April 21, 2015 | Posted By: Colleen Cassidy

How much money do you think is left in abandoned ecommerce carts every year?  $5 million?  $1 billion?

Try $4 trillion.

Even worse, this amount should only rise with online retail expected to become a $1.5 trillion dollar industry this year.

So what is an ecommerce marketer to do?

Well, it’s not all bad news. According to Business Insider, 63% of that $4 trillion is potentially recoverable by smart ecommerce marketers.

This is because an abandoned shopping cart does not mean a shopper disappears forever. In fact, 75% of shoppers who have abandoned carts say they plan to return to the retailer to make a purchase.

But if all of these shoppers plan on returning to make a purchase, why don’t they buy the first time around? Shouldn’t the odds of reclaiming these customers be lower?

It turns out many ecommerce stores are shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to getting customers to complete purchases. Check out some ecommerce shopping cart abandonment data from Statista.

Photo Credit: Statista
Photo Credit: Statista

Unexpected costs, process was taking too long, delivery options were unsuitable… As commerce pros, we are making life hard for ourselves by making things hard for our prospects. It truly doesn’t have to be that way, as you’re about to see…

Here are some similar results from Forrester’s North American Technographics Survey:

Photo Credit: Shopify
Photo Credit: Shopify

Starting to see a pattern here? Not only are ecommerce stores largely to blame for their cart abandonment issues, we can also see that many customers use shopping carts as a way to save items for the future, proving their intent to buy.

This is actually a great news! It’s an opportunity to look at your store and correct all the ways you’re nudging your customers away from their shopping carts. No more mystery involved – just some savvy (and unconventional) fixes that will decrease your cart abandonment and increase conversions in no time.

To start you off on the right foot, we’ve compiled the fastest, easiest and most proven ways you can cut your cart abandonment in half today. Choose to do AT LEAST one before dinner tonight.

1. Email Retargeting

If you ever seen the true crime show The First 48, you know how important it is for detectives to move quickly in order to solve a crime — the odds go down dramatically after the first 48 hours.

Photo Credit: TheTVPage.com
Photo Credit: TheTVPage.com

The same idea holds true for cart abandonment retargeting. The sooner you can message a customer that abandoned their cart, the higher the odds of getting them to come back and take out their credit card. Fact: 72% of customers will come back to make their purchase within 12 to 24 hours after abandoning their cart. (tweet this)

Even more, retargeting emails that are sent to customers within 3 hours of cart abandonment average a 40% open rate and 20% percent click-through rate. (tweet this)

Linda Bustos at GetElastic.com suggests sending a retargeting email or ad, to your customers during that first hour after they abandon their cart. Conversion rates drop at least 50% with 24 hours of abandonment. (tweet this)

Email retargeting also provides for some crazy revenue generation possibilities that outperform other email marketing strategies. In the following chart by SeeWhy.com, you can see that email retargeting dramatically outperforms all the other types of email marketing campaigns that were tested.

Photo Credit: ConversionXL.com
Photo Credit: ConversionXL.com

With those numbers, it’s clear your cart abandoners mean to come back and buy –  they just need to be nudged past the goal line to place their order! That is where the ecommerce marketing magic we are about to show you comes in.

Here is how CafePress.com uses email retargeting when their customers abandon their carts:

Photo Credit: GetElastic.com

They put the image of the product front and center to remind their customers what they’re missing out on. They also capitalize on something brick and mortar retailers can’t – ecommerce is always open, so come back any time!

Here is the exact retargeting email ecommerce retailer DODOcase.com sends their customers who abandon their carts:

Photo Credit: Shopify.com
Photo Credit: Shopify.com

The email is friendly – not boring – and gives the customer multiple routes to continue their purchase.

You also might want to consider offering a discount on the products your customers leave in their carts because VWO.com found in a study of US shoppers in October 2014 that over 50% would return to their abandoned carts and make their purchase if those products were offered to them again at a discounted price. Although you probably don’t want to train your prospects to expect incentives, this could be worth a test as discounts can help increase average order value.

2. Transparent Shipping Costs

 A study by shipping giant UPS found that 5 of the top 6 reasons shoppers abandoned an online shopping cart had to do with shipping. (tweet this)

Even more, over half of the respondents in the study said they abandoned carts in the past because shipping costs were higher than expected.

The lesson? Be upfront and transparent about shipping costs as early as possible during the purchase process! Don’t try to hide the ball. Doing so only introduces anxiety, which can be tragic for conversions.

Moblized.com found a good example of what not do when it comes to being transparent about shipping costs. When you go to see what’s in your cart, Target asks you for your shipping method and gives you estimated shipping dates for each option – but no estimated costs.


When you start checkout, Target then asks you for your address. It would be logical to expect them to show your shipping costs after entering your information… but instead they ask their potential customers how they’re going to pay, without even showing them the total cost!

Target is hiding the ball here, asking for customers’ credit card information before they give any estimated shipping costs. This a big no no – especially when selling products that can be found elsewhere or in a brick-and-mortar store.

On the other end of the cart abandonment spectrum, we have Best Buy. All of their product pages make it very clear what their shipping policies are. They also include links to find out estimated shipping availability and costs.


This is the opposite tact from Target and it’s much more likely to convert potential purchasers.


Even more, when you start the checkout process on BestBuy.com, you can get estimated shipping costs and sales tax just by entering your postal code. Before entering a shipping address or any billing info, you know exactly how much your purchase is going to cost.

Best Buy is trying to reduce as much friction as possible as their customers move through their checkout. This should be the mantra for all ecommerce marketers.

 3. Free Shipping… If

Although you might not have a store that can offer free shipping on any order, like Amazon, there are easy, affordable ways to make your shipping policies more desirable – and, in turn, cut cart abandonment.

One tactic most retailers use is to offer free shipping when a customer hits a certain dollar value in their cart. Even better, you can also use it to increase your average cart size. The same UPS study we mentioned earlier also found 58% of the participants were willing to add more items to their cart to get free shipping. (tweet this)

Discount retailer TJ MAXX does a great job of not only being super-transparent about shipping but also showing you how much (or, better, little) more you have to spend to get free shipping. They message this in their site header – so it’s unmissable and consistently used across every page.


Whether you want to offer your customer free shipping after spending $20 or $50, make sure they know it throughout their shopping experience. It is one of the best carrots to guide visitors to that “Place Order” button.

4. Trust Symbols

In Shopify’s chart that showed why people abandoned their carts, 17% of shoppers said they left because they had concerns about payment security. In 2015, this shouldn’t be an issue in your ecommerce store. Here is an overview of trust symbols from Visual Website Optimizer – see which ones you already use on your site but might not have on your checkout pages.


If you don’t have any of the trust symbols above, Google offers their Trusted Store seal, which also offers purchase protection.

Photo Credit: CrazyEgg.com
Photo Credit: CrazyEgg.com

TRUSTe is another common symbol that you’ll find on most ecommerce stores these days.

Photo Credit: CrazyEgg.com
Photo Credit: CrazyEgg.com

Besides trust signs, another hiccup point in the checkout process is the credit card field, specifically the CVV field. Customers may not know what it is (the numbered code on the back of all credit cards), or they might think they shouldn’t give it out for fear of someone getting their credit card info.


To help neutralize their anxiety:

  1. Show shoppers where they can find their CVV, ideally using a picture
  2. Tell shoppers you won’t store their CVV (but be careful not to overdo this as you don’t want to introduce anxiety by saying too much)

The vast majority of ecommerce stores don’t have the benefit of being a trusted brand from the get go, so these trust symbols are essential for showing your customers they won’t be taken advantage of, which is more likely to give them the confidence to complete their purchase.

5. Shorten the Checkout Process

According to Unbounce, the average checkout page has 5-6 steps.

In addition, SavvyPanda.com reports that confusing checkouts account for more than 10% of cart abandonments.

Whatever your checkout process looks like, just make sure it doesn’t resemble Walmart’s, which requires shoppers to complete as many as 7 steps, each with multiple fields and fine print.

Photo Credit: SmashingMagazine.com
Photo Credit: SmashingMagazine.com

How many steps should your checkout be?

Well, you never know until you split-test, of course. But it may help to take a look at the amount of steps in the top 100 grossing ecommerce sites checkouts:

Photo Credit: Smashing Magazine
Photo Credit: Smashing Magazine

Popular ecommerce checkouts typically have 4-6 steps, with the biggest segment having 5 steps in their process. In addition, usability scores – shown below – can help us see that those sites with more than 6 steps in their checkout process also often rank poorly in the minds of users:

Photo Credit: SmashingMagazine.com
Photo Credit: SmashingMagazine.com

Anywhere from 2-6 steps is gravy. (After 6, there’s a sharp decline in usability, which can’t be good for conversion!) So make sure your store’s checkout process is within that band.

The name of the game here is convenience. You don’t want your shoppers running out of steam before the finish line because your checkout process (of all things!) is too long or complicated. One of the golden rules of old-school salesmanship is just as true in ecommerce: make it easy to buy. 

6. Return Policies

Many ecommerce stores worry about having a generous and open return policy because processing returns – as you probably already know – is a total pain in the butt. It’s actually expensive to accept returns, not because of the product cost as much as because of the human resource costs. With that in mind, stores like yours might avoid highlighting return policies in the hopes that they can avoid said pain.

But there’s little need to worry.

Because the average return rate is only 3%!

Counterintuitively, generous return policies actually encourage purchases and discourage returns. Why? Because, when customers make a purchase, their fear of not being able to send the item back is removed.

For example, when you’re going to buy a pair of shoes from Zappos, they remove any anticipated feelings of buyers remorse with their now famous return policy.


Zappos pays for shipping, doesn’t care why you are returning the product, and automatically refunds your money.

Sounds like ecommerce suicide, right? Wrong.

Their return policy is one of the things that Zappos received the most attention for when they first launched. It was unheard of, yet it didn’t kill their business. Instead, it fueled growth and conversions because their customers weren’t afraid of what would happen if they didn’t like what they ended up buying! So, as much as you may face resistance internally to the idea of highlighting your money-back guarantees or return policies, do your whole business a favor: at least test it.

7. Guest Checkout

At this stage in the game, ecommerce shoppers hate having to create an account if they don’t want to.

Today the best way to invite customers to create accounts is to either ask at the end of  checkout, right before they place their order (and have already entered their credit card info), or offer a great incentive for opening an account.

What you don’t want to do is make creating an account a requirement, like this ecommerce retailer does:


As you can see, you can’t do anything in the checkout process before creating account. This is annoying for your customers and increases cart abandonment.

Ecommerce flower retailer FTD has the whole guest account thing down pat.


They offer easy social sign-in with Facebook, allowing customers to skip filling in all those form fields to create an account. They have a link to checkout as a guest, and they also let you know you’ll be able to create an account later in the checkout process.

Plus, they show an incentive for signing in an “FTD Gold” member, which will get you free shipping and no services fees. By giving customers different options to start checkout, they’re reducing the walls shoppers have to jump over to place their flower order.

Like FTD, Nike does a great job of selling the incentives of creating an account with their ecommerce store. They understand that the lifetime value of their customers is worth the incentives they offer in order to get a potential customer’s information so they can market to them later.


To get more guests to sign up, Nike offers members access to exclusive offers and limited offers, free returns, and Nike+ services and promotions.

If your team insists on requiring shoppers to create an account, test the addition of an incentive for doing so.


As you can see, cart abandonment isn’t a mystery that can’t be solved. There are good reasons why cart abandonment is so high, and most of them are of the self-inflicted variety. With the tactics in this post, you can get to work right now on shrinking your cart abandonment and increasing your conversions.

And never forget: the more desirable you make your entire shopping experience, the more likely your cart abandonment rates will shrink. So now’s the time to start optimizing your ecommerce site using clever, proven tactics.



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