Cart Abandonment

No doubt, you’ve been guilty of popping something into an online shopping cart but then never making it all the way to the end and purchasing what you’d put in there. This, unsurprisingly, is known as ‘shopping cart abandonment’. It’s a big problem that all e-commerce stores face, but there are plenty of small and easy-to-make improvements that can be made to help reduce shopping cart abandonment, resulting in an increase in sales and revenue.

Firstly then, let’s look at some of the reasons for ‘shopping cart abandonment’, and what you can do about them.

Shopping cart abandonment – reasons and solutions:

High Shipping costs:

You get to the end, and you finally see the cost with shipping included. The pain of payment kicks in and you leave. It’s why free shipping can be such a powerful tool to use. If you don’t want to go down that route, then ensure the cost of shipping is on view early, so that people aren’t hit with unexpected costs when it matters most – at the checkout.

Lack of payment options:

It’s obvious, but it’s about removing any barriers to purchase. People not having their preferred payment option available is one of these. Even if there is another way they can pay (adding in debit/credit card details), convenience is what can sway them (using one-click auto sign-in PayPal, for example). Remove friction, people want things to be easy.

Additional costs:

Lots of companies show prices excluding VAT and only add it in at the checkout stage. Like high shipping costs, this sudden last-minute price shock is all people need to abandon their purchase. Be clear, and upfront and avoid surprises of the nasty kind.

Long and complex forms:

We’ll be going into more detail in a separate post, so here we’ll keep it short – just like your forms should be. Only include essential information that you need/are going to use. If you don’t need a mobile phone number, don’t ask for it. Again, remove friction. If the checkout process is too complex or time-consuming, consumers just won’t bother with it.

Tech glitches:

This is something that can be easily overlooked. But be sure to keep a close eye on any glitches on your site that are preventing people to purchase. It could be a website that isn’t optimised properly for mobile, and so form filling is difficult and certain key submit buttons aren’t accessible. Or there could be long load times that result in people giving up and going to one of your competitors instead.

Simply, pay close attention to your analytics and behaviour flow to see where people are dropping out, and check if glitches are the reason for this. And of course, regularly review the checkout process by making test purchases.

People who are browsing/not quite ready to buy:

Much like window shopping on the high street, you’ll get plenty of online browsers too. People who while they’ll add things to their cart, don’t have that much purchase intent.

This is where nudging comes into play again. In a previous post, we talked about using ‘Using Behavioural Science to increase users’ motivation to buy’ (you can read it, here).

A couple of principles to use on the checkout page are:

  1. Scarcity – invoke the fear of missing out, by creating limits on time or quantity.
  2. Social proof – state that lots of people are already doing the desired behaviour, e.g ‘35 people already have this item in their basket’.

Discount/promo codes:

While promos, such as ‘free shipping’ can help reduce the pain of payment and nudge people to purchase. Promo codes can also stop people in their tracks and prevent them from purchasing.

Here’s a behaviour that you’ll likely be familiar with: You’re at the checkout stage and you notice an ‘enter promo code/gift voucher’ box. What’s the next thing you do? Yep, load up another window and go hunting for a promo code. You then don’t find one, and then feel like you’ve lost out and so don’t bother completing your purchase.

We’re going to give discount/promo codes more attention in a dedicated article. But for now, be careful using these. If you decide to, it’s best to send users a URL with a discount applied – so any ‘code’ doesn’t end up on one of those online voucher sites. And be clever where you place it on your site. Hide it so that people must open it, rather than it being something that’s in full view and stops them in their tracks.

A/B testing.

As you can see there could be a whole host of reasons why people aren’t completing the checkout process. Therefore, A/B testing is crucial in improving cart abandonment. Yes, this is a shameless plug coming – but doing this manually is hugely time and labour-intensive, which is why using an AI-powered tool like Success Path is invaluable. You can find out more, here.

As well as optimising the on-site shopping cart experience (by using Success Path) all is not lost if a customer does abandon their shopping cart. As there is still time to capture the customer once they’ve left your e-commerce site. You can do this (what’s known, again unsurprisingly, as Cart Recovery), in two main ways:

Cart Recovery

  1. Email

1. If someone gets far enough on your checkout before leaving, they will have submitted their email address. You can then use this to send them an email to remind them about completing their purchase. We’ll leave it here on this, as you can expect a dedicated article on abandoned cart emails to land soon.

2. Retargeting

Even if the person who abandoned their cart didn’t leave their email, you can still reach out to them again. But only if you have a pixel set up and event tracking in place. Then you can use ad platforms such as Google and Facebook to run retargeting adverts. Yep, they’ll be another dedicated article on this too.


There you go then, plenty here to help you improve your checkout process and ultimately conversion rates. It’s still crazy how much of this is overlooked by so many e-commerce stores, especially with online retail sales in the UK having more than tripled in the last ten years (Retail Economics), with no sign of it slowing down anytime soon…

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