Here’s Why Your E-Commerce Customers Aren’t Converting

July 11, 2019

By Greg Zakowicz(opens in new tab), senior commerce marketing analyst at Bronto
6-minute read

In short:

  • In e-commerce, cart abandonment(opens in new tab) is common. As an online retailer, it’s worthwhile to evaluate how you might be preventing site visitors from completing a purchase.

  • Your site might have obstacles in its checkout process, on its product pages and in its overall mobile experience.

  • Some of these obstacles are overcome by strictly removing a site element, like excessive pop-ups. Others require a bit more work, like improving your mobile site design.



Companies spend time optimizing just about everything — their websites, email, paid ads — to move the potential customer from brand awareness to conversion (i.e. making a purchase). But have you ever thought about which obstacles cause prospects not to make a purchase?

Think about a time when you were shopping for a product and either paused or abandoned your journey. What caused you to do so? For every would-be customer, there’s a similar story. During the journey, they likely encounter numerous obstacles to conversion — some that are within your control and some that are not.

It’s important for retailers to regularly evaluate their customers’ journeys to identify potential obstacles to conversion. While there are many to dive into, I’ll highlight just a few that commonly stick out at different points in my own shopping journey.


Finding obstacles during the checkout process

A recent survey from digital experience company Contentsquare showed that 81% of U.S. consumers have abandoned an online shopping cart(opens in new tab) at least once, although I believe this is likely 100%. And with global abandonment rates commonly above 70%(opens in new tab), there’s clearly no shortage of obstacles to prevent those nearing the end of their journey from completing their purchases. These include:

  • Price, shipping cost and speed

Seventy-four percent of consumers(opens in new tab) in the Contentsquare survey cited price as the single biggest obstacle to completing their purchase. How do your prices and shipping policies(opens in new tab) compare to your competitors’? If these have the potential to become obstacles, how can you overcome them?

If you can, consider using a limited-time discount(opens in new tab) as an incentive for users to complete their purchases. There are solutions that can help convert the sale there and then. One solution is an exit-intent popup(opens in new tab). When using an exit-intent solution, first understand that the user has already chosen to abandon their cart. Your goal is to prevent them from leaving the site by making an offer they can’t refuse, then incentivize them to complete their purchase immediately. These incentives could be a monetary discount or upgrades like free or expedited shipping.

Exit-intent popups might offer discounts or quicker shipping.

If shipping is the culprit and you can’t move on the price or speed, consider offering BOPIS(opens in new tab) as an option (if applicable). 

If you can’t discount or want to save that offer for a cart abandonment email(opens in new tab), it’s still important to build confidence with consumers by promoting what you can offer, such as:


Another effective tactic is to create a fear-of-loss(opens in new tab). If products tend to sell out or you have limited quantities, display the product count or let users know items may sell out soon. If you have plenty of stock, promote your competitive differentiators like satisfaction guarantees and hassle-free returns.

  • Constant upselling

Sure, upselling(opens in new tab) to increase basket size(opens in new tab) is great, but you have to know when enough is enough. For some companies, upselling is minimal or even nonexistent during the checkout process. But for others, like flower and food retailers, there may be what seems like endless upsells during the checkout process. I have experienced it far too many times and found myself saying “Just let me buy already!”

While I have no doubt that companies test and track the effectiveness of these upsells, all should recognize that constant upsells will slow the checkout process and can cause shopper frustration.

  • Forced account creation

This one drives me crazy, and I can’t believe I still see it as much as I do. Forcing purchasers to create accounts, with yet another password, is a bad experience. Apparently 60% of abandoners agree with me(opens in new tab). The chance of recovering the sale at this point is reduced even further. 

Most consumers who abandon in order to avoid creating an account will actively seek out a store that allows them to check out as a guest. I beg you: Provide a guest one less reason to leave and allow for a guest checkout.


Are your product pages working against you?

We’ve probably all experienced it. We find a piece on clothing online but aren’t quite sure which size to buy. We click on the sizing guide only to find one of those generic charts that isn’t very helpful. What’s the next step? 

For me, it’s to check the return policy. Do I get free returns? If so, I may purchase multiple sizes and plan on returning the ones that don’t fit. As a consumer, it’s great — but not so much for a company’s margins.

The lack of detailed size charts, product descriptions and other confidence-building content for consumers can be an obstacle to purchasing. These elements matter not only from a purchase standpoint but also from a return standpoint.

  • The size chart

Too often, size charts are generic, but sizes from one store to the next are not. How many times have you purchased the same size from different retailers and found the fit to be different? 

If you’re finding you receive a large volume of returns due to or customer service inquiries about sizing, consider creating content to overcome these obstacles. Here are some good examples(opens in new tab) of how to give your size guides a makeover.

  • Not-so-stock models

Use your models as a sizing asset rather than just a smiling face. Look at this example from The Mint Julep(opens in new tab). You can not only see the product on the model but, by clicking on the “sizing” option on the product page, you can also actually see the model’s measurements. You can even cross-reference this information with the size chart to get a better sense of how the item will fit. 

The Mint Julep Boutique makes its sizing information accessible to online shoppers.


  • AR

Augmented reality for e-commerce(opens in new tab) is neither new nor widely adopted, but it does seem to be picking up some traction. Take Zenni Optical(opens in new tab) for example, which offers a “Try On” feature. You can use your camera to have your face measured and virtually try on glasses.  If you don’t have a camera available, you can also upload a photo for a static view.

The company also provides all of the content necessary to understand the process of buying its glasses, from how to read your prescription to how to understand your pupillary distance. (You’re going to Google that right now, right?) 

Shoppers on Zenni Optical's site can virtually try on glasses using artificial reality. (opens in new tab)

  • Q&A forums

Many websites, such as Sole Society(opens in new tab)’s, offer Q&A functionality on their product pages. These forums often answer the most common questions shoppers have when considering a product. Looking at this product(opens in new tab), for example, I see several questions around sizing (i.e. how wide, narrow and true-to-fit the shoe is).

They also display customer reviews — a form of social proof(opens in new tab), which I love — and size and width fit icons in the same section. 

Sole Society features a "Questions & Answers" section on each of its product pages. (opens in new tab)


Phones: They’re kind of a big deal.

Finally, who can forget the elephant in the room: mobile? The mobile doomsday(opens in new tab) is fast approaching, and customers need to be able to easily check out on their mobile devices. 

Can your users easily edit cart contents and update checkout fields, all without facing a bombardment of endless pop-ups (like those upsells)? If not, it’s time to take a fresh look at your site’s mobile experience. 

After all, it’s too easy for consumers to put their phones away and say they’ll do it later. Your goal for a mobile checkout should be to allow them to check out as quickly and easily as possible. You’re potentially only one push or text notification away from the customer leaving your site to get lost in a world of texting, selfie-taking and endless scrolling of an Instagram feed. #LostSale


Find your own obstacles.

These are just a few examples of the countless obstacles today’s consumers face. Every brand and customer base is different. Look at your own business, and identify which processes or features might be creating obstacles for your particular users. Only when you recognize what impedes conversions will you be able to increase them.

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