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How to Analyze, Measure, Reduce, and Recover Shopping Cart Abandonment

I’m always surprised when I meet a client with an online checkout process and how few have tried to purchase from their own site! One of our new clients had a site they invested a ton of money into, and it’s five steps to get from the product page to the shopping cart. It’s a miracle that anyone is making it that far!

Businesses potentially lose $18 billion in revenue annually due to cart abandonment!


What is Shopping Cart Abandonment?

It may sound like an elementary question, but you must recognize that shopping cart abandonment is not every visitor exiting your e-commerce site; that’s referred to as browse abandonment. Shopping cart abandonment is only the visitors who added a product to the shopping cart and did not complete the purchase in that session.

Shopping cart abandonment occurs when a potential customer starts the checkout process for an online purchase but drops out before completing the transaction. This phenomenon is a critical metric for e-commerce businesses to monitor, as it directly impacts sales and revenue.

Cart abandonment and checkout abandonment are two closely related concepts in e-commerce, but they pinpoint different stages where a potential customer drops off from the purchasing process.

  • Cart Abandonment happens earlier in the shopping journey. It occurs when a shopper adds items to their online shopping cart but leaves the website before proceeding to checkout. This could be due to various reasons, such as simply wishing to save items for later consideration, being put off by higher-than-expected prices, or deciding to look for better options elsewhere. At this stage, the customer has shown interest in the product but is not yet committed to purchasing it.
  • Checkout Abandonment, on the other hand, signifies a deeper level of purchase intent followed by a withdrawal. This occurs when a shopper initiates the checkout process—by entering their shipping information, for example—but doesn’t complete the payment. The reasons for this could include complex navigation, trust issues with providing credit card details, unsatisfactory delivery options, or unexpected costs being added, such as shipping or taxes. Checkout abandonment is particularly concerning for retailers because the customer was one step away from the purchase, indicating that minor tweaks could convert these almost-sales into revenue.

The main difference lies in the stage of the shopping process and the level of buyer’s commitment. Cart abandonment is about losing the customer before they have decided to buy, while checkout abandonment is about losing them after they’ve made a decision to buy but are deterred by the process.

Mobile devices see an average 66% abandonment rate and desktop experiences a 73% abandonment rate.


Why Do Consumers Abandon Shopping Carts?

Here’s a bulleted list of reasons for cart abandonment in order of importance according to the infographic below:

  1. Unexpected Costs: Additional charges such as shipping, taxes, and fees that are not disclosed until the checkout process.
  2. Total Cost Shock: Customers may be surprised by the total cost of items when added up within the cart.
  3. Payment Issues: Problems with the customer’s preferred payment method or the site’s payment gateway.
  4. Comparison Shopping: Customers may leave items in their carts to compare prices on other websites.
  5. Lack of Trust: Concerns about site security or the handling of personal data can deter customers from completing purchases.
  6. Complex Checkout Process: A checkout process that is too long or complicated can frustrate customers into abandoning their carts.
  7. Poor Mobile Optimization: A website that is difficult to navigate or interact with on mobile devices can lead to abandonment.

Checkout abandonment occurs at a rate of 85% on mobile.

  1. Technical Issues: Glitches, crashes, or slow loading times can prevent customers from completing their purchases.
  2. Unexpected Interruptions: External factors, such as phone calls or required sign-ups, interrupt the shopping process.
  3. Lack of Remarketing Strategies: Failing to remind customers of their abandoned carts or to encourage them to complete the purchase.

By understanding and analyzing the reasons behind cart abandonment, businesses can implement strategies to reduce it, such as simplifying the checkout process, offering competitive pricing, improving website usability, and providing clear and upfront information on shipping costs and return policies.d

How to Calculate Your Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate

The formula for Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate:

\text{Cart Abandonment Rate (\%)} = \left(1 - \frac{\text{Number of Completed Purchases}}{\text{Number of Shopping Carts Created}}\right) \times 100

  • Number of Completed Purchases: This refers to the total count of shopping carts that have successfully gone through the checkout process and resulted in a purchase within a given time period. It’s a measure of how many potential buyers completed their transactions.
  • Number of Shopping Carts Created: This represents the total number of shopping carts that were initiated or created by visitors, regardless of whether they made a purchase. This includes both completed purchases and abandoned carts within the same time period.

How to Analyze Shopping Cart Abandonment in Google Analytics 4

In Google Analytics 4 (GA4), analyzing cart and checkout abandonment rates involves a combination of event tracking, funnel analysis, and audience segmentation.

Google Analytics 4 Checkout Funnel

Here’s how you can approach this analysis and troubleshoot potential issues:

  1. Set Up E-commerce Tracking: Ensure that e-commerce tracking is properly set up on your website. This includes sending events to GA4 when users add items to their cart (add_to_cart event) and when they start the checkout process (begin_checkout event).
  2. Create Conversion Events: Define the ‘purchase’ event as a conversion in GA4. This will allow you to measure the end-to-end conversion process and identify at which stage users are dropping off.
  3. Analyze Funnels: Use the Funnel Exploration tool in GA4 to create a funnel for your e-commerce process.
    • Construct a funnel with the following steps: User visits site > User adds product to cart > User begins checkout > User completes purchase.
    • This visual representation will show you where the drop-offs are occurring, enabling you to pinpoint whether it’s at the cart or checkout stage.
  4. Segment Your Audience: Break down your funnel data by user characteristics, such as demographics, device type, or traffic source. This can help you identify patterns in abandonment rates – for example, if they’re higher on mobile devices, suggesting a need for better mobile optimization.
  5. Monitor User Behavior: Use Event counts to see how often add_to_cart and begin_checkout events are triggered compared to ‘purchase’ events.
    • Review User flow reports to understand the paths taken by users who abandon their carts or checkout.
  6. Troubleshoot with Detailed Reports:
    • Analyze the E-commerce Purchase Funnel report to see the conversion and drop-off rates between each stage of the funnel.
    • Check the Item List Performance report to see if specific products have higher abandonment rates, which could indicate issues with those items.
  7. Use Audience Insights: Create audiences based on the add_to_cart and begin_checkout events but exclude those who have triggered the purchase event. Then, use the Audience Insights feature to analyze the behavior and characteristics of users who abandon their carts or checkout.
  8. Implement Enhanced Measurement: If you enable Enhanced Measurement in GA4, you can automatically track scrolls, outbound clicks, site search, video engagement, and file downloads, which might give additional context to why users are abandoning their carts or checkout.

How To Analyze Shopper Behavior Using Microsoft Clarity

Microsoft Clarity and Google Analytics 4 (GA4) offer complementary insights into user behavior, each with unique tools that can enhance a website’s performance when used in tandem. Clarity excels in providing qualitative data through visual tools like session recordings and heatmaps, allowing website owners to observe actual user interactions, such as mouse movements, clicks, and scrolls. This insight can reveal the why behind user behaviors that lead to cart and checkout abandonment, filling in the gaps left by quantitative data. By integrating the macro-level insights from GA4 with the micro-level user behavior details from Clarity, businesses gain a holistic understanding of their website performance.

Microsoft Clarity Checkout Abandonment

Utilizing both platforms allows for a powerful combination of what is happening on a site and why it’s happening, enabling data-driven decisions that can significantly improve user experience and conversion rates. Here’s how Clarity can help:

  • Session Recordings: Clarity records user sessions, which allows you to watch how users interact with your website. You can see where users might get confused, what makes them hesitate, and at what point they decide to abandon their cart or checkout process. This can provide valuable context that numbers alone might not reveal.
  • Heatmaps: Clarity generates heatmaps that visually represent where users are clicking, moving, and scrolling on your site. This can help you identify if users are having difficulty navigating to the checkout, if they’re getting distracted by other elements, or if important call-to-action buttons are being overlooked.
  • Insight Dashboard: The dashboard aggregates data and presents it in an easy-to-understand format. You can quickly identify trends, such as which pages have the highest dropout rates, and drill down to understand user interactions on those pages.
  • Segmentation: You can filter session recordings and heatmaps by various segments such as device type, browser, geographic location, or referral source. This can help you identify if abandonment rates are higher among certain user groups and tailor your troubleshooting accordingly.
  • Rage Clicks and Dead Clicks: Clarity identifies areas on your website where users frequently click to no avail (dead clicks) or click repeatedly in frustration (rage clicks). These can indicate issues with website functionality or design that could be causing users to abandon their carts or checkout.
  • JavaScript Errors: Clarity reports JavaScript errors that users encounter on your site. These errors could be causing functional issues that lead to abandonment, and identifying them can be the first step to fixing them.
  • Scroll Depth: By analyzing how far users scroll on a page, Clarity can help you understand if your checkout button or cart summary is being seen by users, or if it’s too far down the page.

Using these insights, you can make data-driven decisions to optimize your website and reduce abandonment rates. For instance, if session recordings show that users are abandoning their carts after being presented with unexpected shipping costs, you might consider displaying shipping costs earlier in the shopping process. If heatmaps show that users are not clicking on the checkout button, you might test making it more prominent on the page.

Strategies to Reduce and Recover Abandoned Shopping Carts

Businesses can tackle the common reasons for cart abandonment and encourage customers to return to their carts and complete their purchases with the following strategies.

  • Email Reminders: Send timely follow-up emails to customers who have left items in their carts. Personalize the message to remind them of what they’ve left behind and perhaps offer a small incentive to complete the purchase.
  • Improve Security: Highlight the security measures in place on your site to reassure customers that their personal and payment information is safe.
  • Outsmart Competitors: Keep an eye on competitors’ pricing and deals. Offer price matching or spotlight your unique value proposition to entice customers back.
  • Simplify Checkout: Streamline the checkout process to be as quick and hassle-free as possible. Remove unnecessary steps and consider allowing guest checkout.
  • Transparent Pricing: Ensure all costs, including shipping and taxes, are clearly stated early in the shopping process to prevent surprises at checkout.
  • Offer Incentives: Consider offering discounts, free shipping, or other promotions to customers who may have abandoned their carts.
  • Optimize for Mobile: Ensure your website and checkout process are fully optimized for mobile users, providing a smooth and responsive experience.
  • Delivery Options: Provide a range of delivery options to meet various customer preferences and needs.
  • Customer Support: Offer easy access to customer support, such as live chat or a helpline, to assist with any questions or issues that arise during checkout.
  • Retargeting Ads: Use retargeting ads to re-engage customers across different platforms, reminding them of the items they were interested in.
  • Exit Intent Popups: Display a message or offer when the system detects the user is about to leave the site, which can help reduce cart abandonment.
  • Simplify Navigation: Ensure that navigating to and from the cart is straightforward, so customers can easily modify their cart contents or continue shopping.
Cart Abandonment Statistics for 2023

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is CMO of OpenINSIGHTS and the founder of the Martech Zone. Douglas has helped dozens of successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to assist companies in implementing and automating their sales and marketing strategies. Douglas is an internationally recognized digital transformation and MarTech expert and speaker. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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