What is cart abandonment?

What is cart abandonment? More and more often, you might find yourself wondering what all this hype is about. The truth is that email marketing automations have been around for quite some time. Nevertheless, there is still a considerable number of diligent professionals who are not a 100% knowledgeable. So, “what is cart abandonment?



what is cart abandonment

What is cart abandonment?

Cart abandonment, also called basket abandonment, is the instance of potential customers dropping out of the online shopping experience before they have

completed checkout.

Let’s consider two facts:

-Purchase behavior, regardless of purchase intention, is influenced by a number of factors.

-Online environments are different from offline environments.

In real life, when someone goes shopping they usually visit a specific area where many local shops are, or they head straight to the mall, so they can browse many brands at once. This automatic, unconscious, even, action is, in fact, the tested, optimal solution to satisfy a need. It is the outcome of multiple trials and this is the most successful one. The offline environment is very different.

This is the conversion funnel.

A conversion funnel refers to the complete stages for a target audience of a specific segment, from awareness to purchase. The following graph does a very good job at familiarizing someone with the concept:

cart abandonment funnel

How is the conversion funnel related to cart abandonment? Cart abandonment itself is dropping out of the process at the stage before last. Now, it is easy to realize that for a potential customer to have gone through all these steps of the process, they really were interested in the item. The “make or break” point comes in right before they start entering their personal and shipping details. It would be a pity for all this hard work to go to shame. But, at the same time, what this means is that potential customers who got this far are highly engaged. Even if they eventually dropped out, they most probably need a “push” before they reach out for their credit cards!

Another important takeaway from this graph is that website design and, more specifically, the online shopping experience should be optimized for checkouts. Creating a checkout-friendly

online shopping experience encompasses a number of considerations, all of which are central to cart retention.

What is cart abandonment? – Does Offline Consumer Behavior Meet the Online One?

The experience online and offline

First off, offline, a consumer can do their market research at a mall or the local market, browse all items, try them on, check their prices, take everything to the till, and complete the purchase. Almost everyone who reaches the till has made up their mind about the items in their cart. Because, by that moment, they browsed, tried, and could therefore compare the same items. Online, the experience is totally different.

People can browse dozens of eshops in seconds, the same items from different sellers, but there is dissonance involved. In what way?

ecommerce cart abandonment

There’s so many things going on in consumers’ minds:

When you find an item online which is available across various eshops, you start to wonder what the most beneficial one will be for you. And there’s a long stream of conscious and less conscious considerations one makes, almost simultaneously:

Authenticity is one of the primary concerns:

-“Is this an original, authentic product?”

-“Is this an authorized seller?”

Testimonials boost reliability:

-“Has any of my friends shopped from this eshop?”

-“If yes, what was their experience?”

-“If not, have they heard any reviews?”

-“Are there any testimonials on their website?”

-“Could these testimonials be fake?”

-“Are there any fori discussing online shopping experiences from this eshop?”

Social media accounts and updates influence online purchase intent:

-“Does their facebook page look legit?”

-“Are their posts regularly updated with new content?”

-“Do people interact with the page in a positive or negative way?”

Checkout-phase concerns range over a number of topics:

-“Why does the checkout page look like this?”

-“Do I have to create an account to complete the purchase?”

-“How many days until I get this item?”

-“Is it really my size? Where’s the size guide?”

-“Do I have a choice between standard delivery and expedite delivery?”

-“Are there any hidden fees?”

-“What is this Coupon Code box for?”

-“How can I get a coupon code?”

-“The price is $3 lower compared to the other eshop. But something’s off about this page.”

-“What if I don’t get my order?”

-“Is there a return policy?”

-“Can I get a refund? What is the policy?”

-“Are there any customs fees involved? How can I find out?”

-“Where is their Customer Support center?”

-“Why is it taking so long to reply?”

-“Maybe I should not trust them with my money.”

…to name but a few!

So, however fast tracking a product online can be, especially compared to the offline experience, there’s a lot more decisions involved that influence online shopping.

What is cart abandonment rate? – The formula

It is most useful to be able to compare your eshops performance regularly, over a specific period. The rate at which carts on your eshop are abandoned can be estimated using the following formula:

cart abandonment formula

Hop over to your Google Analytics account and get the numbers you need to estimate the cart abandonment rate on your eshop. Make a hobby out of it: Check the cart abandonment rate on your eshop every other week. Monitor your eshop’s performance over the months and implement the changes this implies.

What is cart abandonment? – Types of abandonment per industry

Different industries face different challenges. However, cart abandonment seems to be consistently present across some industries, only it goes by a different name:

  • Booking abandonment emails

When you are about to book your trip or accommodation online, but drop out for one reason or another, this is a type of abandonment. In fact, the travel industry is faced with booking  abandonment. Similar to cart abandonment which refers to specific items, booking abandonment concerns specific days, or flight times, or means of transport availability.

The reminder email:booking cart abandonment email

This is a simple reminder email. Everyone browsing your website and dropping out before booking gets this “Continue planning your stay with us” kind reminder. The clear call-to-action button, is complemented by a clickable option: “Search Again”.

The “helping hand” email:

Suppose someone was browsing destinations on your website. Having entered their email and other contact details, they dropped out the process before completing the transaction. This is where your booking abandonment email automation comes in. But, instead of reminding the potential customer to complete their booking, it offers to help them with the process. Additionally, it provides a phone number at which their customer support team can be reached.

booking cart abandonment email 2



The “It’s all here” email:

We found this example of booking abandonment email online and would like to share it with you. In this case, the service providers inform the user of the bookmarked status of their search. Then, they take the opportunity to remove any brand awareness concerns or other doubts by mentioning their background and experience in the hospitality sector. Last, they provide the contact details of their customer support team.

booking cart abandonment email 3

  • Form abandonment emails

Form abandonment is common across instances or processes which involve filling out forms and many details. For instance, certain universities require submission of such forms before they share tuition fees or other financial information. Such time-consuming or detail-filled forms cause even engaged users to abandon the process.

The particularity of this abandonment email type is that there is no form abandonment email example per se. In other words, it takes the form of other automated emails, from cart abandonment emails to booking abandonment, to automated product recommendations, to email confirmations.

For the very reason that a long form is counter-productive, following users around with a form awaiting to be filled out is not going to be more effective. So, form abandonment emails are transformed into event-specific emails. If users abandon before completing checkout, then a cart abandonment email is fired. If users abandon before filling out personal details to complete their profile and confirm their account, the automated email could resemble a confirmation email, style-wise (:subject line, newsletter design, etc).

  • Browse abandonment emails

You get dozens and dozens eshop visitors every day, but a considerable number of them bail on you. They browse pages and product categories, but they leave empty-handed. This is what we call browse abandonment. Designing a browse abandonment email would look like this:

browse cart abandonment email

This email starts with a personal greeting and carries a straightforward message:

“Still looking to book…?”. A relaxed, semi-formal writing style, that goes with a performance review average, and a highlighted review enhances further the smart CTA button “See today’s prices”.

The “personal travel agent” email:

One type of browse abandonment email you can send is one that matches the browsed items with similar, recommended products. Essentially, this is an automatically generated type of email, based on the items the users have been browsing.


cart abandonment email recommendations

What is cart abandonment? – The facts

Having covered the basics, let’s take a look at some hard cart-abandonment facts:

#1 fact: No business will ever achieve a 100% conversion rate. So, cart abandonment has always been there, really. What every business can do, whatsoever, is eliminate cart abandonment with marketing automations (Check 10 Email Drip Campaign Examples ). Essentially, specially designed algorithms track customer journeys for every website visitor and they record their abandoned carts to their individual user profiles. From there, automated cart abandonment emails take over and smoothly get back to visitors with a purchase reminder. As a result, we are moving from cart abandonment rates to cart retention rates!

#2 fact: The global cart abandonment rate for Q1 2017 was 75.6%. With industry percentages ranging from around 68% to as high as 83%, it is clear that the more complex the checkout process, the higher the cart abandonment rate. As a result, the implications for UX and UI designers, as well as marketers or entrepreneurs, are massive. Did you know that $260 billion are recoverable through optimized checkout stages?

#3 fact: Businesses in Q1 2017 managed to drop their cart abandonment rates compared to Q4 in 2016. There are businesses out there riding the wave of email marketing automations, and getting actual results which they are cashing out. Meanwhile, there are businesses receiving incomplete/unsuccessful-order notifications from their ecommerce platforms. Which side are you on?

#4 fact: Stay creative and stay in the know. The more things you try, the more you understand your consumers and “crack” their code. If you are looking to find out more on how to reduce cart abandonment (and keep it that way!), check out these 7 actionable ways!

#5 fact: Use chatbots to reduce shopping cart abandonment!


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