What is Cart Abandonment?

Have you ever visited a store online, selected an item, but left before finishing the purchase? Maybe after some browsing you found a better deal elsewhere, or just didn’t have time to fish out your credit card and complete the transaction. In the world of online sales, this is often referred to as cart abandonment. Most people have done it, but you may be surprised to learn the impact it can have on a company’s overall sales.

Last year, the Baymard Institute deduced that the average rate of cart abandonment online totals at a whopping 68.93%. This means that almost three out of four individuals who visit a store and make a selection will leave before completing their purchase. After all of the work that a company may do to create a website, develop a brand, market a business, and drive traffic to a website, it can be devastating to be so close to a sale only to have it slip away.

Fortunately, there are many measures and tactics to get these clients to return and hit that ‘Complete Order’ button. Here, we will address the causes of cart abandonment, and what can be done to prevent it.

What Causes Cart Abandonment?

Cart abandonment is an inevitable aspect of online business, and can happen for a wide variety of reasons. Perhaps the return policy was unclear, or a better deal was found with another company after some browsing. It may be that the customer was just not in the right mindset to make a purchase at the time.

Here we can see some of the most common cited reasons for cart abandonment.

cart abandonment statistics

A wide variety of reasons can factor into any one individual’s reasons for leaving a purchase incomplete. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to break down the most common causes and offer insight on what can be done to overcome them.

The Problem: Unexpected Costs

The Solution: Provide Transparency

Unexpected costs tend to be the top universal factor when it comes to reasons for cart abandonment. Most often, this refers to shipping costs, but can be used to describe any element which leads to a higher cost than initially shown. These can include;

  • Convenience Fees
  • Service Charges
  • Handling Fees
  • Taxes and Tariffs

By the time a customer has made their selection and proceeded to the checkout process, chances are they have already resolved that the price displayed will be what is being paid. Suddenly seeing it jump up – no matter the reason – will leave people feeling cheated, and more likely to continue browsing with other companies. Practices like automated cross-selling (code that ads small, associated items to the shopping cart) may have worked in the early days of the web, but are now a sure way to lose a customer.

If these charges can’t be avoided, it is vital that they are made clear to the customer immediately, so that they can factor into their purchasing decision.

Riverdance online checkout, cart abandonment

Riverdance’s website immediately alerts customers to an added fee while selecting seats – well before checkout.


If possible, consider including them in the overall cost of the item to avoid mentioning them at all.

Consider a Free Shipping Threshold

Big businesses like Amazon can be credited for setting the precedent for free shopping. As more online businesses offer the service, the more people are likely to walk at the sight of a shipping fee at the end of their purchase. A Deloitte study showed that customers are 69% more likely to choose an online store that offered the service.  What’s more, customers been found to spend up to 30% more when the free shipping is part of the deal.

If free shipping full stop is not an option, case studies demonstrate that companies that have offered a free shipping threshold (“Free shipping with a purchase of €X or more”) in the past were able to directly correlate the change to an increase in sales varying from 16% to an impressive 90%.


The Problem: Unnecessary Hurdles

Online checkout cart

A well-designed checkout allows customers to easily edit the details of their purchase.

The Solution: Streamline Your Purchasing Process

Make sure that customers can easily revise their purchase during checkout. You want your online shopping basket and/or cart to be as easy to edit and utilise as the one you use at the grocery store.

A lengthy checkout is similar to a long queue to the register. An unnecessarily tedious process gives customers more time to re-evaluate their decision to buy, and whether it’s worth the hassle.

Any unnecessary information that can be cut out, should.

Avoid Compulsory Registrations

Imagine walking into a cafe and ordering your morning coffee, only to be handed a registration form for their rewards card instead. Being able to get your tenth cup of coffee for free is great, and might have been something you would be interested in if you liked their brew – but in that moment, all you would be likely to see is an unnecessary amount of work for a cup of coffee which you could easily get just as easily at the Starbucks across the street.

While getting a customer’s email and other registration details is a valuable marketing asset – it shouldn’t come at the cost of the sale. In 2011, ASOS was able to cut their cart abandonment rate in half by allowing visitors to sign in as guests. In 2014, an ECommerce study cited compulsory accounts as the second highest reason for cart abandonment at 23%.

The Problem: Website Issues

The Solution: Optimise Your Site for Sales

This one might seem like something of a no-brainer at first, but can wind up being a major inhibitor to your bottom line. There are few things as frustrating to the modern internet-goer as a slowly loading webpage. Our standards are high, and websites need to be up to par. According to a study by Kissmetrics,

stopwatch, cart abandonment bounce time


47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less,

and 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.


Make sure that your website is fast, effective, and easy to navigate for all visitors.

Offer Multiple Payment Optionspayment-method

Online shopping is all about convenience. Make sure that your store can process all major credit and debit cards, as well as other online methods of payment such as Paypal. Additionally, consider a means to let customers view prices in different currencies. This goes back to offering consumers a transparent purchasing experience, and will be well worth the effort if you deal in goods and services internationally.


The Problem: Just Browsing

The Solution: Re-Targeting

Your business may be a top-of-the-line, well-oiled machine with great deals and fantastic customer service… and still see a significant rate of cart abandonment. This will be for no other reason than visitors coming to your site before they are ready to make a purchase. According to an Emarketer survey, this can account for up to 57% of all cart abandonment cases. Perhaps they were looking on the train on the way to work, at their desk or maybe just holding out for payday.

This may seem like the most daunting aspect of cart abandonment, as it is entirely on the side of the consumer. What can be done to bring these customers back and get them to click that ‘Complete Order’ button?


Re-Targeting refers to the process of advertising which specifically targets customers who have visited your website. It can take many forms, most of which are executed either before or after cart abandonment takes place.

Before Cart Abandonment

On-Site Retargeting example, cart abandonment prevention

Pop-ups such as these allow visitors to be reminded of their unfinished purchase at a later time.

On-Site Retargeting
 refers to practices used while your customer is on your webpage to encourage them to complete their order. Here you can see some examples from the website Mothercare.ie. These ads appear whenever an individual moves to navigate away from the webpage during the checkout process. This gives the shopper the opportunity to input their email address so that the company can remind the individual of their selection at a later time. The purpose of these ads is to provide a catch for anyone who needs that extra nudge in order to complete their purchase, and is the first step in successful retargeting.

After Cart Abandonment 

If the customer can’t be persuaded to complete their checkout, the next step is Off-Site Retargeting, which occurs after the visitor has left the website. Here, retargeting can take a few different forms, such as;

  • Email Retargeting
  • Ad Retargeting.

Email Retargeting

After obtaining a customer’s email address through on-site retargeting, a company can then send out emails reminding them of their purchase and inviting them to return and complete the process.

These emails can be sent out immediately or a few days after the individual has first made their selection, and can contain such information as additional deals, discounts, or deadlines that might encourage them to return to the website.

Ad Retargeting

This process allows a website to specifically target a previous customer with advertisements on third-party websites, such as Google or Facebook useful content. This is done with a line of code in a company’s website which places a retargeting ‘pixel’ unobtrusively in the cookies of the user’s browser. This pixel then alerts other websites which host these specialised ads to display an advert for your company.

This has been proven to be a fantastic and cost-effective way to drive sales back to your website, as the ads are targeted at individuals who have proven to be an interested audience.


Ad Retargeting Flowchart

Ad Retargeting at work


Ad re-marketing has proven to be a highly successful method of converting what started out as abandoned carts. Of those targeted with these ads, 70% are likely to convert on the advertised website, leading to a fantastic return of investment and a greater annual income.

This is a basic overview on how ad-retargeting works, and we will go over the particulars on how to run a truly successful ad-retargeting campaign in a later article.

In Conclusion

It has been determined that the total cost of cart abandonment last year hovered around the total of 4 trillionThe truth is that this loss of revenue is highly preventable, and ultimately an opportunity to reach out, nurture a dedicated client base and optimise sales. In order to get the most out of your visitor traffic, keep in mind;

  • Be transparent when it comes to prices
  • Optimise your customer’s purchasing process
  • Provide support and encouragement for visitors to return


If you have any questions about cart abandonment, ad retargeting, or would like to request a free consultation on how you can improve your online business today, feel free contact our expert team at Sing.