Cart Abandonment: What Is It and Why You Need to Fix It

Cart Abandonment: What Is It and Why You Need to Fix It
Ivan Kreimer
Ivan Kreimer Dec 28, 2020 — 8 min read
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Shopping cart abandonment is like a splinter in any ecommerce store owner’s foot; it’s painful to experience but avoidable if you know where to look. It’s not a threat to your business’ success to see some people leaving your cart without purchasing; the problem exists when most of your shoppers leave your cart without buying.

In 2010, a Forrester Research study estimated cart abandonment caused ecommerce brands to lose as much as $18 billion in yearly sales revenue. In 2020, that number is many times higher.


If you aren’t aware of cart abandonment and you want to learn more, in this article, you will learn what it is, what causes it, how to find these causes, and how you can fix them.

What is cart abandonment?

Cart abandonment happens when a visitor leaves an online retail store after adding a product to their shopping cart without making a purchase.

Cart abandonment does not only describe an action; it's a measurement of a store’s failure to persuade a visitor to purchase.

Picture it this way:

  1. John visits your ecommerce store after finding a product of yours on an Instagram post.

  2. After browsing your store for a few minutes, he adds a product he liked to his shopping cart.

  3. Then, John leaves your website without buying the product he added to his cart.

Everything seemed to work just fine, yet in the third step, the visitor decided to leave your store without second notice. That raises the question: what caused the visitor to abandon their cart? 🤔

What Causes Cart Abandonment

Cart abandonment is a crucial metric that indicates an underlying issue in your visitor’s shopping experience. Adding a product to cart creates “commitment,” in the words of Robert Cialdini, the author of the best-selling book Influence, which pushes us to act consistently. Consumers are biased to finish their purchase after adding a product to cart — whatever causes them to break this pattern must be a strong behavioral disincentive.

The Baymard Institute keeps a list of cart abandonment industry averages from different sources as of September 2019, ranging from 55% to 81%, for a total average of 69.57%.

According to a survey of theirs, the most common reasons why people abandon a cart are the following:

Most common reasons for shopping cart abandonment during checkout

Every cart abandonment cause appears after a visitor adds a product to cart. From this data, we can conclude the problems come into existence when a company surprises the visitor and breaks their expectation of what a successful purchase should be like.

Think of it this way: if you decided to buy a t-shirt for $9.99 and you eventually find you have to pay $14.99 due to taxes and shipping fees, you’ll likely be disappointed and leave. Regardless of your desire to buy the t-shirt, your mind had decided that the “fair” price was the initial one. Psychologists call this “price anchoring,” a cognitive bias that makes humans take the initial price presented as the most relevant one.

We’ll get into the details of fixing cart abandonment in a moment, but for now, remember the following:

Avoid surprising your visitors with new prices, complex checkout experiences, and any information that breaks their expectations.

Better yet, think of your company as a direct competitor of Amazon: you need to offer fast, free shipping, easy returns, and a simple checkout experience. Considering that Amazon has nearly 40% market share in the US and almost 10% in Europe, it’s very likely your shoppers have the option to buy from them; your job is to make it as easy to purchase from you as in Amazon.

Amazon retail sales stats from 2017 to 2021

How to find your cart abandonment

To find your current cart abandonment rate, open your Google Analytics account, and go to Conversions > Ecommerce > Shopping Behavior.

How to find your shopping cart abandonment rate using Google Analytics

As you can see, Google Analytics shows two types of cart abandonment:

  • Cart Abandonment, which measures those visitors who leave your cart before reaching the checkout page.
  • Check-Out Cart Abandonment, which measures those visitors who leave your cart after reaching the checkout page.

Ideally, you want to target your efforts for the latter visitors as it’s likely the causes of their abandonment are simpler and easier to fix. One potential cause could be that you don’t show any security badges or that you don’t offer enough payment methods. These fixes are relatively simple to fix and will solve your most pressing problems right away.

On the other hand, pre-checkout cart abandonment issues may be caused by more critical issues, like high delivery costs, unclear return and shipping policies, and more.

To find the real causes of your cart abandonment, look beyond the numbers Google Analytics shows up and uncover the reasons your visitors have for their actions. To do so, survey those visitors who are prone to abandoning their cart with the help of feedback forms. Your research should answer the following two questions:

  • Why do visitors choose not to complete their purchase?
  • What can you change to avoid any future issues?

With the answers to these questions, you will then implement relevant and effective tactics to fix cart abandonment.

5 Ways to reduce cart abandonment

Your store’s cart abandonment issues represent a unique opportunity to boost your profit margins easily, as doing so will increase your sales volume and conversion rate with your existing, hard-earned traffic.

According to the Baymard Institute, a “large-sized e-commerce site can gain a 35.26% increase in conversion rate though better checkout design.”

Based on their estimations, this increase translates to “$260 billion worth of lost orders which are recoverable solely through a better checkout flow & design.”

Regardless of the exact increase in conversion rates, fixing your cart abandonment will be a highly profitable operation. Here are five tactics you can use to do so.

1. Nudge your visitors before exiting

Occam’s Razor claims that the simplest explanation is usually the right one. Following this logic, the cause of your cart abandonment could be that your visitors forget they added a product to cart.

In this case, exit-intent popups triggered by an abandoned cart will remind your visitors of their cart before they leave your store. With the help of Getsitecontrol, you can show popups, floating bars, and slide-ins to deliver your message without ruining the user experience.

Notice that this example doesn’t just give a subtle reminder about purchasing the selected item – it also invites a customer to leave their email address, which means you’ll be able to reach them later in their inbox.

2. Offer discounts or free shipping

As the Baymard Institute shows, higher-than-expected costs — taxes, shipping — partially explain cart abandonment. If you can’t but charge your visitors for their shipping, or if there are any fees or taxes you can’t avoid charging, offer them a discount.

While the discount may affect your profit margins, the increase in conversion rate, and possibly average order value, will override the issue. Some discount types you could offer include:

  • Voucher — e.g., “Get $10 off.”
  • Free shipping
  • BOGO — “Buy one get one free.”
  • Initial purchase discount — e.g., “Get 10% off your first purchase.”

Analyze the effects your discounts will have on your finances before deciding on one, and ideally, A/B test them. While the financial impact may be the same between a 10% discount and a voucher, the way your visitors perceive them won’t.

To make the discount even more exciting and boost your sales further, consider using countdown timers and stock scarcity — e.g., “5 units left” — when presenting the offer.

3. Decrease FUDs (Fear, Uncertainties, and Doubts)

Your visitors have dozens of reasons why they shouldn’t trust your store, some that arise from the mere act of purchasing online, and some that your store causes them.

Take credit card frauds. According to a SmartMetric 2018 report, worldwide payment card fraud caused $24.26 billion in losses.

To lower their fears of getting their financial information stolen, use the latest security protocols, like the Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) protocols. These protocols are a trust signal that shows your store is secure and poses no threat to your customers’ safety.

Also, offer multi-factor authentication methods (MFA), like the 2-factor authentication (2FA) or 2-step verification (2SV) methods. These methods require the user to verify their identity after submitting their passwords, lowering the chances of getting their accounts hacked and stolen.

Two-factor authentication broken down by steps

What’s more, force your visitors to use strong, unique passwords. According to Verizon, weak passwords cause 81% of cyber attacks worldwide.

Finally, ask for the most essential shopping-related information you need, like the buyer's name and email address. You can ask for other information, like their age and gender, afterward.

4. Lower purchase friction

When you think about a customer purchase, think of it as a painful process for them. This may not be actually true, but imagining it this way will force you to make your shopping experience as flawless and painless as possible.

Once a visitor adds a product to cart, everything should be easy for them to buy. It should be too easy, in fact.

According to the Baynard Institute’s survey, 28% of respondents complained that ecommerce businesses ask them to create an account, while a study from SaleCycle found 34% of consumers will abandon their shopping cart if they are forced to do so.

We could mention many benefits around having a visitor creating an account, but most of these benefits pale in comparison to your revenue. Let your visitors buy as guests, and you will see your conversion rates and sales volume skyrocket.

Another important aspect is to have not more than six pages in your checkout process. This suggestion comes from a study by the Baymard Institute that found the average checkout flow for a new user is 5.1 steps long—which includes the shopping cart step all the way up to the order review step.

Average number of checkout steps in online stores across EU & US

Also, let people pay with different payment methods. The most popular ones in North America and Europe are credit cards, debit cards, and mobile wallets.

Most popular payment methods in North America and Europe

Regarding your credit and debit card options, Internet Retailer's research shows that, at the minimum, your store should accept Visa, Mastercard, and American Express.

Statistics on retailers accepting various forms of payment in their online stores

On the other hand, the most popular mobile payment options to offer are Apple Pay, PayPal, and Amazon Pay.

5. Add social proof

People like following other people. We want to believe that other people’s behavior is an indicator of the correct behavior to follow, a process known as “social proof.” That means, show your visitors what other visitors have done, and they will be more likely to imitate them — which includes making a purchase.

To influence your customer’s love for social proof, add customer reviews to your product pages.

The Nielsen Group found 83% of consumers trust reviews over advertising, while research by PowerReviews found 97% of consumers look at reviews before purchasing.

You can add customer reviews with plugins like Yotpo and PowerReviews. To get those customer reviews, create an automated post-purchase evaluation email marketing campaign asking your customers to leave a review a few weeks after purchase.

Example of a post-purchase evaluation survey delivered via email by Adidas

Also, show your visitors what products other customers are buying. Tools like Proof and Nudgify allow you to do that and might influence your visitors to pick the right product for them.

Example of a Nudgify popup helping reduce shopping cart abandonment rates

It’s time to fix your cart abandonment

Cart abandonment is an expensive and unnecessary problem most ecommerce store owners face. Since all of the causes that lead to cart abandonment appear after the visitor decides to add a product to cart, you can easily avoid these problems.

Start by researching your visitors with the help of customer feedback forms. With the data you get, optimize your shopping experience accordingly using any of the tactics shared above.

Sooner or later, your cart abandonment rate will plummet, and your conversion rates will increase.

Ivan Kreimer is a freelance content writer for hire who creates educational content for SaaS businesses like Leadfeeder and Campaign Monitor. In his pastime, he likes to help people become freelance writers. Besides writing for smart people who read sites like Getsitecontrol, Ivan has also written in sites like Entrepreneur, MarketingProfs, TheNextWeb, and many other influential websites.

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