Shopping Cart Killers

How to Decrease Cart Abandonment


  • Nearly 70% of website visitors abandon their shopping carts.
  • But don’t think it’s inevitable that you’ll lose them completely because you can take steps to reduce the problem.
  • Simplify your checkout process, provide transparency, build trust, and follow up those who’ve left to gain more sales.

Your shopping cart (or trolley, or basket) is one of the most important areas of your website. It is your key gateway to profit, but no matter how swanky and slick you think you’ve made the experience, some of your visitors will abandon their carts.

How bad is the cart abandonment problem?

Website testing tool company, VWO, moots cart abandonment anywhere between 60% and 80%, while the Danish usability and website testing firm, Baymard Institute, has published a very precise 68.63% worked out as an average from 33 different studies.

What are the reasons for cart abandonment?

  1. Extra cost surprises: Perhaps the biggest reason for people pushing the carts into the gutter. Shipping costs are a good example.
  2. Forced account creation: Baymard Institute reports that 22% of visitors will drop their cart if you force them to register with your site before they step foot near the checkout.
  3. Trust issues: HTTPs errors are enough to turn most visitors away when they are just about to hand over their credit card details. But trust issues can run deeper into areas such as psychology, microcopy, persuasion, and visual appearance of your site.
  4. Infuriating checkout processes: Everything from too many form fields, not being able to navigate back and forth in the funnel, inability to modify order, and poor error messaging.
  5. Bad transactions and payment options: Declined card transactions are another reason for abandonment, how does your site handle a transaction that goes bad? And, do you offer different methods of payments?
  6. TMI (too much information): Asking for information users are not comfortable in sharing will immediately trigger the internal sceptic in almost anyone, or at worst cause them genuine offence.

However, there can be numerous other reasons why you may be standing in the middle of a field of abandoned carts.

For example, functional bugs that actually prevent your potential customers from adding things to their cart and finalising checkout even if they are committed; this is a particularly prevalent issue in older browsers.

And, how do your cart and checkout behave on different tablets and mobiles? Does it provide a good and consistent user experience; does it actually work?

Also, if you have an omnichannel business model, is it functioning properly? Does it work from researching a product in a physical store to utilising online chat functionality with your customer service representatives, to actually making a purchase?

What if they add something to their cart on your mobile site and then decide to revisit using a desktop browser—is that item still in their cart no matter where they added it from?

What are the possible solutions to cart abandonment?

1. Be upfront about pricing

Clearly indicate to your customers when an extra cost has been added or updated, and if possible give them control over the additional cost (for example, shipping costs).

Likewise, always display the total cost as soon as possible, preferably before the user has invested a significant amount of time going through your checkout or handing over their email address.

2. Not everyone wants to be part of your club

Forcing a visitor to create an account ranks as number 2 on our list of cart killers.

You are saying to them, “Unless you sign up you’re not getting what you want”.

So, always offer a guest checkout option for your users and make use of third party payment options such as PayPal and Amazon Payments. Also, consider facilities like “log in with [insert social media site here]”.

3. It’s not you, it’s me (okay, it’s actually you…)

Building trust is imperative. Our CEO has written a great blog article on building creditability and trust that provides some top tips.

The key insight here is that trust can be built in a number of ways:

  • Your website appearance and functionality will have a big impact on your visitors. Take a look at and see how you’d feel shopping on one of the featured websites

What is your first impression of this site?

  • Adding social proofs to your website can really help gain trust. But, you must authenticate bold claims. And, if you’ve got trust seals and badges then use them too.
  • Make it easy for your users to find out about your company, how they contact you, where you are located, provide a phone number and email address maybe even a photo of your offices.

4. It’s a checkout, not it’s a knockout

Your customers shouldn’t feel like they’ve gone 10 rounds in a boxing ring to make it through a checkout funnel. So:

  • Ask for information only once and state what is mandatory and what’s optional. Validate forms inline, and if they trigger an error show a meaningful error message next to where the problem is. Always retain any information they may have already entered, and keep input labels visible at all times.
  • Provide further guidance for trickier inputs, like creating a password. Tell them when something important has happened, such as when a transaction is in progress or has finished, and give feedback about the outcome.
  • Use clean and clever layouts to enhance page structure and visual hierarchy. Stick to putting form fields in one column and use smart defaults to help users to proceed without thinking too much.
  • Customers should understand where they are in the whole process and have the ability to navigate back and forth. Use visual indicators of progress and keep any primary calls to action above the fold of the page. And, make sure if they encounter a problem there is a detour route for them to follow.
  • Remove distractions by demoting the priority of things or making them optional. Only show relevant options to that specific customer and in the relevant context. Increase the priority of less frictional routes (guest checkouts, for example) and don’t encourage off purpose hiking by the user (think about promotion code boxes and cross-selling)—try to keep them engrossed in what they’re doing right now.

5. What happens when the computer say’s “no”?

If you are in a shop and your credit card doesn’t work, you’ve still got plenty of options to try out and so you can probably still walk away with your purchase. Can you do something similar with your e-commerce site, and is the process easy to follow?

6. Sometimes it really isn’t any of your business

The final point in the list of cart killers is getting a bit too personal about the information that you expect your customers to give you. Age, gender, national insurance numbers, middle names, mother’s maiden name, place of birth, phone numbers, for example.

Beyond the trolley

Implementing the above solutions will reduce your cart abandonment rate, but what can you do to convince those that have walked away? Here are a few ideas you can try.

1. Retargeting emails and advertisements

More than half of those potential customers who have left a product in their basket may be persuaded to rethink if they receive an email or see an advert relating to that product that offers a discount or indicates that there are only a few of that particular item remaining (source VWO).

So make sure that the email or advert takes them back to their cart on your website as seamlessly as possible.

A great example of an email sent to me by citizenM when I started a booking and got distracted doing something else

2. Smart carts

Smart carts remember what’s been added to them, whether the customer was logged in or not, and from what device they used to add the item.

This saves them a lot of time finding products again and it reduces the number of steps they have to take to continue with their purchase.

3. Personalisation

Use personal messaging on your website to target those who have not continued with their purchase. For example, use messages that show them what they already have in their carts, show them what other people who were interested in the product also viewed and/or what they bought.

In the final analysis, cart abandonment is not an insurmountable problem. Don’t think it’s just one of those things you have to live with. There are plenty of things you can do to alleviate its impact on your business and increase revenue if you follow my advice.

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