May 30, 2008, 12:00 AM

Shoppers check out to see shipping fees, often leave because they`re high

48% of consumers who abandoned e-commerce purchases after putting items in shopping carts say they hit the checkout button to see shipping fees and delivery dates, a recent survey finds. The most common reason for abandoning a purchase: shipping costs.

Why do so many online consumers add items to a shopping cart but leave before completing the purchase? Much of the answer has to do with shipping costs, according to a survey by web measurement firm comScore Inc. for PayPal, the online payment service owned by eBay Inc.

Many consumers only proceed to checkout because they want to gather information not previously provided, for instance about shipping costs, delivery date and total order price. 48% of online consumers who had abandoned a purchase in the previous two weeks said such information-gathering was the reason they clicked on the checkout button. Just under a third said they intended to complete the purchase, but changed their mind.

The primary reason for not completing the purchase was cost, cited by 46%, with 19% specifying shipping costs. 13% said they changed their mind or ran out of time, 16% said they were comparison shopping, 6% wanted more information and 20% cited other reasons.

Asked to select from a list of reasons for abandoning the purchase which were very important, 43% said shipping charges were more than they wanted to pay, and 36% said total cost of purchase was more than expected. Other reasons cited as very important were: wanted to look at other web sites before purchasing (26%), wanted to look at offline stores (22%), preferred payment option was not available (22%), item was no longer available by the time they checked out (20%), wallet or payment option was not readily accessible (20%), could not contact customer service for more information (16%), did not feel the web site could protect payment information (16%), forgot user name and password for web site account (14%).

While most respondents could not identify any change that would have led them to complete the purchase, 10% of those who abandoned purchased at larger merchants and 20% of those who left smaller retail sites pointed to lower shipping costs or free shipping. More than 8% said a price discount would have led them to complete the purchase.

More than a third of those who abandoned their purchase ultimately returned to buy from the same online retailer, including 36% who abandoned at large retail sites and 37% who left smaller merchant sites. 8% of large site abandoners/9% small made the purchase at the same retailer’s offline store, 6%/5% at another retailer’s offline store and 13%/10% at another retailer’s online store. About 38% did not make the purchase.

PayPal says its data show that two-thirds of online shopping carts are abandoned before purchase. That abandonment rate was put at 50% in a survey of online retailers last year by research and consulting firm Forrester Research and online merchant trade association

ComScore surveyed 355 online consumers from March 25 to April 18.

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