14 Common Reasons People Don't Complete Purchases, With Suggested Solutions

March 15, 2023

In order to improve your e-commerce sales, it's important to know the common reasons why people don't buy. The advice below should help you decrease your checkout drop off rate, therefore boosting sales.

The survey sampled 19,000 consumers and 153 senior retail decision makers in January and February 2012 and found the following reasons why customers didn't complete purchases. Whilst that's over 2 years ago, the reasons below still seem to be common and along the same profile as outlined in this data.

reasons people dont buy on your ecommmerce website

Source: statista graph based on data from the WorldPay Global Online Shopper Report 2012

As you can see, by far the highest factor that pushes customers away from your site is unexpected hidden costs, so let's deal with that first.

19,000 consumers questioned153 experts asked

1. Unexpected costs

They key here is to ensure that shipping and any other charges on top of your product base price are shown as early on as possible.

Ideally this is on the first page of your site, which means you at least need to show basic shipping information everywhere. This is why many large e-commerce retailers have their shipping policy on every page as part of the template, such as  'Free UK shipping'. or 'Free shipping on orders over £x'.

If you don't want to do that, a shipping price should at least be shown on your product listing or product pages, either as part of the price or next to it.

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 18.49.43

If you have the technology, you should ensure your website shopping cart shows an indicative shipping cost at all points. An estimation is better than nothing, you should default to the main country you sell to.

In general, offering a free shipping option will reduce friction on the checkout, as we'll describe in #11 below.

2. 'I was just browsing'

Not a lot you can do about this you might think - sometimes people are window shopping. But there's some ways you can turn this footfall in to future business:

a) Personalise the experience, with smart product recommendations based on visitor behaviour; what they looked at, what similar customers bought etc... Make it easy for people to discover things they might like.

b) Ensure your website is enjoyable to use to browse on and follows usability best practices.

c) Use a content-led approach to keep customers engaged, make blog content that is interesting, humourous or informative.

d) Gently remind customers at certain points where traditionally they would have been lost. This is mainly done via email, for example with cart abandonment emails and 'we've missing you' emails.

e) Use an email pop to capture email addresses for most visitors. This is a great way to boost your email mailing list, which is like gold dust for e-commerce. The pop on this website converts at about 8% - if we didn't show the pop up, most of these visitors would otherwise be lost.

A modern website should help you with all these and soon you'll see more visitors becoming customers.

3. Found a better price elsewhere

This happens, especially if you're a reseller competing against multiple retailers selling the same range.

One way to avoid it is to build up the other benefits of shopping with you over another competitor. You could provide more agreeable shipping, perhaps offering a next day option at an extra price.

You should also make sure you have lots of testimonials that reduce customer anxiety - you may end up tipping a sale because you have these where a cheaper competitor doesn't.

4. Overall price too expensive

This is similar to #3 above, but let's assume that the price isn't cheaper elsewhere.

It's worth noting that this is not a bad reason for customers to turn away. If you're getting no customers saying the price is too high, perhaps your price is too low in the first place.

However, if you're getting a very high number of people browsing but not buying, perhaps consider offering a Buy One Get One Free (BOGOF) offer or some sort of coupon code.

Again, offering testimonials showing the value your product offers is also a good way to overcome this objection.

5. Decided against buying

Making use of remarketing emails that show alternative products may help you sell to customers that didn't find what they were looking for.

Capturing an email address should be the secondary goal of your site over getting a direct sale, because customers will come back to you when they have need for your product if you can stay in touch with them. Just because they didn't buy on the first visit, doesn't mean they won't buy in the future. The key thing is to salvage at least an email address so you that you can keep these would be customers in the loop about future launches and sales.

6. Website navigation is too complicated

The key here is to stick with what people expect and keep it simple.

For e-commerce, we recommend using the main navigation bar to list your main product categories, as well as a stand out 'Sale' category and 'New in' also. To help guide new customers it's usually a good idea to include a 'Bestsellers' collection too.

Use the very top of the screen to show contact details and for user account links and special offer banners, as well as your search box.

The site footer can be used for secondary navigation like information pages and your blog.

7. Website crashed

Your website crashed! Come on people! This should not be happening.

If this is a problem for you, you may have:

  • Website bugs (e.g. faulty code)
  • An under-powered server (e.g. not enough memory)
  • Bad luck

You need to ensure you have a robust e-commerce platform and controlled code deployments. This will increase your uptime. This is absolutely essential as clearly the easiest way to lose sales is to not have your website online. There's more information in #12 about choosing a more robust hosting solution.

8. Process was taking too long

The main problem here is usually checkout. Does yours take loads of steps and fail to help out the customer at any point?

You could be causing a drop off in sales that could be easily avoided. Here are some best practices:

  • Allow customers to guest checkout, without signing in or creating an account. You can always offer the option to create an account at the end of checkout.
  • Your checkout should be around four steps. Three is impressive and you should see higher conversions. Single page checkouts are becoming more popular, but are technically difficult to get working.
  • 21-28 is the ideal number of fields on checkout. Try and help customers out where possible by auto-populating content (for example, assume that billing and delivery address are same by default) and removing unnecessary fields (or at least making them optional).
  • Ensure the browser 'back' button is fully supported on your checkout. Older checkouts sometimes struggle with this and customers who have pressed Back may give up.
  • Flag fields with incorrect input clearly.
  • Test your checkout and make sure there aren't annoying bugs, like the form clearing if an invalid input is made.
  • Ensure you put through a test order after each major software update on your site.

You can also improve your checkout by offering multiple payment methods, so the customer can choose their preferred option. We typically recommend SagePay and PayPal.

9. Excessive payment security checks

Obviously there's some things you need to check, but as with any checkout optimisation, the less fields the better.

To help with the overall experience, see what you can do to style your payment page so it's easy to use and includes less steps. If you require 3D secure or have some other reason why your payments are taken on your payment gateway's server, contact them to see what they can do to help make the experience as smooth as possible.

10. Concerns about payment security

People are handing over sensitive details - you need to do all you can to reduce their anxiety.

Some ways to do this are:

  • Ensure 'safety logos' are visible, such as any SSL certificate, payment provider or industry body badges. Add these in your footer and/or the checkout sidebar.
  • Show a list of the payment methods you accept, this helps give the checkout the right look.
  • Include previous customer testimonials on the checkout pages.

Your checkout should always be running on HTTPS (SSL encryption) when you are accepting sensitive information such as payment details.

We have a full article on PCI compliance here.

11. Delivery options unsuitable

We recommend that to appeal to all customers, you offer a 'free' shipping option as well as a premium 'next day' option if possible.

The free option should be the slowest or most affordable provided by your shipping courier.

Offer a premium option if your shipping courier can deliver next day and you're confident you'll usually have inventory ready.

Using a combination of these options means you'll be ready for both types of customers - those that are patient enough to wait and those that are rich or desparate enough to pay for the premium option.

12. Website time out

Similar to #7, if this is a problem you seriously need to consider your web host.

A hosted platform like Shopify or SquareSpace will erase these problems as they take care of the server side for you. Shopify hosts over 100,000 shops and deals with 500,000 page views a minute.

If you host your own e-commerce platform, some optimisation can go a long way to improving page load speeds. We could spend days talking about ways to do this but here are some good starting points:

  • Ensure images are stored at the size they are going to be displayed on the screen. Photographs should be JPEGs, logos are usually better as PNGs. Use 'Save for web' in photoshop to help with getting the right balance between compression and quality.
  • Enable any caching functions within your content management system.
  • Reduce the amount of images that are loaded for each page view.
  • Adjust your web server settings, enable compression, consider adding a reverse HTTP proxy.
  • Simply upgrade the server to something higher powered.
  • Switch to a reliable web host such as Rackspace.

Beyond that it really becomes necessary to dive in to the code and figure out why the site is running so slow.

If you're having this issue get in touch as we may be able to help.

13. Price presented in foreign currency

If you sell internationally, having your prices in only one currency can put some customers off.

The basic solution to this is to use a javascript plugin to dynamically change prices on each page based on visitor's preference. Add a currency selector to the header of your website to allow them to change currency, you can see this in action on some of our client websites including organic surge.

With this approach, the final payment is still taken in a single base currency. This may put some customers off at the last stage, but it's the most cost effective way of handling multi-currency.

True multi-currency involves taking the actual payment in the customer's preferred currency. You need a payment gateway that therefore supports multiple currencies and a checkout that can handle this. You will also need an aquirer (bank) that offers a multiple currency account.

14. Payment was declined

There's not a lot you can do about this! But it's always good to offer a contact number and email for customers having trouble.

This will help you spot possible issues on the checkout and also reassures potential customers that they have some way of getting in touch with you regarding their purchase. This is why we always recommend including a phone number somewhere clear and visible within your template.


So that wraps up the common reasons for why people don't buy.


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