A thread at Search Engine Watch forums named Let's talk about shopping cart conversion discusses real people's experience with shopping cart abandonment rates. As mentioned in the thread, on average, the "75% of online shoppers abandon their shopping carts". What is even more shocking is that "47% of ebusinesses do not know their shopping cart abandonment rate." I have reviewed some of my e-commerce customer's cart abandonment rates and they seem to be below the average on a whole. Some are higher then others, but overall they are lower.
Over the years, we have stopped requiring online shoppers to sign up for an account before buying online. We try to keep the checkout process as clear as possible. (1) Add item to cart, (2) Hit Checkout (which has all the costs on this page, tax, shipping, etc.), (3) Fill out the bill to, ship to, and payment information and (4) Hit Buy Now. In reality, most of our checkout systems seem like a two step process. Between the cart and checkout screen, I see on average lower then 70% abandonment. But between the checkout screen and the invoice page I see less then 50% abandonment.
On some of our other sites, where we can do more personalized tracking. We will send follow up emails to the customer, saying something to the affect of, "Save $X if you buy within the next 48 hours. Click here to retrieve your special discount." Or something like that. Plus we pre-fill any information that is possible, make those buttons you want to click stand out (buy now, check out, add to cart), and ensure costs and discounts are clearly visible on the site. Just make sure the shopper is comfortable.
I had someone call me yesterday about his online store, thanks Kim. And this person's site even confused me. Granted he sells a very customizable product, but you must clearly tell the user what action to take next. My firm has built far more complicated products that allow far more customizability, and I can not stress how important it is to ensure the 'personalization steps' are clear, easy, defined, and worry free.