High Streets Initiative · 5 January 2018

Shopping cart abandonment poses fresh challenge for online retailers

online shopping
Just 27 per cent of purchases initiated via mobile were completed in 2016

Shoppers are less likely to go through with their online purchases if they’re using smartphones or tablets to buy items, new research has found.

Consumers often worry that they’re unable to view the full picture and details of items on a smartphone screen or a mobile app, or that they may be missing out on special offers and overlooking hidden fees.

Shopping via a smartphone or tablet also raises consumer concerns over privacy and security. Many people fill their online shopping baskets up with items then quit without paying for fear of their banking information or personal details being stolen.

Conducted by the University of East Anglia, the research revealed that so-called shopping cart abandonment represented a significant challenge for online retailers.

Although mobile apps have become one of the most popular ways to shop online, and ecommerce retailers continue to invest heavily in new apps, rates of shopping cart abandonment are much higher for mobile-based shopping than for desktop-based shopping.

One of the researchers, Dr Nikolaos Korfiatis, of Norwich Business School at UEA, said that the study “revealed a paradox” about online shopping.

He added: “Mobile shopping is supposed to make the process easier, and yet concerns about making the right choice, or about whether the site is secure enough leads to an ‘emotional ambivalence’ about the transaction. That mean customers are much more likely to simply abandon their shopping carts without completing a purchase.”

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The study looked at online shopping data from 2016 and 2017 from consumers in the US and Taiwan. Researchers concluded that the reasons for shopping cart abandonment at the checkout stage when shopping via mobile were mostly the same, and could broadly be attributed to consumers in other countries.

The study’s lead author, Flora Huang, said that the findings posed an opportunity for retailers, and that more research into shopping cart abandonment was necessary.

She added: “Companies spend a lot of money on tactics such as pay-per-click advertising to bring consumers into online stores – but if those consumers come in via mobile apps, and then are not finalising their purchases, a lot of that money will be wasted.”

Korfiatis went on to say: “People think differently when they use their mobile phones to make purchases. The smaller screen size, and uncertainty about missing important details about the purchase, make you much more ambivalent about completing the transaction than when you are looking at a big screen.”

By the second half of 2016, the share of ecommerce traffic from mobile devices increased to 46 per cent of all global ecommerce traffic, however just 27 per cent of purchases initiated via mobile were completed, and conversion rates lagged behind purchases started on desktops, according to retail data firm Criteo.

This latest study concluded that online shoppers are far less likely to abandon their purchases once they are satisfied with the “choice process”.

As smartphones and tablets have limited screen space, only necessary elements of a retailer’s ecommerce platform should be made visible to consumers. Meanwhile, designers should focus on creating more effective product categorisation on retailer apps, as well as better filter options to make it easier to find items.

“Retailers need to invest in technology, but they need to do it in the right way so the investment pays off,” added Korfiatis.

“Customers are becoming more and more demanding and, with mobile shopping in particular, they don’t forgive failures so offering a streamlined, integrated service is really important.”

Birmingham New Street sees more Black Friday weekend shoppers than any other high street

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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