Diagnosing Checkout Abandonment

By Melanie Prough on Thursday, October 15, 2009
Filed Under: Zen Cart Tips, Zen Cart Tutorials


Checkout Abandonment

Diagnosing checkout abandonment is one of the most important things you can do for your Zen Cart. Many shop owners are on board with making checkout shorter, easier, removing distractions and finding errors… But all of this falls short without measurable analytical data to track your progress.

If you are not using Google Analytics, shame on you and you should be. Setting up Google Analytics to track your conversions is not very challenging. We have a tutorial here to help you track your conversions with Google Analytics. This big thing however, is just a very small part of what you can learn from Google Analytics. Deciding on a ritual to spend 15 minutes a day in your cart’s analytics reporting poking around will certainly increase your knowledge and help you understand your site, shoppers and opportunities.

Today however, we are most concerned with getting our heads around checkout abandonment and how it happens on our websites. Tracking your shoppers through checkout is an incredibly eye opening experience and is likely the best use of your time as it provides very tangible and immediate results as you troubleshoot and repair bottlenecks, errors, confusion, distractions, etc.

If you still think you haven’t the time to analyze your checkout properly, then lets start with a simple process to get an idea how your checkout is performing from reports that exist in your Google Analytics setup by default.

From your dashboard, on the left hand side click the content link. This will open a wide array of reports, but for now lets concentrate on “Content by title”. This very simply tells you how many times each of your pages way viewed in the last 30 days. For starters, find your shopping cart page. While this is an important number, remember that users generally visit this page more than once while shopping and that users check shipping prices here as well. So don’t get too worked up about these visits.

Next find your first page of checkout. This is the page a shopper is taken to upon clicking checkout from your cart. With your Zen Cart, this will be your login/signup page (unless you are using COWA). Note how many visits to this page on a piece of paper, as we will be looking at this data. Note that this page generally leads back to the shopping cart page… thus creating another view of you cart page.

Now find and note all the pages visited in your checkout. Write those numbers down as well. Then, last but most important find your checkout success page and note its number too.

Here are the numbers from one of our very new stores to use as an example:

  1. Shopping Cart – 623
  2. Login – 116
  3. Checkout – 53
  4. Confirm Order – 38
  5. Checkout Success – 34

You can clearly see above that in this manner your shopping cart numbers are no real help, and we’ve discussed why. So what about your login page. The login page on this shop is non-standard and designed to convert substantially better (believe it or not). None the less from the 116 visits to our login page, only 53 (45.7%) made it in to checkout. In a nutshell, even though this login page well outperforms a standard login page, it still sucks and costs us half of our potential sales!

Next we see that of the 53 people visiting checkout, only 38 made it to the confirm order page. While 71.7% isn’t bad, there is more to understand here. Shoppers will commonly click in to checkout to verify that the shipping is what you offered on the cart page… or check it the first time if they missed your shipping estimator. None the less, we still lost a bunch of potential sales here!

Next, of the 38 people who made it to our review and confirm page, 34 checked out successfully. I would call this nil abandonment here. Remember, when a shopper enters card information wrong and gets an AVS error for example, they will be taken back to checkout… Additionally, some might be less than honest cards and they left.

What everybody seems to want to know is that magic number, the checkout abandonment percentage. This is a very simple calculation of the total orders placed on the website divided by total add to cart clicks. However, in our case, we have already proven that shopping cart views are not helpful. So what is our real abandonment percentage… You know the people who intended to checkout and bailed. This would be login visits, (116) minus checkout success (34), then sum (82) divided by login visits (116) = 70.7%. (Note that even this is a bit skewed, as shoppers login to check order status and such, but much closer to the truth none the less).

This little exercise very clearly identifies our login page as a big problem, and even though there are better ways (show you in a minute), this will give you an idea of what you may be dealing with.

Now, lets do a standard Zen cart checkout.

  1. Shopping Cart – 2544
  2. Login – 2142
  3. Checkout Shipping – 458
  4. Checkout Payment – 396
  5. Confirm Order – 368
  6. Checkout Success – 300

As you can see this site’s checkout has some substantial issues.  Aside from the grievous loss from the login page, of the greatest overall concern here is the lost shoppers from their shipping page. Of the 458 to the checkout shipping page, only 396 went on to payment, 13.5% were lost just here. Something else you may have noticed is that they have a pretty substantial loss from their confirm order page. This is great cause for concern, and after we investigated we found 2 issues with this page. First of all the confirm order button is generally hidden and has no clear call to action, added to the fact that it’s far too slow, people click the confirm order page can get stuck. So the overall checkout abandonment of this site, using our refined calculation, is 86.0%.

I am certain at this point that you can see the opportunity here… Now lets teach you how to track and analyze this data properly in Google Analytics.

Google provides us the perfect tools for tracking this type of process, these are goals with funnels. To create a proper funnel open Analytics and your Zen Cart.

  1. Click edit from your Google Analytics profile settings (in the orange bar) and scroll down looking for the Conversion Goal and Funnel section. (Note: You must have administrator access to your Google Analytics account to edit your settings and create your funnel.)
  2. Determine you goal page, this will be your thank you or checkout success page. For most Zen Carts it will be /index.php?main_page=checkout_success
  3. Further down you see the spaces to enter the steps, or funnel, that should result in a successful goal conversion.

Now you can see your checkout data in your Google Analytics “Goals” area. Remember, that given product differences and other variables there is NO real value in comparing your checkout abandonment rates to other stores… Instead, create yourself a proper benchmark and seek to continually improve your number of checkouts.

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