Cart Abandonment and Ecommerce Conversion Rate

Each year millions of shopping carts are abandoned before the purchase is complete, severely reducing the ecommerce conversion rate for business owners. The good news is there are lots of strategies that can be deployed to improve the end of the sales funnel and ultimately the ecommerce conversion rate.

This article will explore some of the most common reasons an ecommerce shopping cart is abandoned (with up to date statistics), strategies to try to prevent this from happening as well as additional things that can be done to enhance the overall ecommerce conversion rate at this stage of the user experience.

What can cause a user to abandon the sales funnel during the checkout stage, reducing ecommerce conversion rate?

A user can crash out of the sales funnel at various stages of the user experience. There are a whole host of potential causes during the checkout process, from functionality issues, unexpected prices to a lack of usability. I am going to discuss a few common causes of a low ecommerce conversion rate in the checkout stage:

Functionality Issues - A user is judging you on every inch of your user interface. Running into a functionality issue on your website can be enough to put off a lot of users. If you do not maintain the quality of your website, perhaps the product or service quality may be overlooked? Checkout processes often have a lot of functionality, from field validation, cart amendment options and navigation between different stages of the process. Test the performance of your website regularly across major browsers and devices, prioritising the most frequently used.

Loss of data - Loss of data can be very frustrating to the user, as it directly impacts the actual completion time. This could occur for several reasons, for example using the back button on the browser. The website can cater for this scenario by saving data, such that it is evident on return. Having an auto-fill feature and other time saving strategies (using same delivery address as personal address) can please a user and prevent abandonment.

Unexpected Prices - The best policy is to be upfront about total costs throughout the sales funnel. Unexpected additions can be very frustrating for users and a direct cause of abandonment. Similarly it is advised to be upfront about stock levels.

No guest checkout – As websites develop and efficient and user-friendly ‘norms’ form, user expectations understandably increase. A ‘guest checkout’ option can be a prerequisite of a positive user experience for many users, with its non-existence being enough to deter some. Having to register for the process causes two potential areas of friction, with users likely having to invest more time, as well as having to hand over more sensitive information.

Lack of Payment Options - Users form habits and preferences in they way they use the internet and shop online. Many users will have a preference for a particular payment method and would feel rather uncomfortable if this were not available to them on any given ecommerce website.


The Statistics

With research from SeeWhy, Forrester, BizReport and others, Fifth Gear eCommerce have produced this informative infographic on eCommerce shopping cart abandonment:

Cart Abandoment stats

How to alleviate shopping cart abandonment and improve ecommerce conversion rate

Offer guest checkout - This will help alleviate two potential barriers to conversion, with a quicker option to complete the sales funnel, as well as the ability to hand over less sensitive information.

Offer incentives such as free shipping - As a strategy this can have several benefits. Studies have shown that not only can this significantly improve conversion rates, but that it can also increase the average cart size. Websites such as TJ Maxx regard this strategy so highly, that they allocate a permanent amount of real estate in the header, indicating the additional amount needed to qualify for free shipping

TJ Maxx example

Focus on completing the sales funnel - Each page on a website has a primary objective. At the checkout stage you want it to be as easy and simple as possible for users to complete the transaction and convert into a paying customer. Strategies to eliminate any distracting web elements, that are not essential to complete the checkout process, will allow the users attention to focus on the primary task.

Save the users data - Ensure the user's data is saved at each step of the checkout process. A user should be able to navigate away from the page or use the back button and be able to go back to exactly where they were afterwards to continue easily.

Offer a plethora of payment options (and clearly display them throughout the sales funnel) - By offering an array of payment options, you can ensure your website caters for the preferred method of payment for an overwhelming majority of your users. Be upfront, with clear logos throughout the sales funnel and clearly at the point of payment.


The checkout process is a sensitive time for a user in the sales funnel. There is a plethora of possible reasons a user will leave the sales funnel at this stage. A user friendly checkout will be well structured, offer as quick and efficient purchase as possible and be upfront about stock levels and price. Eliminating as many potential causes of friction as possible will ensure your ecommerce conversion rate doesn't suffer.

For a full report into the usability of your checkout process, testing over a much wider range of criteria than discussed in this article, check out my usability audit testing service.

By Sam Nickson

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