The best and most meaningful way to increase eCommerce sales isn’t by launching an expensive marketing campaign or partnering with TikTok’s biggest influencer. It’s reducing shopping cart abandonment.
The amount of would-be sales lost to digital shopping cart abandonment is jaw-dropping — $4.6 trillion each year, according to FinancesOnline. To put this in perspective, the Baymard Research Institute estimates that the average cart abandonment rate is 69.8%. That means that nearly seven out of 10 shoppers leave your website before completing a purchase.
This is one of the most frustrating challenges for eCommerce brands and retailers. After you successfully attract shoppers, inspire them with your inventory, and funnel them through the customer journey, they jump ship right before converting. But don’t lose faith! There are many tactics and strategies you can take advantage of to minimize your cart abandonment rate. In fact, Baymard estimates that online stores can increase their conversion rate by 35.3% just through improving checkout design.
In this in-depth guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the effects of shopping cart abandonment, why this issue happens, and how to improve this crucial metric.
What Is Digital Shopping Cart Abandonment?
Shopping cart abandonment happens when shoppers add items to their cart but leave your site before making a purchase.
To calculate your cart abandonment rate, you simply divide the total number of completed purchases by the number of carts that were created. Then subtract this number from one and multiply by 100. For example, if you have 400 completed purchases from last week, but shoppers actually created 1,000 carts during that time, your shopping cart abandonment rate is 60%.
What Are the Negative Effects of Shopping Cart Abandonment?
A high shopping cart abandonment rate imposes two main consequences for online brands and retailers. While one is more obvious and has a clear impact on company performance, the other can still harm the brand. Let’s examine each of them.
1. Leaving money on the table
One immediate consequence of cart abandonment is lost revenue.
Let’s go back to the numbers we used in the example above. Out of the 1,000 carts created per week, just 400 shoppers complete their purchase. That’s a cart abandonment rate of 60%. If the average order value (AOV) of each cart is $150, that means you’re earning $60,000 in revenue per week from the successful purchases. However, you are losing out on $90,000 per week from abandoned carts. That leaves a lot of money on the table—far more than you’ve actually earned. Annually, you are missing out on $4.7 million. This is huge!
For most online brands and retailers, lost revenue is the most important issue associated with shopping cart abandonment. Understandably, this is why they strive to understand why cart abandonment happens and how they can fix it. By lowering its occurrence, you can recoup thousands or millions of dollars in could-be revenue.
2. Missed opportunities to build community and form relationships with shoppers
Today, community and customer relationships are absolutely integral to brand success. A positive online shopping experience helps companies to develop strong reputations, attract more customers, and build brand loyalty.
Shoppers that decide not to buy the items in their cart won’t post on social media about how much they love your brand, how great their experience was, how inspired they felt when perusing your inventory, or how that dress they bought has become their new favorite item.
While the effects here may be less obvious than lost revenue, they are still significant. A cart abandoner won’t become a brand ambassador or recommend you to their friends. In the bigger picture, cart abandonment impairs your efforts to build community and increase brand loyalty.
Why Is Shopping Cart Abandonment a Problem for Retailers?
Beyond the obvious damaging effects mentioned above, shopping cart abandonment can highlight some other major issues. Here are three of the most common concerns:
1. Poor UX at checkout
If many shoppers are dropping off when viewing their cart or in the middle of checkout, it’s a pretty clear signal that something is wrong. In this case, you need to be asking a few different questions:
- Is the checkout process too long or complex?
- Are you doing enough to assure shoppers that sensitive payment information is secure?
- Are you surprising shoppers with high shipping costs or an undesirable return policy?
We’ll take a closer look at these obstacles (and more) below, but if there are UX-related issues then you have your work cut out for you. Gaining the trust of your shoppers, keeping their motivation to buy high, and making the checkout process as seamless as possible requires a smooth, frictionless payment process.
2. Shoppers are choosing to buy from your competitors
Although 31% of cart abandoners ultimately return to buy the items in their cart, 25% end up buying them from a competitor. If you are losing shoppers to your competitors, especially at this point of the customer journey, it’s important to consider why that’s happening. Here are a few possible reasons:
- The competitor is offering a better price.
- Their checkout process is faster and easier.
- The competitor seems more trustworthy and reliable.
- They offer faster shipping and a more desirable return policy.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what’s driving individual shoppers to your competitors, since you can’t track them once they leave your site. However, by doing consistent research on your competitors, you can at least make an educated guess to try to reduce digital cart abandonment due to competition. For example, imagine you are a home decor retailer in one of the following situations:
- Seasonal markdown – You have decided to mark down all of last season’s rugs by 15%. However, one of your competitors marked down many of the same rugs by 25%. If your shopper feels the urge to quickly compare prices before they complete a purchase on your site, they will undoubtedly buy the cheaper option.
- Shipping costs – Your competitor offers free shipping, but you don’t. On the checkout page, you include the shipping cost of the rug — which adds another $40. Why would a shopper opt to pay more when they can get free shipping from another store?
3. Difficulty refining personalization recommendations
One of the key types of data that personalization engines use to inform product recommendations is customer purchasing data. Although other on-site actions, such as liking an item, saving it for later, and adding it to your cart can provide valuable insight on what customers like, the most influential data comes from completed customer purchases.
Shopping cart abandonment is a problem for retailers because it significantly reduces the amount of potential purchasing data. As a result, the quality of recommendations may not be optimal.
How Does Shopping Cart Abandonment Affect Inventory?
There are two main inventory-related concerns regarding shopping cart abandonment.
1. Stock level changes
One concern that many online brands and retailers have about digital shopping cart abandonment is whether or not uncompleted purchases will affect their inventory calculations. For example, if a shopper adds five table lamps to their cart, does the inventory management system reflect a change? Will other shoppers be able to add the same lamps to their carts?
Some eCommerce platforms don’t allow multiple customers to add the same exact product to their carts at the same time. However, the actual stock levels won’t be affected unless a customer completes a purchase. So while your inventory might register that a shopper has added certain items to their cart, it won’t show that the item’s stock level has decreased until an actual purchase is made. If two shoppers can’t add identical items at the same time, this can be extremely detrimental. What if the first shopper ends up abandoning their cart and your inventory software has prevented a more motivated shopper from completing a purchase?
For example, when you put an item into your cart on ASOS, the company puts it on hold for one hour. Think of this like holding the clothes you want to buy in a brick-and-mortar store. As you find more items that you like, you pull them off the rack and hold onto them until you try them on, buy them, or decide you don’t want them after all. During this period of time, another shopper can’t add the same exact item into their cart (just as they wouldn’t come and take it out of your hands in the store). However, after an hour is up, that item goes “back on the floor.” By that time, a different, more motivated online shopper will already have moved on to another site.
2. Inventory relevance
Sometimes, shopping cart abandonment is a sign that your inventory needs some revamping. In other words, it’s possible that shoppers abandon their carts because they’ve simply decided that they don’t really like or want the products you’re selling.
Of course, brands and retailers don’t have a way to know for sure if this is the reason, which makes it difficult to learn how to improve product selection based on cart abandonment. On the other hand, analyzing the data of completed purchases informs brands and retailers how relevant a product is to their shoppers. A product that sells out in just a few days is clearly a hit. This tells you to restock, increase your inventory, and make sure that you can meet your shoppers’ demands.
What Causes Online Shopping Cart Abandonment?
Online shopping cart abandonment occurs due to a wide range of factors. According to a survey by the Baymard Institute, the top 10 most prevalent reasons are:
- Extra costs are too high (shipping, taxes, fees) – 49%
- Completing a purchase requires creating an account – 24%
- Delivery is too slow – 19%
- Checkout process is too long or complicated – 18%
- Not trustworthy enough to enter credit card information – 17%
- Unable to see or calculate total order cost upfront – 17%
- Website had errors or crashed – 12%
- Unsatisfactory return policy – 11%
- Not enough payment methods – 7%
- Credit card was declined – 4%
Some of these points are related to logistics or technology issues. For example, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, delivery carriers around the world have been inundated with eCommerce shipping orders while simultaneously dealing with severe disruption to global supply chains. As a result, changing the speed of your delivery might be difficult to achieve or completely out of your hands.
Other issues—like your website crashing—might indicate there is something wrong with your digital infrastructure. However, this is something you can and should deal with as soon as possible. One solution to consider is moving to a scalable cloud structure that can avoid server overload due to traffic peaks.
The rest of the issues listed above are preventable with better UX and design. Here’s a closer look at each of these obstacles.
1. Extra costs are too high or unlisted before checkout
This is a common issue that adds a lot of frustration to the customer experience and understandably drives shoppers to drop off before completing a purchase. When a shopper adds an item to their cart, it’s safe to assume they already checked that item’s price and are willing to spend that amount. But suddenly, once they are ready to pay, that price jumps up.
If you don’t factor in the costs of shipping, taxes, and other potential fees until the checkout page, you risk shocking the shopper with a significant increase. If the sum cost of all the items far exceeds what they are willing to spend, they are prone to not buy anything at all.
Imagine someone is ready to spend $80 on a pair of jeans, but at checkout they see another $17 listed for shipping and taxes, bringing the total cost up to almost $100. That might make the jeans feel too expensive, leading to cart abandonment.
2. Completing a purchase requires creating an account
As the brand or retailer, there are clear benefits to be gained when users create an account. For example, it offers you the chance to learn more about a shopper’s preferences and refine your personalization efforts. Also, when shoppers create an account, they can save their payment and shipping information, which makes shopping with you again easier and more desirable.
However, not all shoppers are interested in these benefits. In fact, the added steps of creating a username and password and then needing to verify and remember this information can add too much friction—enough to drive some shoppers away.
3. Checkout process is too long or complicated
The last time I went to the doctor’s office, I had to fill out a tedious four-page form while I waited in the lobby. It took me 10 minutes to finish—far longer than the five minutes the doctor spent actually talking to me. This example mimics how shoppers feel when the checkout process includes multiple pages, too many fields, or requires excessive amounts of clicks. If the steps to complete a purchase feel too long or complicated, your shoppers may decide the item they are doing all of this work for isn’t really worth it.
4. Payment security concerns
Trust is essential to eCommerce business success. Despite the fact that more people are shopping online now than ever before, many people still have reservations about entering their credit card information online. There have been plenty of examples of breached customer financial information, which puts many shoppers on edge. If your website doesn’t appear completely secure, you can lose a large portion of would-be customers at checkout.
5. Unsatisfactory return policy
When people buy online, they know they are taking a risk. Whether it’s clothes, jewelry, shoes, or home decor, buying online doesn’t give shoppers the chance to inspect items in-person or try them on. That’s why most people want the option of a full refund if they need to return what they ordered. Brands and retailers that limit returns or only allow for exchanges or store credit risk driving shoppers away. Those that only inform shoppers of their return policy on the checkout page are at even higher risk for digital cart abandonment.
6. Not enough payment methods
In the beginning of the online shopping era, paying with a credit card was the only option. Today, that’s no longer the case. Many shoppers now prefer alternative payment methods that offer greater convenience or security. For example, some people prefer PayPal or Google Pay, since their credit card information is already saved and secure in these platforms. Others want the option to purchase their cart with multiple installments. If you don’t make the payment process easy and seamless, shoppers can jump ship and find a different brand or retailer that does give them options.
7. Website had errors or slow load times
If your website appears unstable or takes too long to load each page, shoppers may become frustrated or lose confidence in your checkout process. Many customers will be reluctant to re-enter payment information if your site crashes and reloads because they will be worried about getting charged twice. Instead, they’ll play it safe and abandon their cart.
How to Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment: 8 Strategic Tips
Now that we’ve covered the causes and effects of digital shopping cart abandonment, let’s go over eight proven tips for reducing it.
1. Improve your mobile checkout experience
Almost three-quarters of all eCommerce purchases (72.9%) occur on a mobile device, according to Statista. At the same time, mobile devices are also responsible for the highest rate of shopping cart abandonment (74%) compared to other channels (62% on tablets and 61% on PCs). Since mobile shoppers represent the largest share of all eCommerce consumers and they abandon their carts at the highest rate, improving the mobile experience can go a long way.
To remove friction and improve UX, focus on how the checkout flow looks and functions on a smaller, mobile screen — and remember that simplicity and speed are key. Here are some important questions to consider:
- Do you require shoppers to tap on and fill in numerous small fields on each page of the checkout process?
- Do you include too many pages, with slow load times in between each one?
- Can shoppers view and edit their carts along the way, or do they need to press “back” in order to make a change?
- Is pertinent information clear? For example, do you identify costs, promotions, your return policy, and estimated delivery date upfront?
2. Reduce complexity and minimize clicks
This tip is pertinent for reducing shopping cart abandonment on all devices. By making the checkout process as short, straightforward, and quick as possible, you will decrease the chances that shoppers will get annoyed and quit in the middle.
According to the Baymard Institute, an average large-sized eCommerce brand or retailer can boost their conversion rate by 35.26% with better checkout flow. This translates to recovering billions of dollars of lost orders worldwide. That makes it extremely worth your while to consider which aspects of your checkout process can be shortened. Here are a few examples:
- Only include necessary fields. If you don’t need a certain piece of information in order to execute the transaction, then checkout is not the place to ask for it. For example, don’t ask the shopper to rate their experience on your website before they complete the payment or try to get them to subscribe to your newsletter. All of that should be optional, and occur after the payment is completed.
- Don’t require shoppers to create an account. Instead, give shoppers who don’t have an account the option to check out as a guest. This can help people who are in a hurry to quickly go through the process without having to create an account and verify their information.
- Don’t list any unrelated product recommendations. While including last-minute recommendations on the cart page might nudge some shoppers to add another item to their order, this tactic can also backfire if you’re displaying random or unrelated product images that can distract them and cause them to veer away. Instead, make sure to be super targeted and on point with any product recommendations on your checkout page — and enable shoppers to quickly add these items to their cart without having to leave the checkout page to select their size and color preferences.
- Allow shoppers to save checkout information. Some shoppers will want to save their shipping, billing, and credit card information when given the option, as this allows them to speed up the checkout process in future sessions.
3. Increase trustworthiness
Customer trust is imperative to conversion and the development of a strong community of shoppers. If lack of trust is contributing to shopping cart abandonment, it’s time to reexamine your payment security.
First, make sure your technical infrastructure is PCI DSS compliant (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards) and equipped with fraud prevention tools. We also recommend including recognizable payment security symbols and badges on the checkout page. Seeing these helps to remedy reluctant shoppers’ concerns.
You can also use social proof to bolster customer trust. By displaying user-generated content, customer reviews, and ratings on your site, you will show new shoppers that many others have successfully and safely bought products from your site. Social proof can help validate your brand in the eyes of consumers, and motivate them to convert.
4. Accept a variety of payment methods
Consumers today enjoy numerous ways to access and spend their money. By providing shoppers with the ability to choose the method that feels the safest, fastest, and most convenient to them, you will make checking out easier and more attractive. Here are two payment options you can add to your site:
- Shopping apps or digital wallets – Shoppers who don’t want to pay with credit cards might prefer to use shopping apps or digital wallets, such as PayPal, Venmo, Shop Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, or Google Pay.
- Buy now, pay later (BNPL) services – According to CB Insights, Americans spent an estimated $20 to $25 billion using BNPL services in 2020. Globally, deferred payment purchases are expected to top $1 trillion by 2025. Adding this option to your eCommerce site not only caters to consumers’ desires for alternative payment methods, it also enables you to boost AOV. Some retailers have reported AOV increases of 20% to 30% after adding BNPL services. Examples of some high-demand BNPL options to consider include Klarna, Four, and AfterPay.
5. Clarify pertinent information early
Shoppers don’t enjoy being surprised at the checkout page with information related to shipping costs, delays, or returns. Although you may not think that advertising your “no refunds” policy will help convert more customers, it’s always better to inform shoppers upfront about these details. Waiting to clarify this information at checkout could drive many shoppers away.
The first way around this is to provide more competitive offerings, such as the ability to return items for a full refund and free shipping. However, sometimes, this just isn’t possible. In those cases, it’s best to inform shoppers earlier in the journey. For example, you can add a widget to your site that asks shoppers to confirm their location, and then provides an estimated shipping fee. It’s also advisable to publish your return or exchange policy on PDPs, so shoppers know what they are getting into before they add an item to their carts.
6. QA again, and again (and again)
We know that buggy or slow load times can contribute to digital shopping cart abandonment. That’s why routine, consistent quality assurance and usability testing are essential. After adding new features, updating your inventory, or changing any aspect of the checkout flow, make sure you perform careful QA to make sure the process flows smoothly. This includes not one, but multiple rounds of testing to achieve the best UX.
In the end, many website bugs or crashes can be avoided with more attentive maintenance — so take the time to do your QA critically and often in order to give your shoppers the best experience on your site.
7. Display cart sum total with every addition
Each time a shopper adds another product to their cart, it’s best to display the items they’ve added so far, as well as the sum total. This helps them avoid feeling shocked when they see the cost of their cart at checkout, which sometimes drives shoppers to drop off.
8. Follow-up with shoppers who abandon their carts
It’s possible that a shopper abandoned their cart because they had reservations or concerns about the product/s — or maybe they simply got distracted. By following up with cart abandoners and reminding them of the products they left behind, you can nudge them to go back and make a purchase.
Research shows that retargeting shoppers with ads can reduce cart abandonment by 6.5%, and increase online sales by almost 20%. Emails are also an effective way to bring back cart abandoners. According to 99 Firms, cart abandonment emails have an open rate of 41.1%.
Minimize Shopping Cart Abandonment
There are numerous strategies you can take advantage of to reduce digital shopping cart abandonment. The best approach is to cast a wide net—identify as many factors for cart abandonment as you can, and work to address each one of them.
While external marketing efforts, such as ad campaigns, influencer partnerships, and collaborations can be a boon to sales and branding, few strategies will have as big of an impact as finding ways to convert shoppers who have already made it to the end of the customer journey on your site.