Shopping Cart Best Practices to Curtail Abandonment

Lauren Owens - December 9, 2014

By the time a customer reaches your shopping cart, you’ve done a lot of work. You’ve found them via search, connected with them over email, or sparked their interest in social media. They’ve spent time on your site and found things that they want to buy. This is the time to close the deal and maybe even offer them a few additional items they hadn’t yet thought to purchase.

Yet a look at your shopping cart exit rates might tell a different story. This is a story of a customer wanting to buy something, but failing to follow through. Why is this happening? Is there anything you can do to help?

In a word, yes. There are many small things E-tailers can do to “seal the deal” and nudge their would-be customers toward conversion. This includes:

Keeping Shipping Rates Reasonable & Transparent

Time and time again, customers cited shipping charges when asked why they abandoned purchases online. While it’s understandable that shipping can’t always be free, you can do a lot to help overcome the cost-of-shipping barrier, including:

  • Enabling customers to calculate shipping charges before checkout
  • Keeping shipping charges in line with your competitors’ shipping charges
  • Offering shipping incentives such as free shipping over a certain (reasonable) dollar amount; or, offering flat rate shipping and including the cost in your persistent messaging

Of course “reasonable” is in the eye of the beholder. The best way to see what your customers think of as reasonable is to test different shipping scenarios and messaging.

Offering Easy Payment Options

One-click payment options such as PayPal, Amazon Payments, and Google Wallet tend to help customers convert because they make the checkout process as easy as possible. This is especially important when it comes to mobile, where the checkout process should be as seamless as possible.

Making Sure Your Shopping Cart is Mobile-Friendly

According to Internet Retailer, about a quarter of online Black Friday sales were done through mobile devices. This means that if your checkout process isn’t mobile friendly, you could be missing out on a big piece of the pie.

To mobilize your checkout process:

  • Minimize the number of fields and navigation options
  • Make visual elements easy-on-the-eyes
  • Offer one-click payment options

Keeping Your Shopping Cart Visible & Editable

As a customer, there’s nothing more frustrating than having to “hunt” for your shopping cart when you’re ready to check out. E-tailers can help by including the shopping cart as a persistent site element.

Once inside the shopping cart, customers should be able to easily edit their carts – adding and deleting items at will.

Enabling Customers to Save Items for Later

Many shopping cart “abandonments” occur because customers are simply browsing and not yet ready to commit to purchase. You can help your customers save wanted items for later by enabling them to sign in. This way, their shopping carts are “saved” and you have the user’s contact information, which you can use to remind them that the items they were browsing are waiting in their carts.


When you “cross-sell” you show users related products while they’re browsing or checking out. These are products that your users might need, considering what they’re purchasing, but haven’t yet thought to purchase. If you were selling cameras for example, you could cross-sell memory cards, camera bags, or batteries.

The operative word here is “related.” Products that are unrelated run the risk of distracting the user from converting, so cross-sell selectively, and only when it makes sense.

Testing, Testing, Testing

How will your customers react to shopping cart security information? Will a dollar more or less in shipping charges make or break conversions? What’s the best color for your “buy now” button? Some things you just don’t know until you test them.

Before making changes to your checkout experience, test them. Testing is the only way to know whether or not you’ve made the right changes for your customers. Start with A/B testing, and then refine the checkout experience with multivariate testing. Although this is a time-consuming process, the insights you’ll gain will be invaluable.

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