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Understanding the Infinite Whys of Shopping Cart Abandonment

abandoned shopping carts funnel

Yearly, abandoned shopping carts pose an $18 billion problem for eCommerce merchants. About 7 out of every 10 online sales are abandoned in-cart.

While many of those lost sales are simply a result of fickle shopper behavior, a large portion of them come down to bad customer experience. See, customer neglect is at the core of many shopping cart abandonment woes.

Frequently, digital shopping cart abandonment is simply a symptom of far larger eCommerce problems. For one, many eCommerce problems stem from poor online store design. One of the most important steps you can take to avoid this issue is ensuring that your eCommerce website design is user-friendly. We recommend creating your online store with a designer-made eCommerce template that takes customer experience into consideration. The road to abandoned cart recovery usually starts by understanding what drives your customers. Below, we dive into many of the reasons your customer base might be ghosting your checkout process—and what you can do to win back lost sales.

What is shopping cart abandonment?

Online shopping cart abandonment is when a new or existing customer begins the checkout process for a purchase with some level of buying intent but fails to complete their order. Items left in the cart are considered abandoned unless the shopper returns to buy them from your eCommerce business.

Shopping cart abandonment is a thorn in the collective side of the eCommerce world. Baymard Institute reports the documented global shopping cart abandonment rate at just under 70%. It can often be much higher than this, so it’s important to understand the “whys” of shopping cart abandonment to get to the “hows” of reducing abandonment and closing more sales.

How do you calculate shopping cart abandonment rate?

Retailers can calculate their rate of shopping cart abandonment by:

  1. Dividing the total number of completed transactions with the total number of unfinished transactions (unfinished transactions = at least one item added to the shopping cart without purchase completion)

  2. Subtracting the quotient from the number 1

  3. Multiplying the result by 100

Your formula should look like this:

1 - (# completed transactions ÷ # initiated transactions) x 100 = abandonment rate (%)

shopping cart abandonment rate formula

13 persistent issues causing abandoned shopping carts

There’s no single reason that customers abandon items in their digital shopping carts.

It’s a phenomenon that happens because of countless factors. From the flow of the checkout process to a lack of fulfillment and/or payment options, the list of checkout hangups keeps growing with time.

Below, we unpack 13 of the most persistent reasons why a shopper might abandon their purchase, followed by specific ways you can fix these issues on your online store.

01. Covert shipping costs

Hidden or covert shipping fees account for 50% of shopping cart abandonments. This includes higher than expected shipping costs, handling fees, taxes and duty fees (for international shipping). Some pickup locations can also incur remote or extended area surcharges. Needless to say, all fees related to shipping and handling should be listed clearly throughout the entire checkout process.

02. A wave of technical issues

Technical issues with your website’s performance and with shopping cart function and flow is a major reason shoppers don’t complete a purchase. A webpage’s failure to load, issues with online identity verification, inability to add or revise cart items, and payment processing glitches can cause shoppers to abort their items and move on to other virtual pursuits.

03. Overly complex checkout flow

Roughly 20% of shoppers abandon their carts because the checkout process is too complex. The online checkout process should be as easy to navigate as the offline one. In the bricks-and-mortar world, shoppers bring their cart or basket to the checkout line, have their items scanned, provide their payment method, and leave with their purchase and receipt. That’s just four tried-and-true steps from start to finish. Online, this process should be similar with (perhaps) one extra before order submission: order review.

04. Forced account creation

Nothing kills a shopper’s good intentions like enforcing arbitrary rules. Nearly a third of eCommerce shoppers will abandon their cart because of forced account creation. Sometimes people just want to grab and go, without taking the time to create an account. Think of this behavior as virtual impulse shopping and make it as hassle-free as possible.

05. Lack of product images on checkout

Since digital shopping lacks the tactile experiences of in-store purchasing, it’s important for shoppers to clearly see what they’ve added to their cart (including product size and color). Cart items should be clearly displayed and easy to change or revise. Providing a link back to the product page of an item can also help reassure customers that what they’ve added to their cart is the correct item.

06. No free shipping

Arguably, the most common reason for shopping cart abandonment is a lack of free shipping or, perhaps more accurately, the high cost of shipping. This isn’t quite the same as covert shipping costs, but it falls within the umbrella of extra or “too high” costs which, according to Statista, is the #1 reason that U.S. shoppers are abandoning their orders in 2021. Free shipping paired with a value threshold (e.g., free shipping for orders $50 or more) is one way to provide more flexibility with shipping costs.

main reasons shoppers abandon shopping carts stats

07. Minimal fulfillment options

From the customer’s perspective, order fulfillment options should span the gamut from 2-day shipping, to overnight shipping, to hybrid approaches like Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS). Merchants with minimal fulfillment options risk higher cart abandonment rates.

08. Absence of preferred payment methods

People want options—this is as true for payment methods as it is for shipping and fulfillment options. Per the Statista data, not having enough payment options is one of the top-10 reasons that U.S. shoppers are abandoning their virtual carts. We’re creatures of habit and we like using preferred online payment solutions like Apple Pay, PayPal, go-to credit card options like MasterCard and Visa, or Wix Payments.

On average, Wix Stores with 3 or more payment methods have 39% higher GPV.

09. Lengthy delivery times

In 2020, 24% of US shoppers opted for same-day delivery from online-only merchants. By February of 2021, that number had increased to 36%. While same-day delivery isn’t a viable option for many items and retailers, lengthy delivery times can kill a sale. The good news is that the average consumer is willing to wait longer for an eCommerce delivery in 2021 versus just a couple of years ago—a pandemic-era trend. That amounts to up to 8 days in 2021 versus 5 days in 2019. The goal is to keep shipping times as short as possible while setting the appropriate shopper expectations and clearly communicating throughout the entire process.

10. Lackluster returns

A poorly communicated return policy and/or a complex return process contribute to shopping cart abandonment. As with payment and fulfillment, customers want options when it comes to returns. One recent survey found that more than 60% of customers prefer contactless returns like parcel drop-off at authorized locations.

11. Non-localized currency

One little-known reason for shopping cart abandonment is when shoppers encounter prices that aren’t in their local currency. This, understandably, adds uncertainty to the online shopping experience and causes friction at checkout.

12. Low buying intent (e.g., shoppers in research mode)

Tire kickers and window shoppers—the browsers, not buyers of the world—still exist in the realm of digital commerce. A recent article in Today notes that online shopping carts have become a new form of window shopping, with customers creating nearly 47% more shopping baskets since the start of the pandemic. Many shoppers add items to their cart without any intention of buying them.

13. Limited product inventory

Insufficient inventory is a key reason for shopping cart abandonment. This issue is exacerbated when shoppers learn that an item is out of stock once they’ve begun the checkout process. This can also cause a poor overall checkout experience (something that more than half of consumers cite as a reason they wouldn’t return to an eCommerce website).

The list of cart abandonment issues is infinite, but we realize your time might not be. The above represents a tactical overview of the most pressing areas to address when looking to reduce shopping cart abandonment.

How to fix your shopping cart abandonment issues

There’s a lot that retailers can do to proactively reduce shopping cart abandonment, starting with choosing the right eCommerce platform to address some of the most common pain points that contribute to the issue.

Platforms like Wix eCommerce help retailers address the common issues we listed by:

  • Providing pre-built templates, deep search, and simple navigation: Wix eCommerce provides store owners with hundreds of eCommerce website templates to accommodate very small to very large product catalogs. The SaaS approach to web hosting and web design means that the platform is stable, secure, and has a very reliable uptime. Our team of IT professionals and engineers ensures that everything runs smoothly on the back end so that you can focus on your business.

  • Enabling optimized checkout and shopping cart features: A simple, optimized checkout process that allows shoppers to pay from any device using multiple payment methods helps reduce cart abandonment and improve the shopping experience.

Wix eCommerce supports guest checkout and comes equipped with multiple payment capabilities including the ability to offer one-time and recurring payments. Wix Stores also make it easy for retailers to add and set up a currency converter to support non-local currencies. Those with a physical footprint can even offer in-person sales with Wix POS.

  • Supporting flexible payment and shipping options: The right eCommerce platform makes it easy to provide multiple payment and shipping options (including free shipping) during checkout. Templated checkout flows are designed to minimize distraction and facilitate the checkout process so shoppers can easily move through the steps required to complete a purchase.

  • Offering robust inventory management features: Over half of small businesses don’t track their inventory. This can make it difficult—if not impossible—to communicate things like product availability and shipping times to shoppers. With eCommerce systems like Wix, inventory management includes the entire inventory process from tracking inventory to managing returns. Managing inventory from one central location means that retailers can easily provide fulfillment options like BOPIS (if they have a physical location) since inventory monitoring is managed from a central database.

Technology goes a long way toward helping eCommerce vendors mitigate shopping cart abandonment, but clear communication throughout the entire buying process is also critical. To this end, make sure your eCommerce website has a simple, straightforward, and easy-to-find return policy. Be crystal clear about delivery times and what external factors may be contributing to shipping delays. Clearly label out-of-stock items on product pages versus strictly during the checkout process.

Provide helpful information like product reviews, personalized recommendations, and detailed product information for the browsers with low buying intent. This, combined with the right technology, will help reduce the number of abandoned shopping carts. And, when all else fails, bring people back with abandoned cart emails.

abandoned shopping cart emails

Why automated emails reduce shopping cart abandonment so well

It is possible to recover 25% of lost shoppers with abandoned cart emails.

The abandoned cart email (also known as a “cart recovery” email) is an email remarketing technique that reminds shoppers about products they’ve added to their cart and abandoned.

Abandoned cart emails work exceptionally well because they’re targeted and automated. Retailers can set up abandoned cart campaigns within their eCommerce platform. The audience segment, in this case, is registered shoppers who’ve logged into your store, added items to their cart, and left without buying. An automated email is sent when the shopper’s session ends. Typically, the email provides a list of what’s in the customer’s cart and encourages them to return to complete their purchase.

Wix online stores with active abandoned cart recovery automations increase sales by up to 29%.

Abandoned cart emails have a great track record. About half the people who open them end up completing their purchase. Open rates are high too, at 41%, with click rates landing at about 9.5%, and ROIs as high as 1,300%. The best part? The lift on a merchant’s end can be minimal. Our comprehensive guide, for instance, includes eight abandoned cart email strategies that can help you boost your revenue through the power of automation.

Ready to win back abandoned shopping carts? Use Wix business tools to automate abandoned cart emails, and help rescue at-risk sales.

Geraldine Feehily

Bogar Alonso

Head of Outbound Marketing, Wix eCommerce

Bogar leads thought leadership and outbound marketing for Wix eCommerce. He has an extremely soft spot for all things eCommerce, retail, tech, content, and marketing.

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