How to combat shopping cart abandonment on your website

Three common issues that lead to shopping cart abandonment on websites and how to use feedback to overcome them.


Rachel Bodony

October 20, 2020

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There’s no question that online shopping is becoming a major part of consumers’ lives. In late 2019, the total market share of “non-store,” or online retail sales, was higher than general merchandise sales for the first time in U.S. history.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, many customers suddenly moved to shop online for items they normally would have gotten in-store. In June 2020, GetFeedback asked respondents about their intended shopping behavior following COVID-19: 48% of the respondents in the U.S. indicated they will probably do more online shopping than they are doing presently. 

As ecommerce grows, customer demands evolve with it. Modern customers expect seamless shopping experiences online and will quickly leave their cart if they come across any issues or glitches. As a result, web teams must optimize the checkout process to make it as simple and easy as possible to avoid shopping cart abandonment. 

In this article, we’ll dive into three of the most common issues desktop shoppers come across in the checkout funnel and how to overcome them.

But first, what is shopping cart abandonment?

The term shopping cart abandonment refers to the rising phenomenon of users filling their virtual carts with everything they want but leaving your site before they complete their purchase. In other words, when there is an item in an online shopping cart that never makes it through the transaction, it’s considered to be “abandoned” by the shopper. 

According to a September 2019 study from web usability research group the Baymard Institute, the global average online shopping cart abandonment rate is 69.57%.

Richard Lam, UX auditor at the Baymard Institute commented on this phenomenon, "In other words, after having gone through the trouble of finding a product and adding it to their cart, two out of three users still choose to abandon the purchase.”

Shopping cart abandonment presents many different issues for brands, from loss of revenue to inventory uncertainty. But before you can tackle shopping cart abandonment, you need to understand your Cart Abandonment Rate (CAR). 

How to calculate Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate

Your Cart Abandonment Rate (CAR) serves as a benchmark to identify if there are unknown challenges in the path to purchase. For example, if your CAR increases, you know there’s an issue that needs to be tackled. 

To calculate your CAR, divide the total number of completed purchases by the total number of created shopping carts. Subtract the result from 1 and then multiply by 100 to get to the percentage.

For example, if there are 70 complete purchases and 400 shopping carts created total, the Cart Abandonment Rate would equal 82.5%.

1 – (70 ÷ 400) x 100 = 82.5%

A high cart abandonment rate is a sign that at some point across the customer journey, there is at least one poor experience or broken function. 

You can decrease your Cart Abandonment Rate by addressing the common challenges in the digital customer journey that we will cover later in this article. 

Before we dive into the main issues that lead to shopping cart abandonment, let’s discuss the journey customers go through when browsing your website on their desktop in comparison to their mobile device. 

Key differences between desktop and mobile shopping 

From start to finish, the entire customer journey needs to be as enjoyable and seamless as possible. When it comes to ecommerce, the journey becomes particularly important in the checkout funnel. If a customer comes across any complications during the checkout process, they are highly likely to abandon their cart. 

It’s important to note that the shopper, however, might have a different mindset when buying on a mobile device versus a desktop. Mobile devices are often used to make purchases that are driven by emotion, like clothing items, jewelry, or everyday items like cleaning supplies or snacks, as opposed to the more analytical method that is applied when shopping on the desktop. 

Analytical purchases require more in-depth review, like evaluating measurements or technical specs for furniture or larger digital devices. Customers may spend more time comparing items before they make a big purchase on their desktop, whereas a user is more likely to purchase repeat items or everyday essentials on their mobile device. User experience design should consider these buying behaviors to avoid last-minute shopping cart abandonment on websites. 

But how do you optimize the checkout journey in a way that fits customers’ needs? You collect feedback.

Collecting customer feedback pre–and post-purchase is vital to creating an enjoyable digital purchasing experience. Let’s dive into the most common issues that lead to shopping cart abandonment on desktop browsers and how you can use customer feedback to combat them. 

Common issues that lead to shopping cart abandonment on websites 

1. Unexpected shipping fees 

Customers report their primary motivation for abandoning digital orders is because of unforeseen costs for shipping or other fees, according to a Baymard Institute study

"In our 2020 survey, out of 4,570 adult respondents in the US, we found that 50% of users abandoned their carts in the checkout process if extra costs are too high (whether it be shipping, tax or fees)," Lam said.

Customers don’t want to be surprised with hidden fees or shipping costs at the end of their purchase. The shock of the extra fees can scare them away, or at least encourage them to check other sites with less fees. 

Usability Sciences found an increase in the number of items added to shopping carts and an increase in cart prices after free shipping was offered. The study reports that the average number of items in a cart was 3.7 with an average ticket price of $142.93, versus 3.4 items and a ticket price of $118.29 when free shipping was not offered.

Clearly, not only do shipping options influence conversion rates, but free shipping also influences the number of items customers put into their carts and the overall value of those items.

The key here is to incorporate upfront pricing. Don’t wait to inform customers of shipping fees or other hidden costs. Instead, include that information in the product description. 

Amazon’s two-day shipping promise is an innovative approach to combating shopping cart abandonment. By clearly outlining shipping expectations, they instill confidence in the customer and simplify the checkout process which allows shoppers to flow through the process faster. 

This isn’t to say free shipping is the only way to please customers regarding delivery fees. In some cases, customers are willing to pay more for faster or more convenient options. 

British shoe retailer, Schuh, offers a variety of delivery options, ranging from click and collect, to local in-store collection and next day delivery. Sean Mckee, director of ecommerce and customer experience at Schuh, shared in an interview that more delivery options correlated very strongly with a propensity to spend more money. Indeed, the speed of delivery had a "very, very strong correlation".

Many companies also use a threshold price which qualifies customers for free shipping. For example, if you spend over $75.00, you will get free shipping. Consider what works best for your business and your customer’s needs. If you can’t absorb shipping costs and fees into the upfront price, disclose these fees right away. Transparency is key for digital shoppers. 

Shipping and delivery options have become increasingly important to customers. Do you know what your customers might prefer? Do you know what they are willing to pay a premium for? 

There’s no need to guess the answer. Ask customers for feedback on these questions. The insights could help you determine what the best ways are to address shipping costs. 

Activate a simple slide-out survey on the checkout page asking, “How important is free shipping to you?” If a majority (+50%) of respondents report that it’s of high importance to them, it may be time to offer free shipping and add the cost into product prices. Not only can you combat shopping cart abandonment, but you may also find that digital shopping carts get bigger with more high-value products. 

Addressing shipping costs and fees is important to improving the desktop checkout funnel. But there are many other reasons customers abandon their carts. By incorporating customer feedback into your design process, you can ensure your checkout process is customer-centric. 

2. Checkout process is not customer-centric 

In a regular brick-and-mortar store, a customer can quickly find an associate to help them look for the products they need. Online, shoppers are left to their own devices. 

If a customer can’t find what they’re looking for or have unanswered questions–they’re likely to jump ship and move on to a competitor. How can you recreate the in-store experience online? 

When customers can find what they’re looking for quickly and efficiently, they’re likely to move on the purchase funnel. But when they can’t, brands need to have systems in place to support customers and guide them to checkout. 

Chat support can be an effective solution to assist customers who are unable to complete their task. Some companies have taken the chatbot to the next level by including video chatting. Schuh introduced video chat into their customer service solution by teaming up with Vee24, an AI-enabled customer service platform.

They encouraged customers to schedule a one-on-one video chat where a sales-trained member of support would speak and direct the customer through their shopping journey.

The agent can physically navigate the site with the customer's help, take them to a product, showcase things for them, drop things into the basket and help them up to a particular point in the journey. 

If the customer is about to leave, a slide-out exit survey helps them report what’s not working for them. Ideally, there is also a way to request a reply to the feedback.

It’s also imperative to capture feedback on your FAQ page. If a customer can quickly find an answer to their question, they can continue through the checkout funnel to purchase. A simple in-page feedback widget allows customers to report whether or not a specific question and answer was useful. 

By keeping track of customer feedback on the FAQ page, you know exactly which questions to optimize. You can also include a slide-out survey asking customers if they were able to find their question and answer, and include an open-text box for them to expand. This way, you optimize the FAQ page with customer needs in mind.

So your customer finds themselves on your website–congratulations! Maybe they interacted with a service agent over chat to decide which item was right for them. But what will motivate them to follow through with the purchase? Social proof is key to encouraging online shoppers to take the final step and convert. 

3. Lack of social proof 

As mentioned before, shoppers tend to use their desktops to shop, compare, and read reviews online when researching bigger ticket items. The desktop experience offers the time and space customers need to evaluate options and ultimately make their big purchases. This doesn’t mean that customers don’t use their desktop for smaller purchases, but it is important to note the role of social proof—aka, peer input—plays in the desktop shopping experience. 

Customers trust word-of-mouth recommendations from their peers much more than they trust brands. Nielsen Research found that 92% of consumers say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising. And online product reviews can increase a product’s conversion rate by more than 270%. 

Customers tend to use the shopping cart as a “digital dressing room.” As they narrow down their choices, they seek out customer reviews to determine which items to purchase. Innovative brands include customer reviews within the product page so shoppers can easily access that information. 

Nordstrom features the star rating on the product description page, along with the individual reviews further down the page. 

Nordstorm shopping experience

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. For example, if you were purchasing an expensive outfit before a big event, you’d be interested to see how it fits on customers who previously purchased. 

Rent the Runway, a designer clothing subscription service, includes customer-submitted photos on each product page so that shoppers can see how the items fit on others like them. Some brands even include photos of the items on different sized models so the customer can see how it might look on various body types. These creative approaches that cater to the customer’s needs facilitate a smooth checkout process and can reduce shopping cart abandonment. 

Depending on your product inventory and customer base, you may want to take steps to adjust the desktop shopping experience in a way that recreates the same sense of personalization and on-demand customer support a shopper would experience in-store. 

Innovative approaches to incorporating social proof into product pages can be extremely valuable in creating a delightful online shopping experience. Customers trust peer reviews, so adding these to your desktop experience can make the difference between an abandoned cart and a sale. 

In conclusion 

With consumers increasingly moving to online shopping, it’s critical to optimize your checkout funnel with them in mind. According to Nate Smith of Adobe, “Right now, as consumers increasingly use digital methods to prepare for a possible emergency, retailers need to ensure smooth, frictionless, and fast experiences on their ecommerce websites and mobile applications. 

Meeting your customers’ needs and expectations at a time like this is imperative: it could either make or break your brand. Now is the time to capture shoppers’ feedback, understand their unique journeys, and innovate ways to make the online shopping experience seamless and easy.  

How to combat shopping cart abandonment
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The common reasons online shoppers abandon their carts and how to overcome them.

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