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Why are People Abandoning Their Shopping Cart on Your E-Commerce Site?

February 9, 2017
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Imagine a world where nearly 7 out of 10 shoppers loaded their cart, proceed to checkout, and at the last second leave the store.  The unrecognized revenue potential is staggering.

How would businesses survive?

The case described above is commonly known as cart abandonment, and is a chronic problem faced by e-commerce websites.  Statistics show that an average of 69.23% of online shopping carts are abandoned by consumers.  This equates to trillions of dollars dumped in a virtual garbage can.

A major reason why these carts are not converting is simply due to the fact that a large portion of consumers haven’t committed to purchasing.  One of the latest studies conducted by Baymard Institute found that 58.6% of U.S. online shoppers abandoned a cart within the last three months because “I was just browsing / not ready to buy.”  While these types of consumers present an inevitable hurdle faced by e-commerce sites, outside of the “browser” group, we are still left with a significant percentage of shoppers that do not convert to a sale.

Let’s discuss some of the most common reasons for cart abandonment:

The Checkout Process Is Too Long Or Complicated

For our purposes, we will refer to this Checkout Usability Study.  One way to measure checkout length is in form fields.  Among the top grossing U.S. online retailers, the typical checkout page averages 14.88 form fields. Examples include First Name, Address, etc.  Many pages include more in-depth fields that include optional information, subscription sections, and separate default billing and shipping sections.

Are all of these completely necessary? A large number of form fields present a daunting task to consumers who simply want to complete their order.  Combined test data shows that the average site can increase its conversion rate by over 35% solely through better checkout design, and most sites can achieve a 20-60% reduction in the number of form fields displayed by default.

Related: VWO – A Foolproof Tool for Your CRO Needs

Collapse optional fields (i.e. Address 2, Company Name, etc.) into a hidden hyperlink. Consolidate first, middle, and last name fields into a single “Full Name” field. Use a dialog checkbox or a smart form field design to automatically populate billing information with the same shipping. Small changes in the form field/steps portion of the checkout process can make all the difference. 

Extra Costs Are Too High 

Shoppers gleefully click around a website and build a cart full of products, only to be deflated by the added costs associated with tax, shipping, and service fees.  This is called “sticker shock.”  If shoppers have made it this far, they are on the verge of completing a transaction. Avoid scaring customers away by including tax in the initial product price, and provide a shipping calculator and service fee disclaimer as early as possible in the purchasing process.

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Uncompetitive Shipping And Return Policies  

Free shipping is the number one incentive for consumers to shop online, followed closely by one-day shipping and free returns. If you utilize these practices within your website, make it highly visible.  Conveying these value propositions to the consumer should be a priority.

Technical Errors And Poor Design

The most obvious to diagnose.  Consumers expect websites to be both functional and beautiful.  A checkout page that has an error message or looks different from the design of the rest of your site could raise red flags and scare shoppers away.

Registering An Account 

Creating an account can have some great benefits for the consumer.  Better customer service, relevant product recommendations, and faster checkout on future orders, to name a few.  However, forcing this on shoppers is a big no-no. Even if you don’t require creating an account, the last thing you want is shoppers getting frustrated with the “Login” or “Register” dilemma.

Related: Basic CRO – Page Elements & Testing Opportunities 

Shoppers may not remember if they registered already or not, causing them to get tangled in the misery of multiple failed username and password combinations. Dodge this potential derailing altogether and provide a “guest checkout” option.


Friction-causing elements such as the navigation bar, banner ads, “products you may also like, newsletter/deal alert signups, etc.  While cross-selling and building a following are important, don’t draw the shopper’s attention away from the end goal of completing a purchase. 

Lack Of Preferred Payment Options

By not offering multiple payment options, you give shoppers that use an alternative method no other choice than to leave your site. This blocks out large groups of consumers, particularly in markets outside of North America. Unsurprisingly, credit cards dominate e-commerce payments in the United States and Canada.

However, alternative methods account for 28% of e-commerce payments, a percentage that is expected to rise. In the Asia Pacific, the majority of e-commerce transactions already use alternative payment methods. 

Trust Issues

Consumers will hesitate to enter their payment information if they sense a lack of security when going through the checkout process, and rightfully so. Identity theft occurs regularly in the online marketplace.  By displaying security badge icons, trust seals and notable brand partnerships, you alleviate concerns shoppers may have when completing a purchase.

Seals from the more recognizable brands, like Norton and Google, resonate with consumers and ease uncertainties.

Poor Mobile Usability

34% of online retail purchases occur on mobile devices. If you aren’t seeing similar percentages among your conversions, there may be an issue with your mobile website. Shoppers will abandon their shopping cart in a heartbeat if checkout flow isn’t optimized for mobile usability.

Waiting For A Better Deal

Maybe there’s a coupon available somewhere on the internet?  Am I getting the best price? These are examples of questions consumers may ask themselves when along the path to purchase. Competing websites are accessible with the click-of-a-button.

Shoppers may be inclined to leave and search elsewhere while their cart sits at the edge of checkout.  Eliminate these thoughts by immediately applying a discount coupon to their cart and adding a price-match guarantee.

Closing Thoughts 

Cart abandonment percentages will remain high because window shopping is so prevalent.  To combat the “just browsing” group, e-commerce sites should have auto-email and remarketing systems in place. In most cases, having a site with an intelligent design and top-notch usability will mitigate the other reasons for cart abandonment.

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