abandonment cart vs incomplete orders

In e-commerce, an incomplete order and an abandoned cart both involve shopping carts that are left with items in them, but the order is never placed. However, they are not the same thing, and it’s important to understand the difference between an incomplete order and an abandoned shopping cart. You have to identify which one you are dealing with if you want to troubleshoot prevent them from becoming a repeat occurrence, or even reclaim the potential customer you lost.

What is an abandoned shopping cart?

ecommerce abandoned cart

An abandoned shopping cart is when a shopper places items in their cart, but them leaves the site without ever trying to check out or make the purchase.

What is an incomplete order?

An incomplete order is when a potential customer places items in their shopping cart, and goes all the way through to the payment page, but then doesn’t complete the transaction. Incomplete orders are left with a “pending” status. They are saved to your database but incomplete.

incomplete order ecommerce

In this article, we are going to focus our attention on Incomplete orders, what causes them, and how to prevent them on your website.

What causes incomplete orders?

Incomplete orders are often the result of issues with your website (or the payment gateway you use) and it’s important to your sales conversions that you identify and fix the issues as quickly as possible.

Incomplete orders are often caused by:

  • A payment attempt that failed

  • A hosted payment gateway that caused the customer to leave

  • The would-be customer navigated away from the payment page and never returned

An order can be left at these stages because the customer decided not to complete the order, or because technical issues prevented them from successfully checking out. Sometimes your payment gateway will chuck out an order if the delivery address doesn’t match the address registered to the customer’s credit card.

Dropping Off

When a customer chooses to leave the site at the checkout stage it is referred to as “dropping off”. The number of incomplete orders at this stage is called the drop off rate.

Sometimes customers (especially first time customers) will leave their cart during the checkout process because something doesn’t seem legitimate in the payment funnel, or perhaps there are simply too many steps for them to complete (the process is too drawn out).

Payment Gateway Issues

payment gateway issuesUsually you will receive a notification from your payment gateway if an order is submitted successfully.

However, if you don’t receive a corresponding notification from your product cart then you should review your payment gateway settings to make sure that you don’t have the wrong information saved in your “callback” URL.

The first thing you should do is double check that all of your payment gateway and cart settings are correct.

The issue could also be that you don’t offer a payment option that supports the customer’s financial facilities. Make sure that you are offering all of the main payment methods.

Technical Issues

If you are experiencing a high drop off rate, you should run a test, and attempt to place an order yourself. This can help you to determine if there are any breaks on your website itself. Try to use the site as a customer would. You can get a lot of insight into why customers are leaving your website by experiencing it for yourself.

You should also analyse your drop off trends to see if you can pinpoint exactly where they are happening. If, for example you are losing a lot customers at stage 2 of the checkout, where they add shipping details, this could be where your technical issues lie. If your on-site analytics don’t provide you with this information you can use KISSmetrics or Google analytics to monitor activity on your website.

google analytics and abandonment cart

Is the payment gateway set up correctly? Again, try experimenting with an order yourself. If you come up with any errors, you must contact your payment gateway provider and your 3D cart provider to report the issue.

If your customers have dropped off at the gateway stage they have probably already entered their e-mail address. It’s acceptable to contact them via e-mail and ask them if they would like to complete the order, and also inquire as to why they never completed the order, and how you can improve their experience on your site.

Building Web Experiences for People – UX Fixes

It’s important to remember that your customers are people. While often a lot of attention is paid to UX on your site, when it comes to the checkout the customer suddenly feels like they have entered a machine.

It’s important that the look and feel of your website follow through all the way to the end of the sale process.

If a payment gateway looks as if it’s not part of your site customers lose confidence in the legitimacy of your website.

Keep the payment process as short as possible

website payment ecommerce

No-one enjoys a long, drawn out payment process. Try to keep the payment process as short as possible. Also, remember that people often loose things like login details for retail sites, so don’t ask your customers to login before placing an order. Instead you can set up e-mail recognition software, so that if a familiar e-mail address is entered your site will recognise it and offer the option of logging in.

Use a Progress Indicator Bar

This is the bar at the top of the payment page which shows you what stage you are on. People like to know how much more information they will need to fill in, and how close they are to the end of the process. There should never be more than four steps – Confirm your order, shipping address and contact details, billing information, and confirmation of the order. As each step is completed it is clearly indicated on the progress indicator bar, and customers can use it to navigate backwards if they have forgotten something.

Always ask for billing information last

billing information payment ecommerce

For the customer, making sure that their purchase reaches them is the most important part of the experience. When you ask for billing information before you ask for their name and shipping instructions, the customer feels as if you are only interested in taking their money, and not in providing them with a product. While sales are important to you as the merchant, the customer needs to experience the same customer care they would receive in a store.

Incomplete Orders are Salvageable

If a customer goes as far as filling in their details and leaves their cart at the payment stage, they were probably serious about their purchase at some point in the process. This means it is worth your while to reach out to them via e-mail. Try to find out what the issue is, and make sure that any technical issues are addressed timeously. Even if the customer doesn’t retrieve their cart, the insight they give you can help you to improve the UX and process for future customers.