Choking At Checkout: Why Shoppers Abandon Carts

Here’s the answer to one of the biggest questions in digital marketing: why consumers abandon carts.

It’s no small problem, given that the desktop abandonment rate ranges between 78% and 82%, according to a new study by Metrical and Skava.

The rate for mobile — a growing percentage of total online shopping — is even higher: 90%. That requires many follow-up emails.

Why do people bolt? The biggest reason is that they are browsing and not ready to commit. But there’s another issue:shipping. Almost 30% of shoppers leave because shipping costs are too high, or are not presented upfront in the browsing process, the study reports.  

The latter problem can easily be fixed — with shipping rate calculators or plugins, per the report. Still, the rates are too high for many consumers.

Another cause of attrition is that shoppers are not being taken to the cart page as soon as they add an item to the cart: All they can see is that the item has been added.



But here’s a surprise (for those who easily flummoxed at checkout): Only a tiny percentage leave because the process is too complicated.

Here are the stats:

  • Just browsing, not ready to buy — 40%
  • Shipping costs are too high/can’t see shipping costs — 25%
  • Delivery is too slow/can’t see delivery time — 9%
  • Don’t trust site with credit card info — 5%
  • Don’t want to create an account — 4%
  • Checkout process too complicated — 2%

Whatever the cause, those lost sales can make the difference between profit and loss.  

"By reducing cart abandonment rates by just a percentage or two, a retailer can have a dramatic (positive) impact on their top-line revenue,” states Zabe Agha, founder and CEO of Metrical. 

Agha continues: "Take, for example, a retailer with an 85% CAR. This means that of the people that added an item to their cart, only 15% converted. If retailers reduced their CAR by just 1.5%, they would add an additional 10% in top-line revenue."

A recent study by Campaigner shows that free shipping is the leading turnaround device in cart abandonment emails. That’s in line with Metrical’s findings, with one difference: Campaigner cites high prices as the third-most prevalent reason for abandonment.

However, Agha warns against overdoing discounts in recapture emails.  

"Retailers are constantly jumping to offer discounts to convert shoppers that abandoned their carts,” he says. “Starting with why the shopper left in the first place better allows retailers to tailor their messaging and incentives accordingly. Don’t give away margin when a few extra loyalty points or free or reduced shipping will do."

Yuval Yatskan, VP of marketing at Skava, observes that it was “definitely an a-ha moment to discover that the number one reason for cart abandonment among customers with an intent to buy was too high or otherwise unclear shopping costs. Similarly, the usual suspects such as a cumbersome checking out process or problematic reviews were quite low on the list."

2 comments about "Choking At Checkout: Why Shoppers Abandon Carts".
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  1. Chuck Lantz from, network, January 22, 2019 at 5:46 p.m.

    The top two reasons for cart abandonement are actually just one reason; ... the cost is too high.  And the consumer doesn't see the full cost until they reach the end of the shopping cart process, which is the exact opposite of the brick & mortar shopping experience, where the price tag is right there, up-front. All the in-store consumer has to do is factor-in the sales tax. 

    This is so ridiculously simple that it boggles the mind to see that a study is required to inform sellers of the problem.  In some cases - a popular online flower dealer comes to mind - the price shown upfront can more than double by the time the consumer completes the sale.  

    What retailers don't seem to realize is that when their opening page price begins increasing with every click towards the final purchase, a tiny voice in the consumer's mind is saying "I've been lied to."  And no one likes being lied-to.  So, instead of converting a looker to a consumer, those retailers have converted a "gotta have it" to "... but not at this price."

  2. Karen Newcombe from Write Bank, January 23, 2019 at 9:02 a.m.

    When I abandon a cart it is almost always because the shipping cost is too high. If I'm buying an item that I know weighs only a few ounces and fits in a small bubble envelope, but the retailer wants to charge $12 for shipping, I drop the sale.  I don't like it when retailers try to turn shipping into a cash cow; I can easily figure out what an appropriate shipping amount should be. 

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