Is Shopping Cart Abandonment in Retail an Enemy We Have Ignored for Too Long?

21 February ~ 25 min read 916 views
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Claspo Blog Is Shopping Cart Abandonment in Retail an Enemy We Have Ignored for Too Long?

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to buy everything online, from prescribed medicine to your favorite strawberry croissants, the entire e-commerce sphere, and retail, in particular, entered the period of prosperity that shall likely be remembered as their glory days. But there is always the one cloud that eclipses the sun. So, why is shopping cart abandonment a problem for retailers?

As the number of visitors grows, the number of unfinished purchasing sessions also goes up. This tendency might seem harmless at first. Yet, when you realize the amount of potential revenue, cart abandonment strips you off, and the extent to which it tangles your statistics, blocks your supplies, or slows down your website, you will see the urgent need for defense mechanisms is inarguable. 


Why Cart Abandonment Slowly But Surely Deteriorates Your Business

Thankfully, shoppers rarely drop their carts in malls or stores and leave because it would be much more challenging to navigate through the premises if they did. You might even recognize that unsettling, irrational feeling that you have to acquire something or, otherwise, you will be wasting the retailer's time. 

But the situation with e-commerce is vastly different. People like online shopping because they do not feel obliged to buy anything or treat the process seriously. Naturally, you might have a hard time believing that this common customers behavior can significantly undermine your company’s well-being. Plus, if the repetition of these patterns is inevitable, is it reasonable to spend time and resources to address them?           

The majority of entrepreneurs, 74% as reported by Marketing Charts, agree that cart abandonment is not the threat they should be focusing on. It’s almost impossible to disagree with their position when it has this kind of support. Therefore, the question: “Why is shopping cart abandonment a problem for retailers?” is completely valid.

At first, it might seem that 26% simply have a taste for extravagance. Yet, when you take a look at your profits, major benchmarks, inventory, and other aspects that get affected by shopping carts, your mood might get a little gloomy. 

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Let’s elaborate on these factors to add more meaning to these words. Recently, Baymard Institute alerted the e-commerce community that the average cart abandonment rate in this sphere is 69.82%. This displays a dangerous level of neglect from visitors and should not be overlooked because its consequences can be grave.  

  1. It deprives you of potential income in both a short and long-term perspective. If the user went through with the purchase, it might have been “the beginning of a beautiful friendship”. Now, not only did you lose the value of this particular cart, but you also got denied the opportunity to handle this customer’s future deals.  
  2. The funds you spend on attracting customers also suffer from devaluation. Your advertisement might generate insurmountable amounts of views and clicks, but they are all meaningless unless they end up with order placement.  
  3. Your supplies get tied up. Basically, 7 out of 10 shopping carts in your store are filled with goods that you cannot sell even if other people are ready to buy them. 
  4. Main metrics are sabotaged. High amounts of traffic in the wrong places can be confusing. When the audience you did not intend to draw in, e.g, bots or users who add items to cart accidentally, your data can get contaminated with their browsing history and cookies.  
  5. Websites become less accessible. Even if your software is advanced and sophisticated, when your server is forced to conduct and store a huge amount of opened carts with all of their contents, parameters like page-load time and execution speed drop significantly, which the modern demographic is not willing to tolerate.   

Shopping cart abandonment is like a small crack in your wall. It is hard to notice at first, but if left untreated, it would become the source of major damage and might even lead to the collapse of the whole house.

Anyway, if you are not familiar with the concept of shopping cart abandonment or a wide range of the devastating effects it has on companies’ performance, we are prepared to help you connect the dots. You can equip yourself with extensive knowledge on both topics here and here.

Major Impulses that Trigger Shopping Cart Abandonment in Retail

Users might be driven by plenty of motives when they exit without finishing their purchases. But, generally, a high level of shopping cart abandonment signifies that you do not meet the customers' standards, and they are high these days. 

Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to obtain experience in online shopping, the e-commerce sphere has been blooming. As stated by eMarketer, during the year 2020 online retail grew by 27.6% and surpassed the $4 trillion mark. Shoppers gain confidence with time, and they expect retailers to keep up with their pace. Your visitors demand service, that will be:

  • effortless;
  • quick;
  • clear;
  • simple;
  • convenient;
  • personalized;
  • offering a rich product catalog.     


Retrieved from eMarketer.

Cart abandonment is great at tricking you into the false belief that it is impossible to defeat because no one can read people’s minds, and it would be unattainable if you tried to keep up with everyone’s expectations. That is true to a certain extent. It would be unrealistic and overly ambitious to aim at reaching a zero cart abandonment rate. 

Still, the results of the Baymard Institute’s research, based on 46 studies of the cart abandonment phenomenon, show that the respondents frequently pointed in the direction of trading platforms when they were explaining the motivation behind their actions. Of course, it might be a simple power cut that turned off the laptop. But concentrating on the things that are impossible to predict or control is counterproductive. Hence, let’s explore the malfunctions in your policy or website that you can address.  

The most common reasons for abandoning online shopping carts in 2021.png

Retrieved from Baymard Institute

Insufficient Amount of Attention to Shoppers’ Needs

When visitors come to real stores, they are greeted with a smile, guided, and supported throughout the whole process. Usually, there is an assistant who is eager to answer any question, comment on payment options, explain refund and delivery procedures, present complementary goods and services, or provide recommendations. 

Unfortunately, many Internet platforms have got accustomed only to bots, customer support, and chatbots. As a result, potential clients are left completely unsupervised. The absence of devotion on your part inevitably gets mirrored by a lack of commitment from your customers. 

If you abandon your buyers, they return the favor by abandoning you. Basically, you get the taste of your own medicine.   

Lack of Investment in Establishing a Reputation

Similar to the previous motive, this miscommunication stems from the nature of online shopping. You probably know, from your own experience, how ridiculous, embarrassing, and disappointing these acquisitions can be. You entrust the platform with your money, still, what you get is a pig in a poke. That is why it is essential to be open with users and earn their trust.

In addition, many people expressed their desire to adhere to those retailers and brands that share their values and beliefs, as reported by IMB. Thus, if you want to get extra credit, exert efforts to line up with your target audience’s agenda.         

Overly Dull & Complex Forms

No one likes bureaucracy, and that is a fact. Therefore, if you turn forms and procedures on your website into a red-tape nightmare, you should not be surprised when customers start fleeing the platform.    

Obscure Policies

One of the best ways to understand potential clients’ motives is to take a walk in their shoes. So, try to imagine that you have found those cute little moon-shaped earrings, you put them in your cart immediately, but when you have got to the checkout process, it turns out that the shipping cost doubles their price. Would you proceed with this order? Probably, not.

People get frustrated when they cannot calculate the package’s arrival date or how much money they have to pay for the delivery. The same applies to the refund/return policy.

Unfortunately, returns are an inherent part of online shopping because, again, you are receiving a pig in a poke. Hence, if your policy is several pages long, full of exceptions, complicated clauses, and fine print, people will not be thrilled to buy from you. 

Of course, you cannot complete the checkout process if there are no suitable payment options present. In 2022 people just tap their watch and pay for their coffee, so, they expect you to diversify the list of payment methods you accept.

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Inadequate Design & Website Navigation

For the contemporary generation, time is of the essence. Just remember how irritated you get when it takes more than 15 minutes for your Uber to arrive. Therefore, if you strive to match the users’ requirements, your site should not have:

  • Problems with obtaining important policies and information.
  • Obstacles in the way of navigating through products, categories, services, and procedures. 
  • Errors, bugs, and slow page-load time/execution speed.

What Makes Cart Abandonment Rate in Retail Stand Out From Other Industries

Indeed, the average abandonment rate in the e-commerce sector is roughly 70%. Yet, as Statista reasonably points out, this number might differ vastly from industry to industry.

This index in retail is slightly higher than 75%, which makes it resemble a middle child in the family. It will never achieve the high marks of the travel, finance, or insurance industry because these purchases are serious, and the procedures are complicated. But it will also never be as small as at the restaurants because it takes a lot from people to quit on their favorite pizza. 

Shopping cart abandonment rate by industries in March 2021.png

Retrieved from Statista.

How to Interpret Cart.png

This scale is provided as an illustration of the cart abandonment rate’s interpretation process. You should calculate your percentage of dropped shopping carts (if you do not know how to do this, we suggest you check our article dedicated to it first), use the average rate to determine the main marks, and then put your result on the scale.

Viable Tactics to Neutralize Cart Abandonment in Retail

Facing the choice between modernizing their online platforms or going out of business, retailers had to adapt to the lockdown’s new realities. Those who were in the front line of these changes were significantly rewarded.

TechCrunch reports that Walmart, Target, and Amazon incorporated plenty of new online services and witnessed a huge boost in their profits (97%, 237%, and 40% respectively). So, if you want to get a piece of that pie, you have to conform with the shoppers’ requirements. 

When it comes to business decisions, you should not rely entirely on serendipity. You have to brainstorm a viable recovery strategy. So, let’s explore what techniques, tools, and maneuvers you can use to tame cart abandonment and make it considerably less scary. 

1. Make customers feel welcome and appreciated. Greet them with a small coupon, adjust algorithms to make recommendations more personal, write explicit answers in the FAQ section, compose your support team of experts, be honest and upfront about your policies, offer discounts (especially when they exhibit signs that they are about to cancel the tab).

A discount offer with a data collecting form..png

Greeting with a discount offer and a data collecting form. Retrieved from Birchbox.

2. Make your design intuitive. Highlight the important elements, such as available shipping options, payment methods, or costs, and move the rest of the elements to the background.   

3. Permit people to store things they like but are not ready to buy in a separate section, such as “Favorite” or “Wishlist”.

4. Marketing Charts published the research, in which it is confirmed that more than half of the respondents pay close attention to shipping and return procedures. So, here are some of the most significant aspects that retailers should incorporate if they want users to approve their policies:

  • Multiple shipping methods (free shipping is the most appreciated, economy is the most expected, and speed delivery is for those who are in a hurry).
  • Estimated/guaranteed delivery date.
  • The total cost is displayed before the checkout process.
  • Tracking information is provided as part of the delivery.
  • Instead of making people pay for return shipping or charging a restocking fee, enable automatic refund, put the return label inside the box (62%), or send an easy-to-print return label.    How shipping policies affect customers' behavior in online retail.png

    Retrieved from Marketing Charts 

    5. IMB states that by the year 2022 people have already embraced digital tools and consider “hybrid shopping” to be a part of their everyday lives. Permit customers to pick up their orders by enabling the buy online and pick up in-store (BOPIS) option. You can combine various tools and methods to provide more freedom:

  • Make a purchase and pay on the website, pick up in-store.
  • Place an order, but pay for it with cash or credit card when you pick it up. 

Retrieved from IMB..png

Retrieved from IMB.

6. Communicate with your audience. Be present on social media and other platforms, acknowledge and validate their feedback. If your company has a mission and values, do not hesitate to share them with your customers, they will appreciate it.

7. Exhibit everything that proves you are trustworthy, including pictures of real people, trust seals, and reviews/testimonials.

8. Optimize your forms and procedures. Baymard Institute concluded that if you want your users to remain sane, awake, and engaged, your forms should not be composed of more than 12-14 elements. So, carefully select the vital fields, and omit all the rest.

9. Take proper care of technological aspects, e.g., install bot protection, conduct usability & bug testing, update software, maintain high page-load time/execution speed.

10. Ensure that you have the most advanced payment methods available on your site. But try to achieve a proper balance between diversity and security. Some shops like Dote allow cryptocurrency. Yet, if you want to implement something risky, make sure to know how to bypass its pitfalls first. 

11. Do not forget about post-abandonment recovery methods. Use retargeting to remind former visitors about your site while they surf the Internet, and send a follow-up email with personalized content.

Dote’s follow-up email pushes all the right buttons and sparks the desire to return..png

Dote’s follow-up email pushes all the right buttons and sparks the desire to return. Retrieved from Really Good Emails.

12. It is always a challenge to deduce the motives behind people’s behavior. Some of us are more like inspector Lestrade, while others can go into full Sherlock Holmes mode. Still, sometimes there is no need to build an entire mind palace, you can just ask your customer directly via a short survey. Allow people to share their experience with you through a small, friendly, and anonymous pop-up message, constructed with a few clicks in the functional and creative Claspo pop-up builder. 

Turn Your Traffic Into Sales Today!

Of course, the list of ways to effectively combat cart abandonment does not end with these 12 suggestions. If you want to take a nuanced look at the matter, you can read our articles here and here.     


Why is shopping cart abandonment a problem for retailers? Because it severely reduces your income, makes your statistics and inventory unhinged, and slows down your progress both in technical aspects and sales. Since the contemporary marketing trends demand that retailers should streamline their online platforms, its effects can maim your company’s performance immensely.

But as soon as you deduce and analyze the motivation behind shoppers’ actions, you can invent a wide range of feasible tactics. Be honest with your customers, induce them with individual approaches, tempt them with coupons and limited-time offers. 

Plus, diversity is a huge part of the modern narrative. So, be diverse, offer multiple options when it comes to shipping, returns, or payment. Turn your store into the land of milk and honey, and it is safe to say that the customers will come to stay.

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