Jumping ship: nearly half of e-commerce customers are abandoning their carts near the checkout

Brands are becoming a stepping stone, with consumers ditching the checkout near the finish line to check and buy items on Amazon (43 percent) or competitors (44 percent), according to a new report from Ve Global.

The nationally representative online survey of over 2000 British consumers was designed to unveil the different behaviours shoppers exhibit when looking for products, including how often they spend casually browsing online stores, how many different sites they compare when scouring for specific products, where they end up purchasing items and why. 

The findings show that the missed sales opportunity for retailers lies in the research phase, which is typically longer for consumers shopping for big-ticket items, such as TVs, washing machines and designer beauty products. More than a third (34 percent) of people spend several days researching big-ticket items before buying, while 23 percent spend up to a few weeks. During this time, 31 percent of people will visit an average of three sites to compare their intended big-purchase item before deciding where to buy. 

The research challenges the assumption that every site visitor is a potential customer. Instead, the results show 14 percent of consumers browse online stores every day without any intention to buy anything at all. In addition, while in the early stages of the research process, 37 percent of consumers are adding items to their basket to save them for later, not necessarily to purchase. 

One of the biggest challenge for marketers face in the light of these findings, is working out which customers can be converted into purchasers, says Ve Global CEO Jack Wearne. “Many currently have no way of distinguishing between those adding items to their basket with no intention to buy at all, those in the early research phase with a high propensity to buy, and those who are ready to purchase,” he says. 

Often, it seems, consumers may have their interest piqued on one site, but then tour around researching, before finally choosing to buy at potentially a completely different site - one that they trust to deliver (often Amazon). As part of the comparison process, more than half (52 percent) of potential customers will look at the different product descriptions online and notably, 20 percent go in-store to find out more, indicating that some Brits still want the in-person experience to get the confidence to purchase. In the end, 34 percent of consumers will not buy the products on the original online store they used to discover them, with many brands acting as a mere stepping stone. 

Wearne believes it’s important to take steps to increase the chances of such potential purchases. “A brand’s job is to give customers the confidence to buy, and to buy from them,” he says. “Instead of wasting effort on those who are never going to convert, brands must identify those who are ready to take the leap and deliver an experience that gives them the confidence to buy from them, not Amazon.”

However, contrary to popular belief, it seems chatbots don’t cut it when it comes to delivering a good experience. In fact, the research reveals that only 6 percent of consumers use chat facilities on websites. Wearne continues: “the core problem with chatbots is that you have a human messaging a machine, and exasperation often ensues on the human end. Chatbots only increase the appearance of personalisation and ultimately, they’re nothing more than interactive FAQs.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, what makes consumers shop elsewhere is cheaper prices (65 percent) but interestingly, 22 percent state they will get items from a brand that they trust or recognise, while 14 percent do it because they think other online stores are easier to use. 

 Other notable results from the research include:

  • Over a third of consumers (34 percent) choose not to purchase products on the online store where they first discovered them.

  • Reputable brand experience (49 percent), detailed product specifications (37 percent) and ability to get guidance on-site (19 percent) are most likely to give consumers the confidence to purchase and not abandon ship.

  • In contrast, chatbots are seen as having little use for consumers, with just 6 percent using chat facilities during their shopping journey.