3 Ways to Stop the Thief in Your Shopping Cart

high abandonment rate kills online conversions

Yes, there is a thief in your shopping cart or checkout process and it goes by the official name of  Abandonment Rate.  At it’s most basic, the abandonment rate is the percentage of visitors who clicked Add to Cart or Sign Up Now–but never completed the conversion.  But more importantly:  These are visitors who were interested enough in your product or service and actually engaged with the site to actively enter the checkout process.  Now before we talk about ways to fight this thief and reduce abandonment rate, let’s first identify when you have a problem in the first place.

What is a High Abandonment Rate?

Sadly, the average abandonment rate for websites is around 66%.  But in practice, anything above 60% should be considered “high” and a source of serious concern for any online business owner.

Let’s look at a real example to better understand how this hidden thief is killing your online profits:


high abandonment rate graphic

Here we see a high abandonment rate of 84% which has cost this client $100’s in lost sales in just a few days.

Here we see that 82 visitors added the product to their shopping cart but only 13 actually completed the purchase.  The abandonment rate would be:

Total Visitors Adding to Cart – Total Visitors Completing Purchase/Total Visitors

Or, (82-13)/82 which equals:  84.1%.

Don’t think it’s worth your time to try and find ways to reduce abandonment rate?  Just look at how many more sales the client would have had with even an average abandonment rate of 66%!

With an average abandonment rate of 66%, that means that 34% of the 82 visitors entering the shopping cart would have completed purchase, or 28.5 sales.  Even rounding down to 28, that’s an extra 15 sales or an overall conversion increase of more than 100%!

More importantly:  With an average price point of $89 for the product, those extra 15 sales would have added up to an additional $1,335 in revenue–with zero increase in traffic or marketing costs!

3 Strategies to Reduce Abandonment Rate

#1.  No Surprises on Pricing

The surest way to reduce abandonment rate from your shopping cart (for monetized conversions) is to make sure there are zero surprises on pricing.  Even a $5 variance between the price advertised on the product description or sales page and what is seen in the cart can kill conversions by more than 50%.

Many times, it’s an honest mistake but it’s a misstep that will positively kill conversions faster than bad PR.  To eliminate this issue, just make sure you run test purchases after any major updates or whenever new products are listed.

#2. Keep Shipping Free or Stupid Simple

We are listing shipping costs separately as a strategy to reduce abandonment rate because it is literally a completely separate beast than cost alignment between product description and final payment confirmation.

In fact, complex or convoluted shipping policies are the second biggest cause of abandonment rate.  To prevent people from bailing due to shipping costs/calculations, here are a few tips:

Implement Free Shipping for At Least Domestic Customers

We understand this is not possible with all clients or online businesses but we are listing it because it is the easiest way to ensure that shipping isn’t causing people to leave your sales funnel.

Avoid Use of “Calculate Shipping” Function

To help keep shipping costs to an absolute minimum, some online businesses use special plugins and settings in their shopping cart to calculate exact shipping costs based upon location and weight of the order.  Great idea and customers should love it, but it tends to kill conversions because it is adding steps and extra “hoops” for visitors to jump through to complete purchase.

Instead, set a standard rate or a very simple tiered shipping cost system that doesn’t require an additional step or two in the sales funnel to calculate.  You can still have different shipping options (like overnight, etc.) but ideally you want one standard fee to cover most orders for at least your domestic market.

#3. Avoid Unnecessary Hoops

When a visitor clicks Add to Cart or Sign Up Now, you want them to get to your Thank You page as quickly and easily as possible.  Even one extra click in this process can increase your abandonment rate by 20%–just one click.  So how do you reduce abandonment rate and keep the hoops to a minimum?

Allow Visitors to Adjust Quantity in Shopping Cart/Checkout

While most product descriptions are designed to allow visitors to adjust quantity there at point of purchase, the option also needs to be there in the shopping cart itself.  Now most systems are configured this way, but if yours is not, make sure the visitor can adjust down or up the number of items of a particular item in the cart itself so they don’t have to go back a step in your sales funnel.

Collect Market Research Information After Purchase

Yes, you should collect as much information as possible on every customer as it will greatly help you build trust, value, and long-term income.  However, at the point of purchase, you want to keep your data collection to the minimum needed to fulfill the order.  For additional market research, consider using surveys and autoresponders after purchase to get the additional information you need and reduce abandonment rate at point of purchase.

Avoid Redirects at All Costs

Any kind of redirect adds hoops to the sales funnel and reduces conversions.  Once they enter the shopping cart, you ideally want them to see the thank you page in 2 steps (after they complete the billing/shipping page).

But some shopping cart/order fulfillment platforms force visitors to Register first before they can complete purchase–a redirect.  Forced registration should either be disabled or you should streamline the process so that visitors essentially register just by completing the billing/shipping info. without any redirect.  This is not possible with all platforms so be very, very careful when selecting your shopping cart/order fulfillment platform!

Concluding Thoughts

The abandonment rate on your site is one of the many conversion rate killing mistakes potentially lurking in your online business.  We have shown that if you reduce abandonment rate by even a modest amount (from 84% to 66%), you can potentially double online conversions.

We have also shown that you can quickly reduce abandonment rate by avoiding pricing discrepancies, keeping shipping simple or free, and eliminating any redirects or additional hoops in your sales funnel.

Remember, conversion rate optimization is an ongoing process so it is always a good idea to check your abandonment rate once a month or after any significant changes have been made to the shopping cart or order fulfillment system.


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Jon Kreps is a conversion rate optimization expert specializing in boosting online sales and profits by up to 100% or more by fixing the problems that are suppressing conversions.

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