How To Reduce & Reclaim Abandoned Shopping Carts
Imagine walking into a grocery store only to encounter row after row of filled-to-the-brim shopping carts. What exactly has happened here? Has there been a zombie apocalypse? Have hundreds of people gone to the trouble of filling up their shopping carts only to ditch them at the last minute? Why would anyone do that?
You likely don’t find this type of abandoned shopping cart epidemic in brick-and-mortar stores, but in the digital world, it’s a real issue.
Online shopping cart abandonment is not just infuriating, it’s also widespread. The Baymard Institute reports an average shopping cart abandonment rate of 69.57%. That’s a lot of money being left at the door.
What if you could prevent some of that from happening? What if you could recover even a small percentage of those abandoned sales? Think about how much more money your online store could make if even 10% of those customers actually completed their transactions. It’s certainly worth making the effort. To start, you must first understand why customers abandon their carts — and how you can entice them to stay.
Table of Contents
- What Is An Abandoned Shopping Cart?
- Why Do Customers Abandon Their Carts?
- How To Prevent & Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment
- Tips For Regaining Customers That Abandoned Shopping Carts
- Final Thoughts
What Is An Abandoned Shopping Cart?
Any time customers leave your website after having placed items into their online shopping cart, that is considered an abandoned shopping cart. There are lots of reasons for customers to abandon, and not all of those reasons are within your control. The good news is there’s plenty you can do to reduce your abandonment rate, even if you can’t realistically hope to eliminate it forever.
The eCommerce platform you use likely collects information about abandoned carts, and it shouldn’t be hard to find. On Shopify, for example, you would simply select Orders, and then look at Abandoned Checkouts to examine each transaction. On WooCommerce, you’ll need to download and install a free plugin, Cart Reports, to gain information about abandoned carts.
But once you know which customers are leaving your online store empty-handed, what’s your next step?
Why Do Customers Abandon Their Carts?
Here’s the tricky thing: You can’t escape cart abandonment altogether. Some people are just looking, some are comparing prices, some are making wish lists for themselves or for gift-giving. It’s important to understand that shopping cart abandonment is just a sad reality of online selling. However, it’s well worth your effort to convert even a fraction of those would-be buyers.
Before you can really begin to resolve your abandonment issues, you first must understand where they come from. In a qualitative study of reasons for abandonment, Baymard Institute identified the following factors among 6,560 responses (excluding “I was just browsing.”). The responses are rated according to their frequency, with the most common at the top of the list.
- Extra Costs Such As Shipping, Taxes & Fees
- Requirement To Create An Account
- Checkout Process Too Long Or Too Complicated
- Total Cost Hidden Up Front
- Delivery Options Too Slow
- Site Didn’t Seem Trustworthy
- Website Crashed Or Had Errors
- Inadequate Returns Policy
- Not Enough Payment Options
- Credit Card Declined
Looking at that list, one thing should jump out at you: most mention factors that are within your control. Take a moment to think about which items your customers would list as their top reasons. Do your best to nail down a few of the key reasons customers leave your site without purchasing. One of the easiest ways to do that is to have a few friends and family members try out your site as if for the first time. They can help you identify problems in your sales funnel that may be discouraging potential customers from completing their online orders.
Even if you still aren’t certain why customers are ditching before buying, there are a few steps you can take to make abandonment less likely and to recover the carts that are left behind.
How To Prevent & Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment
The best way to treat a problem is to prevent it in the first place. Here are three ways you can optimize your site to stop abandonment before it happens.
1. Streamline Your Checkout Process
Boost your conversion rates by making checkout as painless as possible.
One-page checkout is an excellent way to speed customers through checkout (especially for those shopping on a small screen like a cellphone), and it’s built into most popular online store builders, including BigCommerce, Magento, Volusion, and 3dcart. If one-page checkout isn’t available with your platform (if you’re a Shopify customer, for example), consider adding it via an outside application.
If you choose to not go with a single page checkout, you should at least make sure that customers know how far along they are in the checkout process. A simple “Page 1 of 3” at the top of your checkout will indicate to customers that the end is coming soon.
Add an option for guest checkout, too, if you don’t already have it. You may not capture all the information you’d like to gain about each shopper, but if they complete the sale, they may return as a satisfied customer who’s likely to trust you enough to create an account the second time they shop your site.
2. Guarantee Security
Customers are leery about entering personal information and credit card numbers as they shop online. Ease their anxieties by making it abundantly clear that your site is secure and reliable.
Looks are everything in the eCommerce industry. Your site should appear clean and professional from start to finish. A cluttered or poorly executed checkout page will raise warning flags for your customer, and they may abandon their purchases. At the bottom of each page, you should proudly display your SSL seal along with any other security features your site uses.
3. Don’t Hide Total Costs
Remember, extra or hidden costs are a top reason for shopping cart abandonment. So if you know that you’re going to add taxes, shipping charges, or any extra fees, don’t make it a surprise at checkout. If there will be a $10 fee for monogramming shirts or towels, say so on the product page. If you’re required to collect taxes or shipping fees, add the words “plus applicable taxes” or “plus shipping” to your product prices. You don’t necessarily have to list hard numbers; you can soften the blow simply by making customers aware of the extras before they get to the payment page.
4. Acknowledge That Returns Happen
Like abandoned shopping carts, customer returns are an unavoidable part of running an online store. It may feel counterintuitive to talk about encouraging customers to return items before they’ve even completed their purchase. But it’s hugely reassuring to customers to know that they can take a chance on your products because they have the option of returning those items to you. A simply stated, reassuring return policy can nudge nervous shoppers into making the purchase.
5. Rethink Shipping Costs
Let’s face it, nobody likes paying for shipping! You may not be competing with giants of eCommerce, like Amazon, but you’re definitely being measured against their generosity regarding no-cost shipping options. So can you lower shipping costs or absorb them somehow?
One option is to raise your prices slightly to at least partially offset shipping costs, so you can offer free shipping to customers. You might set a certain price point as a threshold for free shipping, such as $100. Or you could offer free shipping on recurring orders and subscriptions, wagering that the reliable revenue stream will offset the extra costs. One word of caution: If your free shipping option involves slower delivery times, be sure to acknowledge that and give customers the choice of waiting longer or paying for speed.
Tips For Regaining Customers That Abandoned Shopping Carts
Even if you create the cleanest and smoothest checkout funnel possible, some customers are still going to leave their carts at checkout. At this point, the only way to recover a lost sale is through a clever email marketing campaign.
When you’re setting up an email marketing campaign, you should keep a few things in mind.
Remember, a customer recovery email has one purpose: to bring a customer back to complete a purchase. It’s not the time to promote new products. This is not a newsletter; it is an abandoned cart recovery email and any extra material will only interfere with that purpose.
In your email, make sure to include the products left in the shopping cart along with product images. You should also list price, shipping, and tax charges, and offer support via a phone call or live chat in case the customer needs additional assistance.
At the end of the email, place your call to action: a “Complete My Purchase Now” or “Return to Checkout” button should work just fine. Make sure your links redirect your customers to their checkout page (and make sure that it works on mobile devices as well).
Time Your Messages Appropriately
Let’s assume you’ve decided to send three separate messages in your email series. You should send your first email within one to three hours after the customer has left checkout. The second email should come 24 hours later, and the third a few days later. Sending messages too soon (or too close together) will simply annoy the customers, and sending messages too late will make them less likely to return to the ordering process.
Discounts are a great way to motivate shoppers who are still on the fence about their purchases. If you choose to send out discount offers, include them in your second and third emails, but not in the first. You don’t want to lower your profit margins before it’s necessary. Give your email campaign a chance to work first.
Know When To Stop
Bombarding shoppers with constant communications is a surefire way to lose customers. Perhaps worse, your overzealous approach could show up as a negative in future online reviews of your business. Make sure to discontinue the email campaign after your customer goes through with a purchase, and double-check your email marketing rules to ensure that customers don’t get a new email series for every item they add to cart.
As always, you should test your new sales strategies to find out what will work best for your business.
There are lots of ways you can go about this. You can try A/B testing to find the email format that leads to the highest click-through rate. Or, you can use your platform’s analytics features (or Google Analytics’s “Enhanced Ecommerce”) to monitor your store’s traffic and abandoned cart rate.
Find out what works for you, and then stick with it. With any luck, you’ll start turning a few of those full carts into fully realized sales.