What You Know About Shopping Cart Abandonment Has Changed Again

by Peter Boyle

Last updated on July 27th, 2017

Anyone else fed up of hearing about shopping cart abandonment?

Me too.

So why, you might ask, am I writing this piece on the very topic we’re all so fed up of? Well, I’m glad you asked. It’s because, as far as I can see, the general advice given on shopping cart abandonment is a carbon copy on every single site.

Seriously. Type shopping cart abandonment into Google and let me know if you find any truly groundbreaking statistics or theories on the topic. I will bet you one steak dinner that you can’t (drinks not included).

Whilst shopping cart abandonment is a huge problem for the majority of online retailers out there, the issue seems to have stagnated. We’re no longer breaking new ground. It’s a topic which has been beaten to death and needs to have some new life injected into it.

Now, I’m not saying that I’ve discovered a brand new secret that will do just that. Nor have I conducted a test which is going to revolutionize the whole topic. I have, however, discovered two prominent strategies which are often overlooked. Despite being overlooked I believe that these two strategies could have a huge effect on reducing your cart abandonment rate.

But, before we get onto my little discovery. Here’s a quick breakdown of…

What we Already Know

There is a wealth of information out there on SCA (shopping cart abandonment). I don’t want to waste too much time covering these areas as we’ve all heard them plenty of times before. However, in the interest of a thorough approach and to perhaps assist the uninitiated, here’s what’s already well-covered on the topic.

Q. Is SCA a Big Problem?

A. You bet your ass it is.

Approximately 68% of carts are abandoned before a purchase is completed. Those carts are predicted to total a potential $4.975 trillion in lost revenue before year’s end.

Shopping Cart Abandonment stats graph

Q. OK, So it’s a Problem. But What’s the Cause?

A. There are many reasons why prospects abandon their carts, but the primary reasons are surprise shipping fees or because prospects were only browsing.

reasons for shopping cart abandonment graph

Q. Useful to Know. How do We Combat These Problems?

A. Prepare yourself for a quick fire rundown of the accepted best practices for reducing shopping cart abandonment! (If you’d prefer a full, in depth guide then check out this awesome resource).

  1. Offer free shipping
    • No surprise costs added on at the checkout!
  2. Add scarcity elements
    • Not ready to buy? Well, the offer ends soon so you better ask yourself how much you want this product!
  3. Usability issues
    • A stable website that’s easy to use = lower bounce rate
  4. Simplify navigation
    • Because no one wants to waste five minutes finding the right link
  5. Trust seals
    • Everything from user reviews to “secured by PayPal” seals will help build trust and increase conversions
  6. Accepted payment options
    • Nothing worse than getting to the checkout to find you can’t use your AmEx to pay 🙁

Now the general info is out of the way, let’s get onto some of the less covered actions you can take.

Focus on the Mobile Experience

Mobile optimization is another well-covered CRO topic. However, it’s often covered in a way that focuses only on conversion increase, not addressing the potential connection between mobile optimization and SCA.

Perhaps that’s because there is no link between the two, but I don’t think so.

Mobile is a completely different arena to desktop. Of course you’re going to have to optimize differently for your mobile audience than for users on desktop. However, few people actually take steps beyond implementing a responsive design with their mobile campaign.

For a long time marketers ignored mobile and relied on the easy to use responsive because, well, mobile simply didn’t convert. But the times, they are a changing and mobile use is on the rise. Mobile users outnumbered desktop users for the first time in 2014 and again in 2015.

Changes in mobile uses

Despite this huge rise in usage, the common belief still seems to be that mobile is used to start a purchasing journey. Prospects use their mobile device to research products, but they don’t use them to purchase. They save that final action for when they’re on a desktop at a later time.

An increase in mobile traffic simply means an increase in people aimlessly browsing your site.

However, studies have shown that mobile is becoming a far more popular device for completing a purchase. According to Criteo four out of ten purchases now involve multiple devices.

Cross device behavior

What’s most interesting is the purchase journey these cross device customers are taking. You can see from the above graphic that 43% of users are finishing their purchase journey on mobile. Not starting it there.

Many marketers have written off the potential to use mobile as anything other than a research tool. But the research is showing a completely different story.

Take a look at Japan, the long time trendsetter in mobile developments. At the end of last year almost 50% of their eCommerce transactions were made through mobile devices. South Korea isn’t far behind and the UK is closing the gap quickly as well.

Worldwide mCommerce Stats

Mobile’s becoming far more than a simple research tool in eCommerce. It’s slowly gaining momentum and seems set to take the lead position as the top-converting device.

But how does this correlate to cart abandonment?

Well, the majority of mobile sites aren’t optimized for completing a purchase. They use responsive designs and/or are often optimized for top of funnel prospects. There’s been a heavy focus on cross device conversions that start on mobile. This has left the final stages with a lot to be desired.

With the old style of optimization still prevalent, the higher number of prospects wanting to finish their purchase on mobile are going to have a hard time doing so. They’ll find a poorly optimized final stage of your funnel which will cause them to abandon the purchase at the final stage.

Savvy marketers have noticed this trend. They’re reducing cart abandonment through optimizing cross device campaigns to favor mobile as the final step.

Guided Selling

In the Statista survey cited above, two of the top ten issues for cart abandonment are a confusing navigation menu and an overly long purchasing process.

There’s a lot of great advice out there focused on simplifying your navigation and making it as easy as possible. It’s good advice that panders to the short attention spans and helps prospects quickly find what they want.

However, when it comes to navigating extensive or complicated product lines, even the simplest navigation menus can seem daunting.

Take for instance a clothing store. Now, I’m not what you’d call a fashion forward guy, I buy my clothes based on price and how closely they conform to the look of my current wardrobe.

So imagine my dismay when I stumble across a site like the below. I get confused and intimidated by the variety of terms for an item of clothing I would simply call trousers. I’d never touch the filter options in the image below because I honestly have no idea what a “slouchy” pair of pants is.

Regular ecommerce clothes store

Can anyone tell me what Meggings are?

That leaves me in a difficult position. I have to trawl through the site in the old fashioned way to try and find something I like. And that’s a process that takes time and is, for me at least, very frustrating.

It’s why I was so excited when I was recently introduced to something called guided selling.

In short, guided selling makes product recommendations based on the intended use of the product. It’s sort of like a shop assistant who’s there to recommend the best products for your personal needs. There’s a nifty little selection process oddly reminiscent of school multiple choice quizzes.

Unlike traditional eCommerce navigation where you sort through products to find the item that best suits your needs, guided selling asks you questions on how you intend to use the product. You explaining your needs in stages, as you progress the selection of recommended products reduces until your left with the perfect choice.

It’s difficult to explain in words. So here’s a quick video of me running through the newly implemented process currently housed on Canon’s website.

This process should eradicate the need for complicated navigation menus. The fact that it’s also a fun little process to work through helps keep prospects engaged with your site and products. And, whilst I’ve no data to back this up yet, it definitely made me feel more comfortable and confident in the products recommended to me.

Need based personalization ticks a lot of the boxes of CRO and solves many of the problems associated with SCA. Whilst it’s still relatively unknown, it could well become the next big thing in eCommerce and conversions.

So How Do You Implement These Ideas?

We all know the best practices for reducing shopping cart abandonment.

It’s a great idea to stay on top of the accepted best practices, but we shouldn’t cling to them as the only solutions. There are plenty of other options out there.

And this is where you have to get your hands dirty.

If you run an eCommerce operation, this post could form your next testing hypothesis. Here’s what you do:

  1. Look through your analytics data to learn how your visitors use your sites (both mobile and desktop). And yes, heatmaps are another form of analytics :).
  2. Survey customers who make purchases after checkout. Did they make the purchase on mobile? Do they like guided shopping? Learn everything about them to help form your hypothesis. We recommend Qualaroo for this type of customer analysis.
  3. If your research supports that implementing these changes would most likely improve your conversions, then consider building a new shopping experience to test. It’s a lot of work, but this is the business you’re in.

And the worst thing that can happen? You’ll learn a lot about how your visitors and customers use your site. That’s the name of the game.



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Peter Boyle

Pete Boyle is a conversion focused copywriter and marketing consultant. He helps brands increase their revenue through compelling copy and smart email campaigns. Click here to connect with Pete or download one of his free marketing guides.


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  1. Tera says:
    November 2, 2015 at 9:26 pm

    First, I love this article…it is so true. In today’s age, everyone is “in a hurry”. We don’t just make calls with our phones, we respond to emails, check reports, pay bills, and more. Why wouldn’t we shop too? We continuously do everything on the go, so retailers and other businesses need to learn how to be more accommodating. I admit, I sometimes have a hard time buying clothes online, simply because I like to try thInga on first. However, I have my stores I know pretty well. My biggest reason for leaving a shopping cart is the excessive page navigation. Macy’s updated their mobile shopping platform, and you are asked if it’s OK to navigate to the purchase platform…but, if you want to add or make a change, you have to go back to the actual website. They recently sent out an apology letter to all customers stating this update was the wrong approach, and it has not benefitted the customers or the retail experience. So, at least they realized it. But, their mobile version still needs help. There is far too much scrolling. I like the idea of guided selling…would make my life so much easier. They sort of do it, but not well enough. Anyway, this comes from someone who has built an ecommerce site from scratch (I never want to do that again, so I’m thankful new platforms make it so much easier), so I understand both sides….and the customer is always right!

    • November 5, 2015 at 5:21 am

      Hey Tera,

      Thanks for the comment. And congrats on building you own eCommerce site!

      I think that poorly optimised mobile navigation is one of the main reasons mobile shopping suffers.

      But it’s good to hear Macy’s actually acknowledged their fault and are trying to put things right.

      I’m trying to get some more information on guided selling for an upcoming article. Keep watching this space as I’ll hopefully have something to update you with soon.


  2. October 30, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    Thanks Laurel,

    Yeah, guided selling is an interesting little development. After my friend introduced me to the idea I went hunting for some of the companies who offer the service.

    I’m hoping I’ll get some good insider info on the topic. If I can, you can be sure I’ll post something about it here.

    Keep watching this space!


  3. Laurel says:
    October 30, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Great article! I especially like the notion of guided selling, and would love to see some resources for setting something like this up!

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