can also be frustrating when in the last stages of purchasing a consumer is asked either to create an account or to enter existing account details that are long since forgotten. Again, this can be exacerbated even more when using a mobile device. If there is no quick and easy purchase option, that purchase may well be lost.

Experienced a technical issue

Everyone gets frustrated with technical issues, and millennials are not known for their patience! Whether it’s a form not loading or the site freezing, or over-enthusiastic validation techniques that refuse to let you progress to the next screen because they think something is wrong … any of these things can quite easily kaibosh a potential sale and cause a basket to be abandoned.

How to prevent abandoned baskets

With all the above in mind, here are some ways that retailers can encourage customers to return to their abandoned basket and follow through to completion. They are even more effective when personalised to the demographic of the potential customer: so think carefully about the style of language used and make sure that any additional offers are tailored to the kind of customer you are dealing with.

  • Sending a reminder email about the item(s) in the basket. Ideally include some more information about the item(s) and an offer, for example a discount or gift voucher or free delivery;
  • Be upfront about costs (eg delivery costs) early in the ordering process so that there are no surprises when it comes to checkout;
  • Offer a price match guarantee so that your customer does not have to waste time looking elsewhere;
  • Offer something extra that is tailored to the type of customer you are dealing with; perhaps free or expedited delivery, a discount for an additional item, or a limited edition item;
  • Simplify your checkout process to make it as quick and easy as possible, so that there are no disincentives to purchase;
  • Create a wish list system if you don’t want potential customers to use the basket as a wish list. Make it easy and fun to use and ensure it is very high profile on your site;
  • Ask for feedback. Don’t make your website a one way street, but make sure there are plenty of opportunities for consumers to interact with you.
  • Publish reviews from other customers on as many product listings as you can. Word of mouth can make the difference between completion and abandonment.
  • So if you are an online retailer there is hope yet that you may be able to reverse the abandoned basket syndrome. The key thing is to analyse the browsing behaviour of those consumers who visit your site but abandon their baskets. You will then be able to select the best combination of follow up activity to try and persuade them to return and check out.