9 Ways to Reduce Cart Abandonment

Ian Lurie

The fastest, easiest way to improve sales on your site? Reduce your shopping cart bailout rate.
A ‘bailout’ (aka an abandonment) occurs when someone starts the checkout process, then leaves without completing their purchase. It’s like someone got in line at the grocery store and then left their pears, diet soda and last-minute junk food purchases rolling around on the conveyor.
Here are 8 things you can change, right now, to reduce cart abandonment:

  1. Dump the registration. I don’t know why I still have to say this. Don’t make people register to buy stuff from you. It’s like you’re waving your middle finger at your customers. If you must have registration, make it an option at the end of the checkout process. Not at the beginning. And don’t even try to tell me registration gets you serious customers. That’s crap. Registration drives away 90% of your customers, so only the most maniacally devoted stay with you.
  2. Validate nicely. If someone misses a field, don’t give them a sinister javascript popup that reads “You MUST enter your address!”. They don’t have to do anything. They’re the customer. Instead, display a little message on the page that says “Please enter your address”. And highlight the field they need to complete.
  3. Check your speed. If it takes 30 seconds for the next page of checkout to load, I’m gone. Buh-bye. Make sure your cart’s fast.
  4. Don’t distract. It’s ok to include your normal site navigation in the checkout process (if you really must). It’s not OK to include unrelated offers, links on the right side of the page or flashing banners advertising other sites (seriously, I’ve seen it). Let your customer focus.
  5. Help out. If the customer has the same billing and shipping information, let them totally skip the shipping address form.
  6. Be transparent. Show estimated shipping charges, discounts and itemized costs in the cart before checkout. Then show them again on the ‘confirm order’ page.
  7. Instill trust. A clean, neat cart that carries the same basic branding as the main site builds trust. A cart that looks like Network Solutions’ worst nightmare, asks me to ‘chek out’ and bears no resemblance to the site does not. Build trust. Don’t burn it.
  8. Track the funnel. Use a tool like Google Analytics to track your entire checkout funnel. That will let you pinpoint problems and improve the process.
  9. Stick it to the man. Just because Sears or Diadora or some other site does something stupid (like require registration) doesn’t mean you should. Be your own person. Think different. Take the road less traveled. Add cliche of your choice here.

These are the basics. I can pull together more advanced posts on things like goal funnel tracking, if folks want. Comment below.

This rant, by the way, is brought to you by a company called SeeWhy and their new product, Abandonment Tracker, which I’m reasonably certain is the creation of the Devil, ala Reaper. You can read the whole story at the NY Times. Before you resort to evil tactics like Abandonment Tracker, alienate your customer base and end up in the 9th Circle, consider the simple stuff (this post).

By the way, you can now subscribe to Conversation Marketing on the Kindle.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. I really like these. I never worked with an e-commerce site and I always kept wondering why they had such bad funnel. Particularly #4.
    I have a friend that might need some consulting so I might hook you guys up.

  2. Most of these are good tips, although keep in mind a lot of etailers charge shipping based on location so we can’t include that price in the cart until we get a shipping address.
    What SeeWhy is up to is not new, Second Bite has been around for years. They claim they recover a lot of sales but I imagine they also annoy a lot of customers.
    Incentives to join your mailing list or your Facebook fan page or follow you on Twitter, etc are a better way to capture customers for re-marketing since it is permission based and less likely to alienate customers (assuming you don’t contact them 100 times/day using those mediums).

  3. More and more shopping carts offer pre-estimates of shipping charges. It’s typically done via a one line form on each page into which you only need to enter your zip code.

  4. Hi Ian,
    Good article as usual πŸ™‚ I expect the same in the future. One thing about “Check your speed. If it takes 30 seconds for the next page of checkout to load, I’m gone. Buh-bye. Make sure your cart’s fast”.
    somewhere around 8-10 seconds should be a better target.
    Also, you need to disable the buttons “onclick” so customers won’t be able to click twice or more on them. Another nice feature will be to display an animated wheel and the text “Processing” when they click on important(long time request) buttons.
    Pay attention to the text on buttons also. I’ve wrote an article about the add to cart or buy now buttons. Take a look and leave some comments.

  5. I seriously just had this with godaddy. I didnt want to use them for their sexist advertising, and did anyway because they are cheap. I bought it, found a better one, and cant cancel my order. And now my domain name is a large godaddy ad because it is parked “for free” which really means “parked for free advertising for us.”

  6. Hi Ian
    Hi Ian
    I agree with your eight points – all good common sense, distilled here nicely. But when you have implemented all eight and you still have an abandonment problem, what then?
    A recent survey showed that 90% of ecommerce sites that so not do any abandonment follow up want to. The reason why is kinda obvious – it works. And tuning the site doesn’t completely solve the problem, though undoubtedly this is a good starting point.
    The key though is to ensure that abandonment remarketing is done well. This means that the devil is not in the technology, but in the detail of the implementation. The way that you follow up is critical. It needs to be totally oriented towards delivering great service which is of value to the recipient, and not an unwarranted intrusion. Just like email, which is a good tool that can be used to deliver service, but can also be abused and is an unwarranted intrusion.
    I have summarized 6 best practices on my blog here http://websiteconversion.blogspot.com/ which we encourage our many customers to follow. All are focused on delivering value to the customer, not pestering them unnecessarily.

  7. @Charles A very valid point. But since I’ve not seen many sites implement solid, usable carts, I’m not quite to the point where I need to follow folks after they abandon.
    You say 90% of ecommerce sites want follow up abandonment. What was the question asked? Who was surveyed? If you can provide a link I’d love to continue the discussion.
    You’re 100% right about the implementation. And to me, as soon as you ask folks for personal information BEFORE they begin checkout, you’re doing more harm than good. Yes, abandonment rates may fall at that point. They fall because, when you request an e-mail address at the very start of the process, most folks bail out before they even begin checkout.
    Thanks for the response, and I look forward to continuing our discussion.

  8. Please Please ~don’t subscribe me to anything, just because I want to join this conversation!!!
    Anyway ~ Very well put, and all very true –
    Another reason I frequently “abandon” a cart is because there’s no *Wish List* function.
    If you have more than a couple of items for sale, I want to be able to, essentially, make a “This is interesting!” note, while I keep looking at your other offerings.
    Zappo’s and Amazon do this very well. They also allow you to populate your wish list without registering, but if you want to save it and come back later (say, after you balance the checkbook!), then you have to give them more info. Ding! – there’s your sign-up. Follow up with a double opt-in, and you can *probably* get the sale later.
    (No research – that’s just how *I* react. IF it’s something I really want to buy, I will, sooner or later.)
    Have a good weekend!
    (Meanwhile, I am subscribing…) K

  9. Another great list. Your lists are usually top notch.
    This post is a list of absolutes. I’m very interested to see your take on the variables that go into shopping cart abandonment.
    Like Traian’s comment about Buy Now vs. Add to Cart we test, measure and improve a lot of variables in the cart funnel that aren’t absolutes and need to be tested because every site is slightly different.
    I guess I’d love to see you expand on #9 and see how you test and measure the results.
    Great posts lately.

  10. Following on from the “never ask a customer to register before checkout”, what is considered best practice for existing customers?
    If you recognize an email address during the checkout process as an existing customer, do you:
    a) Insist on the password for that account
    b) Compare the personal details on the order (name, DOB, zip/post code) against the e-mail address and allow the purchase to be associated with that account.
    Trying to balance security/fraud against usability.

  11. I can’t believe how many sites just follow along like sheep: “Don’t make people register to buy stuff from you” is your #1 recommendation… and for good reason: I just hate those types of sites, and often just move on to a competitor.
    Thanks for this helpful article.
    Andy πŸ™‚

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