The Keys to Abandoned Cart Recovery and Reducing Lost Sales

Increase Your Ecommerce Sales from $1 million to $100 Million

A tough prospect has been eyeing your best-selling product for the last few weeks. According to your web analytics, they’ve visited the same product page several times. Finally, they select their desired specs and add the item to their cart, only to disappear halfway through the checkout process. You’re flummoxed.

Have you been...ghosted? Like ghosting, cart abandonment is exasperatingly commonplace. Research from Baymard Institute shows that 69.82% of online shopping carts are abandoned.

In other words, for every 10 customers who add an item to their shopping cart, seven of them leave without completing the purchase. Ecommerce stores lose $18 billion in sales revenue annually because of cart abandonment.

Sometimes, it’s a simple case of wistful window shopping — someone added an item to their cart on a whim without having actual purchase intent. In fact, cart abandonment rates peak in December when Black Friday and holiday sales lure impulsive shoppers.

Another study found that 58.6% of US online shoppers have abandoned a cart in the last three months because “I was just browsing/not ready to buy.” Most of these would-be shoppers abandon their cart before initiating the checkout flow, and these losses are unavoidable.

In other cases, however, customers abandon their cart after encountering friction in your online shopping experience. This type of cart abandonment is preventable. Here are some interventions you’ll want to keep in mind to recover lost sales.

Most Common Reasons for Shopping Cart Abandonment

A confusing website interface or too many checkout steps frustrates shoppers and gives them time to second-guess their purchases.

Mandatory account creation.

Account creation demands extra effort. Consumers might not see the point, especially if they only plan on making a one-time purchase. However, businesses often insist on account creation to retarget customers with emails and boost lead generation.

First-time buyers may not wish to disclose their email addresses or allow the company to store their credit card information. From the customer’s point of view, creating an account also means remembering yet another password.

Long or confusing checkout process.

An ideal checkout flow is a smooth, frictionless experience. The typical checkout process is as follows: shopping cart > billing info > shipping info > shipping method > preview order > payment > confirmation.

A checkout flow that does not follow a logical sequence of steps can deter customers. So will asking for too much information to complete the purchase, such as the customer’s phone number, date of birth or gender.

No discounts or promo codes to use.

Many ecommerce businesses offer coupon codes to first-time buyers or other incentives for account creation. If you don’t offer incentives and your competitor does, your customer may take their business elsewhere.

Unexpected shipping costs.

Nothing turns shoppers off more than seeing unanticipated fees tacked on at checkout.

In fact, a study by Baymard Institute found that 48% of shoppers with actual purchase intent (i.e. those who aren’t window shopping) abandoned shopping carts because the extra costs (shipping, taxes and fees) were too high.

In an attempt to compete with Amazon, big-box retailers including Target, Walmart and Best Buy have made free, two-day shipping ubiquitous, leading customers to expect the same privileges elsewhere.

Longer than expected delivery times.

Some ecommerce stores don’t reveal an item’s expected delivery time until checkout. Delivery time is typically contingent upon the customer’s location, especially for businesses that ship overseas.

Bear in mind that acceptable delivery windows are getting shorter. According to an Alix Partners survey of over 1,000 consumers in the U.S., consumers are willing to accept a maximum delivery time of 4.5 days, down from 5.5 in 2012.

This also depends on the item in question, however. Custom items will naturally take longer as they are made to order. Perishables and household items should be delivered quickly to guarantee food hygiene and because customers typically order them urgently. By contrast, delivery windows for consumer durables such as furniture are a little looser.

Ambiguous return and refund policy.

Shoppers who purchase items online assume a degree of risk because they can’t see and touch the product before they buy. Customers need reassurance that they can obtain a refund or return the item in case of a defect or if the item simply isn’t up to snuff — especially for big-ticket purchases.

Offering a liberal return policy or a longer return window inspires trust.

Lack of desirable payment options.

Customers desire various payment options due to widespread concerns over data breaches and the prevalence of contactless payment systems (think smart watches and digital wallets).

Apple Pay, Google Wallet, PayPal, and other digital wallets let customers shop online without surrendering their credit card information to retailers they might not trust.

Many ecommerce stores also offer interest-free buy now, pay later plans (also known as “post-purchase payments”) through third-party providers like Klarna, which makes it easier for customers to afford larger purchases.

Payment security concerns.

Red flags like outdated website design, no SSL certificate, an unfamiliar brand name or an unfamiliar payment gateway can dissuade customers from making a purchase.

According to Baymard Institute, 18% of consumers are reluctant to surrender their credit card details to ecommerce sites they don’t trust.

A lack of social proof — reviews, testimonials and other user-generated content — makes it hard for customers to trust you.

Restrictions on product quantity.

Shoppers don’t want to add items to their cart only to find out later they can’t actually buy them because of restrictions on how much each person can purchase or limited product availability.

If a product is running low or you’re restricting item quantity on purpose, make this clear on the product page — don’t surprise customers at checkout.

Comparison shopping.

The ease of comparing prices and products from different brands online means that at any time, customers can find an identical or similar product from a competitor in just a few clicks.

If the competitor’s offer is more enticing — discount codes provided or faster shipping — your would-be customer will abandon their purchase. This is why it’s helpful to periodically review what your competitors are offering, especially during peak shopping season.

Site speed and app performance issues.

If your site has a confusing interface or is laggy, people lose confidence in your product or service.

According to a Stanford web credibility study, 75% of consumers judge the credibility of businesses by their website design. Remember to upgrade your website uptime and availability commensurate with peak shopping season.

Also, run cross-browser and cross-device tests to ensure your online store works correctly on different browsers and devices. You can use Google Analytics to find reports on website performance across devices: Audience > Technology > Browser & OS or Audience > Mobile > Devices.

How Do I Calculate the Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate?

Shopping cart abandonment rate is calculated by dividing the total number of completed transactions by the number of initiated sales. (adds to basket). 

You then subtract the result from one and then multiply by 100 to find your abandonment rate. You can also use an abandonment rate calculator to simplify the process.

How to Decrease Your Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate

Offering transparent store policies, various payment options and a simple, seamless checkout flow will help defray cart abandonment costs. Use Google Analytics to identify drop-off points by looking at your top ‘Exit pages’.

Provide guest checkout options.

Let shoppers sidestep account creation if they so wish. This reduces the time it takes to check out by removing additional steps while enabling those who don’t wish to share their personal information to complete a purchase confidently.

Guest checkout means customers don’t have to store their credit card information and their email address will only be used for delivery updates.

Include thumbnails of products throughout the checkout process.

Sometimes, shoppers add multiple items to their carts and then forget what they’re buying. Or they select a customizable item (eg: a shoe that comes in multiple colors and sizes) and want to ensure they selected the correct specs.

People will often delete the item from their cart, return to the product page to double-check the specs, and never complete the purchase. Including a product image plus a summary of key product specifications provides reassurance.

Include progress indicators on the checkout page.

Progress bars are a wonderful UI tool because they tell users how many more steps remain in a user flow. This creates a sense of momentum that reduces the likelihood of someone dropping off due to an unnecessarily protracted checkout process.

A nearly completed progress bar also provides visual reinforcement for shoppers to proceed with their purchase because they can see how much they’ve already invested in checkout. You can also include a simple cart reminder or notification on your website.

For example, if a customer adds an item to their cart but doesn’t initiate the checkout flow, you can set a pop-up to remind customers that they haven’t completed the purchase.

Be transparent about all costs.

Don’t surprise customers with unexpected taxes and fees at checkout. They will feel duped. Be upfront about fees associated with shipping, handling and taxes. Ideally, this information is displayed on the product page.

However, fees often depend on the user’s geographical location or shipping address, so be sure to provide updated pricing information immediately after the customer enters their shipping address.

If possible, provide a range for shipping costs ahead of checkout if you can’t specify an exact figure (eg: $2.99-$3.99 for domestic shipping; $4.99-$10.99 for overseas shipping).

Show total savings at checkout.

If customers used a promo code or you’re offering a first-time buyer discount, show how much has been deducted from the original price. This makes customers feel they’re getting a good deal and they will be less likely to have misgivings.

Time-limited sales also create a sense of urgency, especially if you display a countdown.

Offer several payment options.

Customers want to use their preferred payment method, especially if it’s more convenient and means they don’t have to enter their billing information every time they purchase from a new brand. Find out what payment options your customers prefer and offer the right integrations.

Offer free shipping.

Free shipping reduces the purchase cost, making people less likely to reconsider, especially when it comes to impulse buys.

According to Jungle Scout, 66% of American consumers expect free shipping on all online orders, while 80% expect free shipping when ordering a certain dollar amount of products.

Include strong calls to action on checkout pages.

Users will abandon their carts if the next step in the checkout process isn’t clear.

Highlight the next step in the payment process using calls-to-action that tell the user what to expect.

Make sure the CTAs for each step are distinct and use familiar wording — don’t try to be original or cutesy. For example, after ‘Add to Cart’ the next call-to-action should be ‘Buy Now’ to initiate the checkout flow.

Make it clear that users will have the chance to review their purchase before hitting the final ‘Confirm and Pay’ button.

Make navigation between cart and store effortless.

Users should be able to toggle between cart and store in a single click. This way, if they want to add additional items to their cart or reconfirm an item’s specs before checking out, they can do so easily.

Make sure they can access product pages from within the checkout flow (the items listed in the register should have clickable URLs).

Create a solid refund and return policy.

Being overly lenient with refunds and returns can eat your profit margins, but it helps build trust — especially if you’re a new business selling an expensive item.

The standard return window for most retailers is 30 days. Generally, most online retailers do not accept refunds for custom items — but don’t enforce this unflinchingly. If a customer’s order is incorrect or defective due to an error on your part, you should honor them with a refund or risk the reputational damage of a negative review.

Offer live chat support.

When customers have a complaint or question, they want an expedient resolution. Live chat support allows them to have their query answered promptly, thereby assuaging any concerns they might have that would preclude a purchase.

Remember that live chat implies near-instantaneous responses, so don’t offer this feature unless you can deliver. Data shows that the first response time on a chat tool must be under a minute.

Outside of business hours, you can have a chatbot take over; however, give customers the option to request assistance from a real human if their issue remains unresolved.

Use trust symbols to reassure customers.

Showcasing Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) compliance and other safety seals help reassure shoppers that their profile and details will be kept safe through to order completion. These are standards all businesses that transact via credit card must abide by to minimize the chances of data breaches involving customer’s credit card information.

Add social proof signals.

User-generated content (UGC) in the form of reviews, ratings and customer photos builds trust with potential customers. Social proof refers to a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in a given situation.

If prospects see that other customers are buying from you and rating your products positively, they will want to do the same. Prominently feature UGC on your product pages, email marketing campaigns and on social media. If your numbers are good (above 1,000), show how many sales you’ve made.

Optimize page load speeds

Keep a close eye on site availability and uptime, especially during peak seasons. Slow page load speed can seriously dent your conversion rates. 

According to a 2019 study by Portent, a 0-4 second load time is best for conversion rates. The highest ecommerce conversion rates occur on pages with load times between 0-2 seconds. With each additional second of load time, conversion rates drop by an average of 0.3%

Marketing Techniques to Combat Cart Abandonment

Aside from optimizing your website, you can use ecommerce marketing outreach to dissuade customers from leaving your site without completing a purchase or retarget cart abandoners.

Utilize exit-intent pop-up.

An exit pop-up is a type of website overlay that displays when the user attempts to navigate away from the page to convince them to stay. Exit intent technologies track the movement of the user’s mouse on the page.

If the cursor leaves the active area of the browser (the actual content window in the middle of the page), the pop-up is triggered. You can customize the messaging based on the type of user or the webpage they’re viewing.

For customers that have added products to their shopping cart, the exit pop-up can offer an incentive or discount code to convince them to close the deal.

Use retargeting for cart abandoners.

Retargeted ads give shoppers a friendly call to action to finish their purchases. Investigate the top root causes for cart abandonment. This way, you can personalize the ad and create templates for the most common scenarios.

If the problem is shipping costs, offer free shipping. Tailored content makes consumers 40% more likely to engage with ads and make a purchase. Start by reminding shoppers they have abandoned their cart with a friendly CTA to finish the purchase. Ads should cover both web and social, so make sure to use more than one retargeting channel.

Personalized follow-up emails.

An abandoned cart email campaign should include a friendly nudge reminding customers of what’s in their cart (include an itemized list with clickable URLs). Include further product recommendations for similar or complementary items, such as accessories, in your email templates.

It’s possible they abandoned their cart because they didn’t quite find what they were looking for, so recommending other items in a reminder email can be helpful. If they’re a first-time visitor, offer an incentive or discount code.

If they’re not ready to purchase, use cart abandonment emails and cart recovery emails to invite them to sign up for your newsletter to receive offers or see the most recent products.

Employ social proof.

Whether you use ads, emails or exit pop-ups to entice cart abandoners, add social proof elements to your marketing materials to inspire trust.

For example, you might send an email highlighting reviews and testimonials for an item the customer has in their cart, or include actual customer photos in a banner ad that shows your product in action along with the item’s overall star rating.

Optimize Your Store to Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment

Offer a pleasant user interface and a simple checkout process that uses familiar language so that users know what to expect. Next, ensure your checkout process is secure and offer varied payment options to give customers more flexibility.

Analyze user behavior for conversion funnel leaks.

Tools like Google’s Advanced Ecommerce Analytics can help you create comprehensive conversion funnels to map out exactly where shoppers are dropping off. You can generate a Funnel Visualization Report to find out what pages shoppers visit and what proportion remains at each funnel stage.

If you see a lot of attrition on your payment page, that could indicate unclear CTAs, too few payment options or poor site functionality. The reports may also reveal illogicalities in your funnel; perhaps customers have to leave the shopping cart to sign in, which increases the likelihood of drop-off. Having these insights allows you to fix the user flow.

Choose the features you really need.

Make your checkout process as tight and expedient as you can. If you ask for customer information, limit your questions to whatever is strictly necessary, and be transparent about why you’re asking.

Don’t make them enter their shipping address and billing address if both are identical.

Collect customer feedback about pain points.

Send customers a post-purchase survey to determine their feelings about your checkout process. What snags did they encounter? Did they feel secure in their purchase? Would they consider buying from you again? You can also retarget cart abandoners with surveys to find out why they dropped off, but be prepared for a lower response rate.

Conduct A/B testing.

When rolling out a new design, layout, or form of content, always perform A/B tests to see which versions perform the best. In other words, you should always have more than one version of the new design just in case the first one underperforms. A/B testing allows you to iterate based on your findings.

For example, if you find that a certain email subject line generates a higher open rate, you can use that and then A/B test it against another, more improved version, until you find the one that yields the highest possible conversion rate.

Make sure that when running A/B tests, you alter only one variable at a time, so you can identify what impacts the performance of the new campaign.

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The Final Word

Cart abandonment is preventable to some degree. Optimizing your website, providing an easy-to-navigate shopping experience and varied payment options decrease the likelihood of attrition.

However, in some cases, you cannot recover abandoned carts. Examine your conversion funnels to distinguish between the window shoppers (those who abandon before initiating the checkout flow) and the customers with purchase intent who drop off due to friction on your website.

FAQs for Abandoned Carts

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