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35 Actionable Tips to Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate

You’ve got amazing products that you know are going to be flying off the shelf immediately. “They're gonna be selling like hotcakes”, you tell yourself, rubbing your hands with anticipation, eyes closed tight, happy smile on your face. Why not, after all? Your drop dead gorgeous e-shop is a piece of art AND a killer converting machine. People are gonna come and they’re gonna stuff their shopping carts like crazy. You’ve got this.

This is the moment of truth.

But then… Strangely… Inexplicably....

Nothing happens.

Well, not exactly. Something did happen, and there was some action going on after all. People added your product to their shopping cart (action 1) — and then they left it to never come back (action 2). That’s what we call shopping cart abandonment, and trust me, these three words are a nightmare come true even to the best online retailers. Whether you're an e-commerce pro or a humble beginner, it's the same struggle.

Shopping cart abandonment rate is as high as 68.63%, says Baymard Institute. This means that almost 70% of your shop visitors that have already gone as far as adding products to their carts and almost becoming your customer, will never be your customer.

But as I always say, never say never.

There’s a number of ways to help reduce high shopping cart abandonment rate. One of them is to understand why it actually happens. Have a look at this graph by Statista that explains the reasons why potential consumers suddenly drop out and leave without paying.


As you see, most of these issues are preventable, but it will take a tweak or three to resolve them.

In this article, I have put together an ultimate list of tips and tricks that you should definitely try out to optimise and boost your sales conversions and improve the shopping cart abandonment rate.

Fighting shopping cart abandonments rate:

Before Abandonment

1. Be transparent about your costs

Remember that time when that flight from a low-cost airline turned out to be expensive? With extra charges for tax and fuel, an additional credit card fee, and a sneaked-in travel insurance that the system chose for you by default, the ticket came out to be not so low-cost in the end. And the majority of people would never EVER buy that ticket. Why? Because once you see the final price, the whole thing starts to feel like a scam. There's no trust in the product anymore.

56% of people abandon their shopping carts when presented with unexpected costs during the checkout process. However, if people are given a proper heads up about how much the product costs, they’re more likely to buy it — even if it’s more expensive.

So what does it mean? Simple. Be transparent from the very beginning and disclose all your costs on shipping, taxes, etc. In other words, be honest with your customer.

2. Offer free shipping

You might have heard about the power of “free” before — Chris Anderson explains it very well in his book that is called, well, “Free” (which I highly recommend). Chris shares a famous case study of Amazon that rolled out free shipping across all its national sites if the order exceeded $25. This was implemented with a mere hope that, if you’d originally planned to buy only one book for, say, $15, a free shopping offer would entice you to buy another book that would bring the total purchase cost to an amount higher than $25. When this feature was rolled out, second-book sales were skyrocketing everywhere. Except from France.

Instead of offering free shipping for the second book, French Amazon was charging 20 cents for it. And while admittedly, 20 cents is ALMOST free, it still appeared to be a huge deal breaker.

As David Bell, Professor of Marketing at University of Pennsylvania, has put it:

For whatever reason, a free shipping offer that saves a customer $6.99 is more appealing to many than a discount that cuts the purchase price by $10 — @davidbnz

Charging for shipping is a HUGE conversion killer. After all, half of merchants out there are already offering free shipping. Customers are so used to the idea of free shipping nowadays that 61% of them will even consider cancelling the order if they have to pay for delivery, says Shopify, referring to a ComScore study.

Another study, carried out by E-tailing Group, has found that unconditional free shipping is a number one criteria for making a purchase. And as if this wasn't enough, another study, this time done by Compete, discovered that free shipping encourages 93% of online shoppers to continue shopping and purchase even more products. Ninety. Three. Per Cent.

I rest my case.

3. Be clear about your return policy

Have you ever experienced a so-called “buyer's remorse”, when you suddenly deeply regret having bought something a minute ago? Some people have that (I definitely do!). Interestingly, however, the anticipation of remorse can sometimes cripple us even before we make a purchase.

To prevent this from happening, give your customers a clear understanding of how your return policy works (tip: it should be free).

Katey Ferenzi from BigCommerce is giving even more useful tips on how to successfully write a return policy in this article. In a nutshell, she recommends to:

— never hide your policy

— never copy paste

— never use over-complicated English

— never use such words as "you must", "you are required" or (the worst of all) "we are not responsible for"

Instead, she advises to clearly outline what customers will expect from you, mentioning if you exchange, offer store credit or give a full refund if a client were to return an item.

4. Reduce the average checkout steps

In 2012, Smashing Magazine looked at the top 100 grossing e-commerce websites and found that on average, it took customers 5.08 steps to complete a checkout. Now, that’s way too many. The checkout process should be short and sweet, otherwise you risk losing 21% of your potential customers. So, if you’re wondering how many steps a perfect checkout process should have, the answer is: the bare minimum. Only ask for essential information, such as nameemail and delivery addresses, and payment method, and never make people fill out the same information twice.

On average, it takes customers 5.08 steps to complete a checkout.

5. Don’t demand too much

Registration shouldn’t be compulsory. Most people already receive myriads of emails and don’t want to be forced to sign up for Yet Another Newsletter. A majority of us have tons of logins and passwords — creating Yet Another One often seems to be more than we can handle. This means that registration shouldn't be compulsory, it should be optional.

Can you remember at least one time when, in order to buy something at a regular brick and mortar store, you were obligated to sign up for a postal newsletter? I bet "no" is the answer, because these things never happen. You don’t need to sign up for anything when you’re buying a perfume in a regular store at Sephora, for example — so why would you need one when you’re buying the same perfume online?

I could mention many more reasons to offer a “guest checkout” to your customers, but perhaps the most powerful of all is that by allowing customers to check out anonymously, you will significantly boost your sales. Guest checkout accounts for 16% of total deals sales, reaching up to 43% when it comes to mobile shoppers.

Calvin Klein knows this well, and that's the reason they enable a clean, simple guest checkout opportunity for every potential customer.


6. Have a clear progress indicator

A small tweak, and yet a huge game changer at the same time, a progress bar is basically a finish line that motivates people to complete the shopping race. Let people know that there’s the light at the end of the tunnel! Not only will this alleviate the worry of being all caught up in a long-lasting checkout process, but it will also reinforce the goal they set for themselves (i.e. make the purchase) and make them want to achieve it.


A progress bar by Net-A-Porter

7. Make your content shoppable

While there are many reasons you should be blogging as a brand, the problem with traditional blogging — or traditional content marketing — is that it’s hard to see direct sales from it.

Think about it.

From the moment you discover an article, to the Aha! moment when you realise that you want to buy the product mentioned in it, to the Finally! moment when the product already lies in the shopping cart, you have to go through a number of never-ending stages and processes where many potential customers get “lost in translation”.

On the contrary, if your content is directly shoppable, i.e. if people can buy products directly from it, people can add items to their shopping carts right away — and as a result, buy more.


8. Remove distractions

If you want to keep people focused on completing the order, you need to remove all distractions that urge people to click elsewhere, such as the menu navigation, unnecessary calls-to action, etc. After all, our attention span is smaller than one of a goldfish, remember? And according to scientists, it’s only getting worse.

9. Be smart about your calls-to-action (CTAs)

Since we mentioned CTAs, take a moment to really think if your call to action really screams “Click me!” to your website visitors. Does it attract enough attention? Does it have a powerful look? I personally love this “Clockwork Conversion Wheel” that helps to determine the perfect colour for a perfect CTA button: