Cart Abandonment – 10 Ways Your Checkout Is Killing Your Sales (and what to do about it)

After troubleshooting paid search accounts for so many years, you learn a thing or two about cart abandonment. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) people spend a lot of time sifting through analytics and heatmaps, but they won’t get to what’s happening in the checkout process unless they investigate for shopping cart abandonment.

Shopping Cart AbandonmentA strategy for optimizing a website for conversions is to look for areas that might be causing friction for users and then minimize them as best as possible. The problem is that they are often times hard to spot. The best way to test it is to have someone who has never seen the website before attempt some test checkouts. If they are a CRO specialist, even better, but any person who has never checked out is very unassuming and has no expectation or previous knowledge of how your checkout elements are set up.

Below are the top 10 reasons why people abandon shopping carts. A certain percentage of people are going to change their mind, decide to keep price shopping, get distracted and forget to check out later. We can’t do as much to fix those things but here are the actionable reasons:

Shipping Costs Are Too High Even When It’s Free
– Depending on the weight of the products being shipped, the cost is typically substantial enough that has to be built in to the profit model of the business. If the model is to offer FREE Shipping, often times it’s with a minimum order amount. If the messaging is not ultra-clear to the customer, they might be in for a shock when they get to the checkout page.

High shipping prices in general can often create problems for customers. If they add $20 in products to the cart and then it’s $10 to check out, you can be assured there’s going to be a huge disappointment when they eventually find out. As an advertisers, you have to also be mindful of the prioritized shipping costs. When the standard shipping is low or free and the customer needs the product within a few days, and if the first class or 2-day shipping cost is through the roof, it’s almost guaranteed they are going to skidaddle.

If you are experiencing high cart abandonment and your shipping is not free, try testing different options, such as making your standard shipping free for a few days. You’ll eat the cost but at least you get the sales while learning how much impact shipping has on your conversion rate.

Too Many Checkout Errors Or They Are Hard To Find – This is big. Checkout errors are a necessary part of checking out but there are two basic objectives you should have: 1) making it more difficult for customers to receive errors and 2) making errors that occur highly visible.

When we talk about streamlining the process for users, we want to make it seamless and fast. Checkout errors throw a wrench into the works by stopping people dead in their tracks. Errors occur for several reasons including: minimum spending amounts, fields entered incorrectly, and required fields not completed. To reduce the chance of a hiccup, try the following:

1. Reduce the required fields to only those that are necessary.
2. Make sure there is an * next to all required fields.
3. Open the acceptable formatting to include any conceivable variation (i.e on phone numbers; xxx-xxx-xxxx or xxxxxxxxxx).
4. Make sure errors appear next to where the error was committed.
5. If the error is a general error (like a purchase minimum), place the error notification just above the SUBMIT button instead of at the top of the form. If you have to scroll up to see it, the user will be confused as to why it didn’t work.

Too Many Buttons To Distract – Most shopping carts these days come with a plethora of checkout settings which can be implemented. When setting up the cart for the first time, many of them might seem like a good idea, but when they are all laid out on the checkout page, they can be distracting and cumbersome. Here is a screenshot all the many options a consumer might see when checking out. Mix this with minimum checkouts or errors, and the next step becomes very confusing. Definitely remove any unnecessary buttons.
Checkout Buttons

Too Many Or Not Enough Payment Options – Having payment options can ultimately help make it easier for people to buy. Sometimes website’s offer too many or not enough ways to check out. It is safe to assume most people that shop online have a credit or debit card they can use but nowadays it seems very customary for websites to also offer Paypal, gift cards, online check, Amazon Payments, Google Wallet, or various combinations of these.

In the beginning, stick to what what people expect to do which is go online and check out through using their payment card. After you get a reliable stream of successful checkouts happening then try adding an additional form like Paypal and see how the conversion rate fares. If all is good, and if you want to offer something else, go for it. Just remember that each option you add, adds to the total options your customers have to choose from… including the option to input a gift card and/or a coupon code.

Minimum Purchase Amounts – There are typically two types of minimum purchases: minimums to check out and minimums for free shipping. Since the decision surrounding these are tied to the business model, advertisers often become reluctant to change these especially as it would affect the profitability of the transaction.

We strongly suggest advertisers try to implement strategies that encourage larger sales rather than demand them. All minimums will decrease the conversion rate, but the more livable the minimums are, the less it will hurt you. If you can’t offer free shipping for everyone, then make the minimum as low as possible. If you can avoid purchase minimums all together, that is a no brainer. If your customers aren’t discouraged by the minimum, you still risk them not understanding your policies for the minimum which will directly lead to further abandonment. Whichever minimum policies you institute on your website, be sure to display them anywhere and everywhere you can. Hoping customers will get into the checkout and just go along with whatever curveball you throw at them will prove disastrous.

Too Many Questions, Steps or Repeated Steps in CheckOut – Unfortunately, this one is highly subjective. Every company has a certain amount of required information they need from a customer before there can be a successful checkout. The trick with this one is to make the process feel seamless and quick.

There have been arguments around displaying the checkout process steps (1, 2, 3, 4) visibly through each stage and whether it is better to set expectations or if it makes the entire process seem too daunting from the start. The less steps there are in total, the more effective displaying the steps will be. If you get into a checkout process and see 6 steps, you might think it’s gonna take too much time and move on to something else.

Don’t make people enter their address twice if the shipping and billing address are the same. Always offer the “same as billing” option.

Expandable steps on a single page can be confusing, especially on mobile screens. This happens when each step of the checkout is collapsed and needs to open before it can be filled out. The problem is that this takes up a lot of vertical space which forces users to scroll to complete the entire process. Notice on Amazon, almost the entire process can be done without scrolling.

Amazon Cart Checkout

The Checkout Process is Not Mobile Friendly– As mentioned above, mobile displays can not only cause issues for general website usability, but they can be major problems for checking out. Often times, an advertiser will have a mobile friendly website but the checkout pages are not designed by the same people so they lack responsive styling. Even when they do fit into the mobile screen, they can be hard to manage especially when a lot of scrolling is required to move between steps in the checkout process. We typically recommend that checkout steps occur by moving from screen to screen as opposed to scrolling.

Since there are now many types of devices, all mobile operating systems and screen sizes should be tested to ensure the process is seamless. It’s a good idea to pay attention to analytics and lookout for assisted conversions to/from mobile devices. While you’re there, it’s not hard to check exit rates on mobile devices from cart pages.

Not Enough Trust or Authority (3rd Party Carts) – This issue usually occurs with new websites or carts that don’t incorporate trust elements such as: store trust badges (Trust Pilot or Google Trusted Store), testimonials, BBB or Yelp badges, and other trust language like “in Business since 1974.” Even when businesses display these elements across the main site pages, when left out of the checkout process, their absence can lead to distrust and second guessing.

Customer Can’t Find Coupon Codes (or where to put them) – Unless its Amazon, I don’t purchase anything online without looking for a coupon code first. I’m also not the most frugal person but I’d say I’m not alone on this shopping strategy. One way our advertisers have combatted the abandonment issue is by adding coupon codes all over the website including cart pages. Car sales people have used the same strategy for decades by offering to shop the competing dealerships for you. The whole point is to keep you in the showroom. Do yourself a favor and keep your customers on your site by making coupon codes super easy to find and use. You could also implement easy coupon code usage by having them click the code to automatically apply it at checkout before they get there. This encourages them to move onto shopping right away and keeps them from having to backtrack in the cart if they forget to copy the coupon code. If they do have to copy and paste the code, make sure they can easily enter that code at the onset of the checkout process AND make sure they can see the pricing totals change on the spot.

Coupon Codes

Coupon Codes Don’t Work Anymore – This can be a sticky area. If you run a temporary sale using a coupon code, you’ll have to have that code expire. The frustrating part of this is that people might still try and see if it works. This is largely encouraged by the big couponing sites like When it doesn’t work, the shopper might decide they are not getting the desired price and leave. As suggested above, adding coupon codes to the site (especially near the coupon code field) can lessen the abandonment rate. If you always offer some sort of discount throughout the year, you might find it helpful to use the same code in each promotion. And if you change out the codes often for the same amount, consider giving codes a later expiry date beyond the end of the actual sale.

Pro Tip #1 – Since having some rate of cart abandonment is inevitable, many advertisers deploy and automate cart abandonment emails to remind advertisers to finish their checkout process. Your ability to do this would depend on whether the abandoner was logged into their account on your website giving you their email.

Pro Tip #2 – The whole purpose of remarketing is to re-engage visitors that have come to your website and did not check out. As you set up your remarketing management, you can exclude people who have checked out from your audience list. This will make it so your ads only target those who have been to your site but have not purchased. For more information on remarketing or other paid search management service, please contact us.

Final Point: As long as YOU ARE WITHIN THE AVERAGE PERSON’S EXPECTATION OF WHAT CHECKOUT EXPERIENCE SHOULD BE, you should be able to minimize cart abandonments. You will do even better if you can eliminate any surprises and are mindful of what your customers are thinking about as they check out.

About Peter Dulay

Advertisers choose Conversion Giant because we know that conversions, revenue, and profit come from more than just your marketing. It comes from thinking “BIG” about your business.