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3 Reasons Customers Abandon Their Shopping Carts, And How To Stop It


Abandoned shopping carts are the bane of ecommerce stores. According to the Baymard Institute 67 percent of shopping carts are abandoned online. Forrester Research reports that the amount of money lost by online retailers due to shopping cart abandonment will soon climb as high as $31 billion.

Your brand throws endless planning and hard-earned marketing dollars into attracting users to your site. So how do you make sure your ecommerce experience isn’t turning them away?

Here are three reasons customers abandon their shopping carts without purchase, and some steps you can take to address them:

1. “Woah! This costs way more that I expected.”

Statista reports that 56 percent of customers abandon their purchases when they’re faced with an unexpected price as they get to the final checkout. In a brick-and-mortar store, customers have invested substantial time and physical effort in their purchase. As a result, they’re less likely to abandon their entire cart at checkout. But that’s not the case when shopping online, where shopping is altogether more convenient and therefore easier to abandon.

Make sure that number next to the dollar sign doesn’t catch anyone by surprise. You should be aware that, thanks to the giant retailers, free shipping has become an expectation in many industries. Online customers find free shipping twice as compelling as “percent off” offers. Figuring out some way to incorporate this into your ecommerce strategy—perhaps by offering free shipping over a certain price or instituting a loyalty program with a free shipping perk—is one way to ensure these customers don’t abandon their purchases in the first place.

If you can’t swing free shipping, make sure your customer is aware of shipping costs as early as possible. It will make your brand appear more transparent and less sneaky about your pricing. Customers will show their gratitude when it comes time to buy.

2. “I’m not ready to buy yet.”

An eMarketer study found that 57 percent of shoppers abandon their shopping carts because they’re simply not ready to buy. We’ve all been this type of customer—window shoppers with no urgency to purchase. Brands often write this type of shopper off, but they’re not a lost cause. On the contrary, they present your business with a huge opportunity.

Your ecommerce strategy should include some effort to target these customers after they’ve left your site.

Retargeting ads are a good option. Set up your store to save a cookie to the customer’s browser once they view your site. Then, by purchasing ad space on other sites, you can resurface products to the customer. It’s a smart, targeted form of advertising, and research has demonstrated that the more times a customer comes back to your site, the more likely they are to make a purchase.

If you’ve captured their email address early enough in the checkout process you can target them with a personalized email. BI Intelligence found that emails sent three hours after cart abandonment have a 40 percent open rate and a 20 percent click through rate, significantly higher than your run-of-the-mill sales emails. Consider sweetening the deal by including a personalized offer.

Giving window shoppers a wishlist option is another proven retention strategy. Just because they aren’t ready to purchase today doesn’t mean they won’t come back and purchase eventually. Giving them more than one call to action (“Add to Cart” and “Add to My Wishlist”) will get them closer to the point of purchase next time they visit your site.

Is your current commerce platform capable of retargeting these kinds of customers? If not, it may be time to think about re-platforming.

3. “This site’s UX makes it a pain to buy online.”

Small UX blunders can have a big impact on your bottom line, especially when they fall in close proximity to a user clicking “Buy.” Here are some easy steps you can take to give your customers the best possible experience, or at least make sure you aren’t turning them away:

  • Simplify checkout: Reduce the number of pages between your shop and checkout path. The more screens a customer has to click through, the more likely they are to get frustrated and give up—it’s the digital equivalent of waiting in a long line at the checkout counter. Better yet, remove mandatory registration altogether (User Interface Engineering reports a 45 percent increase in sales when forced registration is removed).
  • Easy-edit shopping carts: If a customer can’t find a simple way to remove unwanted items from their shopping carts, you can bet they will likely abandon their purchase entirely instead of seeking support for the problem.
  • Utilize social tools and user generated content: Dimensional Research found that 90 percent of customers consult ratings, reviews and social media before making decisions. Give customers the means to share information so they don’t need to leave your site to do research elsewhere.
  • Display security logos: It’s a quick and easy way to boost customer confidence.
  • Limited quantity beats limited time: If you have customers that are sitting on the fence, offering them a deal can trigger a purchase. Limited quantity offers in particular create a sense of urgency to buy, so show customers when stocks are low to spur action.

With every obstacle your customers encounter—clunky UX, higher-than-expected price, steep shipping costs—their desire to purchase erodes. Keeping these customers engaged, and retargeting those that have already abandoned your site, is key to making sure your brand isn’t leaving its money at the checkout counter.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Franklin Morris.

Franklin Morris is a Senior Content Writer at Rackspace. Before becoming a Racker, he led the copywriting team for Dell’s in-house creative agency and worked as a content strategist for gaming giant Electronic Arts. When he’s not writing about technology he enjoys reading, writing fiction, and playing loud music at dive bars.

  • Del Allegood

    Seller honesty is the basic problem.When everything,all costs are up front their problem will be solved.

  • Daniel Howard

    RE “not ready to buy yet” .. I once spent a few hours painstakingly uploading, picking through, specifying quantity, cropping, and options, &c. on a photo printing web site. The total came out to more I could afford just then. When I returned a few weeks later, my shopping cart had been emptied. I was so enraged I’ve never been back to that site.

    My minimal suggestion would be to not purge user shopping carts unless they request it. ESPECIALLY if the cart assembly is a painstaking process and requires you to store several hundred megabytes (photo printing..) in the first place. But even a more traditional store . . . the biggest and more complex orders that take some time to assemble are the ones most likely to be held up before someone gets to click the “Complete Purchase” button and you do NOT want to mess with those transactions!

  • Pete2099

    Maybe it is because the lines are to long.
    They have cut employees while customers have increased in the
    past years. .
    Hell , they do not have a person behind the customer service
    (which has become a joke) to wait on you.
    You have to wait until they are finish checking (dual job) or
    after certain hours there is NO one..
    The stores are making it so you have to self check and
    today , even those lines are long.
    There is NO customer satisfaction policy for customers.
    Their only concern is to create larger profits and wealth..
    Most of this relates to the actions from grocery stores.

  • edbotsko

    I don’t mind paying for “shipping and handling”, but it has to be realistic and affordable… Some sites price the items low and then make their “profit” off the “s&h”..
    When I feel that’s happening, I do abandon.

  • KCB

    Sorry, but the “retargeting” ads created by tracking cookies are creepy and turn me

    • sniffles09

      you have to do things like go into internet explorer and clear history, delete cookies ect
      plus there are other free things you can find to clean up registry ect.
      ccleaner is one and spybot search n destroy is another

  • Echo Moon

    quite a few of these are truth and fact. i hate looking/shopping and not seeing the price listed. the crap where you have to wait to see the price “at checkout” is rotten. and yeah if there is no easy way of getting rid of it i just leave. no different than a physical store in a way. so many of them use bar codes and 3/4 of the time you can’t find an items price when your looking at it because stores will move and jumble things around to fill empty holes/spaces on their shelves with whatever. and drop downs when your ready to check out or checking a price is like a store clerk attempting to drag you back into the aisles saying, “hey don’t, you have to shop more”.

  • sniffles09

    oh that shipping one really burns me up.
    the site “cheaper than dirt” has this “multiple warehouse scam”
    so you have to make sure all your purchases come from one warehouse or they CHARGE SHIPPING FEES FROM EACH WAREHOUSE SEPERATE.
    So I had like a 120.00 order and thought the usual maybe 10 to 15 bucks shipping
    well it was like 5 to 10 shipping from each ware house
    so on a 120 order it was like 60 in shipping.
    so I went EFF this bullchit. and dumped it.
    and bought it elsewhere.
    scre-w them and their multiwarehouse deal, that aint cheaper than d1rt by a long shot

  • James

    For me it is all about the price and the vendor. I look at the total and ask myself if can I buy this locally and if the answer is yes, I will reconsider my purchase.

  • Max Jones

    I out an item in a cart then go to see it in more detail all of a sudden your options are to check out or leave. Continue shopping is in the most secluded spots on the page and should be the largest. Specifically if the offer is free shipping at a certain price level!!!!!!!!

    • roadlizard7

      What on earth does this mean? It’s gibberish.

  • bernard townsend

    One of the most annoying things in a store is really bad music.

  • João Silva

    Very simple! Just ask the Customer credit card to be read in a device in order to get a cart! For sure They will return it.

  • pauls

    Agreed.. these are some of the main reasons behind cart abandonment.
    Cart abandonment is a major issue but one can recover the lost sales by sending follow-up emails and offering discount to encourage the customers to complete the purchase.
    To re-capture abandoned carts, use FME Abandoned Cart extension for Magento:

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