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Sep 12, 2006
Blog Post

Study Data: Absolutely Pitiful Ecommerce Shopping Cart Abandonment Stats -- 4 Ways to Improve Yours

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, President

I was completely unprepared to hear the horrible truth. We've interviewed dozens of top ecommerce marketers over the years for Sherpa Case Studies, and when we asked them, 'What's your cart abandonment rate?" nearly all told us "around 20-30%."

When we surveyed 1,100 ecommerce marketers this year, I naively expected the data to match up. It didn't. It really, really didn't match at all.

Turns out the average cart abandon rate was 59.8%. (Lesson learned -- never rely on anecdotal data as your primary source for important numbers.) This measurement was the total number of shoppers who actually purchased divided by far larger number of those who put something into their cart.

Why do nearly 60% of online shoppers abandon their carts at some point in the process?

As I've mentioned in a past column,, our research indicates the problem may not be the design of your shopping cart -- in the distant past consumers couldn't figure out how to check out or got tangled on the way. Nowadays, most consumers are very well trained in the steps of using an online shopping cart.

Instead, the problem is nearly entirely marketing related in nature. This should be good news because that means marketing can work to fix things without having to overly involve the technical department or invest in heaps of new programming.

According to our consumer research as well as Case Studies, you should be running the following four tests to see if you can reduce abandons:

Test #1. Promote return/exchange policies

Try placing a hotlinked bit of copy that reads something like "Returns Are Easy" in your cart. The place I would most recommend would be immediately next to the button shoppers click to confirm the order. You'll make that nail-biting moment of final decision a bit easier.

Test #2. Post reassuring security icon(s)

I have to be honest at this point, even though some security vendors may hate me for it. Every single time I've asked marketers if adding a security-related icon to their site helped conversions, they've said yes. However, I haven't seen any significant evidence that one particular icon works better than another. In fact, I strongly suspect the thing to test is not so much which icon but rather how many of them (do multiple work better than singular or is it protesting a bit too loudly about safety?) and the placement of them.

The cleverest test I ever heard of was a lesser-known merchant who placed the Better Business Bureau icon on the button that shoppers clicked to begin the checkout process. On that particular site, it helped sales. I'm not saying this would work for anyone else, just that it’s worth a test!

Test #3. Include privacy and trust language next to fields asking for personal data

We've been hammering on this for years, and it drives me nuts to see how many merchants still completely ignore it. Yes, there's data showing it works. Yes, it's stunningly easy to do … probably about 10 seconds of programming. I have no idea why this is overlooked -- perhaps it's too easy?

All you do is include a briefly worded hotlink such as “We Value Your Privacy” directly next to the form field where shoppers are asked to enter their email addresses.

Test #4. Remind them of their abandoned cart

Some merchants have tested running exit pops for everyone who abandons a cart … usually featuring an extra added discount. However, pops are vastly blocked these days, so you may as well test one, but don't expect much.

The next best thing is to send an email to those abandons -- but don't make it overtly salesly. Instead, make it appear to be a routine transactional email. That's not a lie, because it is after all a transaction they were in the middle of conducting when they left your site. You can simply -- and possibly in text-only -- note that the items are waiting in their cart for them.

Then, a few days later, you can send a second note alerting them the cart is about to expire, so you're contacting them for their convenience so they can check out before it's too late.

Other merchants have tested a "why didn't you buy? or "what did we do wrong?" survey with great success. Partly the information is useful, but also the appearance of the survey in emails often by itself serves as a prod to complete the transaction. Either way you win.

Whatever tests you decide to run to increase cart stickiness, do them soon. Holiday season is a heartbeat away. In the meantime, see link below for more data from this study to help improve your site's fourth-quarter performance.

-- For a copy of MarketingSherpa's Ecommerce Benchmark Guide 2006 featuring 311 charts and 23 eyetracking heatmaps, go to:

Useful links related to this article

MarketingSherpa's Ecommerce Benchmark Guide 2007:

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Comments about this Blog Entry

Sep 12, 2006 - Michael Ellensohn of IJK / HMT Hannover says:
Nice article with good ideas to push sales a bit further. But there might as well be people like me out there: Very often I just put products into my shopping cart to see the final prize, including shipping costs, taxes and so on. Then I quit the order process before sending it off. E.g. many airline websites add taxes and other surcharges to their actual flight prizes quite late in the order process. No wonder their abandonment rates are unsatisfactory. My user expericence is suffering just as well.

Sep 12, 2006 - Mayda Sanchez of says:
An evaluation of shipping rates and handling fees would be worthwhile also.

Sep 13, 2006 - Dan Obregon of eStara says:
Great idea to remind customers of their abandoned cart, but why not offer them an opportunity to speak immediately with a live representative over the phone rather than sending an invitation to a promotion or e-mail a question? Oftentimes, customers will abandon a transaction because they uncomfortable providing financial information online or they have a question about a particular item (eg. what's the return policy, are there other colors available, etc.). At that moment, they may need assistance from an expert to continue down the purchase path. E-mail is fine if the goal is to build a list for future contact, but if the goal is to close a sale, you want to speak to that customer right away before they’re off to a competitor’s site. However, if you do decide to escalate to phone a text chat conversation with a customer, be sure that the time and effort they invested online doesn't go to waste when they cross-channels to speak with you. It's important to maintain the context of the customer's online session to preserve a continuity of experience that will reflect positively on your brand regardless of whether or not they complete their purchase online or offline.

Sep 13, 2006 - shoelover of Shoe Stor says:
It's all about the flat rate shipping.......

Sep 13, 2006 - Laurie Jones of SMB says:
I can completely relate to this article, in addition to Cart there is another huge problem that could make a great case study for Marketing Sherpa: Checkout Abandonment Rate. Similar story, similar potential for huge wins. I am religious reader of Occam's Razor blog by Avinash Kaushik. He covered this topic, both Cart and Checkout Abandonment in detail along with some tips on how to fix both. Here is a link to that post: Excellent Analytics Tip #7: The Adorable Site Abandonment Rate Metric

Mar 05, 2007 - Chris Baker of Chris Baker Freelance Project Management says:
I wonder: now that carts are more likely to keep you order until later, and there are many businesses selling high-value or high-touch goods via carts, are we seeing customers using the cart to park items that are of potential interest? For example, is the cart a good place to park your potential purchase while you go off and decide “do I really want it?” / “can I get a better deal elsewhere?” / “could I get a tie to go with that?” etc. I know I have begun to do that. This would have some big effects e.g. on how to interpret abandonment rates, on how to recover some of the business left abandoned in the carts, whether it was good to have a “save until later” options (as Amazon do, for example) and on how often to purge old carts. One telling statistic would be the proportion of “abandoned” carts that re-activated themselves. I’m not doing any cart projects at present, so this is stuck at just musing – but I wondered whether anyone on the list had any information or thoughts?

Oct 02, 2007 - Michelle Greer of Volusion Inc. says:
I think shipping does come into play. I can't stand when I find an item I want only to see at the end that shipping ends up costing me more than tax would if I just bought an item at a local store. I also don't like registering before I purchase something. Would you do that at a brick and mortar? I am interested in this topic and will pursue our merchants' cart abandonment rates as well.

Sep 23, 2009 - Scott Brandley of Trust Guard says:
One of the best seals we've developed at Trust Guard to help reduce shopping cart abandonment, is our security video seal. A professional spokesperson actually talks to your customers and explains all the security measures that a website takes to protect them. Giving them a big confidence boost right when it's needed.

Sep 19, 2010 - Tatyana of non says:
In fact, many customers abandon their shopping carts because they find checkout process too long or complicated. I believe the best way to reduce shopping cart abandonment rate is to install a Magento extension like GoMage LightCheckout. It combines all the checkout steps on one page and enhances checkout process significantly. See more information here

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