Any retailer – and for the purposes of this article we can define a retailer as anybody selling anything online – is familiar with the challenge of the abandoned cart. Nothing is more frustrating than the thought that so many users get so far along the purchasing process before backing out, in many cases never to be seen again.

And the bad news is that the challenge is just as significant on mobile. Research suggests that cart abandonment on mobile devices is around 60%. Of every 10 individuals who place something into the cart on mobile, 6 don’t get around to completing the transaction. A sobering thought. Of course before we get too carried away, it’s worth remembering that this doesn’t in every case (or even the majority of cases) represent failure. We all know that consumers place items into the cart without thinking. In many cases the intent wasn’t truly there in the first place. But nevertheless, we should still work as hard as we possibly can to track our abandonment rate and minimize it.

Why Carts Are Abandoned

In order to address an issue, it helps to understand as much as possible about it. Recent research from The Baymard Institute, although focused on all online activity, shines a light on this subject. As mentioned above, just shy of 60% of cart abandonment is due to users “just browsing”, or being “not ready to buy”. However, after eliminating these users, of the remainder here are some common reasons why carts end up abandoned:

  • Extra costs too high: 61%
  • The site wanted me to create an account: 35%
  • Too long / complicated checkout process: 27%

Again, it may not be possible to do much about extra costs being too high – although we should certainly work hard to ensure that they don’t come as a surprise. The following two reasons, however, are both likely candidates for optimization, and of particular significance on mobile. The mobile screen is small, and that limited real estate makes it more important than ever to limit demands on the user – in terms of how much you ask them to do, and how complex those actions are. Let’s look at what that means in practice.

Reducing Cart Abandonment 1 – Account Creation

This is a classic dilemma that we’ve worked through with a number of our customers over the years. As always, there are two sides to the argument:

  • Forcing account creation reduces friction for future purchases, and provides greater ability to communicate with the customer down the line
  • Allowing users to purchase as a guest reduces friction in the here and now, and maximizes the number of first purchases – which in turn makes second purchases more likely.

Which is the right approach? Nobody knows. As always in a situation like this, data and testing are your friend. It is relatively straightforward to design and build two alternative approaches (as shown) to the first purchase, and serve these variants at random to your audience. Then it is simply a matter of establishing which group maximizes key metrics – most importantly of all total revenue – down the line. Of course it may also be worth establishing whether a third approach, which we might call ‘phased registration’ is possible.

Taking this route, users are asked for key information over a period of time, so that by the time a purchase is attempted we already have some sort of profile built. This speeds any account creation or purchase process and reduces the load on the user. Again – one for the A/B testing team to take a good look at!

Reducing Cart Abandonment 2 – User Experience

The data quoted above suggests a second area of focus must be reducing the complexity of the purchase process itself. On mobile in particular, this cannot be over-stated. Mobile users today expect simple ‘native mobile’ interactions. Think, for example, of how we order a cab with a single click or ‘swipe right’ to indicate we like someone. Fast, simple, elegant interactions that demand little and work intuitively on the small (touch) screen.

Now compare that to the ‘large screen scaled down’ approach that many mobile purchase and registration processes still involve. Expecting users to type long responses within conventional forms inevitably leads to difficulties with drop off rates. Instead, to the greatest extent possible it is important to bring these processes into a native mobile format.

This can be achieved by using interactive in-app messages and interstitials, served dynamically and as a result easy to test and optimize rapidly. That ability to test, in particular, is incredibly important. In a short period of time it is possible to analyze drop-off rates, experiment with different approaches, and as a result ensure that as many users as possible are able to successfully navigate these screens. And that means fewer abandoned carts.

Reducing Cart Abandonment 3 – Don’t Give Up!

Sometimes, we just have to accept that users, and users on mobile in particular, are easily distracted. It’s a fact of life: the purchase a user is making may be below a WhatsApp message from a friend on their list of priorities. But that doesn’t mean the show is over. Do take the time to reach out to users and attempt to bring them back. Just remember these three tips to make your efforts as effective as possible:

  • Send push notifications with personal details, and at the right time. Reference the specific item, speak to the user by name, and send any notification at around the time they typically engage with your app or service – even if that is 24 hours later. You’ll double response rates simply by employing the optimal time strategy.
  • Don’t forget other channels. If push doesn’t work, try email. If email doesn’t work, perhaps a reminder the next time they arrive back in the app? Make all reasonable effort – short of active irritation – to ensure your prospective customer doesn’t forget they are half way through a purchase!
  • Get creative. If you have offline outlets, consider using geo-triggered push to inform them that the item they were interested in is in-store and on sale. This kind of innovative, targeted marketing can impress the consumer and lead on to a successful sale.