It might be a familiar sinking feeling - why do users keep deciding at the last minute not to buy an item? There are a whole range of reasons that online shopper abandon their shopping carts.

You might not be able to do anything about the majority of these reasons, but if you are seeing a high cart abandonment rate then it is definitely something you can actively work on minimising.

In this post I dive into shopping cart abandonment: what it is, why it matters, and how to minimise it using proven practices from successful ecommerce sites.

What is the average rate of cart abandonment?

The Baymard Institute has compared reported cart abandonment from 41 studies, to conclude that the average rate stands at 69.57% in 2019. However, reports varied wildly over the years. In 2010, Forrester Research calculated that cart abandonment stood at just 55%. At the high end of the scale, AbandonAid stated in 2017 that cart abandonment occurs 81.4% of the time.

Is your average checkout completion rate below the industry average?

How to calculate cart abandonment rate

Fortunately, there is no need to consult a mathematician when it comes to calculating your cart abandonment rate. To find the percentage of users who have not completed a purchase after adding an item to their cart, you must divide the number of complete purchases by the number of carts created:

1 - (Complete purchases/Carts created) x100

After doing this division, subtract the result from 1 and multiply by 100 to get your percentage.

Fortunately, there’s no need to get the calculator out. You can easily monitor ecommere analytics with Littledata’s Shopify app. Connect this to Google Analytics to make the most out of tracking user movements - in this instance, when they removing products from the cart.

Why might a cart get abandoned?

There is no simple answer to this question. The truth is, carts get abandoned for a variety of reasons, although the recurring theme is that a lower abandonment rate means a more intuitive and trustworthy store.
A high proportion of people browsing your store might be doing so in the hope of coming across a hidden discount, to compare prices or to check your stock against competitors. Some might even be compiling a wishlist for the future, with almost no intention of purchasing your product now. In short, there isn’t a lot you can do about this type of shopper.

Focus, then, has to turn to the shoppers who would have made a purchase, was it not for an element of your site or checkout process that led to them scurrying away.

As part of the Baymard Institute’s research into cart abandonment, it conducted a survey of over 2,500 US adults asking why they abandoned their purchase after passing the stage of adding an item to their cart.

Many of the factors above can be countered by making tweaks to the checkout process. Take the second largest influence - “the site wanted me to create an account”. By offering a guest checkout option where an account is not necessary, this 34% of respondents will be one step closer to purchasing the product in their cart, and avoiding the dreaded stage of checkout abandonment.

Cart Abandonment Rate

What goes into a better checkout process?

It’s fine to say that the checkout needs to be streamlined in order to reduce cart abandonment, but what does this actually mean? What are the characteristics of a site that experiences relatively low checkout abandonment?

This is specifically about what happens after a user has added a product to their cart - optimising add-to-cart rate itself is a different stage in the purchase funnel that we have talked about before here at Littledata.

The first thing to take a look at is the intuitiveness of your buying process. After adding a product to cart, ensure that the following trail resembles a standard ecommerce store. This might mean identifying a clear “checkout button”, followed by payment options and providing delivery address, then reviewing the order before submitting. Any significant change to the standard process could throw a user off balance.

Making your store as trustworthy as possible is another key step to reducing cart abandonment. Check that the secure payment icons are visible when checking out, and a money-back guarantee will always send a customer’s confidence skyrocketing. But if your eCommerce platform lacks these functionalities, you could always make use of shopping cart software tools to offer a good user experience.

Offering incentives to complete a purchase also does the trick. As mentioned, shoppers may be on your site as part of a price comparison tour, so making a 10% discount visible from the outset will make your site a winner in the eyes of many a potential customer.

In a similar vein, you should make sure that product and delivery details are easy to locate and understand. Adweek shows that 81% of shoppers conduct detailed research before buying a product, so make this task easier for them. Please don’t include any last-minute delivery charge shocks.

Another thing to consider is the mobile-friendliness of your checkout process. The statistic that half of all ecommerce revenue will be mobile-based by 2020 is banded around a lot, but shouldn’t be ignored. If a site is near impossible to navigate on mobile, you can be sure of frustrated cart abandonment.

8 ways to minimise cart abandonment

I want to give you a list of specific ideas that you could implement on your site. These have all been taken from Missions - our new optimisation tool. Each mission consists of a pack of ecommerce optimisation tips on a certain subject, complete with evidence and studies found by our researchers.

The following eight tips, of course, have all been taken from our “Minimise Cart Abandonment” mission.

Steeped in proof, we like to take a step away from gut feel. These tips have all reduced cart abandonment for other sites, and I am sure that some of their effects can be replicated.

1) Send cart abandonment emails

This one really is the only place to start. We will of course take a closer look at tweaks you can make to your sales funnel, but targeting people who have already abandoned their carts is a crucial way of reviving a potential sale.

Ecommerce site owners are becoming increasingly aware of the opportunities provided by email marketing. Hertz are one company making the most of this practice, reporting that 37% of people who opened a cart abandonment email went on to make a booking.

In the past, so much money would have been left on the table by users who abandoned carts. Now, it’s so easy to send a personalised email to every customer who abandons their purchase on your site.

personalised email

This is all about remembering that not everybody who abandons a purchase does so on bad terms. They may simply have gotten distracted, or left the purchase for a later date. A friendly nudge back towards your buying funnel might be just what they are after!

2) Trigger exit surveys and live chat at key moments

If a user is on the brink of exiting a site in frustration at not being able to find what they want, a live chat session could keep them around.

Some classic stats served up by BoldChat suggest that live chat is the preferred method of communicating with a business for 21% of shoppers. If you manage to solve a customer’s biggest doubts, they will be one step closer to completing a purchase.

In turn, exit surveys allow you to gather the opinions of customers who abandoned their cart. Why didn’t they make a purchase? Gold dust. Easily identify recurring themes and patch these things up so fewer potential sales slip through the net.

A handy tip for exit surveys - give people open-ended questions to answer instead of preset options. According to Groovehq, this will increase response rate by 10%.

3) Use address lookup technology to minimise typing

Form-filling is dull. Customers know this as well as anyone, and will often go to great lengths to avoid it. If your checkout funnel is littered with unnecessary forms to fill, more than a couple of potential customers will run like the wind.

Of course, a customer’s shipping address is central to completing their order. To make this easier on them, some accurate address lookup technology such as Loqate will squash the time it takes to get things done.

Loqate address filling

Anything you can do to make the form-filling process as pain-free as possible is a surefire way of reducing your cart abandonment rate. Hotel Chocolat, after introducing address lookup, reported a 19% uplift in the amount of people completing each stage of their checkout funnel.

4) Give shoppers the option of using a guest checkout

Finding the option to “checkout as a guest” is starting to come as naturally to customers as looking for the “add-to-cart” button. Research from the Baymard Institute indicated that 30% of all shoppers abandon their purchase immediately upon viewing a registration process. Not even a second thought!

Similarly to tip #3, this is all about saving time on the customer’s side. If they have a product in their basket and are willing to pay for it, the last thing you want to do is shove a registration form in their face.

5) Use dynamic retargeting to recover lost sales

Stella & Dot saw their average order value increase by 17% when targeting customers with more relevant ads. This is all about employing technology which is able to accurately create a picture of a customer’s browsing experience, so that they can be targeted with adverts to match their interests.

Although female lifestyle and fashion website Stella & Dot were more focussed on increasing their average order value, dynamic retargeting is a valid method of reducing cart abandonment by presenting individual users with adverts to match their activity.

6) Provide a one-click checkout

Made famous by retail giant Amazon, a one-click or one-step checkout allows a user to immediately purchase a product if they already have their payment details registered on the site.

The ability to avoid form-filling and save time is a godsend for shoppers - and the estimated $2.4 billion value of Amazon’s recently expired one-step checkout patent goes to show this.

one-step checkout

Other ecommerce sites have designed one-click checkouts of their own, finding that they do wonders for retaining customers within the purchase funnel. A case study by Strangeloop showed that implementing a one-step checkout increased conversion rate by 66%.

7) Be clear about delivery (especially free shipping)

A joint study conducted by eDigitalResearch and IMRG found that 53% of cart-abandoners cite unacceptably high shipping costs as the reason for abandoning their purchase.

Making sure that your shipping fees are blindingly obvious from an early stage in your purchase funnel will prevent any user frustration at discovering the cost just before payment, or simply not being able to locate this information at all.

A study by Accent has shown that 88% of online shoppers expect free shipping to be offered to them in one way or another. Failing to meet this rising expectation will likely result in a chunk of abandoned carts.

8) Experiment with exit-intent popups

It isn’t a coincidence that popups always appear just when you are about to close a page. Many sites use technology that detects an aggressive mouse movement towards the top corner of the screen - usually a sign that it will be closed down.

These are a last-ditch attempt to keep a user browsing the site, but if they capture attention in the right way then they can work wonders in terms of saving a cart that was about to be abandoned. A common tactic is to offer a discount.

exit-intent popups

Research from Beeketing indicates that 48% of ‘window shoppers’ would buy a product they were interested in if they were offered a limited-time discount.

This works on the scarcity principle - a perceived rush to buy a product can prevent someone from abandoning their cart to come back at a later date.

Reduce your cart abandonment today

Packed with plenty of tips similar to the ones we have explored, the ‘Minimise Cart Abandonment’ mission will equip you with an arsenal of techniques to drive that statistic down and keep shoppers inside your purchase funnel until the very end.

Littledata automatically benchmarks ecommerce sites so you can see how you compare, then recommends missions to optimise performance. Knowing your average checkout completion rate is a good place to start.

Whether you're looking at a Shopify abandoned cart or abandoned carts on a different ecommerce platform, you can launch the 'Minimise Cart Abandonment' mission directly from your Littledata dashboard. Use the app to track progress as you test ideas to discover what works best for your site.

And one final tip: don’t try to fix everything at once. Start with one of the tips above that’s most relevant to your current shopping funnel, and go - or should I say grow - from there!

This is a guest post by Jack Vale, a UK-based freelance writer and ecommerce expert.