Ways to Combat Shopping Cart Abandonment –
Cart Recovery Tactics

One of the most common – and most annoying – problems experienced by eCommerce sites is that of shopping cart abandonment. In fact, as we will explain, it happens far more often than you might believe. There are many reasons why consumers visit a store, put products in the cart, and then leave. We’ll be talking about these in one of the main sections of this article.

Following we are going to look at causes for cart abandonment, the effect it has on online retailers, and some solutions that should help you reduce your cart abandonment issues. Let’s start with an online shopping cart abandonment rate, which should reassure you that no matter how often it happens you are not alone in experiencing this problem.

Table of Contents

What is an Average Cart Abandonment Rate?

Are you tracking the shopping cart abandonment rate for your eCommerce store? It’s among the most important key performance indicators (KPI) and one you need to look at carefully.

Let’s say you pick a three-month trading period and analyze your shopping cart abandonment rate. Is it 50% of customers? Or higher? You may be surprised to learn that, taken as an average across all eCommerce market sectors, 50% is doing well!

Different surveys and sources will give you different answers, but in general, the overall shopping cart abandonment rate sits at between 70% and 75%. Shocking, right? It is, but we have to consider some figures to explain this.

First, online retail is still new to vast numbers of people. Many of these have been introduced to the wonders of eCommerce via the covid-19 pandemic that crippled bricks-and-mortar commerce and industry across 2020 and into 2021. These people are still learning about online retail, and many may be wary of shopping online and the apparent security risks that come with it.

Further, people go window shopping in digital stores just as they do on the high street, and are notorious for changing their minds! However, a lot of the problems with eCommerce cart abandonment come directly from you, the retailer, and your online store.

We’ll talk about the reasons online shoppers abandon their carts and what you can do about that later in this article, but first, we want to look at some statistics that show the effects of cart abandonment for online retailers and service providers.

What Effect Does Shopping Cart Abandonment Have?

Let’s go back to that first statistic we showed you, the one about cart abandonment rates for e-commerce sites. Working with the lower figure, 75% of shopping carts are abandoned across all market sectors.

That’s three-quarters of all shopping carts. Imagine the chaos that would cause in a physical store! Of course, with an online store, there is not the problem of blocking the alleyways with abandoned carts, but the damaging effects of cart abandonment have been analyzed and shown to be very great. Here are a few more statistics that should help you understand the scope of the problem:

SHOPPING CART ABANDONMENT RATES PER DEVICE

Desktop
0%
Mobile
0%
Tablets
0%

These are interesting yet not that informative stats for the average online retailer, but the following are extremely relevant to anyone in eCommerce:

Common Shopping Cart Issues

Let’s step away from online retail for a few minutes and think about what happens when you go shopping on the high street or in a mall. If you have a purchase in mind you likely have an idea of what it’s going to cost you. Yet you will still look for the best deal. You might visit three stores, say, to compare prices. If you don’t have a purchase in mind and see something that you like or want, you still compare prices. It’s in our nature to get the best deal.

This is also something that happens online, but it’s even easier to run a search and find out who has the best deal on the items you want. So why do people then abandon carts? In the next section, we highlight the top reasons for shopping cart abandonment.

The Top Reasons for Cart Abandonment

If you have online shoppers visiting your online store you have done a great deal of work in getting them there. Now you need to ensure that they buy from you. Yet as we have seen above, we know that – on average – only 30% of those who start shopping with you will go through with the transaction (and here we’re not even considering your bounce rate, those who get to your site and simply leave without even starting to shop). Potentially you – and it should be said most ecommerce sites – are losing 70% of your customers. You’ve worked hard on your marketing, done everything right with your google ads, and yet you’re losing that much – it’s hard to take!

So we need to know why your customers abandon shopping carts so readily. In fact, there are a handful of good reasons why they do, so let’s look at some more figures.

A survey by the Baymard Institute used more than 2,500 consumers to arrive at the following reasons for abandoning a cart, and we’ve included the percentage who stated each reason:

A quick scan of those figures shows that many of those surveyed gave more than one of the above as reasons. Now let’s look at each of those reasons for abandonment in more detail before we go on to look at some solutions.

TOP REASONS FOR ABANDONING A CART

Extra costs discovered at checkout
55%
Needing to set up an account
34%
Checkout flow is complicated or too long
26%
Pricing is unclear
21%
Did not trust the site
17%

Extra Costs

The most common reason for cart abandonment is the discovery of extra costs when the consumer reaches the checkout. In most cases, this is shipping costs. Taxes and other fees not mentioned before checkout flow are also included here.

We understand that in a lot of cases there are necessary shipping costs but bear this in mind: more than half of customers say that free delivery is a major incentive to purchase from a store. Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes and this makes a lot of sense.

Set up an Account

This is another area where you need to consider things from a customer point of view. You click through to a site and you find the page and product you want, put it in your cart, and head to the checkout, and then – you’re required to set up an account to make that single purchase.

Now as the business owner you have reasons to do this as it gets you valuable information, but as a customer, it’s just annoying! They simply want to pay for the goods, tell you where to send them, and get on with the day. After all, date of birth, phone number, any other superfluous information – they’re not essential for a one-off purchase. So, consider having a guest checkout.

People are wary of giving out unnecessary information online – and rightly so – hence it is wise to consider a guest checkout for first-time customers. If the customer is happy with the service and product and decides to come back, they may be more willing to set up an account on that occasion.

Remember: With a guest checkout you can still provide a registration option. Retailers want customers to register but they can still add the option to create an account at the other end of the checkout process.

Complex Checkout

Here’s something to think about: the average US eCommerce checkout process involves no fewer than 23 elements that need to be completed! The address is essential, naturally, as are the payment details, but again: date of birth, phone number, and other information potentially useful to the retailer – they’re not necessary for a one-off purchase.

One in five customers will abandon the complicated checkout process, and you really can’t afford that to happen. There are simplified, secure payment portals available; use them and make life easier for your customers, and reduce shopping cart abandonment rate.

Unclear Pricing

Hidden costs raise their ugly head again here. In addition to hidden shipping costs, if a customer cannot reckon the full costs upfront, they are likely to walk away. This can include taxes and fees that may be necessary yet are not mentioned until the checkout page. In some cases, almost 20% of customers leave for this reason. Clear, fully explained additional costs before checkout is an essential part of a good ecommerce site.

Lack of Trust

Who do you trust your credit card details with? Not many other than yourself, we reckon. The same is true of your customers, who perhaps get wary of the final payment when they are not convinced of the trustworthiness of the site. This is why an SSL certificate and explanation of the payment process plus further guarantees are vital if you are to reduce cart abandonment for this reason.

The above are the five main causes of cart abandonment, but we’d like to mention a couple more. We talked about window shopping; many consumers start filling a cart and then decide they’ve changed their minds and not complete a purchase. It happens, and the only way you can combat this is to make certain you convince the customer you are the retailer they need. Another reason is that your competitors offer a better deal, and a further is that having looked at the products, the customer is not convinced of the quality. The final one that is quite common is the lack of payment options. Many customers, for example, prefer to use PayPal rather than a card.

Before we look at some solutions there’s another problem with cart abandonment that you need to think about, so let’s cover that first.

What Happens When you Abandon a Shopping Cart?

Let’s take a step back into the physical retail world once again. A customer fills a cart with the last item on the shelf of a product, then decides they don’t want it and simply leaves the cart and leaves the store. Another customer comes along and finds the shelf empty, so goes elsewhere for the product. Yet, the product is still in stock!

Now think of that in terms of your online retail store. You likely have an inventory of your products, although we understand some retail outlets place an order from the supplier when one is placed with them. However, if you do hold physical stock – whether yourself or with a logistics provider – cart abandonment presents what can be a major problem.

When a customer puts a product in the cart it is automatically removed from the quantity in stock. If they then abandon that cart, in most cases the product remains out of stock – it’s in limbo, neither being purchased or available for purchase. Now, remember that an average – 70% of carts are abandoned? How many of your products are showing out of stock but are actually sitting in abandoned carts?

We know that there are systems that can help eliminate this problem, but for smaller businesses, this can have a real impact on sales. A customer comes looking for a product, finds it is showing out of stock and goes elsewhere – when it could have been returned to the shelf for them to buy.

Be careful not to leave carts abandoned for long, as this problem is very real.

Now that we know the reasons for cart abandonment, let’s run through some of the possible solutions to the problem.

How Do You Solve Shopping Cart Abandonment?

Let’s have a quick recap as we’ve covered quite a lot of ground. We know that cart abandonment is a genuine problem and happens far more often than might have been thought. We have seen some quite astounding figures that explain the potential loss of business that cart abandonment leads to. And we know the main reasons why it happens.

For many of those reasons, there is a simple solution. This is not to say that once you implement the solutions you will eliminate cart abandonment, but that it can be minimized with some simple revisions to your store and, most of all, the checkout procedure.

In our final section, we are not only looking at ways to reduce the problem, but also some methods of targeting cart abandoners and getting them back. We’ll start by discussing what can be done to tackle the reasons for cart abandonment that we have discussed above.

Cart Abandonment Solutions

We have seen that the most common reason for abandoning a cart is that of unexpected costs or high shipping costs, so let’s see how we can combat that, followed by suggestions for the other main reasons.

Solution for Hidden Cost Abandonment

55% of people said they abandoned the cart at checkout when they were confronted with costs not mentioned before. This is usually a delivery charge, but can also be taxes and other customs fees.

41% of consumers state free shipping as a major incentive for shopping at a chosen retailer. Your immediate solution is therefore to offer free shipping or free shipping options.

For example, you could offer express shipping at standard cost, or a longer waiting time for cheaper or free shipping which allows you to bundle deliveries and reduce your costs. Or you could offer free delivery over a certain spend point.

However, the main point here is that your shipping costs need to be clearly explained early in the process. Perhaps once a customer has put something in the basket a pop-up advising that shipping applies could be shown. You may also want to use pop-ups to encourage them to spend more for free shipping.

The solution here is clear and concise explanations of all costs involved before checkout, and if at all possible, to offer a free shipping option.

Account Request

You’ll remember that a large proportion of shoppers abandon their cart when asked to set up an account. Part of this is due to the time-consuming aspect, and part down to not wanting to give out information that is not necessary for a purchase. More than a third of consumers have abandoned a cart for this reason.

The obvious solution is clear: don’t insist on an account is necessary. Offer guest checkout. We understand that data gathering is important for building your customer base and your marketing, but if needing an account is putting a third of your customers off, it’s losing your customer.

Many of those you allow to purchase with a guest account will come back once they are satisfied. When you follow up for customer satisfaction – you will necessarily have an email address for confirmation of purchase – advise the customer that setting up an account on their next visit will make shopping with you easier in the future. Once they are happy with your service, they are more likely to do so.

The solution is to offer a guest purchase option and not insist on an account in the first instance.

Complex Checkout

We mentioned that the average US online checkout involves 23 fields. This is as off-putting as having to create an account. Streamline your checkout system – or use one of the many off-the-shelf tools you can purchase to enable simple checkouts – and eliminate everything that is not needed for the purchase.

Again this means not collecting information you could use for your marketing campaigns, but as with the above, you need to build the customers' trust as well as making their consumer journey as simple as possible. A simple, safe and secure checkout portal will encourage the consumer to complete the transaction.

Unclear Pricing

This one has a simple solution that should be implemented on all e-Commerce stores; ensure your pricing is clear and visible on the product page, and that it includes any taxes or fees that may be payable. For greater clarity, add a tally system that displays the cost of the consumers' cart as they add to it, so they can keep up with what they are spending. Also remember to use pop-up messages to tell them how much they need to spend to reach free delivery, as this is a certain method of encouraging them to spend more.

Trust in the Website

The modern online customer knows all too well about security breaches, so anything you can do to enhance the security of your site and reassure the customer of the safety of their details will engender trust in the store.

We suggest using a trusted and known platform to host your eCommerce store, as this will give the customer further reassurance that you can be trusted. There are many options, but we strongly recommend you research this thoroughly.

Payment Options

There’s nothing you can do about window shoppers other than making sure your products appeal and your pages are engaging, but there is something you can do to stop cart abandonment thanks to a lack of preferred payment options. Offer the option to pay by shopping apps such as PayPal, by digital wallets such as Apple Pay and Google Pay, and also by buy-now-pay-later schemes if you can.

Now that we’ve covered the solutions there are a few things we want to talk about that can help reduce shopping cart abandonment and some that are useful for getting those customers back, so let’s talk about each in brief.

Cart Abandonment Emails

You will know the customers who have abandoned carts when you run your periodic reports. Don’t just forget about them as they went to the trouble of going to your store and are still potential customers. Write an email asking them why they abandoned the cart and what you can do to make the service more to their liking, and perhaps offer a discount as an incentive. You won’t get all of them back, but this sort of customer engagement engenders trust and shows you care about your customers.

Cart abandonment emails

Cart Abandonment Retargeting Ads

A great way of getting the attention of those who have abandoned carts is to make it a subject of an ad. Something along the lines of ‘come back to us and complete the purchase you nearly made’ or similar that encourages them to return, and as with the above include an incentive.

Cart Abandonment Pop-ups

While the customer is in the store, you could arrange for a pop-up that appears when they have been inactive for a set time. This could be one asking if they need help, for example, to find the products they want or reminding them of the amount they need to spend to enable free delivery.

Cart abandonment popup

Countdown Timer Pop-ups

Similar to the above, you can encourage your consumers who are taking time by creating pop-ups that offer a great deal if they complete within a set time, and with a countdown. This could be a discount or free gift, for example, that will give them an incentive to complete.

Countdown popup

Checkout Page Process and Optimization

We’ve talked about checkout as a problem in various ways, so our final word of advice is that optimizing your checkout process for simplicity and security is absolutely essential. The customer wants to complete the transaction, and it may be the complexity of the checkout or the information required that puts them off. Make it easy, safe, and secure and you’ll find many more visitors complete their purchase.

Conclusion

We believe we have covered all of the main problems that are reasons for cart abandonment, and we hope that the above has helped you understand how to ensure this worldwide problem is kept to a minimum in your eCommerce store.

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