Business growth

13 proven ways to reduce shopping cart abandonment

By Heine Aaen Hansen
On 13 September 2017

Loads of visitors leave your online store without buying. 

In fact, studies suggest that up to 69 % of visitors that put something in the basket leave your page without making a purchase. Bummer, eh?

Shopping cart abandonment, as it’s been termed, is one of the biggest threats to e-commerce stores all over the world. Period.

There are loads of reasons why visitors behave this way, and we’ll get into some of them in a bit. But what I want to focus on here is what you can do about it.

I’m talking about solutions. Of the kind that are worth millions of dollars. In this article, I’ll share 13 proven ways to reduce shopping cart abandonment. For each of the tips below, I’ve tried to give you a concrete action that you can take to implement it. Enjoy.

1. Show prices up front

One of the main reasons people abandon their shopping carts is (unexpected) high shipping costs. Generally, any unexpected extra cost is detrimental to the customer completing the purchase.

If you don’t believe me, check out this study showing that 61% of people abandoning their shopping cart did so due to high shipping costs.

Several studies paint the same picture:

Customers don’t like extra costs.

I’m not saying you should necessarily offer free shipping – I’ve heard many businesses say that even though free shipping increased conversions, so did the return rates – but I’m saying you should consider the effect of unexpected shipping costs on your conversion rate.

An idea might be to set an amount limit that triggers free shipping. For instance, ‘free shipping with 50 Euro minimum purchase’. This might just motivate your customers to spend a few extra bucks in your store.

Also, if you’re based in Europe, note that from January 1st, 2018, you cannot surcharge (push the payment card fee onto your customers) under the regulations of the European Union.

Don’t: 
Throw unexpected costs at your customers when they’re about to make the purchase.

Do: 
Show prices up front, or consider free shipping with a minimum purchase.

2. Show steps in checkout

When a customer makes a purchase on your website, she goes through a number of steps. Usually, there are at least three steps.

  • Entering delivery address (and sometimes billing address, if they differ)

  • Choosing payment method

  • Entering payment information and approving purchase

And there might be more, depending on your e-commerce platform. To help your customer through the checkout process, show a progress bar with the number of steps your checkout consists of – and on which step the customer currently is.

 



Several studies have shown that people want progress bars.

The reason is that we humans like to achieve our goals (in this case completing the purchase), and a progress bar helps us understanding and achieving our goal. It makes it easier for us to manage the task at hand.

This is a quick fix. If you don’t do this already, please take the time to fix this. Your customers will thank you.

Don’t: 
Hide the number of steps from your customer.

Do: 
Use a progress bar to show the steps of your checkout.

3. Don’t ask customers to create account before purchase

I get why some website owners do this.


When customers have to create an account prior to purchase, it makes it a lot easier for them to purchase from you next time. (Plus you get a hook in them. You can add them to your email list, use their email for retargeting on Facebook and Google, and you can build a relationship that will eventually lead to more sales). 

However …

You don’t bring a wedding ring on the first date, do you?

This is exactly what you’re doing to potential customers when asking them to create an account. You’re asking them to commit to a long-term relationship - even before they’re finished shopping. Consider the level of trust this involves on their behalf:

Maybe they just got to your page from an online search? 

Maybe they want to see the product, see how fast you deliver the items, try the shopping experience before committing to a relationship with you? 

Maybe they just want to see what the final price will be (please reread tip #1 in this article)?

Studies indicate that forcing customers to create an account to make a purchase is one of the most common reasons for shopping cart abandonment. You’re smarter than that.

Instead of asking them to marry you right away, this is what you do: 

Ask them if they want to create an account after they’ve completed the purchase.

That way they’ll see how fast, smooth and easy your checkout was before you ask them to commit to you. Also, when they completed the payment, they have a sense of doing something right – which is a psychological state you can build on.

When we’ve said yes once (and they’ve just said yes to buy from you), we’re more likely to say yes again. That’s the psychological effect called 'consistency' working for you

Therefore, allow visitors to checkout without creating an account.

Don’t: 
Force customers to create an account.

Do: 
Allow guest checkout – and ask them to create an account after the purchase.

4. Use social proof

First, you create trust, and then you sell. I don’t know the origin of the above quote, but I’ve got to say I LOVE IT.

If you don’t manage to establish a sense of trust in your visitor, she isn’t going to buy from you. It’s really that simple. So what do you do to create trust?

You use social proof. 

There’s a reason that all the best e-commerce websites scatter customer testimonials and product reviews all over their pages. It works.

Social proof means that we rely on the actions of others and adapt our own behavior accordingly in a given situation.

For instance, we look at what other people have purchased and what they thought of the product before we make up our own minds. And when considering a specific company to provide us a service, we’d like to see what other customers have to say about the company or, at least, confirm that others did, in fact, choose this company. 

So how do you do this?

Well, for an e-commerce site, there are basically two things you need to do:

  • Make the customer trust that it’s safe to purchase from you.

  • Make the customer trust that the product they found is the right choice.

To make potential customers trust your site, you can use testimonials from actual customers, or show your rating or reviews from Google Reviews, Trustpilot or similar services.

When it comes to making sure the customer has found the right product, there’s simply no better way than showing reviews of the product at hand. Many online shoppers trust reviews just as much as they would a personal recommendation, and if you’re in this game to win, you better leverage this type of user-generated content.

Here’s how Nike does it:

And a bit further down on the product page you can find the actual reviews:

Another way to create trust is to use the authority of others. And what do I mean by that?

Show logos that people know and trust already. For instance, the logos of Visa and Mastercard (not only to lend some of their authority to create trust, but also to show which payment options they have).

Or you could show one or more trust badges. You know the type: Norton, McAfee, Better Business Bureau, GeoTrust, Trustwave, etc. There’s a million of them.

Several studies have shown that trust badges may significantly increase conversion rates on e-commerce sites.

Don’t: 
Let it be up to your potential customers to imagine what other people say about your online store.

Do: 
Show customer testimonials, product reviews, and company logos on crucial pages of your website.

5. Show benefits on checkout pages

If you clicked on any of the studies above, you’ll have seen that window shopping is another reason people abandon their carts. What do you think they’re doing?

They are comparing offers. They’re looking at your site as well as your competitors’ sites to see who has the best offer.

Therefore: Make sure to display your unique selling points on your checkout pages.

It might look something like this:

Or this:

Maybe the customer already knows your USP’s. But maybe a reminder would be just the trigger that convinces them to choose you? 

It’s worth a try.

Don’t: 
Expect that your customers remember your USP’s.

Do: 
Show your USP’s on checkout pages to convince window shoppers.

6. Let visitors save their basket

Another way to draw in those window shoppers is the possibility to save a basket for later.

Let’s be honest:

Sometimes online shoppers leave a full basket only to return later and place the order. Sometimes we even return repeatedly to an ongoing order before purchasing. I know I’m guilty …

Make it easy for customers to return to an order. Let them complete the purchase when they have time.

There are several ways to do this: One way is to make them sign in to their accounts (but this is not a good idea – check tip #3). Another is to use cookies to save their carts – making it literally effortless for the customer. However, as a privacy minded consumer, I urge you, please be honest about the data you store.

Don’t: 
Expect that shoppers necessarily complete their purchase on the first visit.

Do: 
Make it easy for visitors to return to their basket.

7. Show related products

We’ve talked about the importance of showing related products before

A common argument for this practice is that it increases conversion rates. But we can take a more practical look at this, too:

What if a potential customer ended up on one of your product pages, but the product didn’t quite match what she was looking for? In this case, a display of related products might just include the desired item.

Also, by showing the customer related products, you’re basically showing her all the stuff that she could buy, but won’t. That’s money saved right there!

I’m not even kidding. When we’ve made a choice, our brain immediately starts finding arguments that support the decision, for example by downplaying the disadvantages of said choice or ignoring the advantages of the discarded choice.

This mental process is called post-purchase rationalization, and by showing your customer related products, you might just be able to feed that process in some of your more shopping-happy customers.

How you do this, is a matter of opinion. You could show a selection of related products right there on the product page, in a separate step when the customer puts something in the shopping bag, or directly on the checkout pages. It’s up to you.

Don’t: 
Let the customer slip away because she didn’t initially find exactly what she was looking for.

Do: 
Show related products to entice potential cart abandoners.

8. Show a thumbnail on checkout pages

During checkout, show a thumbnail image of the product(s) being purchased. 

The reason you do this is to assure the customer of what they’re doing - in essence, reminding them of the products they’re buying.

It’s probably not very likely that a customer will forget what she is purchasing (unless she’s on some kind of shopping spree), but say that she is comparing several online stores before making her purchase. In that case, with a thumbnail, it’s easy for her to see the exact product she’s about to buy from you.

Also, as with almost all other techniques for reducing shopping cart abandonment, it’s about removing friction and getting rid of distractions.

When a thumbnail of the product is right there in front of the customer, it will reinforce the customer’s desire to buy the product. And if the customer hesitates, the thumbnail of the products will reduce the risk of her abandoning the cart.

Don’t: 
Leave it to the customer to remember what (and why) they’re buying.

Do: 
Show thumbnails of the purchased products in the checkout process.

9. Don’t ask for info you don’t need

One often cited reason for shopping cart abandonment is when e-commerce sites ask for seemingly unnecessary information.

This information could be the customer’s phone number, date of birth or other personal information.

Now, you might have a valid reason for asking about this piece of information, but how should the customer know your reason if you don’t tell them?

The reason you ask for specific information should be either self-evident to the customer, or you need to explain why it is necessary. What do you need it for? And, please, explain why this helps the customer. (And if it doesn’t help the customer, consider why you are really asking for it.)

Think about it this way:

If the customer already gave you her email address, why should she provide her phone number as well? In her view, you already have a means of contacting her, so why do you need another?

The solution here is two-fold: Look at the information you’re asking for during checkout, and decide whether it’s need-to-have or nice-to-have. If it falls into the latter category, cut it.

If what you’re asking for is absolutely necessary, then you can either make the field optional or explain why you need this information.

That might go something like ‘We only use your phone number in case of any problems with your order’.

That little addition to your form might be enough to reduce the fear and hesitation of your customer. Now she knows why you’re asking for this piece of information.

Don’t: 
Ask for unnecessary information.

Do: 
Explain why you ask for a given piece of information – or cut it!

10. Hide fields for coupon codes

You know what I do the second I see a coupon code field during checkout on a webstore?

I leave the site. Because I want to find a coupon code I can use to save a few percent. That’s not exactly what you want your customers to do when they’ve placed an item in the cart, is it?

Therefore, you should only show fields for coupon codes to visitors who came to your site via an offer or promotion.

Hide the coupon box to all other visitors. You don’t want to distract them during checkout. 

If anything, you can replace the box with a short text saying something like “Got a coupon code? Click here.” Your developer can help you set up this sneaky feature.

Don’t: 
Show coupon code fields to all visitors as they might get distracted and leave your site.

Do: 
Hide coupon code fields to regular visitors, and only show it to people who came to your site via a promotion.

11. Show the number of items in stock

When potential customers are looking at a product on your site, still contemplating whether or not to buy, maybe they just need a tiny bit of motivation.

One way to give them that is to show how many items of the product you have in stock. For instance, if you only have 2 left of the sweet t-shirt I’m looking at, I better buy mine right now.

This well-known marketing strategy is called ‘scarcity’. In short, scarcity is about limiting the availability of a product in order to increase the drive to purchase. You know: 

“Only 3 left – get yours now!”

When a customer sees that there are only a few items left in stock – and maybe even sees that there are currently 8 others looking at the same item – she’ll be motivated to make the purchase right away.

A close relative of scarcity’s that you should know is ‘urgency’, which means limiting the time a specific offer is available.

Again, you know the drill: 

“Order before Monday, and get 20 % off!”

Be sure to include a countdown clock on the product pages to show the customer that time is running out – they need to act now.

You could also use a countdown clock showing the time left if you are to send the order the same day.

As in: 

“Order before 1 hour and 37 minutes, and we’ll send your order today!”

And a little bonus tip: Show your customer a time-limited offer after they’ve purchased. 

On the confirmation page, you include a fantastic offer on a product that is relevant or related to the products purchased, and a little timer showing that the offer is only available for two hours. 

Nice little feat, eh?

Don’t: 
Miss out on this huge opportunity to create motivation to buy.

Do: 
Show how many items of the product you have left in stock on your product pages.

12. Offer lower prices on products left in cart

Some customers will inevitably abandon their carts. 

But that doesn’t mean you’ve lost them! 

Whenever a potential customer's left a full cart, lower the price on the items in the basket and show her the offer. Most people like to feel special – and we love to get good offers.

Drop the price by a few bucks, and more than half of shoppers will complete the purchase. There are, at least, two ways to do this:

  • Retargeting on Facebook or Google.

  • Emails with a link to the abandoned cart.

I’d suggest you try both and see what works for you. But please be aware of any legal restrictions in your country.

Don’t: 
Consider an abandoned cart the end.

Do: 
Offer a lowered price to win back the customer.

13. Offer multiple payment options

When your customer has finally reached the end of your checkout and is ready to hand over them dollars, wouldn’t it be a shame if she decided to leave because you don’t offer her favorite payment option? 

I’d say yes.

And a limited selection of payment options is yet another common reason for shopping cart abandonment. After all, if the customer is ready to purchase, but doesn’t find her favorite method, wouldn’t it be easier to buy from someone else?

During checkout, you want the experience to be as easy, intuitive, and hassle-free as humanly possible. You definitely don’t want to make the customer think. A seamless payment experience should be your goal.

Consider which payment cards, wallets, and methods to offer in order to meet all your customers’ needs.

And as the use of mobile devices for online shopping increases, don’t forget to offer payment options that are built for mobile experiences.

Don’t: 
Expect your customer to favor your payment method of choice.

Do:
Offer a selection of payment options.

Conclusion

As you’ve seen above, there are many things you can do to reduce shopping cart abandonment on your e-commerce site. 

Implement all of the tips, and I guarantee that your conversion rates will go up, up, up. 

Try some of them, and let me know how it went.

Did I miss any brilliant tips on avoiding shopping cart abandonment? I’d love to hear from you! Get in touch on emailFacebook, or Twitter

Heine Aaen Hansen

Marketing and content at Bambora. When not writing, I'm reading. Book aficionado, word nerd, and helpless dad.

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