Abandoned shopping carts are becoming a serious problem for retailers. Research by BI Intelligence estimated that roughly ‘$4 trillion worth of merchandise’ would be left unpurchased in online shopping carts in 2015. But here’s the kicker: an estimated 63% of that would be potentially recoverable by smart retailers.

So why is it becoming increasingly common for shoppers to ditch their carts? Often it’s due to hiccups at check-out: forgotten passwords, complicated authentications or similar barriers to completion that make shoppers feel their purchase is more trouble than it’s worth. It’s frustrating for users and less than profitable for businesses.

Stop shoppers getting off their trolley: strong authentication done right

To curb this trend, online retailers need to make sure the shopping and checkout process is as smooth as possible, while still being sufficiently secure. Failing to do this means your customers’ carts may be among the 74% routinely abandoned online.

Here are the most common reasons shoppers desert their carts:

  • Forgotten usernames and passwords required by multi-factor authentication at check-out. If the recovery process is too complicated, shoppers will simply bounce away.
  • A lengthy check-out process. If shoppers have to enter information at every step of the process, they may decide to give up.
  • Mandatory sign-up. Not everyone wants to share their details with you – some shoppers want to purchase one item quickly and be on their way. Forcing them to sign up can be an aggravation that sends them fleeing.
  • Details being lost if the process is interrupted. It’s not unusual for online shoppers to be distracted by real-life interruptions. If they come back to their cart and their session has expired, causing their information to be lost, they may never restart the process.
  • Lack of flexible payment solutions. These days, customers can afford to be picky about how they want to pay. A simple choice of credit card or EFT no longer cuts the mustard. If the latest trend in digital payment isn’t an option, you may lose a customer (hipsters are customers, too).

The good news is that these are all surmountable problems. In fact, research has found that three out of four AWOL shoppers say they plan to return to their carts. So how can you solve these problems and ensure they do? And more to the point, that they’ll return in future?

Here’s a good starting point:

  • Streamline the transaction process. Take a close look at any barriers to check-out, and remove or improve them. Are seven steps really necessary, or could you whittle it down to three or four? Is it possible to implement guest log-in for those who want to check out faster? Do you auto-save details that are already entered into the system, for those shoppers who accidently hit the backspace too many times? Think of your own frustrations when it comes to shopping online and as far as possible, limit them for your customers.
  • Send email reminders or SMS messages. Many retailers have found that reminding shoppers about their incomplete purchases can prompt them to return. Messaging in these emails should be friendly, light and to the point – you don’t want to castigate your customers. Consider tempting them with a special offer if they return.
  • Have strong authentication methods in place for maximum security with minimal effort (on the part of your customers). Multi-factor authentication is ideal here. It's a simple out-of-band mobile authentication option that bypasses hackers because it requires users to have access to two separate pieces of secure information. And, because it’s so easy to use (and doesn't require users to recall a complicated password), verification becomes a logical and seamless part of the buying process.

Customers won’t be put off by well-implemented, user-friendly multi-factor authentication – in fact, these days they expect it. And if you haven’t set it up yet? Well, you may just stumble across more than a few abandoned carts in the fresh produce section.

Read more about when to implement multi-factor authentication and how to put it to best use for your business.

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