Quick Checks to Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment

Have you ever got on a website to buy something but somewhere along the way, you deserted the shopping cart because you got distracted? Maybe you were not sure about the security of the checkout process, or you did not want to be bothered with filling out some information on the website. There are many different reasons why customers drop out of the shopping or checkout process.

I bet we probably all have abandoned some or many shopping carts in our lives and could tell a reason or two why. In this article, we will look at this issue from the viewpoint of users and customers. Then we will use some examples to illustrate how a good user experience could help reduce the amount of shopping cart abandonments. 

What is shopping cart abandonment?

Shopping cart abandonment is one of the most common phenomena in e-commerce websites. It happens when users or customers drop out during any step of the checkout process. Its rate is calculated as completed purchases divided by all the initiated purchases:

Shopping cart abandonment rate

It is estimated that shopping cart abandonment occurs at a rate of sixty to eighty percent depending on the websites and devices. This is quite high, isn’t it? Nowadays, people use their mobile more often to view online shopping websites than desktop computers, and studies show that there is an even higher shopping cart abandonment rate on mobile devices.

There are many reasons why it happens and why it happens so often. One of the major reasons, which we probably all have experienced as customers or users, is the poor or annoying user experience in the checkout process.

Why does shopping cart abandonment occur?

#1 No up-front information regarding shipping and taxes

Have you ever browsed through a website, decided to buy something, and added the items to the basket, only to abandon the shopping cart because you could not find information about shipping costs?  

This is the top reason for shopping cart abandonment. Research shows that almost seventy percent of shopping cart abandonments are due to the lack of up-front information on shipping or any other extra costs. Quite often, the additional shipping costs would appear at a later stage of the checkout process. 

Nobody likes unpleasant surprises. Because of this, one of the main tasks of website owners is to provide all the information users need for making conscious decisions upfront or at the beginning of the checkout process. Such information includes estimated shipping costs, delivery dates, taxes, or any other information.

Here is a good example of a great product page with all of the information that is needed for a successful purchase:

Shipping and taxes

#2 No checkout as a guest option

Have you ever wanted to buy something, but you abandoned the shopping because the website required you to create an account in order to proceed with the purchase?

Customers may not want to create any accounts for different reasons. Maybe they would like to try out the site before making a commitment, they could also be concerned about the website’s privacy, or simply, they couldn’t be bothered with filling out more information to create an account. 

So when customers or users realize they have to create an account to be able to buy or use the service, they may be like “ugh, forget about it” and simply abandon the shopping cart. 

Research from Baymard Institute shows having to create an account is the second biggest cause for shopping cart abandonment. Thirty-four percent of users claim they abandoned their shopping cart because of the lack of option for checking out as a guest.

People are much more likely to continue with the checkout process when there is a fast track option to make the process easy-breezy. It is a great solution to enable customers who choose the fast-track checkout option to save their information and create an account at the end of the process.

Example of providing both checkout options:

Checkout as guest

#3 Too much information needed for creating an account

Let’s say you want to create an account when checking out. You start the process of creating an account, but the website asks you too many questions and requires far too much information that you do not feel like sharing or filling out. 

To avoid these situations, we should ask customers or users only for essential information needed when creating an account, nothing more. Usually, that is just an email address and password, simple as that. 

Example of a lengthy and cumbersome registration: 

long-registration form

Example of a good registration experience:

Good registration example

#4 Complicated checkout process

Similar to the previous issue, some checkout processes have quite long forms to fill out and too much information to be entered. Do you recall any similar experience when you checked out online and had to fill in so many fields? Or when you finished one part, you were directed to the next one, and you wondered when it would end? 

Here, we also should only ask for essential information that will make checkouts successful. Such information usually is just shipping and payment information. It is best to get rid of non-essential fields, make it short and sweet, and provide auto-fill (e.g., billing address is the same as shipping address). When the checkout process is divided into steps, providing a progress indicator is helpful. This way users know how much is left that they still need to fill out. 

Example of a good checkout form experience: 

good checkout example

#5 Only limited payment options

So close to the end of the checkout, but abandonments can still happen at the last stage. You are almost done with the checkout and ready to pay. Then you find out you must enter your credit card info, and there is no option to pay with other methods.

Enabling multiple payment methods depending on your main customers and markets is crucial if you want your customers to finalize their purchases. Check out the major payment methods that your targeted customers and markets find most convenient to use. Being from China, I often find it easy to use Alipay, Wechat pay, or UnionPay. If your main customers are based in countries using other payment platforms, enable them to do so! This can also reduce shopping cart abandonment rate and make it easier to shop on your website.

Good example of providing multiple payment methods:

payment options


We looked at the five main reasons for shopping cart abandonment. These should give an easy-to-follow checklist to help reduce your customers abandon their shopping carts. But don’t get discouraged if a cart is already abandoned, as it can still be recovered. 

If we recall our experience as customers, it happens when there is some time between when we first visit a website and when we convert and make the purchase. We might have abandoned the shopping carts because we were having second thoughts, wanted to wait for sales and discounts, or wanted to do more research.

Even if a user or customer already abandoned the shopping cart, there are still ways to recover it. Follow-up emails are a great way to recover abandoned shopping carts. 

Data from Salesforce show that sixty percent of users or customers who abandoned their shopping carts during checkout would still come back to place an order after receiving personalized follow-up emails from websites within one day. The key here is personalization to avoid making the emails look generic and auto-bulk sending. 

A real-life experience

Here is a real-life experience that happened to me after I abandoned my shopping cart because I was unsure if I should join the membership of a site right then.

Sign-up example-1

I did not reply to this email, as most people probably wouldn’t. But perseverance made a difference. The next day, I got another email following up. 

Sign-up example-2

After seeing the second email, I felt I should let them rest assured that there was no technical issue, it was just that I was giving it a second thought. Then I got another reply that asked me if I would like to join with a three-month free trial period. 

In the end, my abandoned shopping cart was recovered because I joined. But actually, it was not because of the free trial. I already got the same promo code from an affiliate marketing link. I was delaying simply because I was not sure yet. But the personal and persistent messages prompted me to join right away instead of waiting more.

Main takeaway

There are some very simple and effective fixes you can do to drastically reduce the shopping cart abandonment rate:

  1. Provide shipping info and costs upfront
  2. Enable checkout as a guest
  3. Enable customers or users to create an account with minimal information (email and password should be enough)
  4. Have very concise and simple checkout forms to fill out (shipping and payment info should be enough) 
  5. Allow multiple payment methods catered to target users and markets 
  6. If a shopping cart is abandoned, don’t give up yet. Send out follow-up emails; there is a high chance that the abandoned shopping cart can still be recovered!

You can also use UX research to increase checkout conversion rate and refer to our ecommerce case study for some design inspirations for your webshops.

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Sutong Liu

UX researcher, on a mission of getting a home van and seeing the world