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How to reduce your cart abandonment rate

Cart abandonment is a serious concern for anyone making sales online. With these steps, you can minimize your risk of losing sales.

Cart abandonment is a serious concern for anyone making sales online. And, even though research shows this, it’s still hard to wrap our minds around the impact abandoned carts have on eCommerce during a single year.

How to reduce shopping cart abandonment rate

So exactly what is it?

Shopping cart abandonment is the term used to describe when shoppers add products to their cart, but leave the site before they actually purchase the items. It would be like adding items to your grocery cart and just walking away while deciding whether you want to buy apples or oranges.

How is the rate calculated?

It’s a really simple formula - 1 minus the total of the number of shoppers completing transactions divided by the number of shoppers adding items to their cart.

Some studies place abandonment as high as 89%, while other studies place the cart abandonment as low as 55%.

The average amount that I found puts the cart abandonment rate right around 76%.

This means that 76 shoppers out of 100 are just clicking away from their carts!

Every year, cart abandonment is responsible for $4.6 trillion lost in eCommerce sales.

This information isn’t just crazy, it’s mind-blowing!

Simply by eliminating cart abandonment, you could actually boost income so much that you could buy your own private island (or at least buy a nicer coffee machine for your office).

So how exactly do we do this?

Well, as an ecommerce professional, I spend a lot of time researching users to help my clients build better sites that speak directly to their customers. Ultimately, my goal is always to help my clients increase conversions on their sites and staying up to date with industry trends and getting into the mind of shoppers is key to be able to do this.

Think about the people who visit your site. Some find you randomly, some are just browsing, and some will never buy. But those people who add something to their cart and reach the checkout - well they’re motivated! Today we’re going to dive deeper into how we can increase sales by addressing many concerns that customers might have.

To understand the solutions, you must understand the problems. Before you call your web designer and start implementing new strategies from this guide there are two things that will be beneficial to know up front.

1. It’s going to happen

Unfortunately, even if you build a killer site, study your clients, test your site regularly, and stay up to date with all the industry trends, you’re still going to have some visitors that stop by your site, stay for awhile, add things to their carts, and never end up purchasing anything. It’s just a fact and it’s best if you just accept it.

If you implement all of the strategies in this guide then you’ll probably get your abandonment rate way down, but you won’t ever completely get rid of it.

2. You’ll never figure out all the reasons for cart abandonment

Data can tell us a lot, but it can’t tell us everything when it comes to why customers leave a site without purchasing anything. You could be giving away free money and someone would always end up leaving the site for no reason that we can make sense of. Like point number one, this is also just a fact and it’s best to accept it.

With those points in mind, let’s jump into the problems and solutions to help maximize your chances of increasing sales and decreasing cart abandonment.

Here are some of the main issues that lead to shopping cart abandonment:

Displaying cart contents  

Give your customers clarity and control with their carts. The more obvious it is to understand what’s in the cart and the final cost the better for customers. Customer’s don’t like surprises! By giving your customers control of their cart, it makes things like updating quantities or removing products easier. Customers like ease-of-use!

Get CTA’s right

The number one thing to make sure you get right is adding appropriately placed CTA’s that allow customers to continue checkout. There should be two calls to action - one above and below the cart. Giving the customer multiple options to do the same task increases the chances of them being able to find the button and click on it. Keep in mind that we’re always trying to guide the customer to the checkout pages!

Unexpected Shipping Costs

The Brilliance study found that the top reason for shopping cart abandonment was unexpected shipping costs, taxes, and fees.

Companies like Amazon have spoiled us into believing that we should never have to pay shipping costs. I’m sure you’re like me and that every time you reach a checkout page and your total increases by $7.50(ish) you rethink even buying that purchase. Most of the time I won’t even purchase the item and I’m definitely not alone here.

So what do you do?

Well, it’s simple. You have two choices:

1. Offer free shipping

2. Estimate shipping, taxes, and fees from the beginning and always keep your cart total visible

Offering free shipping isn’t viable to every business. In fact, it should be a carrot for customers and have some type of stipulation (ex. Spend $100 get free shipping). This increases sales and your customers don’t have to pay for shipping. It’s a win-win!

But if that offering free shipping isn’t what’s best for your company, no worries. This objection can still be resolved.

Studies have shown us that customers want companies to be transparent with their pricing upfront and over 50% of customers say their reason for leaving was that they were “presented with unexpected costs”.

When shipping, taxes, and fees are estimated from the beginning, the customer sees the total and isn’t in shock. This is also another benefit because it makes your customers have more trust in you (more on that later in the post).

On the flip side, when this information is missing until the very end, customers get to the checkout and the positive experience of buying something is now shifted into the pain of having to pay for unexpected costs. This ultimately makes a lot of customers leave your site and abandon their cart.

Improve the trust factors on your site

Transparency inspires trust. As I just mentioned, being upfront with all the fees associated with buying products is a great first step in establishing trust. However, we can go a step further. Here are some options:

  1. Include product reviews and testimonials. Show them that real people have used your products and benefited from it.
  2. Provide your company’s contact information. If your customer needs to contact you about their product, they want to be able to do so quickly and not have to search for your information. Adding another layer to this would be to add a live chat feature to your site so prospective clients can ask a real person any questions they might have about your products.
  3. Use recognized verification symbols. Things like a picture of a lock icon help inspire a degree of confidence in your site.

Speaking of trust, SSL’s are a MUST for ecommerce businesses. Here’s what I mean by that:

SSL Certificates and trust seals have increased conversion rates

An SSL (Secure Socket Layer) Certificate is a digital certificate that authenticates the identity of a website and encrypts information sent to the server using SSL technology. This technology is globally used. SSL allows for a private “conversation” between the two intended parties.

In short, it adds another layer of security that reduces the risk of sensitive information (credit card numbers, usernames, passwords, emails, etc.) being stolen by hackers.

SSL certificates help build customer trust by displaying the SSL padlock icon beside you’re online store’s URL.

Adding a SSL Certificate to your site can be costly and time consuming. In the past couple of years, sites like Shopify have started offering this for free and automatically adding the features. If you’re not using sites like Shopify, adding this additional layer of security would require purchasing an SSL certificate from places like a domain name registrar and staying up to date with it.

Reduce Checkout Fears

In a recent study, one person said that's checkout “Look, why do they need my phone number? What do they need it for? They don’t need it!” But silently filled out a form when the phone number field stated, “(for shipping-related questions)”.
Fear may seem like an exaggeration. But think about what might be going through the visitors head. Here are some examples:

It doesn’t matter that you’re one of the good guys. Each of these questions have strong roots in a very real anxiety for some customers.

A report from England’s Office of Fair trading found that 50% of consumers who engaged in ecommerce were worried about being conned online.

Read more here about how to improve your Shopify User Experience.

Discount Codes and FOMO

It’s human nature to see a discount code box and be concerned that you’re not getting the best price. A way to combat this is to include a plugin, such as BounceExchange, to trigger a 3-step popup that captures a visitors email and provides a unique discount code. Even better if the code expires in a certain amount of time! Adding this to your site can be hugely beneficial - especially since you now have a visitors email and you can follow up, even if they abandon their cart.  

Another reason to provide a unique discount code is because of sites like Honey. Ever heard of it? Honey is a chrome extension that finds and AUTOMATICALLY applies discount codes to your cart - without the user having to sign up for emails. So say you have WELCOME10 as your discount for signing up for more emails. Chances are Honey (and other plugins) have already found this code and will automatically apply it to the users cart. While this can be hugely beneficial to visitors, it can take away from future marketing.

Make the checkout process as simple as possible

When designing your forms, ask yourself what is the least amount of information you need. A visitor will probably only want to give you their name and email in exchange for something great - like a discount code. Visitors probably won’t want to fill out a form that includes their phone number, address, and a survey. Statistics show that 68% of users won’t submit a form if it requires too much personal information.

Give Customers a Guest Checkout Option

34% of shoppers will walk away from a purchase if there isn’t a guest checkout option. Customers don’t have time to create an account to complete their purchase.

(Mention that you can offer this after their purchase is complete to have easier access to tracking their package)

Make your site mobile friendly

Mobile browsing is hot, sadly mobile conversions are not. Customers are using their phones more than ever to browse the internet but the abandon cart recovery rate for mobile devices is right around 78%. This is partially due to websites not working correctly on mobile devices.

Optimizing your checkout page and targeting abandoned mobile visitors with things like automated emails with a discount code would help decrease your sites abandoned cart rate.

Ask for credit card info last

Cialdini’s principles of commitment and consistency states that “The Principle of Commitment declares that humans have a deep need to be seen as consistent. As such, once we’ve publicly committed to something or someone, we’re much likely to go through and deliver on that commitment (hence, consistency.)”

Customers are used to putting in their credit card info last. Changing it up on them is never a good idea. Try to be as consistent with other brands as possible in this arena.

Have some deals!

People want to buy if they think they are getting a deal. Use this to your advantage!


Start your ecommerce optimization at the very beginning!

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