What is Shopping Cart Abandonment All About? The Complete Guide



After starting an ecommerce business, setting your website up, and incorporating all the products you want to sell, it’s time to start marketing and making sales. But what happens when nearly 70% of your visitors fill up their shopping carts but never actually follow through with the purchase?

This is called shopping cart abandonment, and it’s one of the most pressing issues for ecommerce businesses of all stripes.

The good news is that shopping cart abandonment doesn’t mean lost sales—if you know what to do, it could even create an upselling opportunity.

What Is Shopping Cart Abandonment, Exactly?

Imagine this: You’re running a PPC campaign and driving lots of valuable traffic to your website. People are clicking on your ads and landing on your product pages. Your pages are optimized for conversions and include elements like urgency and social proof.

Your visitors add items to their shopping carts and are ready to enter their payment information.

Things are looking good—and then, for whatever reason, they leave without completing the purchase.

That’s shopping cart abandonment.

There are many reasons why this might happen. Shoppers may have just been browsing and not actually ready to buy, or simply got distracted and forgot about their cart. There’s not much you can do about that.

But, sometimes, it’s because some aspect of the shopping experience either made them reconsider or give up on the purchase. Perhaps your website was slow or crashed. Or maybe your checkout process is too long or complicated or you didn’t offer their preferred payment method.

High shipping cost is the most common reason for shopping cart abandonment. 48% of online shoppers abandon their carts if the merchant does not offer free or low-cost shipping.

Those last few reasons give you some hints about what comes next.

How Can I Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment?

There are several steps you can take to reduce instances of abandoned carts on your web store. 

Before we get into specific actions you can take, keep in mind the top factor you control: make sure your checkout process is as easy as possible. This means having a clear and concise checkout page that’s easy to navigate.

If it’s too hard for your customers to buy from you, they’ll go somewhere else. 

Online storefronts like Shopify and WooCommerce have built-in checkout pages that are optimized for conversion. If you’re using one of these platforms, your checkout page is more than likely already set up correctly.

If you’re not using one of these platforms, take a look at your checkout page and see if there are any areas that can be improved. For example, maybe your page is too long or confusing. Maybe you’re asking for too much information from your customers.

Whatever the case may be, make sure your checkout page is as user-friendly as possible.

Following up from the end of the previous section, the most effective tactic is to offer free shipping. 

That might not seem feasible for some businesses, because of the costs of shipping and fulfillment but there are a few ways to work around that obstacle. 

Business owners who are worried about the effect on their margins can consider raising their prices slightly to offset the cost.

Or, if you don’t want to offer free shipping on every order because you sell inexpensive products, you can also offer free shipping for orders over a certain amount. 

You can also offer free shipping for a limited time to encourage customers to buy now. 

That leads to another effective way to get shoppers to convert at checkout: offering a first-time discount code or coupon. 

Lots of sites offer discount codes and coupons for first-time visits and purchases. These are often effective in getting people to buy from you for the first time.

To ensure that people see your discount code or coupon, you can display it in a pop-up on your website or include it in your abandoned cart email sequence (more on that later).

Screenshot of a CTA for $43 off your first trip from airbnb.com

You can also use pop-ups or banners to remind people about their abandoned cart. This is especially effective if you offer a discount for completing the purchase.

For example, you could display a banner at the top of your website that says, “Hey! You left something in your cart.” The banner could then include a link to the shopping cart so the customer can easily finish their purchase.

You could also use a pop-up on your website that appears when someone is about to leave. The pop-up could say, “Wait! You forgot something,” and then include a link to the shopping cart.

You can also offer a discount for subscribing to your email list. This encourages people to sign up for your emails, which gives you another chance to sell to them later.

A word of caution: Don’t offer too many discounts or coupons, or you’ll train your customers to only buy from you when there’s a discount to be had. Find the balance that works for you and your business.

If you gave your customer a promo code or discount, make sure to show the total savings at checkout. This helps increase trust and transparency with your customers.

It also helps the customer understand how much they’re saving by buying from you. For example, if a customer is buying a $100 product and they get a 20% discount, that’s $20 in savings.

On the checkout summary, show the total and highlight the savings amount. This will help the customer see how much they’re saving and make them more likely to complete the purchase.

Those are the essential, tried-and-true tactics to reduce abandoned carts, but let’s look at some more advanced strategies if you’re still losing too many purchases at the checkout page.

Answer Customer Questions in Real Time

If you’re selling products that people might need help with, consider using conversational commerce. This leverages live chat widgets you place on your website to let customers ask questions before checking out, getting answers from a chatbot or one of your company’s employees.

Not only does this improve the customer experience, but it will also boost your revenue by up to 25%.

This can be done through live chat software like Gorgias or a messaging app like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. 

Screenshot of Gorgias live chat support feature from gorgias.com

Typically, chat widgets are nestled in one of the bottom corners of a website in the form of a little icon. When clicked, a chat window pops up and customers can start typing their question. In some cases, you can configure a chatbot to automatically start asking the customer questions first.

Make Your Pricing Easier to Understand

Guiding customers through your conversion funnel with a low price and then hitting them with hidden fees is a surefire way to lose sales and customer loyalty. Be straightforward about your pricing model from your product page through checkout so there are no surprises at any point.

Consumer products don’t face this issue very often (except for shipping fees), but it’s a common problem with B2B offerings, SaaS platforms, and other subscription-based services.

Screenshot of price and package options for a subscription based company.

For example, a software company may advertise a price for its annual plan or show it by default, but when the customer goes to checkout, they’re hit with a higher price for monthly billing. This can be confusing and frustrating for customers.

If you have different pricing models, make sure it’s easy for customers to see all of their options.

Improve the UX of Your Website

You can do more than improve the user experience (UX) of your checkout pages. Assessing shortcomings of your ecommerce website in general and improving in those areas can go a long way to boosting conversions in general. 

There’s too much to go into here, and we have several posts on improving your website’s UX, including a comprehensive guide to good website design. But let’s list a few simple actions you can take to improve your site’s UX today:

  • Use high-quality images
  • Use clear and concise copy
  • Use whitespace to create a pleasing design
  • Use color to guide the user’s eye
  • Use typography to create hierarchy and emphasis
  • Use calls-to-action to guide the user
  • Use icons to communicate quickly and efficiently

How Can I Turn Abandoned Shopping Carts Into Sales?

You should try your best to prevent abandoned carts from happening at all, but it’s pretty much impossible to eliminate them permanently. 

But, fortunately, those abandoned carts present unique opportunities to still convert. 

The essential mechanism for getting a shopper to come back and finish their purchase is sending email reminders. 

Your shopping cart, ecommerce platform, or email marketing software can allow you to set up automatic reminders or email sequences to entice people to come back to your online store and convert.

You’ll want to follow email marketing best practices here. Make your subject line attention-grabbing and relevant, avoiding spammy phrasing or tactics. Keep your message short and to the point. The goal is to get the customer to take action, so make sure your CTA is clear. 

This is also where you can place an incentive to the shopper, like a discount or free shipping. Just keep in mind what will meaningfully appeal to your potential and existing customers.

If you’re selling $20 t-shirts, a 20% discount isn’t going to make a huge difference to shoppers. But if you’re selling $200 purses, a 20% discount is significant and enticing.

For luxury brands, this tactic won’t work as well—their entire brand image revolves around the high price point. For these businesses, free shipping might be a better option.

Use images to break up your email text and add visual elements that add to your email’s appeal. Just use a light touch—stick to one or two images per email and make sure they are central to the product or surrounding content.

One of the ways to deploy images is to show a visitor who abandoned their cart a few suggested items that relate to the product they placed in their cart and abandoned. This is a great way to offer alternatives that the visitor may not have been aware of, or to cross-sell and upsell related products. If customers are interested in one item, they might be interested in others like it.

Including suggested items is also a good way to increase the average order value of your sales.

If the product or products the visitor left in their abandoned cart go out of stock often, include that in your abandoned cart email. Scarcity and the threat of this product being unavailable in the near future can spur a shopper into action for fear of losing out. 

How Can I Make Sure My Website Will Convert?

There’s no way to guarantee conversions on your website. Otherwise, we’d all be rich! 

Following the suggestions above can go a long way towards boosting conversions. But, it can always be hard to tell which improvements you’ve made actually resulted in increased sales. 

This is where testing your web store comes in. There are two main ways to get hard data about the efficacy of the elements on your ecommerce site.

But there are two things you can do to get an idea of how your customers are using your site and what they respond to, both of which are features of the very software we offer here at Crazy Egg.

First, A/B testing. This is a method of testing two versions of a web page to see which one converts better. For example, you might test two product listing configurations or headlines to see which one gets more clicks.

A screenshot of A/B testing example.

You can run A/B testing on almost any element on your website, from the copy on your landing page to the color of your CTA button. And you should.

The second tactic is heat mapping. This is a way to visualize how users interact with your website. 

This data can be extremely valuable, showing where visitors are clicking, what they hover over and read, and what portions of your website they’re ignoring.

A screenshot of Crazy Egg's heat mapping tool from crazyegg.com

You can use the Crazy Egg heat mapping tool to see where people click and hover on your site. This data can guide your next redesign or more targeted UX improvements.


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