How to Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment by Optimizing the Checkout

How to Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment by Optimizing the Checkout

As of August 2017, 77.3% of all online retail orders — e.g., shopping carts — were abandoned instead of purchased. That’s according to cumulative data gathered by independent research firm Statista. And it’s a nearly 10% increase from that same firm’s January 2017 data. 

The pain of shopping cart abandonment affects both small and large business alike. But it’s only at scale that the pain truly intensifies …

Let’s say your site brings in 125,000 visitors per month, your average order value is $100, and your visitor-to-sale conversion rate is 0.92%.

If you increased your conversion rate by a mere 0.5%, you’d add an extra $62,500 of revenue every month. Cumulatively, that’s an extra $690,000 every year.

Numbers like that are exactly why conversion-rate optimization is big business. The question is: where should you start?

“Optimize Closest To The Money...”

This is the advice my mentor Peep Laja of CXL Institute drilled into my head.

Think about the people who visit your site. Some are random, some are window shopping, some will never buy. But those people who add something to their cart and reach the checkout... they’re motivated.

Look at the flow above. There we see 192 people reached the checkout but only 47 people actually checked out. What happened?

In this article on optimizing the checkout flow, Peep Laja shares professor B. J. Fogg’s Behavior model which basically states that the actions we're highly motivated to take and easy to do are more likely to be executed on.

So the question is, “If the checkout is easy enough to do, what made them lose their motivation?”

Conversion expert, Bryan Eisenberg, suggests that the three primary form design problems are:

  1. They fail to reduce fear.
  2. They fail to build trust and credibility.
  3. They fail to reinforce benefits.

“Web forms are a transaction. You need to look at them as an exchange of information and value in exchange for something of value you promise in your offer. When you don’t look at it as an exchange you fail.”

You could make assumptions and speculate as to how you might make improvements in each of these areas, but if you want to really understand your visitor’s hesitations, I’d recommend conducting qualitative research and get real feedback. 

1. Reduce Checkout Fears

Think about the last time you bought something online. Did you feel 100% comfortable handing over your personal details?

In a 2012 study of checkout forms by Baymard Institute, users reported that 61 of the top 100 ecommerce sites were asking for “seemingly unnecessary” information.

“The “seemingly unnecessary” part is noteworthy because the issue is largely one of perception. The e-commerce site may have a valid reason to ask for this information, but that reason must then either be:

1) self-evident to the customer, or

2) explicitly communicated

(the site must state why this seemingly unnecessary information is in fact necessary).”

One person in the study complained loudly at’s checkout saying “Look, why do they need my phone number? What do they need that for? They don’t need it!” but silently filled out a form later when the phone number field stated, “(for shipping-related questions)”.  

“Fear” may seem like an exaggeration, but you have to understand the visitor’s internal dialog during those final moments before checkout:

  • “Why do you need my phone number?”
  • “Are you going to call me when I don’t want you to?”
  • “Can I trust you with my credit card number?”
  • “Is my information secure with you?”
  • “Am I really getting the best deal?

It doesn’t matter that you’re one of the good guys. Each of these questions have strong roots in a very real anxiety for consumers. It’s not uncommon to hear horror stories about companies taking money for products they never deliver or worse.

A report from England’s Office of Fair Trading found that 1 in 7 people experienced a problem with shopping online. Another two-thirds of shoppers were worried about unauthorized access to their personal information.

In total 50% of all consumers who engaged in ecommerce were worried about being conned online.  

Of course, none of this is your fault, but it’s important you understand the foundational concerns with buying online before addressing the concerns specific to your market or business.

This is why you’ll frequently hear stories about how adding SSL Certificates and trust seals have increased conversion rates, like when the Central Reservation Service increased conversions by 30% after adding Versign.

Conversely, a survey by Actual Insights found that around 61% of people did not buy because a trust logo was not present, and over 75% said they didn’t buy because they didn’t recognize the logo used.

Getting into more specific objections, let’s look at how Shopify Plus customer Automatic, handles theirs right in the header of the checkout.

In case you’re unfamiliar, Automatic creates an adapter that plugs right into your car’s diagnostics port and communicates with your smartphone and tells you what’s happening in your car’s onboard computer.

It translates error codes, gives you your gas mileage, and helps you to locate your vehicle when you can’t find it in a parking lot. The newest release contains integrations with over 20 apps that allow you to split gas money, seamlessly expense your miles, and open your garage door as soon as you arrive home.  

Given how “new” this technology is, an interested customer may have a few concerns about buying. But look at the questions they’re answering right in the header:

  • Will it work with my phone?
  • Will it work in my car?
  • How long will it take to get here?
  • Do I have to pay a monthly fee?
  • What if I don’t like it?
  • What if I’m outside of the US?

Even though all of these questions are addressed multiple times throughout the site, they’re reiterated here to reassure potential customers they’re getting exactly what they want.  

On the bottom of their checkout, they also use a live chat integration, so hesitant prospects can ask a real person the questions that would prevent them from buying.

Another common fear that you may want to address is the “fear of missing out.”

It’s human nature that when you see this ... want to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

There are a few ways this could be addressed on-site to minimize any abandonment issues.

Shopify Plus customer DODOcase, for example, uses BounceExchange to trigger a 3-step popup that both captures a visitor’s email and provides a unique discount code that can be entered once you reach the checkout.

Step 1. A first-time visitor sees a pop-up

Step 2. Visitor enters email address to receive offer

Bonus: once they have the email address, they can use ad and email remarketing to follow up, even if you abandon the cart.  

Step 3. Give exclusive discount to be used at checkout

Now the customer knows that a discount code has been made available to them, and aren’t feeling surprised or left out once they reach the checkout.

Keysmart, another Shopify customer, uses a floating bar at the top of the site to display a discount that can be applied in the checkout later.

Overall, when it comes to reducing fear, is to understand what might be causing someone at the checkout page to hesitate about finally completing their order.

To really discover this for your specific checkout process, I would highly recommend using a session tracking and heatmap tool like Inspectlet so you can watch how people interact with the checkout, along with a tool like Qualaroo to collect qualitative feedback as they’re leaving.

User testing sessions following the “Think-aloud protocol” will also reveal plenty of trust issues.  

2. Build Trust and Credibility During Checkout

This builds on everything from the last section.

Brian Eisenberg asks, “Do you leverage your trust messages at the point of action?”

Trust messages, in this case, aren’t limited to security logos and privacy policies near the “Complete order” button, but in some cases, just bringing a little extra clarity where you’re asking the visitor to make a decision.

Take this “Shipping Details” section for example:

Looking at this, I have no idea how long it will take to receive my order. “Standard shipping” doesn’t give me an estimate on how long it could take, and the copy above practically prompts me to abandon the checkout to see how long it will take to make my product.

When I do go to the product page, the text “please factor 1-2 weeks for production time prior to shipping service” is in small copy outside of an intuitive eye-path.

However, by altering the copy to add just a little more clarity in the “Shipping Method” section, the visitor has all of the information necessary at the point of decision and therefore can trust themselves to make the right choice given their circumstances.

In addition, most third-party logistics (3PL) providers — particularly those that integrate directly with Shopify Plus — can automate estimated delivery dates.

Another common “trust & credibility” thing that can be done at the checkout is adding reassurances around the final checkout button.

For example, this is what ThinkGeek does at the moment of final moment of truth - The “Place Order” button.

But I would also argue that “Trust & Credibility” is more than what happens on the checkout page alone, and is more about every point of interaction with the entire brand experience.  

Consider the header of ThinkGeek for a moment, and look at just how much information it conveys.

In just the upper right-hand section alone, you see that their customer service options, shipping policies, and a friendly looking mascot.

Being this up-front about these things, coupled with intuitive navigation, and a bevy of familiar brands creates a foundation of trust that only gets built on as you go deeper into the site.

Because “Trust in Web Design” is far too broad to cover in a single section of this article, for the sake of brevity, here is a short checklist of items to consider when it comes to the trust factor of a website.

  • Professional branding
  • Intuitive navigation
  • Prototypical design
  • Easy to locate contact information
  • Clear shipping policies
  • Testimonials and Reviews
  • Fast load times
  • Recognizable brands

There are many additional things to consider, of course, but the point is you should constantly building trust through the entire site experience, then reinforce your trustworthiness at the points where a visitor has to make a decision in order to progress.

3. Reinforce the Benefits throughout Checkout

Does your checkout page continually reinforce the reasons why it’s great doing business with you?  

In my opinion, this well is about paying attention to the minor details on the page.  

Best Made Company, for example, doesn’t just use the standard “Order Summary” language at the checkout, but instead says, “You’re purchasing this...” above the product image. Though the language is subtle, it reinforces my decision to buy and subtly impacts my perception of ownership.   

Underneath the final price, Best Made also tells you just how much of the cost is attributed to shipping.

Later, instead of using the default “Subscribe to our newsletter” language, they spell out why subscribing would be beneficial to you.

Another checkout I really like is Hunter Boots.

One reason is that, in the header of the checkout, there is a reminder that shipping is free.

The “free shipping” message is reiterated when you select your shipping method...

...and again when you get to the payment details page…

Even better, on the UK version of the site, they also make it easy to call or live chat with their customer service right in the footer of the page.

The benefit this reinforces, even if it isn’t immediately apparent, is that Hunter’s customer service is ready and available at all times.

While this might feel reassuring as a customer, there is potential for a pretty decent lift in conversions as a result.

According to a 2013 study by customer service software Groove, which asked 1,500+ companies what channel they’re investing the most in, of the 7% of respondents who answered “Customer Service” their conversions were an average of 11% higher than everyone else in the study.

How to Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment Isn’t a Mystery

It’s easy to forget that customers scrutinize every move they make once they reach the checkout. Just like how to be successful in any area of life … it comes down to tried and true principles.

Every field, every bit of copy, every logo, is scrutinized and processed, even if only on a subconscious level, especially if they’ve never bought from you before.

Understanding this, if you’re proactive in finding ways to reduce fears, increase trust, and reiterating the reasons people decided to buy from you, you just may be able to get more people moving from the checkout to becoming an actual customer.

Photo of Tommy Walker

About the Author

Tommy Walker is the Long Form Content Editor at Oberlo. It is his goal to provide high-volume ecommerce stores with deeply researched, honest advice for growing their customer base, revenues and profits. Get more from Tommy on Twitter.