Shopping cart abandonment rates for US online retailers have risen over the past 12 months, with 60% of US seeing abandonment rates of over 20% this year.

This information comes from a survey by the etailing group, so why are so many customers abandoning the process, and what can they do about it?

Another study of US online shoppers by PayPal and comScore found that 45% had abandoned carts more than once over a three week period, leaving behind baskets worth an average of $109.

So what are the reasons for abandonment and what can etailers do to minimise this?

Delivery costs
Not surprisingly, high delivery charges was given by 46% of shoppers as a reason for abandonment. This is something that retailers can solve by offering free shipping where possible (at least over a certain threshold), or by making charges as low as possible, especially in comparison to rivals in their sector.

Also, if customers are reaching the shopping cart and then bailing out due to delivery costs, then this suggests that this has not been effectively communicated until this point, and shoppers may even have gone to the checkout to find out these charges without any strong intention to purchase.

Delivery charges should be made clear on product pages at the very least, and even better if they can be prominently displayed on the homepage and around the site, as B&Q does here with its free delivery offer.

Comparison shopping
37% gave this as a reason for abandonment. These customers possibly had no intention of buying, but wanted to compare total costs with another website.

There is less retailers can do about this, but providing a good user experience and making it easy for them to find the information they want, as well as offering a competitive price, may make it more likely that they will return after their research is complete.

It could also be argued that these shoppers shouldn't have to reach the shopping basket to find out all the price and delivery information they are looking for, as this could be provided on product pages. 

Lack of money
36% abandoned due to lack of money but, apart from being as competitive as possible with pricing, there is little retailers can do about this.

Wanted to look for a coupon
According to the survey, 27% left the cart because they wanted a coupon. Perhaps if coupons are available elsewhere, then customers should be made aware of this.

It could also be argued that having the box to enter a voucher code on the basket page makes customers think they are missing out on a better deal and encourages them to leave the site to look for a coupon. There are some good ideas on how to deal with this issue here.

Wanted to shop offline
Having added items to their carts, 26% decided they would rather buy offline. This may be bad news for pure-plays, but multichannel retailers can do plenty to facilitate this behaviour, by offering reserve and collect services, pointing them towards their local store, and allowing customers to check inventory levels to save wasted journeys.

Both Argos and Halfords have had some success with this kind of multichannel strategy recently, with both retailers seeing an increase in sales through their reserve and collect services.

Couldn’t find preferred payment option
For 24%, the lack of a suitable payment method meant that they abandoned the checkout. To combat this, retailers should look at their customer base and decide whether offering alternatives to debit and credit cards would help them to attract extra business. 

Kiddicare recently introduced a cash payment option via a voucher bought at local PayPoint outlets, and there is evidence to suggest a demand for this and other methods like PayPal and Google Checkout.

Item unavailable at checkout
23% abandoned carts because the item turned out to be unavailable when they arrived there. This is just bad usability, and an excellent way to annoy your customers.

Not displaying out of stock items at all would avoid the problem, though it could be an idea to display that they are unavailable and offer to contact customer when they are back in stock, or to offer alternatives. Whichever option you use, customers should not be finding this out on the shopping cart page.

Couldn’t find customer support
22% were unable to find a contact options. They may have had a query about the product or website that needed to be answered before they went ahead with the purchase, or simply needed some reassurance, so not providing clear contact details can mean lost sales.

Customers need a quick response at this stage of the purchase process, so a clear contact phone number or live chat option should be provided. It should be easy to find on the basket page, but making it available throughout the site, as Glasses Direct does, makes it unmissable.

Security concerns
If 21% are abandoning for this reason, it suggests that some sites are not doing enough to make customers trust them. Displaying clear security information and logos, as well as contact details can all help to address these concerns.

Graham Charlton

Published 30 June, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (6)

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Nic Jones

Nic Jones, Head of Digital at UBER

People will always abandon baskets when the postage is calculated based on what is in the basket. It can be difficult to work out / find the correct postage rate until you have placed items in the basket (unless you have to login first which is a real bug bear).

Retailers need to get smart in this area in particular and either offer flat rate or free delivery.

about 9 years ago



"Retailers need to get smart in this area in particular and either offer flat rate or free delivery."

Easier said than done, especially when you're a smaller retailer depending on dropshippers and their shipping rates are passed on to you which in turn you must pass on to your customer.

about 9 years ago


Ana Aquino

Yeah, the whole shipping industry seems to me difficult to mediate while making the buying process easy and convenient for your customers. I think this is another reason Amazon keeps growing -- the whole free shipping offer is great, and forces folks to make purchases up to the free shipping amount every time.

The last two items on there, however, are more or less inexcusable. Can't find customer support? I hate it when contact numbers are hard to find. And the proper security issue is another one with easy fixes -- most ecommerce sites should have extended validation ssl by now, or use some shopping cart service that offers the green url bar. And yet, 21%...

about 9 years ago


Mark Bolitho, New Business Director - Ecommerce at more2

I'd question the 20% abandonment figure for the UK - certainly most of the online retailers I speak to would kill for an 80% completion rate.

Core Metrics cite the average at around 40% completion (at the last time of reading), and in my experience I'd say that was nearer the benchmark against which people judge their performance.

Certainly, if i speak to someone who's around the 50% mark they're pretty pleased with themselves.

All very valid points made, Graham. Plus, it's pretty easy to lower abandonment by making the process incredibly easy - those undertaking comparative shopping, for example, might just check out if it's all there on one simple page as opposed to a slightly cheaper offering with a 4-stage checkout process.

I'm very happy to say that all our clients are up near that higher level though, and some above it!

about 9 years ago


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

eTailers are often not so keen to admit the kind of abandonment % they average (human nature!).

Certainly, many of the folk I chat to are very pleased when we identify 3 or 5% or whatever drop out due purely to sofware bugs/ infrastructure that stop willing buyers from completing, and that can be easily fixed when the tech team see the detail root causes we identify.

I guess they feel it's a quicker ROI to have some specific and well-defined tech issues fixed than it is to address the greyer area of motivating shoppers better. (and maybe nice for some to be able to blame another team....)


about 9 years ago


Jack Openbaar Spreken

I'm really struggling to reduce shopping cart abandonment. I'm selling info products focussed at openbaar spreken, that's Dutch for public speaking. I've tried a lot of tactics but nothing seems to work. I'll start working on reducing steps in the order process.

over 7 years ago

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