Consumer Psychology and eCommerce: Subconscious Reasons that Consumers Abandon Their Carts


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When it comes to online purchases, most organizations want to know what are the key factors to having a good user experience. According to an infographic by Vouchercloud that appeared on, there are a lot at factors at work before any purchase is made from a website. I would argue that the biggest factor at work here is one that even the consumer isn’t aware of: the subconscious.

Abandonment Issues

Take a look at the Vouchercloud info graphic:

And here is the image address: 

This info graphic seems to indicate that there are many phases of the sale on a site, any of which can lead to abandonment, the word any site engineer hates to hear. If the site loads too slowly, then the consumer abandons it. If there aren’t enough product views or videos, they abandon. If there are hidden charges at checkout, a registration process before ordering, high shipping costs, or an omission of their favorite method of payment, you guessed it…abandon!

Each of these factors listed is important. They are also fairly common as I have done pretty much all of them myself and I would wager you have, too. If you asked either one of us why we did what we did that we would tell you our reasons, thought through both reasonably and logically.  But like all things in customer experience, the subconscious is at work here and getting to the bottom of what signals your site is sending might be the difference between getting that online cart purchased instead of abandoned in cyberspace.

Consumer Psychology and eCommerce

So let’s talk about consumer psychology and how it is affecting this eCommerce. Consumer psychology is an area of science that analyzes how our thoughts, beliefs and feelings influence our buying decisions.  Whether it comes down to decision- making, societal pressure or an underlining motivation, consumer psychology is just as much at play on your online channel as it is in your brick and mortar one.

The subconscious is driving a lot of these actions that we see in the infographic.  Emotions are, too, as you can see in the phrases “feel safer” and “they feel they can trust” are used to describe the reasons behind the various statistics. The fact is that the list of reasons that a consumer buys or doesn’t buy what’s in their cart may vary, but the subconscious and emotions are always playing a role in the event no matter the excuse that a consumer gives on a survey.

Take for example the first reason the infographic gives for the abandoning a site: slow download speed


I can’t speak for everyone but I know that when a site takes a long time to load, I am instantly suspicious of how much time the whole process is going to take. Since I am likely going online to buy something I want and am anxious to find it, I am not excited about waiting for each screen to load as if I have been transported back to 1995, listening to the quasi fax machine call of my dial up modem. Like the other 80% figure shown in the infographic, I won’t be back to the sluggish site either.

But that’s just my conscious decision for leaving. Subconsciously, I believe that a slow loading site has a problem or will cause me problems. So I click away, subconsciously clicking away from problems.

Another example of how the subconscious is affecting my decision is the part of the infographic that says “more than 80% of consumers feel safer seeing trustworthy card logos prominently displayed within an online store


Now consciously I think logos from MasterCard, Discover, American Express and VISA makes me think that the site is legitimate or these companies wouldn’t work with them. Cirrus isn’t as well known, but indicates international purchases are welcome. PayPal says, “I don’t have to risk having my credit card number stolen”. My point is the presence of the logos sends me a conscious message that the site is above board.

But subconsciously, I think it tells me that they are likely going to be easier to work with if there is a problem because if they have the infrastructure to support these methods of payment, then they have the infrastructure to manage my problem should one arise. Whether or not this is true is irrelevant. We are talking about the subconscious reason I choose to purchase, which may or may not ever be an issue or even cross over into my conscious mind at all.

Consumers Will Be Consumers, Physically or Virtually

Consumers will be consumers wherever they are shopping. They might leave a retail store because they don’t like the music playing or the smell from the back of the store. They might abandon a cart because they don’t want to set up three security questions for future logins to buy a jacket or because they feel weird about paying for a blender by ACH transfer. Subconscious signals are everywhere influencing consumer decisions. The subconscious signal that online sites send will drive a virtual cart to the digital checkout or discarded in a stack of wasted binary code and fizzled out sales.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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