A Beginner’s Guide to Cart Abandonment: Why It Happens & How to Fix It

We researched Checkout Abandonment rates in the past and found that, on average, 25% of customers leave before finishing payment. The stats brought in by our friends at Spently in the article below talk about the step before that, when customers add products to their carts but leave without buying anything. 

Almost 70% of the people abandon a website after adding products to their carts, which is alarming. If your store has that type of problem, we recommend you to read on. Vincent Panepinto, Co-Founder at Spently, explains in detail what causes cart abandonment and how to fix it. 


 In ecommerce, there’s nothing more frustrating than knowing that there are people who are visiting your website, looking at your product pages, considering buying from you, but abandoning the shopping cart before completing their purchases.

Shopping cart abandonment is one of the biggest and costliest challenges that ecommerce entrepreneurs and marketers face when trying to build and scale successful businesses. Thankfully, it’s a problem that can be fixed with the right amount of ideas, effort, and resources.

In this post, we’ll look at the prevalence and impact of shopping cart abandonment today, why it happens, and present you with actionable steps that you can take to stop or greatly reduce it from happening on your ecommerce website.

Shopping Cart Abandonment: Prevalence & Impact

Shopping cart abandonment is a problem that every ecommerce business faces at one time or another. To fully grasp the prevalence and costly impact of cart abandonment in the world of ecommerce, consider the following statistics:

  • The average online shopping cart abandonment rate is 68%. — Baymard Institute
  • 99% of people who visit ecommerce stores won’t buy on the first visit. Of those who do add products to a cart, 25% will never return, and 75% leave with at least an intention to return. — EY Studios
  • 27% of US online shoppers have abandoned an order in the past quarter solely due to a “too long / complicated checkout process”. — Baymard Institute 
  • 8.6% of US online shoppers have abandoned a cart within the last 3 months because they were not ready or not convinced to buy. — Baymard Institute 
  • Approximately $4 trillion worth of merchandise will be abandoned in online shopping carts this year, and about 63% of that is potentially recoverable by savvy online retailers. — BI Intelligence
  • If an online store was making $15,000/mo in online revenue and could turn just 25% of those abandoned orders into sales, revenue would go up by $45,000 each year. — Shopify

Needless to say, cart abandonment is a serious problem for every ecommerce store and one that requires and deserves immediate attention. But before you can approach fixing the problem, it’s helpful to first understand what’s causing people to decide against buying from you.

Why Cart Abandonment Happens

As an ecommerce business owner, you’re very likely aware of the problem of cart abandonment and the impact it has on growth and revenue, but you might not know why it’s happening. For most ecommerce stores, the root of the problem stems from 8 common issues:

  • Issue #1: Lack of Trust — The biggest reason why online consumers abandon their shopping carts before converting has to do with trust. Despite the growing popularity of online shopping, consumers are still relatively wary about giving out their personal information freely to another company over the internet. If they don’t feel like their information and identities are safe, they’re simply not going to take the risk.
  • Issue #2 Lack of Transparency — Another reason why consumers don’t complete purchases has to do with how transparent you are about additional costs that get added to orders once your customers reach the checkout page. If your website visitors are expecting to see a certain price when they get to the checkout page but weren’t expecting to have to pay more for shipping costs, they might not buy.
  • Issue #3: Poor User Experience — User experience also plays a big part in whether or not you can convince your website visitors to ultimately convert. When we refer to user experience, we’re really talking about two things: the interaction a potential customer has with your website, and the interaction a potential customer has with your checkout experience. If your website doesn’t load correctly, your visitors are going to be reluctant to buy from you. It goes back to issue #1, a lack of trust. In fact, according to Kissmetrics, even a 1-second delay in page load can result in a 7% drop in conversions for you. If your checkout process involves a lot of steps, requires potential customers to fill out a lot of information over and over again, or is clunky in any way, you’re going to lose out on potential revenue.
  • Issue #4: Bad Return Policy — Online consumers want to know upfront what your return policies are. If they can’t easily find details about your return policies anywhere on your website, or if you avoid presenting this information to them until they reach checkout, you risk scaring people away from converting. This goes back to issue #2 above: you have to be transparent about everything if you want to build trust and help people overcome any objections they have about buying from you.
  • Issue #5: Not Enough Payment Options — Another reason why consumers might not be buying from you has to do with the payment options you offer once they reach the checkout. If your payment options are limited to only a few types of cards, or if you’re not accepting newer, more non-traditional ways to pay such as through PayPal, Bitcoin, or Amazon, you might lose out on potential sales.
  • Issue #6: Required Account Registration — If you require every potential customer to register for an account on your website before they can purchase products from you, it might hurt your ability to drive conversions. Online consumers buy products from ecommerce retailers rather than from traditional brick-and-mortar stores for the convenience. Buying online is faster, easier, and instantaneous. If consumers feel like your checkout process is too complicated or requires too much of their time, they might leave your site for another option that offers them the convenience they’re ultimately looking for.  
  • Issue #7: Found a Better Price Elsewhere — Online consumers tend to do a lot of research on their own before deciding to finally purchase the product they’re looking for. If you’re seeing an increase in cart abandonment lately, it could be because one of your competitors is now offering similar products as you, but selling them for less money.
  • Issue #8: Visitor Simply Changed Their Mind —Like it or not, some consumers just change their minds when considering whether or not they want to buy a product. In ecommerce, you can do everything right on your end and still get visitors who put items in their cart and abandon them, never to return again. It just comes with the territory of running a business that caters to a consumer-based audience.

It might seem like a lot at first glance, but here’s the good news: most of these issues can be easily addressed and fixed with a little time and attention from you and your team.

How to Combat Shopping Cart Abandonment

You know the potential impact cart abandonment has on your business, and you know the reasons why it might be happening, so the question now is, what can you do about it?

There really is no simple equation that will allow you to reduce or eliminate, with a guarantee, cases of cart abandonment on your ecommerce website, but there are a number of tactics that you can implement in order to try to uncover the root of the problem. In ecommerce, it’s important to understand that every business and every audience is different. It’s your job to figure out what’s preventing your audience specifically from following through on purchasing products from you.

Here are 8 tactics you can test in order to combat shopping cart abandonment at your ecommerce business:

  • Tactic #1: Add Trust Logos  According to Shopify, almost 61% of consumers will not purchase something online if trust logos are missing. To boost conversions and build trust, help convince people that their information is safe. There are a few easy ways you can do this on your checkout pages. First, add copy somewhere on your page that informs them of your commitment to protecting their information. Be specific about how you keep their information secure. Second, add trust logos onto your checkout pages that help people understand the specific tools you’re using to keep their information safe.

Examples of Trust Badges (image source: Sellbrite)

  • Tactic #2: Offer Free Shipping — According to VWO, 61% of consumers are likely to cancel their complete purchase if free shipping is not offered. If you’re not already doing it, consider offering free shipping on all orders, even if only temporarily. See how your audience responds and whether or not your conversion rate is impacted. If you can’t offer free shipping, the next best thing you can do is be extremely transparent about the extra costs associated with purchasing products on your website. Ideally, you would find an opportunity to mention it before they add products to your cart.

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 5.00.45 PM.pngFilson offers free shipping on all orders and makes sure people know about it even before they reach the checkout page

  • Tactic #3: Simplify Your Checkout Experience — Try to reduce the number of steps it takes an online consumer to actually complete the checkout process. If possible, don’t ask for the same information more than once. Allow consumers to auto-fill information such as name, email, and mailing address in the forms they have to fill out. The fewer pages they have to go through and the less work they have to do, the more likely they will be to make it through the entire checkout process. You could also consider adding a progress bar to your checkout experience in order to help customers understand where they are in the process, and how much more work they have to do.

Haggar shows customers where they are in the checkout process

  • Tactic #4: Improve Your Website Page Speed — Make an effort to consistently evaluate page speed on your website. Remember, if your website loads slowly or incorrectly, it’s going to make it harder for you to build trust and move visitors down your funnel toward conversion. Use this tool from Google to evaluate your website load times and to get recommendations on how to make your website faster for users.

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 5.06.25 PM.png

  • Tactic #5: Offer Express or Guest Checkout — Don’t require people to create accounts on your website in order to buy products from you. Instead, make it an option and help people understand why they should consider creating an account, while also giving them to option to checkout as a guest instead if they want.

Screen Shot 2017-09-27 at 5.08.10 PM.pngThe guest checkout option from Kate Spade

  • Tactic #6: Add More Payment Options — If possible, add more payment options to your checkout page. Make it easy for your prospective customers to pay however they are most comfortable paying. To add more payment options to your store, refer to the capabilities and plans offered by your ecommerce platform provider.
  • Tactic #7: Pay Attention to Competitors — Spend time keeping track of your competitors and how they are pricing similar products month-to-month. To automate this task, consider using a tool like Prisync, which allows you to track and get alerts about pricing changes made by competitors.
  • Tactic #8: Follow Up With People Who Don’t Buy — Finally, don’t give up on people who choose not to buy from you. There are a number of ways you can drive would-be customers back to their cart to complete a purchase. Here are a few ideas:
  • Idea #1: Send them an email right away. If you were able to collect their information before they abandoned their cart, send them an email right away encouraging them to complete their purchase. You can do this by either letting them know that you’re saving the item in their cart or by offering a special deal (such as free shipping) to entice them to go back and finish their order. To automate the process of emailing people who abandon the checkout on Shopify, consider using a tool like Spently.

Abandoned cart email from Huckberry

  • Idea #2: Mail them an actual coupon. Go the extra mile to surprise and delight your would-be customers. Show them how much you appreciate them by mailing them a physical coupon and writing them a note telling them that you saw they had an item in their cart and that you wanted to make the decision-making process a bit easier for them.
  • Idea #3: Retarget them with ads. Use a tool like Retargeter to display relevant product ads to people who do not convert the first time they visit your website. Continue showing them ads for the product they were considering purchasing until they return to your website and make the purchase. To learn more about ecommerce retargeting, read through this blog post from Shopify.

Over to You

How are you working to reduce cart abandonment at your ecommerce business? Tell me in the comments below, I’d love to hear your ideas.