Checkout Tactics

Seven Ways to Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment

Shopping cart abandonment affects most every ecommerce merchant. A whitepaper by McAfee, an ecommerce security company, called Digital Window Shopping: The Long Journey to Buy, cites a survey conducted by comScore, in which comScore attempted to determine why shoppers abandon their carts, even after they have chosen the item they presumably want to buy.

Here are the most frequent reasons why shoppers abandoned their carts, according to the whitepaper:

  • High shipping charges: 46 percent
  • Wanted to comparison shop: 37 percent
  • Lack of money: 36 percent
  • Wanted to look for a coupon: 27 percent
  • Wanted to shop offline: 26 percent
  • Couldn’t find preferred pay option: 24 percent
  • Item was unavailable at checkout: 23 percent
  • Couldn’t find customer support: 22 percent
  • Concerned about security of credit card data: 21 percent

High Shipping Costs, Security Concerns Drive Cart Abandonment

Following from the results, above, shipping prices are the number one reason shoppers abandon their carts. This should be a signal to merchants to lower shipping rates, even if they have to incur some of the cost. Eliminating or reducing shipping fees allows merchants to compete with big-box companies like Amazon that routinely offer free shipping.

Online security is a huge concern, and rightly so. This same study discovered that 21 percent of buyers said they “decided not to shop at a given site because of security concerns.” As an online merchant, it is important to communicate your commitment to security at every stage of the shopping process.

Maybe Shoppers Are Just Cautious

Shopping cart abandonment might be high, but a surprising number of shoppers return within a few days to continue shopping. The study reviewed 163 million online transactions and discovered that nearly 65 percent of online shoppers wait a day or more to complete their purchase.

“The good news is that those shoppers who you thought were disappearing may not be gone, they may just be delaying,” said research analyst Shane Keats of McAfee.

This trend in customer shopping behavior has typically been categorized as shopping cart abandonment, but with further scrutiny it might indicate another motive – cautious shopper. Cautious shoppers can turn into loyal repeat customers, but only after you establish trust and credibility.

Seven Ways To Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment

The McAfee whitepaper and the comScore survey underscore steps that merchants should take to reduce cart abandonment. I’ve identified seven of them, below.

  1. Disclose shipping costs in advance. Clearly show shipping costs prior to a customer providing his or her payment information. This could be done by adding fees to product pages or have a shipping widget that calculates shipping rates before the cart process.
  2. Show security icons. Reassure your customers by displaying security services and images throughout the shopping funnel. Your job is to make customers feel safe during the entire buying process, and not just on the home page.
  3. Create trust. Communicate your online store’s trustworthiness by having clear guarantees and contact information. Display company phone numbers on every page, along with hours of business, and place your guarantee and return policies prominently.
  4. Easy shopping cart return. Make it easy for customers to return to the shopping cart without having to go back through the purchase process. This often involves an autoresponder-type setup that captures data and then sends an email offering a second chance to buy (perhaps at a discount) while taking the customer back to the original cart page. (See the list, below, of abandonment recovery services.) A low-tech version is to simply send an email invitation to continue shopping with a link to the product page, and an offer to answer any questions.
  5. Offer comparison shopping directly from your site. This gives you a chance to point out differences and demonstrate value. There are some widgets available (see list, below) that will let you add Amazon or other stores’ prices right on your site. A low-tech version is to create pages showing recent sales comparisons, or to show a comparison search engine screenshot.
  6. Offer coupons and discounts. Creating compelling coupon offers is a great way to get viral traffic and email buzz, and to increase conversions. Make the offer accessible and enticing, with strict deadlines. Also, make sure that discount details are clear, and that you have a separate page explaining in simple terms any qualifications or restrictions around the special.
  7. Encourage user reviews and reward those customers who give them. Customer reviews are a powerful tool during a purchase. You can encourage them by inviting customers via a personal email, mentioning it during phone calls, or by adding a link to your newsletters.


New technologies are beginning to help online merchants address shopping cart abandonment. Some of these technologies may be included with your shopping cart, while others can be added to your store or written by customers.

However, never let technology, or lack of it, prevent you from working to stem shopping cart abandonment. While technology can make some of these processes easier and more automated, the important point is to make sure that your online store clearly communicates the trust, security and shipping information that your customers desire. This is something any store on any platform can accomplish with time and creativity. Your customers will appreciate it, and your bottom line will reflect it.

Shopping Cart Abandonment Recovery Providers

Comparison Shopping Widgets

Jan Riley
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