Why do customers abandon online shopping carts?

Cart abandonment rates are on the rise, with the percentage of abandoned carts rising by almost 15% between 2010 and 2015. So why are customers abandoning carts?

Cart abandonment rates have been rising, with the percentage of abandoned carts rising by almost 15% between 2010 and 2015.

So why are customers abandoning carts?

With the help of data from SaleCycle, which has stats on more than 1 billion cart abandonments, I’ll look at some of the reasons, and some possible solutions.

Cart abandonment: the stats

There are some interesting stats here. For example, the travel sector has the highest abandonment rate, at 80.1%. This compares to 70.4% for retail and 67.6% for fashion.

This could be due to the complexity of travel purchases compared to the average ecommerce site.

For example, completing checkout to buy a flight requires entering passenger details and passport numbers as well as payment information.

Travel sites can do little about this as these details are needed, but there are areas for improvement.

For example, many travel sites add on extras within checkout, like booking fees and insurance, which can make what seemed to e a good deal look less appealing further into the process.

Abandonment is also lower at Christmas, which makes sense when you consider that people are approaching websites knowing they need to buy gifts, and therefore have a greater intent to purchase then they normally would.

This chart shows the six most common reasons customers give for abandonment. I’ll look at each in turn…



Why do customers abandon carts?

In reverse order…

6. Couldn’t find a coupon code

I do often wonder about the placement of coupon codes on shopping cart pages.

For customers who don’t have a code, this box (see Sears example below) is essentially telling them that they could get a better deal.


One natural reaction to seeing this box would be to head for Google (other search engines are available of course) and search for one.

Once customers have left the site, there’s always the chance they won’t return. Perhaps they won’t find a Sears code, but will find a more attractive deal elsewhere for example.


Other problems can include invalid codes. There are lots of sites aggregating codes, and many of these are out of date or don’t apply to the customer’s intended purchase.

The frustration caused by ‘coupon code failure’ can be another reason for abandonment.

What can retailers do about this?

  • Don’t use them. This is one option, though coupons are popular and would remove a useful marketing tactic.
  • More targeting. They could be shown only for customer arriving via a link in a promotional email, but not for everyone else.
  • Have your own coupon code page. This could ensure that people searching for codes land back on your site. Sears has one, though it’s less prominent than third party sites.
  • Hide the coupon code box. Sites could show a small text link instead of the more obvious box. Those that are looking for it will find it, others may not.
  • Offer a default code. Sites could offer a code under the box for a small discount to keep people on site. Perhaps in return for an email address.

5. Confusing checkouts

A good checkout process should be easy to understand and minimise friction for shoppers.

It should also be clear which steps customers need to take to complete payment, form fields should be clear, and language should be easy to understand.

Here, Crate&Barrel sets out the four steps customers need to take, form fields are clear and required fields are marked as such.


4. Payment security concerns

Customers should be able to trust in the security of your website, and retailers can establish trust in a number of ways.

This includes having a trusted brand, general site performance (a slow loading site doesn’t build confidence), good design, and social proof.

Here, Bellroy, as well as having a well-designed and clear checkout, offers security reassurances during the process.


3. Conducting research

This is something retailers will have less control over.

People will add items to their basket while they’re comparison shopping, or just to see final costs with delivery and any other charges added.

Retailers could minimise this with greater clarity over pricing, or could increase the chance that customers will eventually convert by making it easy to save the contents of shopping carts for later.

2. Had to create an account

This is an obvious barrier to conversion. Though most retailers seem to have realised the potential for compulsory registration to kill conversions, many still persist.

Here, CostCo insists that you register before checkout: costco-reg

In addition the text saying non-members ‘may be assessed an additional surcharge’ is another potential conversion killer.

Offering a guest checkout option removes this barrier to purchase, while customers can be offered the chance to create an account later in the process.

Here’s a good example of guest checkout from Crate&Barrel:


1. Unexpected shipping costs

Nasty surprises around shipping costs were cited by 28% of respondents as a reason for abandonment.

The solution is simple: retailers can avoid this issue by providing clear information on shipping upfront.

Sears takes the trouble to ask customers to enter a ZIP code to estimate shipping on its product pages.


However, people need to enter checkout before it will reveal the costs, which must be annoying for customers.

Customers have to enter their email or login before they can see this information. If they don’t like the charges, they’l abandon the purchase, if they haven’t already.


A better approach would be to show shipping costs on the product page when customers enter a ZIP code, or event to have a clear flat rate to avoid confusion.

Cart abandonment infographic

Here’s an infographic showing the stats mentioned here, as well as others. (Click here if you’d like to see a larger version).


For more information, see our new Checkout Best Practice Guide, as well as guides on mobile commerce, customer experience, and social customer service, all under the ClickZ Intelligence banner. 


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