Reduce shopping cart abandonment and boost conversion with these proven methods

Jan 28, 2021 - 16 Minutes read
Reduce shopping cart abandonment and boost conversion with these proven methods

The bane of online merchants

Now, here’s the hard truth and you’re not going to like this one. But unfortunately, you just cannot stop shopping cart abandonment try whatever you may. I know how that sounds, especially if you’re someone who’s deliberating on setting up your very first online store.

What you can do, however, is reduce the percentage of shopping cart abandonment on your eCommerce store and even recover from it. Which, as you might be guessing, is not really a walk in the park, but it’s not rocket science either. 

And we’re going to show you how exactly you can achieve that feat by sharing some proven methods that even leading names in the eCommerce industry adhere to. But before that, let’s dive a bit into why this dreaded phenomenon really takes place, using market statistics to back us up.

Primary reasons that lead to abandoned carts

Did you know that a staggering 88.05% of shopping carts were abandoned globally in March 2020? The automotive industry scored the highest abandonment rate at 96.88%. While many shoppers add items to cart and proceed towards the checkout simply to find out what the total cost, including shipping, is going to be, there are many other reasons behind the high abandonment rate.

Rate of abandoned carts in 2020 by their respective industriesSource:

In fact, many shoppers who do have serious intentions of buying find themselves discouraged for a variety of reasons that are quite reasonable, to be honest. The following graph gives a list of the top reasons for customers not following up with their checkouts.

Reasons for Shopping Cart AbandonmentSource:

1. High or unexpected shipping costs

This one is literally a mood killer for even the most serious buyers. And I totally understand their disappointment, especially after they put in copious amounts of time pouring through offers to select one that fits their budget and requirements, feeding necessary information including shipping details, only to be confronted with some additional or unexpected charges.
That’s a valid reason for cart abandonment and to lose customers to competition with lower shipping rates.

2. Failed or no coupon codes

Bargain hunters constitute a big chunk of online shoppers and they literally scour the internet for discount and promo codes matching their product requirements. And there will be tons of merchants offering such codes.
So, in case you have no codes to offer them or, worse still, you offer codes that don’t work, then your loss be your competitors' gain.

3. Delivery period too long

Choosing to purchase online instead of from a store itself shows the willingness of the buyer to adjust with a reasonable waiting period for the product to be delivered. However, if the delivery time you offer stretches beyond their expectations enough to be deemed unreasonable, then they’ll rather abandon your offer and move to a store with a quicker delivery time.

4. Payment method reliability concerns / limited payment options

Most buyers are always on guard when shopping online, and if you ask a lot of personal information, that’ll trigger their reliability issues. Also, if you support limited payment methods or options that buyers are not comfortable using, they would rather look for other merchants that offer their desired options.

5. Lengthy checkout process

Online shoppers don’t like spending too much time filling forms that ask for tons of information or completing several steps to reach the checkout stage. Swift shopping experience is the reason they chose online shopping over walking to a physical store.
So, if your site demands a long process to reach the checkout stage, you can be sure not many will have the patience to wait that long.

6. Forced user/account registration

This one is a big no-no, especially for buyers who are first time users on your store. Several shoppers are simply one-time buyers and have no intentions of coming back.
In such a case, forcing them to register by setting a username and password will not only elongate their purchase, but immediately push them away because of their reluctance in creating a profile that they won’t even remember later.

7. Insufficient or missing returns & refund policy

If you don’t offer or share a clear returns & refund policy that’s distinctly visible on your website, buyers will think twice before making a purchase. Without a pre-purchase sign of assurance that guarantees returns and refunds in case the product has issues, including wrong item, damaged item or not matching buyer’s expectations, there would be very few takers.

8. Sites with poor navigation or slow loading speed

If you’re still not giving enough importance to this factor, then you simply won’t stop losing valuable customers. Believe me, very few shoppers have the patience to endure the experience of poor site navigation to go on a wild goose chase for the product/s they need, much less proceed for checkout.
Add to that a slow page loading website and you can kiss your prospective customers goodbye.

9. Limited quantity purchase

Although not really a serious reason for cart abandonment, but setting minimum or even maximum purchase limits on the quantity of products a customer can buy could very well chase them away. I mean, it would make sense if you’re setting a minimum & maximum purchase quantity while running a sale or promotional offer, but other than that, it’s just one more reason for shoppers to dump your site for another.

How to reduce cart abandonment rate: Best practices

We’ve collated for you some of the best practices in reducing the rate of abandoned carts that even leading eCommerce companies swear by. Follow these steps religiously and you’ll notice a drastic drop in cart abandonment in your next quarter analysis.

1. Remove cost ambiguity

Since high shipping cost is the top reason for cart abandonment, we’ll start with this one. Be as transparent as you can with the shipping costs and other additional charges, preferably on the product page itself.

Many buyers look for free shipping offers on reaching a certain purchase limit. So, if you intend to include such offers, make it clear to the buyers while they are on the product page. This step actually has great marketing value when you think about it.

Additionally, you could even add a shipping calculator if needed. And even if you can’t afford to offer free shipping, there are several shipping strategies that you can adopt to rake in profits and keeps customers happy at the same time.

Standard shipping, which more often than not don’t offer track & trace, is easily the most shunned option among buyers while free shipping is the most popular. Your best best would be to stay somewhere in between, which you can achieve by adopting one of the following strategies, although I’d still like to include free shipping in the list because there are ways to work around and still make good profits.

  • Flat rate / table rate shipping: Flat rate shipping is one technique that several online merchants, including industry leaders, adopt for increased conversion. According to this shipping option, buyers pay a flat rate for any order value or volume.
    This shipping option is quite popular among bulk order buyers since they can get maximum orders for a fixed amount. However, the flat rate can be restricted to, say, a certain weight limit.
    Fortunately for you, you can avail flat rate offers from leading carriers like UPS, FedEx and even USPS. Table rate shipping is more of a customized option based on factors like weight, order volume and order value.
    Click here to know more about table rate shipping.
  • Real time shipping rate: This is probably the safest option that online merchants can adopt. Real time shipping rates are generated straight from the carriers, removing you from the equation of coming up with the best rate for an order.
    It’s a win-win for both merchants and the buyers because the shipping rate will be exactly what the carrier will charge without any additional costs. Customers will get the best rates and merchants will waylay competition in the area.
    Real time rate is variable, giving merchants the flexibility to even reduce the rate if the customer resides near your distribution center. Read here to know how you can get real time rates from various carriers on your online store.
  • Free shipping: Undeniably the most potent customer grabber, this shipping option is an area that should tread cautiously if you must. While it will bring in more customers because of the offer, at the same time it will reduce your profit margin or even diminish it if you’re not careful.
    A smart way to go about it would be to offer free shipping only for products are lightweight or where you’re making a sizeable profit to cover the shipping cost. Free shipping can also be a powerful marketing strategy, which can lead to more conversions.
Amazon’s free shipping policy is the biggest reason behind growing Amazon Prime subscriptionSource:

Here are some more suggestions for shipping policies that you should keep in mind:

  • Fixed shipping for each order, irrespective of the size of the order - Add the shipping charges right below the price of the product at the browsing stage.
  • Shipping cost according to weight and volume of the order or based on the number of items you purchase - Add a ‘Shipping Calculator’ link on the product page so buyers know how much they’ll have to pay even before they add to cart or proceed to checkout.
  • Shipping cost based on location of the buyer - Prompt customer to enter their zip code to ascertain the shipping availability, options and cost.
  • Clear shipping policy & customs requirement warnings for international shipping - Whether you’re offering customs clearance included in the price or whether the buyer pays the customs duty, make sure that the message is clear enough.
    You can even provide a link directing them to their country’s customs office website for more clarity. As for shipping, be forthright with the cost and about the carrier options.

2. Optimize your shipping for faster delivery

Offering the quickest delivery service while maintaining maximum profitability isn’t the easiest of tasks, as you will find out when you start your online store. For one, shipping can be an expensive affair if you choose to go with express delivery services from industry leading carriers like DHL, FedEx, UPS and TNT.

The hardest part will always be maintaining a balance between being able to offer fast delivery and ensuring low operational costs, because there’ll also be that goal of increasing conversion and expanding your delivery map.

If you’re a beginner, it would be a good idea to start with a narrower shipping zone scope to reduce costs and still offer efficient shipping. As your business grows and so does your ability to afford a higher cost shipping solutions, you can move to a broader shipping zone.

Click here to know how distance can have an effect on the shipping cost and delivery time. With more and more shoppers leaning towards delivery speed as the foremost expectation from an online merchant, the competition among the latter has stiffened further.

Offers like same-day and next-day delivery are the result of merchants vying for dominance in the market. In case you feel tempted to follow this strategy as a quick reputation building exercise, I suggest you read this article by McKinsey where they break down the same-day strategy to reveal the hidden perils.

Delivering ordered products in the quickest time is not the only thing that you should focus on, because several other elements go into the perfect shopping experience. Here are some pro tips to optimize your delivery process and give your customers their money’s worth:

  • Adopt a very simple order processing system to cut down on unnecessary steps that would only go on to delay the delivery of the product.
  • Ensure that the communication between the order receiving center and the distribution center is quick and efficient for the shortest turnaround time in packing and shipping.
  • Always store the products in categorized sections where you can find them quickly without rummaging around a disorganized array of products.
  • Know your shipping partners, especially when you have to decide who to choose for specific orders. Some carrier may be good for local deliveries, some for international.
    You need to be able to remember that so you don’t have to check up on which one to choose and waste time in the process.
  • Make sure your customers are informed about the status of their product’s journey through real time updates. Almost all carriers offer real time updates, but you can integrate an API of your own.
  • If you ship your products internationally, it would be a good idea to inform customers about the approximate time that customs clearance would take up, and possibly offer customs declaration on your site itself.
FedEx SameDay City is a unique delivery option available in many US cities for on-time delivery serviceSource:

3. Offer multiple payment options

One of the choicest mistakes you can make is offer just one or very few payment options to your customers. And I don’t even understand how it should be a problem to integrate multiple payment options.

I mean, it should be a given that you don’t forget this step, unless you want to lose out on a horde of prospective buyers. Customers want as many payment options as possible to choose the one that suits them best. Period.

So, internet banking, PayPal, credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Maestro), digital wallets and Pay on Delivery should be the payment options available for your customers if you want better conversion.

You could even take it a step further and offer interest-free payment in installments option, which can be a game changer in boosting your business if you play it right and have the capital to afford it. Here are some tips on how to extract maximum benefits out of payment in installments strategy.

4. Ensure secure payment

On several occasions customers, when on the verge of checking out with a purchase, develop doubts on the security of the payment option on the store. It could simply be the website itself (poor design, zero testimonials, no ‘contact us’) or the limited/obscure payment options that might throw them off. As a result, they stop short of sharing card details and abandon the cart.

One way to make sure that you can make your customers feel safe while making payments is being PCI DSS compliant with a PCI certification, which you can display on the site and on payment pages. PCI DSS or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard is a security standard aimed at making card payments secure and preventing data theft and fraud.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certification or its improved version TLS is another security measure that you should consider to put your customers at ease. Here’s a good read on the importance of SSL for your business.

In addition, customers trust certain payment badges like PayPal, Norton, Google and BBB Accreditation, and having them on your site could turn things in your favor.

5. Offer faster checkout process

Forcing customers to register in order to make a purchase is literally the most unwanted step that you can add to the checkout process. Long checkout process is the quickest way to chase away first time buyers and one-time buyers who just want to make an one-off purchase and be done with it.

Instead of making account creation mandatory, facilitate guest checkout option so you can allow all kinds of customers to buy on your store. User registration and account creation should be left as an optional step for them, which they may choose to exercise in the future if they are happy with the overall shopping experience.

There are better and simpler ways to collect contact information of the buyers for promotional activities. A good way to do that would be to ask them to submit their email address or contact number to stay updated on future offers once they have completed their purchase and landed on the order confirmation page.

Here are some design ideas for an optimized checkout process that will ensure high conversion rates.

Nordstrom prioritizes guest checkout over account creation for all-inclusive shopping experienceSource:

6. Prevent slow page loading & website timeout

The technical architecture of your eCommerce website and its server support should be strong enough to avoid website timeouts and slow page loading. A customer lost due to a technical snag on the site, or due to a crash, is unlikely to ever return.

This area, hence, becomes the backbone of your entire operation. Fast loading web pages make the shopping experience much more satisfying for your customers, who’ll more likely be encouraged to browse for more products and return for future purchases.

Click here to find out how you can improve the performance and speed of your eCommerce website.

7. Adopt a clear and reliable returns & refund policy

A major worry faced by customers when shopping online is whether their money will be as good as lost if the product they ordered turns out to be defective/damaged, the wrong item, the wrong size, or unsatisfactory. They want a clear assurance that if they are not satisfied with the product for some reason, the merchant will arrange to collect it and have it replaced or refund their money at no extra cost.

In the absence of such a policy clearly laid down on the ‘Review Order’ page or some unflattering online reviews from customers regarding this matter, the customer will refrain from going ahead and checking out with the order. Be clear with your return and refund policy, possibly right from the product page where customers would be able to read about the terms & conditions.

Returns process is never an easy process, apart from the fact that it’ll cost you some decent amount of time and money to process them. But you can get it better organized by arranging multiple drop-off locations besides pick-up option to save some time and money.

It would also make sense if you make it clear to the customer what the return time window is for full refunds. For example, you offer a 30-day free return policy for full refund if customers are not satisfied with the product they bought. Here are some eCommerce returns policy best practices that you should follow before creating your own.

Amazon’s returns policy is simple, clear and very user friendlySource:


Abandoning the shopping cart at the checkout stage, after having gone through the trouble of sifting through products and adding them to the cart, can be a huge disappointment for the customer as well as for the online retailer. And if you’re a beginner, you surely wouldn’t want to kick off things with developments that can threaten to break your spirit.

Take it easy, do your homework and play it cool, one step at a time. If you’re looking for an experienced hand that can show you the ropes to preventing cart abandonment, our eCommerce experts are just a call away.


Manab J Kharkatary