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Shopping Cart vs Checkout Abandonment

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Last editedDec 20213 min read

Shopping cart abandonment and checkout abandonment are often thought of in the same terms. This is largely because they both involve customers ditching the shopping process after initially finding products they were interested in. However, understanding the distinction between the two can help businesses tackle both problems more efficiently.

In this post, we’ll outline some of the key differences between the two trends so that you can strategise how to avoid them in the future.

Abandoned cart vs abandoned checkout: what’s the difference?

The principal difference between cart and checkout abandonment is the stage at which users leave their purchase, i.e. after placing items in their cart or at the checkout. This nuance is crucial as it indicates at which point the user lost interest or decided against purchase — and why.

The stage of abandonment is the essential difference between these two trends, but understanding how to mitigate each problem requires a more in-depth look at each separately.

Cart abandonment

Cart abandonment is when a user places items in their cart while browsing, but then quits the site or application before getting to the final stage of purchase. A website or online store’s cart abandonment rate can be calculated by dividing the total number of successful transactions by the total number of initiated carts. This can be summarised in the following equation:

Abandonment rate = 1 - (total no. of completed transactions / total no. of carts filled)

For example, an online health foods store sees 480 completed transactions in a week. However, they also see 70 users fill their carts and abandon the site before going to the payment stage. So, applying the above formula:

1 - (480/550) = 0.13 or 13%

We see that the store’s cart abandonment rate is 13%.

Users that abandon their purchase at the shopping cart stage do not proceed to the checkout stage. Since the cart stage precedes checkout, a high number of customers will begin the cart stage. This means that cart abandonment rates are typically higher than checkout abandonment rates.

Keep reading to find out how to avoid shopping cart abandonment.

Checkout abandonment

Checkout abandonment refers to when a customer goes as far as to initiate checkout but opts out of completing the purchase. You can calculate the checkout abandonment rate by dividing the total number of successful transactions by the total number of initiated transactions. This can be summarised in the following formula:

1 - (total no. of completed transactions/total no. of started transactions)

For example, an online vintage clothes shop has 89 customers completing transactions in a day. A further 12 customers began the checkout process but left the page before completing the transaction. Therefore:

1 - (89/101) = 0.12 or 12%

The shop’s checkout abandonment rate is 12%.

Elevated checkout abandonment rates are usually caused by poor user experience during the payment stage.

Customers who make it as far as the payment page are usually fairly committed to their purchase. When they abandon at this stage it usually signals that something to do with the payment process itself is off putting. This could be additional processing fees, delivery costs or difficulty navigating the page itself.

How to avoid shopping cart abandonment and checkout abandonment

A number of factors can influence a user’s decision to abandon purchase, either at the shopping cart stage or when they have begun the payment process. Below are some of the most common causes of abandonment and how you can prevent them.

Unexpected additional fees

A customer may be put off by seeing unexpected processing fees or delivery costs. This can be prevented by informing the customer early on of these additional fees so they know precisely how much they will be paying before they reach the payment stage.

Poor security measures

If a customer suspects that the site is not secure, they will likely opt out of completing a purchase. Providing adequate security measures can prevent users leaving before the transaction has been completed.

Limited payment or delivery options

A user may abandon their purchase upon realising the site does not deliver to their location or accept their preferred method of payment. Offering more inclusivity on both these fronts can avoid this, for example, by offering a variety of electronic payment solutions. Indeed, a crucial element of optimising customer experience is acknowledging customer payment preferences.

Poor site performance

If a site is buffering and failing to load, customers will likely lose patience and leave the site. In order to retain customers, it is worth investing in a high performing website service which enables fast checkout.

Overloading customers with suggestions for purchase

While nudging customers towards products they might be interested in can encourage them to purchase more, it can also backfire and become off-putting to users. Make sure you don’t overwhelm customers with suggestions for other products to prevent abandonment.

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