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Shopping Cart Abandonment Ultimate Guide

Ultimate Guide to Shopping Cart Abandonment

Published by

October 16, 2017

According to Shopify, shopping cart abandonment causes online retailers to lose 67.45% of sales. Baymard Institute, a web research company based in the U.K., puts the average slightly higher at 68.81% (the current peak of a steady increase they’ve observed over several years).

That’s right: For every 100 customers on the brink of buying, 68 of them leave without purchasing.

But here’s a more positive percentage point: Business Insider Intelligence estimates that 63% of abandoned purchases are recoverable. You can win 42 of those wayward customers back.

Current Sales Shopping Cart Abandonment Calculation Example
Current Sales Shopping Cart Abandonment Calculation Example

What is cart abandonment?

Shopping cart abandonment is when online shoppers add items to their ‘carts,’ but fail to complete the purchase (while leaving those items in their carts).

Most online retailers are flummoxed by shopping cart abandonment. Why would a buyer express interest in your product, to the point of adding it to their cart, and stop just short of entering their credit card or PayPal information? What drives shopping cart abandonment?

Why cart abandonment happens

BI Intelligence surveyed shopping cart abandoners in June 2014 (the most recent statistics we could find). There was a nearly even split among three top reasons:

  1. Shipping costs made the total purchase more than expected (aka. Unexpected costs) – 58%
  2. I was not ready to purchase but wanted to get an idea of the total cost with shipping for comparison against other sites. – 57%
  3. I was not ready to purchase, but wanted to save items in the cart for later. – 55%

These three are so simple to address – and just imagine the impact a few minor alterations could make to your bottom line. But before we go into solutions for the Top Three, let’s look at the rest of the list:

  1. My order value wasn’t large enough to qualify for free shipping. – 50%
  2. The estimated shipping time was too long for the amount I wanted to pay. – 37%
  3. I didn’t want to register/create an account just to make a purchase. – 28%
  4. My preferred payment option was not offered (ie. debit card, PayPal, Google Checkout, etc.) – 25%

These four are more complicated, and not all of them can or should be fixed depending on your business strategy.

Number four, for example, “My order wasn’t large enough to qualify for free shipping,” is a result of a technique that works really well (most of the time) to increase purchases: setting a minimum purchase for free shipping. We recommend A/B testing to find out whether your profits rise more from setting a free-shipping minimum, or by offering free shipping on everything (eliminating that reason for cart abandonment).

Number five is also a little tricky because it depends on what shipping options are available to you, and what you’re willing to pay for speed. But, this reason tends to turn up more often around the holidays, when there are gift-giving deadlines, so you might want to consider offering expedited holiday shipping if it makes financial sense to do so.

Six is easily fixable: Don’t require purchasers to register or create accounts just to buy. Most e-commerce stores make this an optional step, with the other option to “purchase as guest.” If you really want to capture customer information, you could always offer a coupon code valid on registration.

Seven, though at only 25%, is one we’ve all probably done. When your credit card is in your wallet, and your wallet is across the house, and there isn’t a PayPal option – it’s easier to abandon the cart than make those 60 steps to your wallet and back to retrieve your credit card. If possible, include a payment option that doesn’t require having a credit card physically in-hand.

How to reduce the 3 Top Reasons for shopping cart abandonment

Shopping Cart Abandonment Top Three Reasons
Shopping Cart Abandonment Top Three Reasons

To review, the top three reasons cited for shopping cart abandonment are:

  1. Unexpected costs
  2. Wanting to know the total costs before making the decision to buy (or to compare with other sites)
  3. Wanting to save items for later

Unexpected costs are the worst. Often, they’re shipping costs, or even especially high tax. Now, people understand that shipping costs money and that taxes are unavoidable, but they don’t like to be surprised. That feels like you’re sneakily trying to slip something past them.

It’s an easy fix: Add an “Estimate Shipping” button in your cart page, before you ask customers to enter their billing information.

This, incidentally, will also address (if not solve) the number-two reason, though you won’t be able to prevent customers from shopping around to compare prices. But, if you make it easy to see the total cost and your competitor doesn’t – you’ll likely win that sale anyway.

You could, however, go another route and offer a price-match guarantee, or, if you know you have the best prices around, give customers the option to “Compare our prices with [insert competitor].” This saves your customer some leg-work, keeps them on your page, and establishes you as the best deal in town.

Then there’s reason number-three: Saving items for later. Many online retailers solve this by adding a wishlist function. If you don’t have a wishlist, you can expect customers to treat your shopping cart as one, leading to confusion and frustration on your part.

See if you can count how many strategies Modcloth employs on its Cart page to prevent abandonment.

Modcloth Shopping Cart Example
Modcloth Shopping Cart Example

From top to bottom, they:

  • Put a time-limit on their “Flash-sale,” even going so far as to put a Countdown, for added urgency.
  • They include two options for those who aren’t ready to buy: “Default to Wishlist” and “Save for Later.”
  • They have a minimum-purchase for Free Shipping (and will tell you exactly how much you need to spend to get it, making adding just one more thing to the cart all-too tempting).
  • They include the Estimate Shipping button.
  • And, they invite you to Apply a Discount, so you can see the discounted total right away, rather than waiting and wondering if it will show up on the billing info page.
  • They also offer PayPal Checkout, for those of us who can’t be bothered to dig out our credit cards.

It’s a brilliantly constructed cart page designed to reduce abandonment and maximize purchases. Even so, you can’t win’em all.

After cart abandonment

If, even after you’ve implemented every best practice to reduce cart abandonment, you’re still seeing carts loaded and forgotten, you still have options.

Ad retargeting

According to AdRoll, which clearly has a vested interest, only 2% of shoppers convert on their first visit to an online store. Retargeting, they claim, brings back the other 98%.

What is ad retargeting? Retargeting, essentially, tracks people who visit your site and displays your ads to them when they visit other sites (like Facebook).

Facebook Retargeting Shopping Cart Abandonment example
Facebook Retargeting Shopping Cart Abandonment example

Does it work? Absolutely. The average click-through rate for display ads is .07% – but the click-through rate for retargeted ads is around .7%. For cart abandonment, specifically, showing cart abandoners the product they’ve selected works incredibly well. When PeopleTree, a fair-trade fashion retailer, used retargeting on their non-converting visitors, they saw 30% of those visitors return to their website (plus additional sales worth 6% of turnover within the first month).

Email recovery campaigns – The step-by-step process we’ve seen work

“Oops! You forgot something!” is a playful take on the email recovery campaign, in which cart abandoners receive an email campaign “reminding” them that they’ve left items in their carts. The more personalized these emails are, the better the results, but many people find them annoying. After all, some might have forgotten, but others abandoned their carts on purpose (likely for one or more of reasons we’ve cited above).

According to ConversionXL, cart abandonment email campaigns are “the biggest money maker by far, plus it’s conversion rate to sale (due to customers being deep in the buying cycle) is a lot higher than most other campaigns due to buying intent.” Get this right, and you stand to win – big.

How it works:
Create a multi-step checkout that asks for the email address up-front. Using pre-submit tracking, you capture those email addresses even if the user doesn’t hit the “next” button.

Then create a series of one to three emails that trigger when a shopper leaves an item in their cart and leaves the page. Make sure you use mobile-responsive email design.

The emails auto-send at set intervals. Send the first email within 24 hours, the second within two days, and the third within a week.

For best results, each email should include a picture of the item, a strong call-to-action to get the user to complete the purchase, and some purchase-anxiety-reducing measures like:

  • Adding reviews and testimonials about the item, or about purchasing from your store.
  • A guarantee, refund policy information, and your ‘easy-return’ policy.

What you don’t want to do is to use accusatory language, or language that sounds creepy. We’ve seen variations that begin with “Dear [name], we noticed you left your [product] in your cart today…” Nobody likes to feel watched, or like they’ve done something wrong.

It’s much more effective to take a customer service-oriented approach by sending the email from a real person’s address, including a picture of that person, and asking questions like:

  • Was there a problem?
  • How can we help?

Use the responses to identify points of real friction you can fix to optimize your sales funnel.

Test it

Now, we believe that no business in this modern age should have to resort to “guessing” whether a strategy works. So we encourage you to test the efficacy of your cart abandonment email campaign by running the following test.

  1. Define a group of cart abandoners who receive your new email campaign.
  2. Define a group of cart abandoners who receive no email marketing campaigns.
  3. Then, after three months, compare the revenue per customer for each group.

These are the easiest sales to save

When customers abandon their cart, they’ve already expressed more interest than most. In fact, they’re telling you a valuable secret: They want to love you. But something is holding them back, and with the right conversion rate optimization strategy, you can find out what it is, fix it, and reap the rewards.

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