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What is the most important metric to measure the performance of your ecommerce website? Orders and revenue are certainly important, but you also need to look at how many potential customers decided not to buy. You do this by measuring the abandoned cart rate—and then taking steps to entice more customers to follow through on their online purchase intentions.

Key takeaways

  • The abandoned cart rate measures shopping cart abandonment, which happens when a customer places an item in an online shopping cart but doesn't complete the purchase

  • The higher your abandoned cart rate the more sales you're missing out on

  • Shopping cart abandonment has many possible causes, including too many extra charges, too slow shipping, asking for too much information, and poor site performance

  • To reduce the shopping cart abandonment rate, address every possible operational issue—and engage in A/B testing to determine which changes have the largest impact

What is shopping cart abandonment?

Shopping cart abandonment occurs when a website customer adds an item to their shopping cart but then abandons it, walking away from the purchase. This happens when a customer is online shopping, finds an item they’re interested in, and clicks to add it to the shopping cart. Then, for one reason or another—maybe they were just window shopping, maybe they had second thoughts, maybe they found the same item for a lower price elsewhere—they leave the site without completing the checkout process and abandon the item in their shopping cart.

How do you calculate the abandoned cart rate?

You track shopping cart abandonment by calculating a website's abandoned cart rate. This is the percentage of online shoppers who add items to their shopping carts but then abandon it.

To calculate the abandoned cart rate, divide the total number of completed purchases by the number of shopping carts created, then subtract that result from the number one and multiply by 100. It is expressed as a percentage, as follows:

Abandoned Cart Rate = (1 – [completed purchases / shopping carts created]) * 100

How to calculate the abandoned cart rate.

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For example, if your ecommerce site recorded 50 completed purchases and 200 shopping carts created, the cart abandonment rate is 75%, calculated as follows:

(1 – [50 / 200)] 100 = (1 - .25) 100 = .75 * 100 = 75%

Why is the abandoned cart rate important?

Tracking your site's abandoned cart rates is an important tool to help you understand your customers' online shopping behavior. In general terms, the lower the abandoned cart rate, the more persuasive your products, pricing, and checkout process. The higher the abandoned cart rate, the more improvement you need to make to the process to convince more customers to follow through on their intended purchases. 

More importantly, if you can improve the abandoned cart rate you generate more sales from the same number of website visitors. Of course, you need to make sure that you're not sacrificing profits for conversions, so make sure you're also tracking other key metrics, including average order value and gross profit margin. 

What is an acceptable abandoned cart rate?

There is no single benchmark abandoned cart rate that applies to all sites across all industries. That said, most well-performing sites have abandoned cart rates in the 60% to 80% range. The Baymard Institute collected data from almost four dozen sites over the past several years and calculated an average abandoned cart rate of 69.82%. Know, however, that it might be acceptable for your site to perform above or below this number.

What causes shopping cart abandonment?

Not every shopper becomes a buyer. That applies in a physical retail store or on an ecommerce store. Some visitors are just window shoppers (58.6%, according to the Baymard Institute) and might never make a purchase. Some shoppers might shop today and make a purchase at a later date. 

Some, however, have every intention of making a purchase but are somehow turned off by something on your website, causing them to abandon their shopping carts. What are some of the things that can cause intended shoppers to change their minds? Here are a few of the more common reasons: 

  • Additional costs, such as shopping and taxes, are too high

  • Customers are asked to create an account before finalizing the purchase

  • Unacceptable delivery times (delivery too slow)

  • They don't trust site with their credit card information

  • A complicated checkout process took too long

  • Too many form fields or ambiguous form elements

  • Disruptive pop-ups

  • Extra costs were not transparently displayed

  • The checkout page had high load times or a poor user experience

  • Unsatisfactory returns policy

  • They didn't find the preferred payment method

  • Looking for but can't find a coupon code

  • Credit card was declined

Reasons for cart abandonment.

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What can you do to reduce your abandoned cart rate?

Once you get past the window shoppers and declined credit cards, practically every excuse given to abandon a shopping cart is under the total control of the online retailer. This is good news—as a retailer, you have all the tools necessary to reduce your site's cart abandonment rate.

With that in mind, here are some things to try:

  • Reduce high shipping costs or offer free shipping on orders exceeding a certain size

  • Offer guest checkout so customers don't have to create an account to make a purchase

  • Use email marketing to send abandoned cart emails to customers

  • Offer speedier delivery options or otherwise shorten your delivery times

  • Make sure your site is secured with https and SSL

  • Overhaul your checkout experience and backend operations to speed up the checkout process and reduce technical errors

  • Display the order total (including shipping, tax, and other charges) upfront without requiring the customer to go through the entire checkout process first

  • Offer multiple checkout options along with hassle-free returns

  • Offer a variety of payment options, including PayPal, Apple Pay, and Google Pay

In short, take every customer objection seriously and work to remove those obstacles to purchase.

The following video examines several steps you can take to reduce your abandoned cart rate.


What is shopping cart recovery?

Another strategy is to enact a shopping cart recovery program to lure back those lost customers who've abandoned their shopping carts. There are two ways to do this.

The first approach is to email visitors who've abandoned their carts and offer them the opportunity to quickly and easily complete their purchases. This offer is often accompanied by a coupon or extra discount to further entice the customer. 

The second approach is to retarget cart abandoners with online ads that follow them to other sites they visit. These retargeted ads remind them that they still have items waiting in their shopping carts, and can reduce cart abandonment by 6.5%—and increase online sales by close to 20%.

How can A/B testing reduce shopping cart abandonment?

Which of all these strategies to reduce shopping cart abandonment should your company pursue? If you can do everything at once, employ A/B testing to determine which activities have the most impact. 

Optimizely's A/B testing functionality lets you quickly and easily make changes to your website (no coding required) then split the traffic so that half your visitors see the original content and half see the content you've changed. Once the data has been collected, Optimizely's advanced statistical engine tells you which version had the lowest cart abandonment, so you can roll those changes out to your entire customer base.

That means transforming those cart abandonment statistics into conversion rate success stories.

Let Optimizely help you optimize your ecommerce website—and reduce your abandoned cart rate

The best way to reduce your abandoned cart rate is to optimize your ecommerce website and the customer experience, which you can do with the help of Optimizely. Our Digital Experience Platform helps you deliver the personalized experience and streamlined checkout process that today's customers demand. Our A/B testing ensures that you're always making the right data-based choices that can help reduce your abandoned cart rate—and increase sales.

Contact Optimizely today to learn more about reducing your site's abandoned cart rate.