What is Shopping Cart Abandonment?

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  • Written By: Robyn Clark
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2019
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Shopping cart abandonment is a phrase used by online retailers to describe the situation in which a customer adds an item to an online shopping cart but then fails to complete the checkout process to purchase the item. Estimates vary, but some experts put the rate of shopping cart abandonment as high as 60 to 70%. Removing the barriers to purchasing, and reducing the rate of abandonment, is a top priority for online retailers. The reasons for shopping cart abandonment are as diverse as the customers themselves. Common reasons given include wanting to purchase at a later date, confusion over additional costs like shipping, and not wanting to register prior to purchase.

Price is a common factor in many cases of shopping cart abandonment. Online consumers often visit many sites before deciding to complete a purchase. A customer may be using the shopping cart to provide an estimate of the total cost of the purchase, with tax and shipping costs, and without the intent of purchasing. The additional cost of shipping and handling may be a barrier in itself, if a consumer has decided to purchase but thinks that the additional costs are too high. One recommendation for reducing the rate of shopping cart abandonment is to offer a range of shipping options, and to make any additional costs clear up front.


Confusion over the checkout process is the most common reason for shopping cart abandonment when a customer is ready and willing to purchase. Experts have recommended that online retailers simplify the process as much as possible, and limit the total number of steps required to complete a purchase. Depending on the software, the information a customer has previously entered may be cleared if there is an error in a particular field. Consumers who have made repeated errors may become frustrated at having to re-enter information, and may abandon the process. There are shopping cart software packages available that feature an in-line error check, and will let the customer know when a field is incorrect without clearing the other fields on the page.

Security and privacy can also be serious barriers to online shopping. Prominently placing security symbols near the buttons for completing the purchase can reduce the rate of shopping cart abandonment, as can clearly posting security and privacy policies. Another option is offering a guest checkout feature, to allow consumers to make a purchase without having to register for an account and have the site save information to a personal profile.

The more confident and secure a customer feels when shopping online, the more likely it is that he or she will complete the checkout process. Providing support through telephone contact information or by having customer service representatives available to answer questions immediately through an online chat feature can significantly reduce the rate of shopping cart abandonment. Even with clear information and support, a customer may not be ready to buy that day. In this case, having the option to save the contents of the cart will make it more likely that the customer will complete the purchase on a future visit to the site. Using email promotions to follow up with customers who have saved items can help convert a saved cart into a completed purchase and increase sales.


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Post 2

I didn't realize these online merchants could keep track of shopping cart abandonment like that. I just assumed if I didn't go through with the final payment, those items in my shopping cart would just disappear at some point. I have a lot of items saved in "wish list" shopping carts around the Internet, and sometimes I'll come back to them months later when I come into enough money to buy them. It's not unusual for one or two items to come up missing, especially if I haven't logged into those sites since last year.

Post 1

I have to say I'm guilty of shopping cart abandonment myself. It mostly happens when I visit a site that doesn't offer free shipping or a membership discount. One time I found a book that I wanted to buy at an online bookstore, and it was on sale for $3.99 at the time. I went through the rather complicated checkout process, then discovered that the shipping cost would be $3.99 as well. I didn't feel like paying that much for just one item, so I left it in the hosted shopping cart.

My thought process was that I would return for that book once I had a need to purchase other items through that website. If I ordered more than $35 in goods, the shipping would have been free. That made more economic sense to me than paying just as much in shipping as the cost of the product.

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