The secret behind shopping cart abandonment rate and how to improve it

Shopping cart abandonment is one of the main reasons why store owners are losing a lot of money.

Contrary to popular belief, the checkout process does not start on the actual checkout page, it rather starts on the first user interaction with your website. Before they start completing the payment page with their details, they have to complete a bunch of different steps that are slowly but steadily affecting their decisions.

Shopping Cart Abandonment formula

In order to understand how users are interacting with your website you have to go to your GA account and browse to the Behaviour -> Site Content -> Landing Pages report. Here you are able to find the entry points of your users. The first 5 landing pages and note them in a Spreadsheet (we have created a special one here). Next, you will need to calculate how many users are adding your products to their carts and how many of them are proceeding to the checkout.

In order to do this you should click on the “+ Add Segment” button on the top of the Landing Pages report page and select “Create a new segment”.

Sequence for cart abandonment
How to create a sequence for cart abandonment

In order to get the number of users that have added a product to their cart after they have landed on one of your pages you have to create a Sequence type segment.

The first thing you have to configure is how the sequence calculates data. I am using the “Users” dimension in favor of the “Sessions” and I strongly suggest you do it too. I do this because a user is very unlikely to buy a product on a single session but rather across multiple sessions.

Find out your cart abandonment with a 3 step sequence

1. Select the “First user interaction” in the “Sequence start” field.

Cart Abandonment Formula Sequence Step 1
Cart Abandonment Formula Sequence Step 1

This will only take into account the users that have interacted with the page that you will specify. In the example above I have created a sequence starting with “/home” as a landing page.

Even though I have selected “Page” as a dimension and not “Landing page”, the information is still reliable as I only took in consideration the “First user interaction”

Type in the URL of your landing page and take a note of how many users are being displayed on the right part of the screen. Pay attention as it is really important to note the number of users and not sessions.

2. Add your Cart page URL or the Add to Cart Event

Cart Abandonment Formula Sequence Step 2
Cart Abandonment Formula Sequence Step 2

In my example I have used an Event called Add to Cart. If you don’t have a custom event created to track this you can select “Page” as a dimension and “contains” as a condition followed by “cart” as a part of the URL (or whatever your Cart page’s URL contains).

Again, copy the number of users inside the spreadsheet and let the magic happen.

Shopify sends custom add to cart events to Analytics by default, the Event Action is called “Added Product”. Be careful when you pick your Cart page’s URL as some themes or 3rd party website creation platforms might not redirect you to a Cart page but rather display the Cart as a modal Pop-Up or as a sidebar. In this case it is mandatory to use Events.

3. Finish of with your Checkout Page URL

Cart Abandonment Formula Sequence Step 3
Cart Abandonment Formula Sequence Step 3

In my example I have used the “Page” dimension and “contains” condition followed by “/yourinfo.html” as part of the URL. Since these pages have unique URLs for each session I suggest to grab just a small part of the URL. Be careful when you choose this part so that it is unique to the Cart page and it does not appear anywhere else on your website.

Grab the number of users and paste it on the Spreadsheet.

Do the 3 before mentioned steps for your top 5 Landing Pages.

Now you have an overall image of how many people are abandoning their carts and might never return to finish their orders. In my example, the average cart abandonment rate was 79.61%, higher than the global average of 69.57%.

In order to improve your cart abandonment rate we have put together a list of the most common reasons for why people are abandoning their carts and how to correct them. These are just guidelines that worked for the vast majority of online shops, but still they should be taken with a grain of salt and plenty of A/B testing.

The 5 most important reasons for cart abandonment and how to resolve them

1. Users are seeing unexpected shipping costs, taxes or fees

This problem is what makes around 60% of people abandon their carts and never finish the checkout funnel. Let’s be honest, when you go shopping in a Mall you don’t expect to pay more than what’s displayed on an item’s label and neither do your clients.

Solution: Even if this issue is on the first position in this list, it’s actually really easy to resolve: just add the tax, shipping or addition fees information in plain sight. If you are not able to do it automatically for whatever reason, you should add all the details in the product description. Doing that will help you users better understand what will the final cost of the product be.

2. Users need an account to proceed to checkout

Each and every additional page that a user has to see before completing a transaction is decreasing the likelihood of them finishing the order. More than a 3rd of users abandoned their carts after a shop requested them to have an account before completing the checkout.

Solution: It is a best practice to allow your users to checkout as guests, even if that means less email leads. By allowing any and all possible customers to get their order as easy as possible your cart abandonment rate might decrease in time.

3. Users are conducting research or comparing prices for buying later

A great number of users are just adding your products to their carts without the intent of buying them on the spot. If a user’s cookie has been deleted either by the browser, by themselves or if it expired, your Cart Abandonment rate might seem bigger than it actually is.

Some things are just out of our control and this is one of them, as it is not depending on your capabilities of gathering data but rather what tools you are using to gather it.

Google Analytics has a cookie expiration time of 2 years but depending on other factors like browsers or devices used this period can be way shorter.

Solution: The best way to remind your customers about their abandoned cart is by creating a section on your Cart page that will allow users to be reminded when their products will be on discount. This does not only allow you to collect their email addresses, but you can sort out the ones that are just browsing from the ones that might want to purchase from you but the price is keeping them from doing it.

4. Users are unsure about the safety of your website

Buying online is still a challenge for many people as the whole process requires them at some point to give their credit card details to your website. This drop off point is mainly encountered on the checkout pages, but some users don’t even go this far and drop off the funnel directly from the cart page.

Solution: You should add trust badges to your Cart page. It’s highly recommended that you design these badges yourself or ask a designer to do so, as people have started to associate default trust badges with spam websites.

5. Website has errors and/or usability issues

A study by Statista discovered that by 2021 sales completed from mobile devices will represent 53.9% of the total number of sales!

This might come as a surprise for some people who did not keep up with the never ending changes of the online world. If you have an online store, a blog or just a landing page, you should make sure that its appearance remains the same regardless of the screen used to display it, be it a 4k 100 inch monitor or a smaller 4 inch iPhone 5.

If your shop is not optimized for mobile or maybe if you didn’t even test it on mobile then you might be losing a lot of possible clients who are abandoning their carts only because they can not continue.

Solution: Fire up GA and browse to the Audience -> Mobile -> Overview report. Here you will see how much traffic you have on mobile devices and how the conversion rate differs between devices. You should run checks and tests on different phones or screen sizes and make sure that any and all bugs or UI issues are solved.

Google Analytics Mobile Overview
Browse to Audience -> Mobile -> Overview

Final thoughts – Never stop analyzing and optimizing

The 5 before mentioned cart abandonment issues can be treated as guidelines. If you have checked, discovered and solved any of these issues on your cart page and the abandonment rate still hasn’t decreased then the problem might be somewhere else.

The Cart page is just a single step in the checkout funnel. Stay tuned for future updates and new articles about each step of the checkout funnel by subscribing to our newsletter.

Share your discoveries with the community and let us know in the comments what was the main reason that made YOUR users abandon their carts.

Need fully managed conversion optimization services or just a conversion rate optimization audit? Reach out to us at [email protected] and we will get back to you in under 48 hours.

By Dan Cucolea

I am a conversion rate optimization specialist at Ontrack Digital.
I am a Spreadsheets Wizard who can translate any data into a lovely graph that even has a story behind it.

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