Top Reasons for Abandoned Online Purchases

I just reread a fine report by A.T. Kearney and was amazed at some of the numbers it found. Apparently online retailers are losing approximately $3.8 billion in revenue due to the fact that four out of five consumers give up before completing an online purchase.

The reasons given for abandoning purchases are varied. Of consumers who bailed out of a purchase, 52 percent said that too much data was required. I talked about this in an earlier article and cautioned against asking for more data than you plan to use for the user. It’s not fun to fill in forms with no prospect of getting value back for your information.

We marketers would love to know Jane Doe’s annual household income and the ages of her children, but if we’re going to use that information primarily for sending her targeted advertisements, she’s probably right not to give it to us on the first purchase. If she comes back for a second purchase, maybe then we can work on strengthening the relationship and ask for more information, but only after showing her how well we used what she gave us the first time. Sound a lot like dating? It is. It’s all about trust, comfort level, fidelity, and concern for the other party.

The second most popular reason for abandoning a purchase is reluctance to give credit card details, stated by 46 percent of respondents. Although security fears will probably always be around, it is up to us to instill trust in our users. I would hazard a guess that a good chunk of that 46 percent doesn’t feel as unsure about calling in credit card numbers to an offline cataloger or handing them over to a teenager in a mall. We’ve chosen to utilize this great method of handling transactions, but we now must do the hard work of holding hands and offering assurance in a personal, but automated, fashion.

Web-site malfunctions and an inability to find the desired product are the third and fourth most frequently given reasons for abandoning online purchases. Forty-two percent mentioned the former, and 40 percent mentioned the latter. This is, purely and simply, a usability and web-design issue. As I’ve said before, user testing is very important. This is how you find out that your site doesn’t work. If users can’t use your site, they won’t use it. We simply must do more to ensure the usability of our sites and products.

Amazingly, the report found that 30 percent of online transactions involve an offline contact, such as a phone call. This is a huge money loser for the company involved (estimated at around $2.00 for a one-minute call). Might it be a bigger tragedy, though, that this is not the fast, easy online transaction the consumer hoped for? Considering that 60 percent of consumers who had to resort to a phone call said they were frustrated and would probably not go back to the web site, I’d say so.

Another finding in the same report was that most consumers purchased once from between 5 and 10 different sites. The majority, however, repeat-purchased from only one, two, or three different sites. Looks like they tried a bunch of sites, blind-date style, getting past the greedy data mongers, braving the credit card entry, and finding their products by sheer luck. When it came time to make another purchase, they went steady with one of the few sites that did some user testing, did not beg for extra data, and earned their trust. My guess is that these consumers will continue to revisit these few sites and give them money. As for those others, better luck on their next consumers.

I think the moral of this story is pretty clear: Be more conscientious about what and how much information you ask for. We need to do much more work to earn our users’ trust. We need to do user testing and be diligent about designing sites that are easy to use. We need to provide consistent, pleasurable experiences.

Eighty percent is a lot of users, and $3.8 billion is a lot of money. To keep from frustrating the users and wasting money, we just need to use a little bit of dating etiquette.

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