Practical Ecommerce

Lowering Cart Abandonment

With shopping cart abandonment at a high level, ecommerce owners continue to look for ways to motivate shoppers to complete the checkout process.

Research from indicates shoppers abandon their cart during checkout more than 75 percent of the time. Imagine 75 percent of the grocery carts half full at the local supermarket abandoned in the aisles. In fact, an IconMediaLab study notes the average online retailer fails to convert 97 percent of online customers to online buyers.

While studies conflict as to the actual percentage of online shopping carts abandoned by consumers, nearly all experts agree – online retailers have much to improve upon in this area.

Online sales growing

Online sales are the Niagara Falls of shopping trends today. According to a comScore report, in 2005, online sales totaled $81.6 billion, up 24 percent from $65.8 billion in 2004. When you include other venues of online revenue, such as travel, the numbers jump significantly, to $143.2 billion in 2005, a 22 percent increase from 2004. Even these numbers do not include online auctions and large corporate purchases. According to an Oct. 26 article by Information Week, online sales this year, including travel, are projected to top $170 billion.

With consumer online spending making substantial gains, it becomes imperative for the online retailer to establish an effective shopping-cart portal. If customers are unable to clearly navigate, shop, select and understand the checkout process on your site, they will most assuredly find a checkout aisle that’s shorter and faster at a different site.

There is hope and help available for online retailers who sense their aisles are extending beyond the limit of their consumer’s patience. The online shopping cart industry is extremely active and competitive. After all, any company that can reduce your shopping cart abandonment will increase your sales and profitability.

How effective is your shopping cart?

Help ranges from companies that build external software to run and track your shopping cart to companies that actually help you review an existing online cart for effectiveness. Kay Min, of Red Spade, works to help companies identify problems and solutions to their existing cart.

“It’s important to distinguish what you’re talking about when you’re referring to your shopping cart,” Min said. “There are two different processes at work. One is the actual shopping being done by the customer while the other is the final purchasing process.”

Min said that Red Spade compares online shopping to brick-and-mortar shopping in order to help retailers understand what is taking place during the cart process.

“Just like in a brick-and-mortar store, customers may decide at any moment to remove items or stop shopping. One of the key features for an online cart would include the customer being able to save his cart contents for future purchases. You never know what happens during this shopping process. They may get interrupted by a phone call. Their session may time out. If they come back and their cart is empty, they may forget or not want to start again,” Min said.

Min sees three requirements for online shopping carts to be as effective as possible:

  • Ability to see cart contents – The cart should display as much information about the item as possible in order to assure the customer that they’re purchasing what they actually wanted.

  • Clearly displayed totals and subtotals of costs – “Customers don’t want to be surprised at the final checkout window by outrageous shipping costs,” Min said.

  • Seamless path to checkout – The checkout button should be clearly identified. Too many distractions, and the consumer may not make it through the entire purchase process, opting instead for a competitor’s site that offers more clarity in the process.

Online retailers have an advantage that brick-and-mortar retailers don’t—the ability to integrate cross-selling and up-selling. If you’ve shopped at recently, you’ll have a good understanding of the benefits of these two strategies.

Cross sales and up sales

Let’s say you’re purchasing an electric mixer. After adding the item to your cart and proceeding to checkout, you notice the website now identifies several complementary products, attachments and even tells you what other customers who purchased your mixer also bought. As you review these cross-sale and up-sale items, you may elect to purchase an additional product. This immediate feedback on items in your cart is an excellent way for retailers to increase sales of complementary products.

Another recommended feature of shopping carts that helps reduce abandonment is immediate offers of promotions and discounts. Customers who shop most sites aren’t aware of current site specials or available discounts, but wise retailers will build into their cart process the ability for a customer to take advantage of previously unknown specials.

For instance, you’ve got $47 of items in your cart, and suddenly you notice next to your total an alert that reads, “You are only $13 away from receiving free shipping on your purchase today,” or “If you purchase two of the following, you are eligible for 40 percent off the second item today.” Immediate feedback and interaction with site specials and discounts such as these compel shoppers to not only complete the checkout process but to also make additional purchases. It’s advantageous for retailer and shopper alike.

Dan Knight, of Mountain Media, a shopping-cart provider, encourages retailers, as a simple means of evaluating the effectiveness of their existing cart, to count the clicks between selection and final checkout.

“We recommend no more than three clicks during this process,” Knight said. “Confusion is one of the main reasons many customers abandon their cart.”

“There is a misperception that impulse buying on the Net is not as great as that in a brick-and-mortar store. That’s not true. However, if it takes too long for a customer to check out, they reconsider the impulse, and the retailer has lost a sale,” Knight said.

A strategic mistake many companies make, according to Knight, is thinking they are “done” with their store after they “turn it on.” He urges constant reevaluation and examination of your online store and cart.

While there are dozens of companies specializing in shopping cart development and creation today, many online retailers balk from paying the fees for extensive cart development. However, with the rate of shopping cart abandonment being so high, most are finding that it pays to pay.

Practical Ecommerce

Practical Ecommerce

Bio   •   RSS Feed


Sign up for our email newsletter

  1. Legacy User January 6, 2007 Reply

    I have found a way to keep those pesky cart abandoners from skipping out on me. I use GoDaddy for my shopping cart. I often offer registered members % off a purchase, through an e-mail. Well the trick is, they have to check out to use the coupon code I e-mail to them, not to mention the other discounts I give through my business. Just an added incentive to return and shop with me, AND make that final commitment to checking out. You can visit my site at . We offer 100 products on that site, and over 150 products below wholesale on our Discount Store website through Blujay. The link to that site is located on our company "blog" site at . Best wishes for everyone in 2007!

    — *Kevin*

  2. Legacy User February 1, 2007 Reply

    Alas, the GoDaddy Shopping Cart does its best to discourage my customers. Although all my products are downloaded, GoDaddy demands a shipping address, then insists the product will be shipped to the address they supply–it won't, it will be downloaded, and then fails to let them know HOW they'll get the product should they risk pressing the BUY button. Check it out at

    — *Phil Good*

  3. Legacy User February 11, 2007 Reply


    I've used that shopping cart, but my site is not live right now. You need to adjust the way YOU set up the shopping cart.

    — *Ruth*

  4. Legacy User March 4, 2007 Reply

    I've done something similar to Kevin. My business started on eBay, so once my site was completed I sent every previous eBay customer I had a newsletter stating that if they maintained their subscription they would receive 10 percent off EVERY purchase using an exclusive MeLeeLees Members Code at the checkout, even clearance and sale items. Plus they would get advanced notice of new arrivals and promotions. Ninety-six percent of my previous customers opted to stay on my list! This means I have a solid group of customers who want my product and will allow me to send them purchase reminders weekly! Plus the discounted prices aren't available until the checkout is finished (they receive instant rebates, as PayPal shopping cart is pathetically limited when it comes to coupons).

    — *Heather*

  5. Legacy User June 21, 2007 Reply

    I think the key to avoiding customer abondonment is establishing the trust of your customers. When I go to a brick and mortar I've already evaluated the area around the business, how clean the store is and how the people at the store behave. All of this tells me if I'm going to trust shopping at this store.

    The problem with sites that want you to register with personal information as soon as you pick a product is the trust has not been established. The person has found no reason to give you all of their information. In addition, they haven't even seen what the enitre price will be of their purchase.

    In our service we request the minumial information prior to giving the customer the full price. Usually this can be done with just a zip code or Canadian postal code. From this information tax, shipping and any other handling costs can be added to the price ofthe product.

    As we evaluate adding a customer database to our service we've found that when a customer has completed their order and is ready to print the receipt is the best time to ask them if they want their information retained to check on an order or purchase an item in the future. In additon, the customer can now be allowed to read privacy statements and terms of their account without the risk of loosing the sale.

    I think you'll see many of the cart move to a post registration for new customers rather than the in your face approach that is in many carts.

    — *Ross*

  6. Legacy User June 26, 2007 Reply

    How much of the time do you think people abandon the cart because of waiting for pages to re-load? In other words, from the brief discussion here it sounds like most people are daunted by filling out forms. But, is it just filling out information or is the time issue a factor as well?

    — *Susan*

  7. Legacy User February 26, 2008 Reply

    Cart abandonement on travel sites is often due to the fact that you can't save trips. I have a little kid. I kept getting interupted, even during the payment screen. I must have entered that same trip 15 times in Travelocity. What a pain!! I knew what I want, but we had to finalize one thing first – the trip time home, and we were comparing costs for diff airports in our area. Saving cart info would be great.

    — *Diana*