The Plight of the Abandoned Shopping Cart: Top 4 Reasons People Do It (and how to fix it)

The sky darkens and a wind picks up.  The nightmarish creak of rusty wheels draws closer—you know this sound, you’ve heard it before—another shopping cart full of your products…. Abandoned. 

Unfortunately, you’re not alone. Digital shopping cart abandonment runs rampant, the bane of millions of e-commerce owners and managers. 

Photo by  Ali Yahya  on  Unsplash

Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

How rampant? According to data collection by The Baymard Institute, 69% of shopping carts are abandoned on average. This equates to billions of dollars of lost revenue, and what’s worse—these customers actually want your product—they have placed items in their shopping cart and are ready to convert—but something, most likely something awry in your checkout process, is stopping them.

Many marketers spend so much time focusing on beautiful site design, content creation, and merchandising, that they forget (or don’t know) how big of an impact their checkout process can have on conversions. This article will cover the top reasons shoppers abandon, and solutions to address each issue.

Top 4 Reasons People Abandon Their Online Shopping Cart

2017 Data from

2017 Data from

As you can see from the graph above, the top 4 reasons customers abandon their shopping carts are: 

  1. Unexpected Costs (61%)
  2. Forced Account Creation (37%)
  3. Overly Complex Checkout Process (28%)
  4. idn't Trust Online Store with Personal Info (19%)

The good news is that these are all fixable issues! If you’re able to optimize your checkout and alleviate these concerns, most likely you will see a drastic improvement in conversions.

Plight #1: Extra or Unexpected Costs

Clearly, customers hate surprises—at least when it comes to cost.  With 61% abandoning their shopping cart because of unexpected costs (shipping, taxes, other fees), and another 24% abandoning because they were unable to see or calculate their cost upfront, it is definitely worth a peek at your own cost presentation.

Be Upfront

It’s not viable for every business to offer reduced or free shipping, but that doesn’t mean these costs have to be clandestine. Be upfront about pricing from the beginning of the shopping process, and your customers will not only appreciate this confidence-building act, they will reward you with purchases.


Kohl’s does a great job of this on their online shop, seen in the screen capture above. They offer free shipping, but with caveats, and these caveats are clearly broken down for the customer.

You can also integrate a shipping calculator that estimates taxes and shipping during the shopping process so your customers know the final price before they get to checkout. The screenshot below is a stylish example of a real-time calculator used by the company Simple Sugars.


Plight #2: Forced Account Creation

Account creation and form filling can be tedious work, and according to the graph above, 37% of customers would rather leave their shopping cart high and dry than deal with unnecessary steps.  

Offer Optional Registration

It seems customers generally don’t like be forced to register, which makes offering optional registration the best way to go. Forced registration may offer the benefits of upselling and personalization, but it can be a curse on your conversions.

Asos reduced their cart abandonment by 50%  and another company added $300 million to its annual revenues by removing forced registration. Notice how Papa Murphy’s checkout page (screen grab below) gives new customers the opportunity to checkout as a guest.


Reduce and Incentivize

If you still want to use forced registration, just be sure to keep it simple. Cut out all unnecessary information and keep the required fields on your registration pages down to bare bones—just email address/username and password. You can always learn more about the customer as the relationship progresses, the important thing is that the relationship actually progresses. You can also offer an incentive for registration - perhaps a discount or even just a reminder that they can save time later.  Notice how Walmart offers both checkout options, while explaining the benefits of both.


Plight #3: Overly Complex Checkout Process

Imagine this – you’re standing in a checkout line with your arms full of stuff of you want to buy.  A salesperson approaches you, but instead of helping you through the checkout, he asks you to sign up for the store’s newsletter, buy a membership to a sister store, and maybe even follow the store’s Instagram.  You’d probably find it incredibly irritating, perhaps so much so that you walk out, leaving behind the things you planned to buy.

The online sphere isn’t so different – e-commerce customers are likely to react to distractions and complexity the same way. The solution is to remove distractions.   

Isolate Your Checkout

One way to remove distractions is to isolate your checkout process. Checkout isolation focuses the customer's mind on completing the purchase, making her feel more comfortable completing payment and order confirmation.

Remove Extraneous Content: Remove any headers or left-hand navigation menus in your checkout page. Don't make it easy for the visitor to abandon the checkout process. Econsultancy’s Dr. Baxter recommends doing this by replacing the header with the company logo in the top left of the page which can link to the homepage as the sole escape route. The below screenshot from Macy’s checkout page is a great example of a clean, isolated checkout.


Make it easy to find relevant information: Replace the footer with links related to the purchase process—information about delivery, return policies, contact options, and privacy and security.  Notice how the Nike checkout footer below has to do with purchase and shipping essentials. Take care that when these links are clicked, they’re displayed in a lightbox over the page – again, you don’t want your customer to leave the checkout page. Customers should be able to view all necessary the information without being taken out of the process.


Communicate with the customer about their progress. You want to isolate them, but you don't want them to feel lost. Provide a progress bar: when one step of the checkout has been completed, make it clear that it has been fulfilled and that the end is getting close. 

Plight #4: Didn’t Trust online store

While consumers love the convenience that online shopping has given us, they’re also wary (and rightfully so) of providing sensitive information unless a retailer can prove that it is trustworthy and secure. 

Build Confidence with Trust Signals

Use a recognizable trust badge or security seal. Data compiled by Actual Insights revealed that 61% of people abandoned a purchase because a trust logo was not present, and 75% abandoned because they didn’t recognize the logo. Be sure to not only use a security badge on your website, but use one that is familiar to customers. According to the same survey cited above, the three most familiar security seals are McAfee (89%), Verisign (76%), and PayPal (72%).  

Photo Courtesy of

Photo Courtesy of

You Can Save the Shopping Cart

Now that you understand the plight of the abandoned shopping cart, you are better equipped to be your own e-commerce hero. These solutions should help prevent the majority of your customers from abandoning, and for those who continue to do so, you can utilize a retargeting campaign.  I’ll talk about that next week, so stay tuned.