10 reasons for abandoned shopping carts

By Limegrow Other No Comments on 10 reasons for abandoned shopping carts

abandoned shopping cart


Abandoned shopping carts are an important but often overlooked topic for e-commerce store owners.

My goal with this article is to shine some light and tips regarding abandoned shopping carts and their recovery. This topic itself is massive but I respect your time and will try to keep it reasonably short.

In this article, you’ll learn:

About me:
I’m the founder of Limegrow and I’ve been in e-commerce for 10+ years. Getting thoughts out my head is not the easiest task – did my best and I really hope that you’ll find something that will help to boost your e-commerce business.

What is shopping cart abandonment?

Shopping cart abandonment is something that most business owners experience. In the simplest terms, it means that the customer did not complete the desired action. In a physical store, it means the customer put their items back on the shelf or left their cart somewhere and walked out of the store. In an online store, it means pretty much the same thing; the customer added products to the cart, but the purchase did not happen.

What is the possible effect on the business?

Financial effect

Physical store cart abandonment rates are around 1-2%, which is a relatively small percentage.

Online store cart abandonment rates for desktop users are around 75%, for mobile users this can be as high as 85%. This means that a lot of money is left on the table.

On the positive side – recovering 10% or more of the abandoned shopping carts is possible.

To put that into numbers – imagine that you have 100 abandoned carts every day, with an average value of $100. Within one month, that equals approximately $310,000 in lost money.
If you are able to recover 10% of the carts, your company will make an extra $31,200.

TIP: How to calculate the cart abandonment rate for your online store

  1. Get the total amount for abandoned carts for 1 month

    Formula: purchases initiated – purchases completed = # of abandoned carts
    Example: If 20,000 purchases were initiated and 5,000 of them were completed:
    20,000 – 5,000 = 15,000
    Now you know that 15,000 carts were abandoned…

  2. Get the abandoned cart rate

    Formula: abandoned carts / initiated purchases = abandoned purchase rate
    With our current example, this would equal:
    15,000 / 20,000 = 0.75 = 75%

    If you know the average cart size, you can also calculate the total possible amount of money that your business is leaving on the table due to abandoned carts.

Reputational effect

Having an online store with a high cart abandonment rate usually means that the store has various issues that make the shopping experience not the best. When customers experience a poor shopping experience, they will most likely share the experience with their friends and colleagues.

Imagine discussions like:

Mary: Hey Amanda! Where did you get this lovely dress?
Amanda: I got it from Store X for the price of $50. Store Y offered it slightly cheaper but their checkout did not seem secure / was not convenient / surprised me with a considerable delivery fee.

Unfortunately, this sort of feedback can end up in public online reviews on Google / Facebook etc.This will of course have a financial impact on your business due to the decrease in sales.

I believe this hypothetical situation was a silly example, but hopefully, it got the point across. 🙂

Why do people abandon their carts?

There are so many reasons why people abandon their carts. We’re all humans and do human things. We communicate with each other, we multitask, we compare, we want the best, we want convenience, security, speed, we want to be treated well. All that we are as individuals can and will affect the decisions we make in the online world.

  • When we multitask or get distracted, we might forget our purchases.
  • When we compare, we might find a better deal or product from another store.
  • When we want convenience, we look for shipping options/locations and payment methods.

1. Attention span

Based on the recent studies, the average attention span of a person is around 8 seconds. This means that it’s really easy to get distracted and switch to doing something totally different.

People ping us using messaging applications, or we click to Facebook from an online store and end up watching cute cat videos on Youtube. It’s nothing to take personally – that’s how we all are these days. It means that it’s harder and harder to keep people focused and interested in your content. It also means that if you’ve read this far, you’re doing better than average. 🙂

2. Shipping costs are not visible

People don’t like hidden costs. Cost plays a big role in decision making. If the shipping fee (especially a big one) is shown to customers only in their cart, it can cause the person to abandon the cart immediately. Take a look at Amazon. Before adding the product to the cart, you already know if it’s going to be with free shipping, and if not, the shipping cost.

3. They are not ready to buy or just browsing

Some people are just not yet ready to buy. They might need more information or are just dreaming. It’s important to try to catch these customers with retargeting ads. If it happens that somehow you know their contact, then it’s even better to use emails in the abandoned cart recovery flow.

4. Slow delivery time

Most customers don’t like to wait long for their goods to arrive. If customers are complaining about slow delivery times, it might be a good time to look into additional carriers. In some cases, it might be reasonable to use Uber Connect for package delivery instead of traditional services.

Keep in mind, in certain cases people are willing to pay more for the goods to be delivered faster. 

5. Not knowing the delivery time

We’ve encountered stores which don’t show the delivery time.
I can’t justify the fact of not having it. 🙂

6. The store is slow

Keeping in mind the attention span and impatience of people, slow online stores are one of the core reasons for people leaving an online store. It plays an important role when you are selling products that you are in competition with other stores to sell. If you have a super niche product, which people can not find easily from other stores, then they might have more mercy.

An important thing to keep in mind: A slow store can also have a negative impact on your ad score due to the bad user experience. This in turn might increase the price of your ad clicks and impressions. It might also cause your ads to show less frequently. Search ranking can also be negatively affected since Google wants to offer good service for their customers (the people performing a search). When Google recommends people to slow online stores, people are not getting the best service.

TIP: It’s good to check from time to time if Google is happy with your site by using the Google PageSpeed Insights (free) tool. If your score is low, let your development team look into it.

7. Store not optimized for mobile users

More and more people are browsing the web on mobile. It also means that more people are buying on mobile. This is one of the reasons why Google switched to mobile-first indexing. That means that the ranking of sites in Google search results is determined by how well the mobile version of the site is performing. Google PageSpeed Insights will also indicate a mobile usability score for the mobile version of your store.

8. A confusing returns policy

Buying online has the disadvantage of not always having the possibility of trying the product before buying. Customers want to know what options are available for returning the product when the need arises.

A lot of stores that we’ve worked with see returns as something negative that involves unexpected costs, extra procedures and an increased workload; thus, the importance of having a super, smooth return process for the customer has never been a priority.

Yet some stores have taken a different approach. They try to make the returns process as smooth as possible for the customer. Yes, it does involve more work, but at the same time, customer satisfaction and their feeling of security increases greatly. That increases trust and recurring purchases.

It’s your task as a business to find ways to make sure that people will get the best possible product, amounting a lower number of returns.

9. Limited payment options

Customers like options and convenience. Customers also have habits and preferences. For example, if Apple Pay is gaining popularity and your store is not supporting it, you might be missing out.

Our recommendation is to always have at least one payment method that people know and trust well. I’ve personally chosen to pay with PayPal on multiple occasions instead of the credit card – just because it felt safer.

10. Limited shipping options

You need to meet people where they are. Wider coverage of shipping methods and locations, means customers are more likely to order.

Ways to prevent cart abandonment

Dealing with and solving the issues on this list is a good start. Additionally, the list below provides some of the more immediate ways to prevent cart abandonment in the moment.

1. Exit offers

There are tools available that show a sales or coupon in a popup message just before the user is leaving the store. I know – usually these popup messages are annoying. Yet if delivered at the right time, and with a compelling value proposition and message, they can do some good.

2. Discount codes

Make sure a discount code section is available at Checkout. If they already got the code from your email or marketing content, they will use it. Oftentimes people even search for discount codes online, and it might not be such a bad thing when these discount codes “leak”. More on this in the next section.

3. Flash deals

Another option is to set up a process for offering a flash deal discount code in the checkout. It’s easiest to test this using A/B testing tools. By using A/B testing, you confirm if the approach works for your store or not. A/B testing in this context means that a percentage of store customers (let’s say 50%) will see the flash deal discount code offer and the other percentage will not. A quite good tool for experimenting with A/B testing is Google Optimize (and it’s free!).

4. Checkout

Ensure that the checkout page is clean and free from distractions.

  • Helping elements should be present (like security badges) to increase customer trust and feelings of security.
  • Show product pictures and information in the checkout section. By doing this, customers don’t need to ask confirming questions from themselves like, “what color did I choose?” or “did I choose the right size?”.
  • If there’s free shipping – communicate it.
  • If there’s a friendly return policy or money-back guarantee – communicate it clearly.
  • If there’s package tracking available – communicate it.

How to recover abandoned shopping carts?

1. Emails

Sending an abandoned cart email is one of the most classical and proven ways for abandoned cart recovery.

It’s good because it’s flexible, cheap, and allows you to be super creative. The kind of emails to create calls for an entirely separate article, but below are some ideas to keep in mind:

  • Include images of the abandoned products in the email.
  • Use scarcity where relevant (e.g. ‘Only 2 left in stock’)
  • Offer a discount
  • Try to avoid forcing the words like “Buy Now”, “Pay Today”. Use something softer like “Look again”
  • Monitor and optimize how many days and times after cart abandoned works the best. This will vary based on the product cost and industry.
  • Monitor and optimize email wording and content. The better the email, the higher the abandoned cart recovery rate.
  • Try to be personal and leave the impression that the email is coming from a friend. Might not be suitable for all the businesses, but if it suits, this is powerful.
  • Test these emails first with yourself, your team, and your friends. Does the email make you want to take action? If not, then it needs more work. 🙂

2. Push notifications

There are tools available which can help to send push notifications to the people who visited your store – even after they have left. Note: This opportunity should not be abused.

3. Retargeting

Retargeting in simple terms means that customers will see an ad regarding products they have viewed and abandoned. The ad will show in their social media feeds and other sites too.

Google and Facebook (+Instagram) both offer retargeting via a pixel. It works by adding the customer to a ‘retargeting list’, after abandoning their cart.

Note!: Important thing to keep in mind is that when the person comes back to the store and finishes the order, then this person must be removed from the retargeting list. We see this way too often. After purchasing the item, customers still see the same ad. Customers will most likely not buy the same item twice – so this just creates friction and creates unnecessary ad spending.

4. Reach out personally

This is something that has a lot of potential, especially in this highly digitalized, online world.

Pick up the phone and try to reach out to the customer who abandoned the cart. Be friendly – we’re all humans. This might open up some valuable feedback behind the abandoned cart and most importantly will show that your customer support is top level.


I hope you found some helpful tips and had at least one “a-ha!” moment. Despite not covering everything, I hope that this article already gave some ideas and “a-ha” moments.

If you need help with any of the above or want to share your feedback or have a request for an e-commerce related post, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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