shopping cart abandonment

5 Reasons for Shopping Cart Abandonment (and How to Reduce it)

Latest posts by Luke Heinecke (see all)

Online shopping has been a convenient commerce alternative for a little over the past two decades, and as many retailers in the past months have had to temporarily close their stores due to COVID-19, the investment retailers have put into their e-commerce operations stands to pay off. For those startup retailers hoping to boost their online shopping offerings, the current economic necessity for web-based alternatives may be your silver bullet.

A reported 30 percent of consumers say they prefer to buy from a website they have already purchased from, so getting that first sale is key. An initial transaction leads to future sales opportunities, such as capturing an email address. This helps build a list for email campaigns that encourage repeat business. But sealing that deal hinges on an order submission button. For a variety of reasons, customers don’t transition through the whole checkout process or sometimes hesitate to make that final click.

The abandonment rate over the past seven years is, on average, nearly 70 percent.

Why is this the case? Tackling the checkout abandonment problem starts with exploring customer behavior. Many reasons are rooted in a competitive marketplace where customers are aware that they have options. Cart abandonment is also due to friction stemming from issues such as consumer confidence and user experience issues.

By examining the following reasons for why customers decide to abandon their online purchases, we can work to reduce online shopping cart abandonment.


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No express shipping and unexpected high shipping costs

One of the advantages of brick-and-mortar stores is that consumers can expect to take the products home the same day and pay only what’s listed on the price tag.

With an online order, high shipping costs applied at checkout induce sticker shock. A recent Baymard Institute study reported that 50 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed pointed to added costs as the reason for not following through with a purchase.

Slow shipping speed is also a deterrent to online shopping. Reasonable arrival time is a consolation for not being able to get the product on-demand in store, especially with immediate need items. The same study reported that 18 percent of U.S. shoppers surveyed said slow delivery speed was the reason for not completing their order.

The Solution: Economize

Economize shipping costs so you can offer an economical rate. Avoid an unpleasant surprise by being upfront about your rates with customers early in the transaction.

Justify higher shipping costs by attaching the value of faster shipping. When you call it expedited shipping, it’s presented in a way that lets the consumer know they are getting an added benefit for the cost.

However, with so many retailers offering free shipping, consumers may perceive this as a baseline. According to a National Federation Research study, 47 percent of shoppers said they didn’t move forward with ordering because of a free shipping issue.

Does this mean you should offer free shipping to everyone? Not necessarily. You can leverage free shipping appeal by setting a threshold order amount. In that same study, 51 percent of those surveyed stated they would add more items to the order if that meant the shipping is free.

Offering shipping rates that meet consumer expectations and reasonable arrival time reduces friction that sends customers in the direction of your competitors.


Related: Why Your Startup Should Make Transparency a Priority

Your return policy isn’t clear

Another brick-and-mortar store advantage is customer awareness of return policies and procedures. Customers have come to expect an instant refund with in-person returns. However, with online sellers, returns can be a wild card.

The Solution: Be transparent

A simple and clear-cut return policy that’s out in the open informs customers of recourse if the purchase doesn’t work out. If you happen to offer a generous return policy like free returns, flaunt this on your website so that customers have one more reason to complete the order.

Customers want to order from sellers they can trust, so transparency about your return policy reduces purchase completion resistance by letting consumers know that you aren’t about the fine print.

Requiring a new user account

Adding products to a cart is a cinch but filling in lines of data and matching passwords is a drag, especially when it’s done on a mobile device.

Encountering a checkout page with a multi-step registration process has some customers throwing up their hands in frustration. The aforementioned Baymard study found that of those polled, 21 percent of U.S. consumers stated that a tedious checkout process is why they bailed on a purchase.

The hassle of creating a new account can lead to procrastination or shopping elsewhere. As more websites present a user-focused design, consumers come to expect ease of use. You reduce abandonment with a truly user-friendly checkout process.

The Solution: Don’t make customers work so hard

By making checkout design improvements, your e-commerce site stands to see a 35 percent boost in conversion rate.

Optimize your customer’s web experience by making the process as user-friendly and as simple as possible. Offer an “express lane” with a “guest checkout” option. By reducing the work, you propel the customer to wrap up the process. Auto-fill functionality is also a big help. Device software remembers previously entered information like the full name, phone number, address, email address, credit card info, etc. Auto-fill actions populate all the associated fields with user data. Enable auto-fill to create an easy form completion journey.

Shoppers conducting research

Customer hesitation with completing an order may also have to do with doubts that they are making the best choice. When seeking affirmation, they typically jump to another resource.

Customers may search for:

  • Best price: High-cost items may make some consumers uneasy and gives them doubts that cause them to look for a cheaper deal.
  • Consumer confidence: Either they are unsure about the product or the seller. They may look to other websites for reviews about the product or reviews about your store.
  • Coupon codes: Seeing an option to apply a promo code at checkout may prompt them to go search for borrowed codes.

The Solution: Deliver more

Providing customers with the best price and consumer confidence mitigates the temptation to leave your page.

One-stop-shop options:

  • Offer a price match guarantee: Not all e-commerce sites will be able to afford many discounts, but if a boost in sales would level things out, it may be worth it to offer this.
  • Offer a bundle: Is there an inexpensive accessory you could throw in to boost the value of their purchase?
  • Offer payment plans: For big-ticket purchases, consider offering finance options. Some retailers partner with credit card companies to extend flexible payment plans.
  • Curate and display consumer reviews: Seeing endorsements from other users about your products and service boosts consumer confidence.
  • Have accreditation badges prominently displayed: This reassures your customers that you are vetted and endorsed by trusted agencies.
  • Present users with a coupon code upfront: Announce on your home page that you have a coupon code and make it easy to copy. If possible, enable the code to be applied automatically. You may opt to offer discounts to first-time customers only to encourage new visitors to make their first purchase.

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Personal priorities

It may simply come down to personal reasons and preferences. A reported 58.6 percent of consumers leave a site with an item in the cart because they were just looking and not quite ready to buy.

We live in a highly distracted society. When making a purchase on a mobile device, phone calls and notifications divert the user’s attention away completely. A variety of personal factors may come into play when a user almost finishes a purchase but for some reason doesn’t.

Here’s what you can do to combat this cumbersome issue.

The Solution: Retargeting

Let’s say a customer added an item to their cart on your mobile website, but then Facebook sent a notification that their friend is doing a live stream. They click on the notification to go check out the video feed. When the video ends, they go check their Facebook feed.

Facebook has almost 2.5 billion active monthly users, and the number of users continues to grow around 10 percent each year. If your website was set up for Facebook retargeting, this customer would likely see your associated ad front and center when scrolling through their feed. It’s a little push to remind them that they were about to make a purchase from you.

A retargeted ad acts as a sales agent to move in and close the deal. You need not resort to begging for the sale, but present them with something enticing. This would be an ideal spot to offer something that sweetens the deal, such as an exclusive discount.

With abandoned shopping carts, all is not lost

In an increasingly competitive marketplace and with the short attention span of internet culture, consumers can be difficult to get a grip on.

The frugal will shop around for the cheapest price and lowest shipping. The cautious will seek reassurance through research. The impatient will expect an effortless transaction plus fast shipping. The distracted and indecisive will be all over the place.

But with creative solutions and implementing best practices, you can work to reduce friction by accommodating all of the above and keep all on track toward completing transactions.

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