Nothing feels as frustrating for merchants as acquiring leads and moving them through sales funnels only to lose them at checkout.
A study found that the average cart abandonment rate across all eCommerce industries is nearly 69.82%, meaning only three in ten shoppers will buy. Cart abandonment could even get up to 86% for mobile users.
Baymard Institute reported that sellers lose $260 billion of recoverable money due to checkout flows and design flaws.
This article explores the top 20 checkout mistakes eCommerce businesses unknowingly make. And it guides you on on how to avoid or fix them, remove frictions and boost your checkout completion rate.
Let’s get to it.
1. Offering too many cross-sell options at checkout triggers choice paralysis
Shoppers don’t always know what they want, so product recommendations can go a long way to helping you boost sales.
Giving shoppers options could help them make quicker and more informed buying decisions. Ironically, the more choices they have, the less likely they’ll buy.
And it’s based on buyer psychology.
Hick's law says the time it takes to decide depends on the number of available choices. Too many options could become a cognitive burden, triggering choice paralysis and making the sales journey unnecessarily longer.
Offer only a small number of cross-selling products, limiting it to between two and five items.
The rule of three suggests that a trio of events or words grouped into threes are more appealing or effective than other numbers. Also, three is the smallest number needed to create a pattern.
Three is the magic number, but four is not bad either.
Bliss cross-sells multiple products but displays them in a set of fours, making their options less overwhelming. In addition, shoppers can use the navigation arrow to reveal more options.
2. Ignoring status quo bias in checkout design and product recommendation
Don’t surprise your buyers. Recommend products they recognize.
Cross-sell only products that shoppers consider suitable matches for the items in their carts. If they perceive your recommendation as off, they won’t buy.
Innovation is good, but your conversion will suffer if it involves a learning curve.
So, be careful when making changes to your checkout process—split test even perceived ‘improvements’ in your checkout process. Also, don’t assume your store will experience the same results as other people’s stores.
If your buyers are already familiar with your checkout process and you make changes that confuse them—even a little—your conversion will take a hit.
This is where headless checkout optimization comes in.
You can test out checkout experiences fast without making changes in your backend. That way, you can innovate quickly without impacting what’s already working and, as a result, trigger negative status quo bias in your buyers.
Zalora, an apparel retail eCommerce store, beat status quo bias while introducing innovative checkout changes that increased conversions by 12.3%.
3. Not using the scarcity principle to drive urgency
The fear of missing out (FOMO) is one of the primary drivers of impulse buys. But what’s interesting is that consumers like impulse buying.
In one study, 72% of respondents said impulse buying improved their mood.
So, you’re doing a good thing when you use a message that triggers buyers to act on the spot.
Using phrases like "3 items left" and "5 people are looking at this item” helps them get decisive. Copies like that also remind the buyer that the product might be off the shelf soon, so they must make a decision now.
See the “Update,” in this example below, warning buyers that the product is selling out fast.
And then, there’s the time pressure created with the count down timer, plus the “6 items left” notification on the timer to send a clear message to the buyer to either buy now or miss out.
The mix of a discount offer and time pressure would make it hard for shoppers to ignore the deal.
Please don't abuse this tactic or lie about your sales performance or product availability. And don't take it too far. If your product doesn't have this sales activity, don't display it. Employ other legitimate tactics.
You can lose buyer trust and brand equity and get yourself in trouble with the law.
For example, the online ticket seller, Viagogo, attracted the attention of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) when it falsified its marketing message by abusing this tactic.
4. Poorly implemented product recommendation engine offers cannibalistic product bundles
An Invesp product recommendation survey found that almost half of its participants said they bought recommended products they hadn’t planned to buy in the first place.
It might surprise you that the product recommendation engine powers about 35% of Amazon's global eCommerce retail sales—about $170 billion in 2021, nearly four times the current market value of Twitter.
These numbers are impressive and prove the effectiveness of product recommendation engines.
But, retailers still don’t have the hang of product bundling.
Want insider secrets? Check out 10 product bundling examples that convert (& 10 proven ideas)
In one event, Amazon unknowingly bundled a kitchen knife with a school backpack when a teenager in Northamptonshire used the platform to buy his school supplies.
The school bag and knife event triggered negative press for Amazon, especially since Northamptonshire already has knife crime worries.
Poor product recommendation engine implementation can have a far-reaching political, social, and economic impact on your brand, leading to unwanted results like these:
- Product returns
- Low conversions
- Cart abandonment
- Brand equity loss
- Fall in average order value (AOV)
Your product recommendation engine will cannibalize your conversions if it suggests cheaper product alternatives instead of increasing your customer’s AOV.
This is why savvy brands pay attention to careful monitoring, set recommendation engine rules, and apply other product recommendation management best practices.
You want your recommendation engine to recommend only supplementary products on your checkout pages and not set up your products against each other.
Amazon suggests items other buyers bought alongside the product.
Recommending items that go with the products in the cart eliminates competition, enabling the main product to shine through.
Also, the carefully-worded product recommendation copy socially validates the cross-sell products and could spur shoppers to add them to the cart.
5. Not flaunting your sales activity (if it’s happening)
Humans love to follow the crowd. It is a natural, evolutionary trait.
The desire to belong is so strong that people often conform to a group consensus even when it's against their individual judgment.
People conform to group behavior for various reasons, including:
- Need to win approval
- The belief that everyone cannot be wrong on the same thing at the same time
- Fear of missing out (FOMO)
Showing live notifications of sales as they happen can have a bandwagon effect. Shoppers see it as social validation and are more open to buying.
Live sales notifications play on shoppers' fear of missing out and reinforce social validation to persuade them to complete their purchases. Rafflepress believes that live sales alerts can boost sales on eCommerce websites by up to 15 percent.
However, fake sales alerts are a colossal mistake. Shoppers can see through the charade, and you won't want them to see you as untrustworthy.
6. Offering cross-sell offers outside the 10% to 50% range
Cross-selling products that are above customers' budget is a huge mistake.
The price of the product they added to the cart can give you an easy clue of how much they're willing to spend. Suggesting products within their budget will stand a chance to convert, and we recommend products between 10% to 50% of the main product’s price.
Anything higher than that price range is tempting fate.
Of course, recommending a $100 product to a shopper that added a $10 item to the cart is a big ask. It doesn’t even make sense. It’s one of the easiest ways to lose the sale.
Several top eCommerce brands have made this mistake, and you shouldn't. Macy's probably understands how ineffective the practice is, so it often recommends products that have comparable prices with the items buyers added to the cart.
For instance, the brand suggested clothes with prices ranging between $33.99 to $64.75 when I added a $53.70 Charter Club Petite Gingham-Print Midi Dress to my cart.
Below is the product I added to my cart.
You'd notice Macy's cross-sold dresses that are within the price range of the main item.
Here’s another example from The Iconic. They cross-sell items I might like right on the checkout notification popup; you’ll notice that their prices remain within the product’s 10% to 50% range.
This website has products that sell for significantly higher but won’t show them on this page, knowing the conversions won’t be high.
7. Using only discounts to win back abandoning shoppers and ignoring buyer identity
Buyers are as attuned to their sense of identity as they are to pricing—even if they consciously don't know this fact. So, for example, the vegan brand, SKYN Iceland, saw a 28.87% return rate by appealing to its buyer’s sense of identity—the company’s USP.
Discounts are great but not enough to retain a shopper's interest for an extended period. One of the best ways to build a customer base and keep them returning to your store is to create a community-like presence—giving buyers a sense of belonging.
You could create this feeling with a simple copy. For example, Lush uses the phrase, "Lushies are loving this right now" to give an identity to their buyers.
Checking out could make them feel like being a part of something special—lushies.
8. Checkout design that cannibalizes sales with conflicting messages
A checkout page should be straightforward, intuitive, and without noise.
Your product recommendation engine or checkout messaging cannibalizes conversions by taking buyers' attention off or requesting actions that don't enable quick checkout. So avoid them.
Things like an auto-triggered NPS rating request during checkout, a buyer experience survey, or cluttering the sidebar with irrelevant product options don’t have a place on your checkout page.
They distract shoppers from completing their purchase on time, risking cart abandonment and hurting your conversions.
A website like LuckyVitamin makes the checkout so simple that buyers face no hassles after making their selections. You add product to cart, select a payment option, and enter your email to place your order without a signing up process.
Hey, have you seen this? How do I increase my website’s checkout rate? (40 brilliant insights)
9. Ignoring assisted shopping (where possible)
Customers could get distracted, confused, or need a little nudge when completing their checkout.
So, you don't want to leave them feeling stranded at those critical moments. Here comes assisted eCommerce. Enabling assisted shopping throughout the buying journey streamlines customer experience, making shopping more convenient and fun.
Make a human customer service agent available or use a chatbot to assist shoppers in real-time and provide support without interrupting the experience.
Also, virtual assistants can guide them through their buying journey and provide hyper-personalized product recommendations.
LuckyVitamin uses assisted shopping to make sure buyers complete their purchase. The health and wellness brand provides help lines right on its uncluttered checkout page.
Shoppers can get instant help though these channels:
- Phone call
- FAQ for self-assisted customer support
During Alibaba's 2019 Global shopping festival, Tmall Genie's voice shopping feature generated over a million sales, thus highlighting the importance of assisted commerce.
10. Not offering a win-back offer when buyers abandon carts
As you already know, shopping cart drop-off rates are high. More than seven in ten buyers do not complete purchases. But a win-back offer can capture 25% of those buyers.
Email is one of the most effective channels for regaining lost customers. For example, sending a cart recovery email with an enticing offer reminds customers about what they left in their shopping cart, encouraging them to return and complete their purchase.
Hayneedle is an excellent example of an eCommerce brand doing this right. The company offers discounts to cart abandoners to win back lost sales.
The subject line and primary graphic of the email feature a promotional deal. The call to action button emphasizes the advantage of placing an order. Additionally, their photos of related products are pertinent - precisely what a potential buyer of this item would want to see.
Make the discount incentive impossible to miss. Use visual cues to make the offer stand out. Furthermore, you can include complimentary shipping as an additional perk.
Several eCommerce brands have also seen success using retargeting ads to win back lost sales, and it won't hurt to explore the options.
11. Checkout pages with unclear delivery information
You’d lose the sale if shoppers aren’t sure about getting their orders.
Volution says 11% of shoppers drop off because of unclear delivery information. So keep things as simple as possible. Avoid clutter and distractions that could pull your customer away from the checkout page.
Shipping information should be self-explanatory like this one on Belroy's checkout page.
Also, be clear on the shipping fees, how long it’ll take to deliver the order, and the product return policy.
Unsatisfactory return policy force 12% of buyers to abandon their carts.
Use simple language in your policy writing and keep your customer’s interests at heart. Shoppers see through selfish terms and conditions, and you can lose buyer trust easily.
12. Losing revenue by ignoring responsive pricing and behavior based pricing (BBP)
Responsive and behavior-based pricing (BBP) help businesses get the most value from their inventory. Ignoring it leads to invisible revenue leakages.
Behavioral pricing is setting prices based on consumer behavior. Economists believe that customers would buy more if the price falls. Responsive pricing lets you sell more intelligently, improving your conversion rate and sales volume.
A straightforward way to implement this practice is using price anchoring, which provides comparative price points to shoppers when making buying decisions.
It could be as simple as putting a $100 shoe next to a $1,500 footwear to sell more of the lower-priced item or selling a small and large coffee for $3 and $7, respectively, and then introduce a medium cup with a $6 price tag to sell more of the large cup.
With responsive pricing, retailers can increase access prices as the demand rises. However, this method is not always effective as customers might not respond positively to price changes, so tread carefully.
Hey, have you seen this? Pick the right product price: 8 eCommerce pricing best practices
13. Adding items automatically to the buyer’s cart
If you force buyers to buy items by automatically adding items to their carts, you’ll not only piss them off but encourage buyer’s remorse after the purchase.
Buyers' remorse can have a cascading negative effect on your business:
- Bad reviews
- Product returns
- Loss of trust
- Losing customer to a competitor
- Legal action
- Irreversibly soiled reputation
- Loss of brand value
The image shows how this brand added a product automatically to this customer’s cart.
14. Violating tax laws when selling to international buyers
Violating tax regulations is a crime, and you won’t want a face-off with the law.
Make sure you comply with local tax laws. Some countries will require you to pay taxes on the products you ship into the country, including customs fees.
So even if you offer free shipping worldwide, ensure you take care of any taxes or let buyers know they’ll pay charges the product might incur from arriving at the country's port.
Belroy ensured shoppers from Brazil knew of the customs charge that come with using express shipping to Brazil.
Not disclosing your product as a sale might get your buyer on the wrong side of the law, making you lose brand loyalty with them and reducing your chance of repeat sales.
Taxes and tariffs can significantly add to the product costs. Set clear expectations by detailing these additional fees and the final price payable by the customer. Consider using third-party fulfillment services to reduce shipping costs and delivery time and improve operating efficiency.
If you want to take this point seriously, hire an experienced eCommerce lawyer to help you take care of any international commerce complexities.
15. Forcing the local language on all site visitors from a country
Not all 30 million tourists who visit Paris speak French. However, that doesn't mean they won't find services in a language they understand.
In the same fashion, users love eCommerce sites that they can read and understand, and this is not only about the English language.
Make your site design responsive to buyers so they can change languages if the default site language is different from the one they understand. A multilingual website means more customers, and more customers equal higher conversion.
Since most eCommerce businesses are buying into this, you must step up your game and build your site to reach broader markets by making it available in several languages.
iHerb caters to its international buyers—the eCommerce brand supports up to 17 languages, allowing customers to shop in their local languages.
16. Not quoting prices in local currencies to international buyers
Making your international buyers convert product prices on their own is an extra layer of friction, and friction lowers conversions. Considering that 92% of shoppers prefer buying on sites offering pricing in their currency, supporting multiple currencies makes business sense.
Platforms like Shopify allow you to integrate these properties into your website to offer customers a more personalized shopping experience. For example, its multi-currency feature automatically displays prices based on the current exchange rate.
iHerb lets shoppers buy in their local currencies. It supports over 70 currencies and lets buyers set their shopping preferences with a few simple clicks.
17. Hiding charges that buyers can not avoid at checkout
Make clear the fees that buyers must take on at checkout. According to Baymard Institute’s data, 16% of buyers abandoned their carts for this reason alone.
Imagine losing nearly two in every ten sales because you didn’t admit a cost up front?
Not only does letting your buyers know the implication of their decisions lower the chance of abandoning their carts, but it also saves you from unnecessary legal troubles.
Again, Viagogo failed here. As a result, they had to face the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in court for violating this checkout practice.
18. Lying about seller status or product performance
Trust and transparency are the currency of eCommerce. If you lose it, you'll have no way to sell it. So don't make unfounded claims about your seller status or product.
Don't mislead buyers to think you're an "official" distributor of a product you're not. And don't fabricate product performance numbers or claims; you might run against the law down the road.
Viagogo, again, ran afoul of Australian authorities. The ticketing website claimed to be an official ticket seller when, in fact, it was a ticket reseller.
This tactic is directly harmful to your business as buyers who spot the lie would report you to authorities without contacting you first.
That’s the fate of Viagogo—some 473 complaints about the brand’s untrue sales tactics reached the Australian authorities within one year.
19. Leaving your buyers wondering what’s next after a purchase
Customer relationships shouldn’t end with a checkout. Instead, it should be the beginning.
Past customers are a tremendous asset to any business. A study found that acquiring new customers costs about five times more than retaining existing ones, making it crucial to maintain a strong relationship with your customers.
The first step is to ensure you don't leave them wondering what's next after a purchase.
Give clear direction by email and on your site’s post-purchase page. Let buyers see and track their delivery, have a customer service representative ask them questions, and show them what they need to know about the product—educate them ahead of the product’s arrival.
Allergy Buyers Club up-sells customers while providing them valuable assistance.
Their post-purchase emails start with instructions on how to set up the product. Guiding customers to make the most of their purchases helps build relationships with them, making cross-selling easier.
The brand encourages buyers to ask them questions about the product. In addition, it makes it possible for customers to reach them through multiple channels.
After portraying the brand as caring and customer-centric, Allergy Buyers recommends supplementary products to the customer to drive additional sales from them, increasing their average order value.
The last part of the email offers customers 20% off their next order for each referral. Leveraging referral marketing enables them to piggyback on their customers' goodwill and network to gain new customers while keeping their acquisition costs low.
20. Not upselling or incentivizing more purchases after a customer buys
You might have visited a restaurant and ordered an iced tea, and the server offered to add some flavoring for a small fee. If you've ever been in this situation, I'll bet you pulled your wallet and paid without raising an eyebrow or asking questions.
Upselling has been effective in helping eCommerce brands increase their profit margin. Not doing the same is a huge mistake. A customer who just purchased is in the right mental state to buy more from you.
You’re leaving money on the table by not upselling or incentivizing them to buy more items.
Sumo found that upselling increases revenue by ten to 30% and is 68% more affordable than acquiring new customers. Also, a study by Ecmetrics shows that upselling is 20 times better than cross-selling. These numbers make upselling a no-brainer.
Marketers recommend upselling only products that are not more than 25% of the main product costs. In addition, you should upsell customers around the point of sale before they check out. Taking time could make them become comfortable and feel no need to upgrade.
Also, look at what your competitors are doing and see if you can learn anything from them.
Nail Upselling like a pro. Check out Proven Upselling Techniques in eCommerce (+ Brilliant examples)
Start Avoiding the Worst Checkout Mistakes eCommerce Businesses Unknowingly Make
The average eCommerce cart abandonment rate is alarmingly high. To think that over two-thirds of shoppers will abandon their cart after all the efforts to get them to that point is unsettling.
Thankfully, this article has done most of the heavy lifting by showing some areas you must focus on. Avoiding these mistakes helps you improve customers' shopping experience, reduce cart abandonment and scale your revenue effortlessly.
What works for others might not work for you. So, split-test your changes to eliminate guesswork.