More and more retailers have been trying to boost online profitability with higher delivery charges and stricter returns policies, but the end result of this seems to be that UK consumers are increasingly abandoning their online baskets at checkout, a new report shows.

More than a quarter of online transactions are being stopped in their tracks at the point of checkout, adding up to potential retail sales losses of more than £34 billion in the past 12 months, the research from GFS and Retail Economics claims.

That adds almost £3 billion more in lost sales and the study said that the key reason is “delivery-related concerns,” the Telegraph reported.

Additionally, consumers are being more cautious at present due to financial pressures and their heightened expectations around delivery and services makes them much harsher judges of what retailers are offering.

And even worse news, it’s clothing and footwear that see the highest rate of abandonment with the key under-25 age group particularly likely to check out from the checkout process. In fact, they’re four times more likely to decide not to complete a purchase than shoppers over 65.

They’re not the only ones who are big on abandonment though, with middle-aged (and affluent) consumers also doing it in a big way.

The report also said almost two-thirds of consumers expect more from delivery services than they used to and are “scrutinising service value and options to align with their needs”.

Interestingly, it’s not all about cost. Some 71% have failed to progress an online order due to “inconvenient delivery times”, but as many as 47% are prepared to pay more for options such as next-day or same-day delivery. The big turn-off for them, of course, is that such options are often not even offered.

Looking at the percentages, this year 80% of those surveyed stopped an online order at checkout stage because the delivery charge was too expensive. That compares to only 72% a year ago.

Some 71% stopped checking out because they would have had to wait too long for delivery, compared to 61% this time last year. And the numbers for those unhappy about lack of delivery choice are 65% this time compared to 58% last year.

As far as those unhappy about the non-availability of free delivery are concerned, 63% have abandoned their cart because of that this year, compared to 57% this year. The figures for those who became aware that they would be charged if they return something are 55% compared to 49% and consumers are even concerned over the particular courier used. Some 33% quit the transaction because the retailer didn’t use their preferred courier compared to 30% a year ago.

What’s clear from all this is that delivery choice, cost, time and other aspects are all crucial and could make the difference between a successful website and an unsuccessful one.