Shopping Cart Abandonment

Ever since we’ve optimized our checkout page, we’ve been keeping track of our shopping cart abandonment. So this, added by a request from Joost, compelled me to write a post on that very subject: shopping cart abandonment. So I started doing some digging, as I always do. And during this digging, I came across a few things I hadn’t really thought of myself. But when I started thinking about it, they sounded so stupid simple, I wondered why not.

You see, a lot of the focus on shopping cart abandonment is on why people would abandon your shopping cart, and how to prevent it. However, I think there’s one step to take into account before abandonment.

Use of shopping cart

A research by Close and Kukar-Kinney (2010) convinced me that, at first, it’s not about why people abandon your shopping cart, but about why they’re using your shopping cart in the first place! I always just assumed, as I’m sure some of you did as well, this was because people were intending to buy your products. That’s a pretty big assumption, when you think of it!

Online window shopping

A woman’s perspective by Marieke

Although hard to imagine for Thijs, shopping is -at least for some- not solely a functional activity. Some people just love to shop, even without buying anything. These so-called window shoppers take pleasure just in the shopping activity; regardless of them actually buying anything. In most cases, these people do not have the budget to ever buy the stuff they’re looking at.

I would expect there to be window shoppers on the internet as well. They will pick out stuff and put it in their baskets, without any intention to buy (all of it). Putting stuff in their baskets is just good fun for these window shoppers. Their shopping needs are met solely by filling their baskets. Shopping cart abandonment could thus well be partly explained by online window shopping.

Close and Kukar-Kinney actually found that a significant number of people also used the shopping cart as a sort of ‘wish list’ or to simply check out the total price (looking for hidden costs). This is only one study, because I simply could not find any more. It seems I’m not alone in my naiveté.

However, it’s mentioned in at least one other study by Kaufman-Scarborough and Lindquist (2002) that people might use the shopping cart for other purposes than just buying directly. So this goes to show that shopping cart abandonment isn’t all there is. They say “abandonment” could well be an oversimplification.

And I think they’re right: if people use your shopping cart as a wish list, they’re not exactly abandoning your shopping cart. They’re putting it away for later use. So calling it abandonment is in itself an assumption. I think it would be better to call it shopping cart use, and understanding how and why people use your shopping cart is quite important.


I hear you thinking right now: “how am I supposed to learn why people are abandoning my shopping cart, let alone how they’re using it?”. Granted, this is hard, but it’s definitely not impossible. A survey company called iPerceptions recognized this opportunity last year, when they launched their new service. Unfortunately, this service is, as of yet, only available for businesses with an Enterprise account. And that’s way too expensive for most of us.

I’m hoping this is just an onset of development that means more of services or products focused on shopping cart abandonment or use will be released. In the meantime, there’s another way for you to at least get some information. This is an exit intent survey, which means it’s a survey that only pops up if you’re moving your cursor to close the window. If you ask people at this point in time why they’re leaving, it could give you some very useful insights.

Baymard Institute has compiled 24 different studies and found that the average shopping cart abandonment is a whopping 67.89%! So you want to be sure you’ve looked at it from every angle possible for your business. So, if at all possible, try to find out why and how people are using your shopping cart. This will give you a more total view of things.

Shopping cart abandonment

Obviously there’s still a (large) part of the people that are leaving the shopping cart that actually do abandon it. Results from surveys asking customers why they abandoned the shopping cart give useful additional insights:

Reasons for shopping cart abandonment in 2012 This chart by Statista shows that unexpected costs were a big factor in why people abandoned their shopping cart. As always, you need to be aware that methods of doing such research, especially in surveys, can lead to some discrepancies. A study by comScore, for example, showed that “not being ready to purchase” or “saving the items for later” are the biggest factors.

However, the comScore study also mentioned as third biggest factor that customers felt the shipping costs were too high. This tells us that clarity about your prices and additional costs is probably a very important factor in shopping cart abandonment. So be sure to be very transparent about this!


Being clear about your prices and additional costs is just one of the things we mentioned as an improvement for your checkout page or shopping cart. There’s a lot of things you can do to keep people from abandoning or ‘misusing’ your shopping cart. After reading this post, one of them must seem quite obvious: offer people the use of a wish list. A lot of the big online retailers are actually already doing that, such as Amazon:

Add to wishlist - shopping cart abandonment

Some call it a ‘watch list’ or another creative name, but the idea is always the same. This is just a way to reduce the ‘noise’ in your statistics from misuse of your shopping carts.

And, as said, being clear about your costs and not surprising your customers with them will help decrease your shopping cart abandonment. Of course, there are loads of other things you can improve to decrease your shopping cart abandonment and increase your sales. We’ve recently started offering Conversion Reviews, which will shed light on this and much more!

Over to you

What about your shopping cart? Is it being abandoned or misused? Or do you have a shopping cart that works? Let me know!

14 Responses

  1. Mark (Superticker)
    By Mark (Superticker) on 16 January, 2014

    Unfortunately, shipping and handling (S/H) costs vary widely among online retailers, and your only choice is the go through their checkout procedure to determine what those costs are. Two possible solutions to this:
    1) Reveal the S/H costs and choices as part of the first page of the checkout procedure. This way the merchant can track that you abandoned the cart at “Step 1” for this specific reason–hidden costs.
    2) Provide a real-time update of the S/H costs in the corner of the e-commerce website so shoppers are made aware of them before entering the checkout procedure.

    Some sites with very high S/H costs won’t provide them until the very last page of checkout (after you entered all your information, etc). I avoid those sites altogether; they’re a waste of my time and money.

    • Thijs de Valk
      By Thijs de Valk on 17 January, 2014

      Exactly. You have to be as clear as possible about your pricing. And I don’t mean just the pricing of your products, but the pricing of everything.

      And I think your reaction of avoidance is a common one, which is even worse for site owners than abandonment, because if they’re trying to optimize, they’ll miss that data.

  2. Colectare ulei alimentar uzat
    By Colectare ulei alimentar uzat on 16 January, 2014

    I noticed the same thing over the years. I have a couple of online stores. Tried everything and nothing worked.

    • Thijs de Valk
      By Thijs de Valk on 17 January, 2014

      Well you could try ordering a Conversion Review then and we’ll probably be able to tell you what you’re missing ;)

  3. Bi?utik
    By Bi?utik on 16 January, 2014

    Very interesting post. In my online shop the shopping cart abandonment is really low. Maybe there are more factors like: who are your clients, what kind of product you are selling etc.
    Although my shopping cart abandonment is low I wouldn’t mind if the convertion rate was much higher :)

    • Thijs de Valk
      By Thijs de Valk on 17 January, 2014

      Well, as mentioned above as well: we’re always happy to help! A Conversion Review will probably help you!

      And keep reading our blogposts of course! We’ll be blogging about conversion a lot more this year :)

  4. Ryan
    By Ryan on 19 January, 2014

    Thanks for bringing a few new shopping cart abandonment studies to my attention. I have yet to implement ‘exit intent surveys’ on my sites but it looks like they have great potential. Are there any other alternatives I should look at?

    • Thijs de Valk
      By Thijs de Valk on 21 January, 2014

      Not that I know of, but if you find any, please let me know! :)

  5. Oliver Cole
    By Oliver Cole on 20 January, 2014

    Great read really interesting stuff keep it coming please

  6. Anchit Shethia
    By Anchit Shethia on 21 January, 2014

    Amazon plays very aggressively on this. They have mastered this industry. An article worth sharing. That graph was helping in evaluating my research :)

  7. Ivan Guel
    By Ivan Guel on 22 January, 2014

    Great post! This reminds me of a recent observation I made when analyzing the booking funnel of a website that sells all-inclusive travel packages. The greatest abandonment rate occurred after the user was presented with extra services (unexpected costs)… the drop was staggering.

  8. Mary Kay Lofurno
    By Mary Kay Lofurno on 22 January, 2014

    Good post. I know what has helped for us is to have some way to show the pricing right up front. Abandonment for that page may be high but the overall conversion rate [its a 4 step process] is higher. These are for products that are not traditional ecommerce setting where shipping is a factor. Thanks for sharing. Mary Kay

  9. Peter Tulp
    By Peter Tulp on 24 January, 2014


    Great Post.

    What Bizutik says, is very important here I think:

    “Maybe there are more factors like: who are your clients, what kind of product you are selling etc.”

    What is the source of the visitors? How targeted are they?

    And for the exit intent survey (please click on link in article above and do the 2 tests..):

    A: If you’re giving me 15% off only when I leave: I might feel mislead. But agreed: I might sometimes buy then… So it might work. But it’s not good for serious branding I think.

    B: If you give me the opportunity for you to reach out to me and answer questions… That might scare me off a little bit. Maybe I don’t want any contact (yet). Maybe I don’t have any questions and leave anyway… Thinking: “I’ll be back when I’m ready” And we all know this is marketing curse..


    …You try to get me on a special list with a compelling optin form.. For example offering me a free short report on the (advantages of) the product? Any extra insight?

    From your Shoppingcart Exits, you then have the chance of building a good list of serious hand raisers to market to… You don’t lose them with the examples above..

    How much would that be worth?

    Or is any of this already existing?

    I’m starting my first Copywriting and Info Marketing Business this month! Yes!

    Good Selling to you all..