The biggest factors of cart abandonment and how to resolve them

We’ve all been there: perusing an online shop, adding an item or two (or fifteen) to our cart. Perhaps we’re shocked by our lack of self-control, having placed far more than we needed into the cart. Maybe the taxes were higher than we thought, or unexpected shipping costs jarred us. It’s possible we’ve simply run out of time or interest. Whatever the reason, we exit the tab or window and leave behind our virtual cart filled with unpurchased goodies.

Cart abandonment is a dreaded, but undeniable reality of eCommerce. Understanding the factors that contribute to this is important. By doing so, you can decrease the frequency of cart abandonment and increase the likelihood of closed sales.

Read on to learn more about the most common factors of cart abandonment and how to mitigate them.

Cart abandonment factors to watch out for

What causes cart abandonment? A number of reasons drive shoppers to leave their carts before finishing the checkout process which, when combined, add up to a nearly 70% rate of abandonment.

1) Long or confusing checkout process

One-click buying introduced a major shift for both eCommerce professionals and shoppers. The shorter and simpler checkout process made customers more likely to see it through to the Order Complete page. Think of it this way: Would you stand in a gigantic line for one unnecessary item? Probably not. You might not even stand in a big line for a necessary item.

The biggest perk of one-click buying is that it reduces the likelihood of customers becoming bored or confused while completing their purchase. But, if one-click isn’t an option, you can still streamline your checkout process:

  • Reduce the number of steps from “Purchase” to “Complete”
  • Ship –> Pay –> Confirm should be the maximum number of steps
  • Leverage tools like address lookups and verifications or integrations like ApplePay, GooglePay, and others that can make the process easier for users

2) Unexpected shipping costs

Much like its one-click buying, Amazon Prime’s free and speedy delivery has led to sky-high expectations from online shopping customers. And once expectations have been set, it’s hard to deviate from them.

If your customers click through to the checkout page only to discover high shipping costs or long timelines, they’re likely to abandon the cart. So, what can you do?

It’s not always feasible to meet free or two-day shipping expectations, but it is always possible to be transparent about known costs and/or timelines. If you know your items will ship within 7-10 days of the purchase date, state this on your product pages. If you have free domestic shipping, but flat-rate international shipping, same deal: spell it out. You can’t dictate your customer’s acceptable threshold for shipping fees, but you can be transparent and set expectations honestly.

3) Other surprise costs

Additional costs often cause sticker shock. Although shipping fees are one of the most common repeat offenders, there are also things like customs and import fees to look out for, especially if you sell internationally.

While you can’t always account for or calculate additional duties or taxes, a banner or fair warning alerting customers in certain jurisdictions that their order may or will be subject to duties can prepare customers for the total cost of purchasing your products.

If you do know the relative cost of import fees, be sure to include them in a visible space (for example, in italics just beneath the price of your item à la Amazon). This enables your customer to calculate immediately the price of that product before tax and shipping. By also including those expenses in the same general space, you’ll further provide necessary cost information.

4) Mandatory account creation

Creating an account might feel like a pretty low-effort requirement for online shopping, but many users find the process cumbersome and leave as a result.

The reason why goes back to setting up a seamless check-out process: Mandatory account creation adds extra steps that busy consumers simply don’t want to take.

Give customers the option either to create an account (you can always offer a loyalty program as an incentive) or check out as a guest. For an even better user experience, you can also prompt your customer to set up an optional account after they’ve completed their purchase with the promise of making their future checkouts even easier.

5) Payment security concerns

No one wants to input their financial details when it feels unsafe. As eCommerce fraud continues to cause headaches for professionals and consumers alike, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself and your customers. Enter PCI Compliance Guidelines.

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard is an information security standard designed to ensure all companies who accept, process, store, or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment and protect this data. The PCI DSS requirements can be found here.

In addition to adhering to these guidelines, use high-quality fraud management systems to further protect your customers and help them feel safe throughout the checkout process. This includes requiring the Card Verification Value (CVV) on all credit card payments, using an Address Verification Service (AVS) that ensures the billing address is correct, and clearly stating your privacy and security policies for customers in an easy-to-find location.

6) Shipping address errors

Your customer knows where they live and want their package delivered, but address verification can create a hassle if systems don’t recognize a particular address, as can happen when customers have to input a unit number or post office box. The frustration of being unable to settle the shipping or billing address can lead consumers to throw in the towel altogether.

Using tools that offer address suggestions, like USPS address verification via SmartyStreets or Canada Post’s AddressComplete address verification tools, ensures customers input their address in the manner the postal service will best recognize. If these tools don’t float your boat, SmartyStreets, Loqate, Melissa Data Quality Suite, and many others can help you help your customers avoid address errors and get to the Order Placed page faster.

7) Slow delivery and limited shipping options

Delivering goods across the country and beyond borders can take time if you default to the most economic option. By offering multiple shipping options with varying timelines and, yes, prices, you provide your customers with the most important element: that of choice.

While there’s no denying that free, two-day shipping is practically everyone’s favorite perk, your customers may still be willing to pay a premium for faster delivery times.

8) Restrictions on product quantity

When products are in high demand during peak seasons, product quantity limits can certainly be beneficial for your inventory management. However, product quantity restrictions at checkout can spell frustration for your customers.

If you must implement restrictions, make sure your customers can’t  add quantities greater than those allowed to their cart. For example, if your limit is three, make sure the drop-down doesn’t allow your customer to select 10. You should also note quantity restrictions in your product description.

When possible, offer flexibility (e.g., let a customer contact your customer service team) and provide timelines for restock if the product quantity restriction is based on existing stock levels.

9) Comparison shopping

Ask any savvy shopper and they’ll tell you: they won’t buy something based on the first price they see, especially if the price point is questionable. Consumers look for the best price possible, which is why it’s imperative you do your research and stay competitive with your pricing. If your customer drops an item into their cart only to realize they can save a few bucks elsewhere, they will go elsewhere.

Although you can’t always compete on price point, you can get creative to provide your customers unique offers that deliver added value.

Perhaps your differentiator is a great bundle where the price per item is slightly lower, but the overall revenue impact to you is higher. Investigate opportunities to provide loyalty discounts or subscribe-to-save models to increase value and keep your customers from looking elsewhere.

10) Lack of desirable payment options

Have you ever made it to the end of the checkout process only to realize your preferred method of payment isn’t an option? This frustration is yet another factor of cart abandonment — and an easily avoidable issue.

Research conducted in 2018 unearthed that less than 30% of American adults don’t have a credit card, while 82% do have a debit bank card. That same report concluded that credit and debit usage is on the rise in the U.S., with total card purchases predicted to top $10 trillion by 2023. For shoppers without a credit card, online purchases can get tricky, but payment providers like Paypal allow these same shoppers to pay directly from their bank accounts, a workaround to the traditional online payment catch of requiring a credit card.

More recently, digitized alternative payment options like Buy Now, Pay Later have grown in popularity. A throwback to the days of layaway, companies like Affirm, Afterpay, Klarna, and Sezzle are now available at many e-tailers, making it easier to find a payment option that works at the critical checkout stage.

11) Ambiguous return and refund policy

From buyer’s remorse to poor fit, the reasons for returns are many, and the fear of being unable to return an item can be a turn-off for any would-be customer. According to Shopify, about one in 10 cart abandonments occur as a result of inadequate or ambiguous returns and refund policies.

A transparent and generous return policy can sway customers towards completing their purchase, knowing they’re covered if the product doesn’t meet their expectations. Clearly state your returns and refunds policy, highlight any applicable fees, and explain how the process works so customers feel at ease.

12) Lack of mobile optimization

In 2022, if you’re not thinking mobile-first, what are you thinking? With more than half of all internet traffic shopping from a mobile device, your mobile strategy is more important than ever. More than three-quarters of smartphone users have made an online purchase with their mobile device in the past six months, a number that’s expected to continue to grow.

When building your eCommerce website or product pages, be sure to prioritize the mobile experience first and invest in a responsive website.

How to recover abandoned sales

Sometimes, an abandoned cart is destined to remain in limbo — but not always. In some cases, your customer may simply run out of time or are pulled away from their online shopping activity. In these cases, you can gently remind your customer of their cart items via email or digital ad retargeting based on items they’ve previously added to their cart.

1) Email

Email subject lines like “You forgot something…” or “An item in your cart is selling fast” can jumpstart the checkout process and bring customers back to their carts in a hurry.

Sending a gentle reminder directly to the user not only gives them an easy one-click trip back to the checkout page, but also provides you with an additional checkpoint that can support relationship building and customer loyalty.

Read: How to write effective abandoned cart emails

2) Retargeting

When a customer leaves a product behind, retargeting your digital advertising can keep your product top-of-mind and drive them back to the checkout page to complete the process.

Retargeting involves reengaging previous visitors with the goal of convincing them to come back.

If your site uses cookies, you can use that data to deliver retargeting ads based on the products they engaged with during their most recent visit.

Read: Amazon advertising guide: Best sellers, ads, and pushing slow-moving stock

3) Loyalty discounts

Whether offered as a pop-up during the checkout process or leveraged during the retargeting or email contact, offering loyalty discounts or other cost savings on future purchases is a great way to reduce cart abandonment and/or drive consumers back to the cart they left behind.

You can also promote these types of discounts and offers on product pages — “buy today, save tomorrow!” — to increase the likelihood your customer will complete their checkout the first time.

Read: Customer loyalty programs: 8 Benefits you can provide to encourage repeat customers

Wrapping up — Save on acquisition costs by boosting conversion rates

While you’ll never completely eradicate cart abandonment, you can make changes today that will improve the likelihood of closed sales tomorrow. By focusing on the common factors of cart abandonment and being proactive in solving them, you’ll realize greater sales and create happier customers.