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Shopping Cart Abandonment Statistics You Should Know

There's nothing worse for an ecommerce business than a shopper who browses, finds their chosen items, loads them up into the shopping cart, and then bounces away… never to be seen again. Shopping cart abandonment is one of the biggest problems facing online retailers.

It's even more frustrating because it means some part of your marketing, advertising, and user experience efforts went awry at the last second. It's a total negation of all that tremendous effort you put into your marketing. For that to fail at the last leg of the journey really sucks. And yet shopping cart abandonment is very common.

According to a survey performed by Baymard.com, it seems that online shoppers abandon their shopping carts 68% of the time. For those shocked at the height of that stat, it's important to note that this isn't an isolated finding. Baymard.com found this and other statistics in an ongoing effort to build a comprehensive report on current shopping cart abandonment trends, by averaging rates culled from 28 separate studies.

In essence, they found that out of 10 items that get tossed into an average user's online shopping cart, only about 3.2 items end up being purchased. Another way to look at it is in money terms: an estimated $1.79 trillion worth of goods go forlornly back into inventory after being unceremoniously dumped from an abandoned cart. That's just way too many zeroes.

We obviously want to prevent this from happening. Based on these figures, even if we collectively manage to just add an additional 10% of items to go through checkout, that means $260 billion into circulation, which wouldn't exactly be a bad thing from a macroeconomic perspective. Since small online business owners comprise 90 percent of retailers, that can make a lot of difference in income earned for your personal bottom line.

The key to reducing shopping cart abandonment is prevention. We need to find out why shoppers spend all that effort picking out items and then abandoning them. And that's exactly what we're going to do.

Common Causes of the Abandoned Shopping Cart

The chart below provides a bird's eye-view of what drives customers to abandon the stuff they picked out. After you've had a chance to look over the common causes with dawning realization, we'll move on to discussing each possible culprit in a little more detail.

Infographic: Reasons for Shopping Cart Abandonment

The “Surprise” Total

Illustration: surprised man

We've all encountered this at checkout. You find something you really like, the product description is very clear, and you especially like the price. And then hey presto! When you are about to click the “Pay” button, your heart stops at the final total.

The retailer snuck in some additional charges or fees (often shipping) that practically doubled what you expected to pay. Do you go through with it? The statistics say with a 68 percent probability: No. Customers don't like getting blindsided, so one method of prevention here is to just be honest and up front about your pricing, and always consider offering free shipping on your items whenever possible.

“Window” Shopping

We have discussed in other articles how Millennials (ages 14 to 34 or thereabouts—about 25 percent of the US population in total, and the most avid online shoppers) spend a lot of their time just looking. That explains the 37 percent of respondents who state this as their reason for abandonment. They browse, they click, they place in the cart, but they don't actually buy. It's a trend among online shoppers today, and unless you have an offer they simply can't refuse, they will leave you high and dry.

There's not a lot you can do here, except retarget with intelligent shopping cart systems that recognize returning traffic and suggest formerly browsed items. Basically though, you'll just have to count on a sizable amount of users using your shopping carts as part of their browsing process.

The Price Isn't Competitive

You want to make money, sure, but you also have to consider the competition. Online shoppers can easily comparison shop, so if your price is higher than other vendors, you're going to get left holding the goods. Really study the market and try to develop a competitive pricing strategy.

It's Too Expensive Overall

Even if you're upfront about shipping and taxes, 32 percent of shoppers just don't want to pay your price. You could argue that you have a better product or faster shipping, but at the end of the day they would rather just hold on to their money. To counter their callousness, work on really establishing your USP (unique selling point) and make it abundantly clear to your customers exactly how shopping with you benefits them.

Change of Heart

It happens. You've done everything right but the buyer decided not to go through with the transaction. Do you give up? Nope. They may change their mind again, so keep trying.

The Process Was Too Complicated

People don't like to go through hoops just to pay for an item. They want the typical brick-and-mortar (BAM) experience; the salesperson takes care of everything and all they have to do is to hand over their money. If you require your customer to register first, 21 percent of your customers will just leave. There are many potential solutions here, though. It's all about simplifying your checkout process, and making things easier for your customer. Amazon has made an empire out of this simple philosophy.

Bad User Experience

A clunky website is doomed to failure almost from the get-go. If your website crashes or times out in the middle of a transaction, do you really think your customer will patiently start from square one? No need to answer that. Luckily, there are numerous sources online for learning more about and improving your own UX.

It's Taking Too Long

The online store that takes more than three steps from cart to checkout is asking to be abandoned. One of the reasons Amazon is selling so much is because the checkout process is simple and fast, including a one-click option for returning buyers with saved information. Once again, it's all about making it easy.

Security Issues

There are enough stories about identity theft and credit card fraud to make even the most trusting shopper leery about handing over their personal information. If your site does not have high-encryption security certification, or worse, you don't emphasize it, you will have skittish buyers high-tailing it out of there before you can say “SSL.”

So think about outsourcing your checkout process to a trusted source, such as PayPal. Or alternatively, get your site certified and prominently display a trust mark.

Limited Delivery or Payment Options

You are operating in a global economy, so if you only ship to certain countries and only provide one or two options for payment, you are significantly curtailing your efforts. That's about 29 percent of potential buyers out the door.

Be sure your checkout offers a variety of payments, and whenever possible, make deliveries worldwide. The latter point, of course, depends upon your scalability, but don't be afraid to take your business to the next level.

The Take Away

Chart: Reasons for abandoning shopping carts

While respondents gave various reasons why they decided not to go through with their purchase, it can be broken down into two major elements: cost and user experience. A big part of cost is shipping, and that's something that a creative online seller can bring down to manageable levels with a bit of work, either by making contacts within the shipping industry, or adding in the cost to the purchase price. Even just shopping smart for shipping supplies can help.

In terms of user experience, it all boils down to website structure and design. You need to work harder at making it easy for your customer to buy. This, of course, requires a professional touch. If you don't have development and UX design experience, set aside some of your budget to hire a professional. It can be costly, but it's absolutely vital to the long-term success of your online business.

Some of these reasons for shopping cart abandonment are entirely within your control and you need to take more effort to make your site buyer-friendly. Others such as price may be beyond your control, but you can still keep trying to overcome resistance through other means.

How have you tackled the problem of shopping cart abandonment in your online sales ventures? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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1 Comments Add your comment
How long should an ecommerce store keep a cart active? We have limited supplies of items and if someone puts it in their cart and wanders away, it stays in their cart for two days - unavailable to anyone else. What is the industry average? Reply
Site Admin
Hi, John!

That's a great question, one that I am sadly unable to find an answer to. A lot of it depends on how your site configured, your shoppers, etc. Since it sounds like your run your carts a bit differently than others, I also think its hard to draw a comparison.

Shopping cart abandonment is quite common in e-commerce, but it will vary from one business to another. So you should probably run the numbers on your site and compare that to your overall traffic. If more people come back and buy the item than don't, you're probably fine. But if the majority of your shoppers never purchase that item, you might re-think your policies. Reply
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