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

Shopping cart
An old shopping cart left behind in the californian desert.

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 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:

“Woah! This costs 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 the 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 customers don’t abandon their purchases.

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.

“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 an 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 emailBI 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.

“This site’s layout makes it a pain to buy.”

Small “user experience,” or 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 more likely abandon their purchase entirely rather than seek 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.

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  1. Great post! It’s shocking that cart abandonment will climb to $31 billion! Any thoughts on what to offer instead of “Free shipping”? I know that seems to be a critical point but it’s often expensive for the company in terms of margins.


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