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How to prevent abandoned carts in e-commerce

Side view of a laptop with someone holding a credit card

You’ve done the hard work: attracted the shopper into your website, presented them with a selection of goods, nudged them into placing items in their cart, and then …. radio silence. They’ve abandoned their shopping cart, and you don’t know why.  

Shopping cart abandonment is a painfully real challenge for retailers of all sizes. Fortunately, there are steps e-commerce sites can take to boost conversion rates.

Factors driving shopping cart abandonment

According to the UPS 2019 Pulse of the Online Shopper survey, the top four factors globally that contribute to cart abandonment are:

  1. Cost of delivery—Your customer gets all excited about purchasing the item, but you lose them at checkout with unexpected delivery charges.
  2. Item out of stock—It’s hardly rocket science: if the product isn’t there, the shopper can’t complete the purchase.
  3. Estimated delivery time too long—Waiting extra days, or even weeks, to receive an item may not be acceptable to a time-pressed shopper.
  4. Preferred payment not offered—Sure you accept all major credit and debit cards, but what about PayPal and Alipay?

Cart abandonment solutions 

The good news is retailers can influence each of the above scenarios and salvage carts that might otherwise get abandoned, says Alexis Cohen, global e-commerce and retail strategy manager for UPS.

Firstly, it’s important to know exactly who you’re selling to. “If customers are elderly and predominantly home-bound, that is a very different population than the on-the-go Gen Z looking for fast fashion,” she remarks. “Understanding who your customer is means you can play with your shipping options a little bit more."

If you have a variety of customer profiles, you should offer a variety of shipping options. For some customers, free shipping is more important than speed. Approximately a third of Pulse of the Online Shopper respondents opted for a slower transit time in order to avoid paying shipping fees. On the flip side, 36% of customers added items to their cart to meet a spending threshold that guaranteed free shipping. "We've seen that shoppers are really willing to change their behavior for free shipping,” says Cohen. “Retailers can give options like these as a carrot to drive the types of behavior they're looking for."

Above all, provide transparency to shoppers at every stage of the shopping journey, from browsing to product research to purchase. Specifically, Cohen advises retailers to:

  • Display relevant information to shoppers, such as free delivery for loyalty members, on a website banner. Similarly, make delivery and cost information clearly visible on product pages. 
  • Invest in top-notch inventory management systems that provide visibility to the shopper. If you don't have it in stock, capture your shopper’s contact information and let them know you’ll be in touch when it becomes available.
  • Offer a range of payment options beyond the major debit and credit cards. It may be as simple as embedding another line of code into your e-commerce platform. Just be sure to understand the transaction fees involved.

"Ultimately, it comes down to giving the shopper choices and not surprising them at checkout," Cohen remarks.

The power of customer loyalty

One often overlooked factor when it comes to reducing abandonment is customer loyalty.

By crafting compelling loyalty programs, you not only help convert carts—a quarter of respondents to the Pulse survey were willing to join a loyalty program to qualify for free shipping —but pave the way for future sales.

Consider carefully how you construct your loyalty program, though. "Baby boomers and older are willing to accrue points for some payout at the end, whereas Gen X and below tend to want things more on a transactional level, such as free shipping or discounts," explains Cohen, who advises retailers to develop relevant strategies that drive back customers time and again.   

Email can be a powerful tool in promoting repeat business. From product alerts to previews of upcoming products, email serves many purposes while bringing the personality of the brand alive for the shopper.

Reducing friction for the shopper is another key enabler of cart conversion. "If a customer is on the fence about a purchase, the last thing you want to do is make it hard for them to buy,” says Cohen. “Make sure you reduce the number of clicks required to complete a purchase and make authentic customer reviews easily available to build the customer’s confidence so you can close the sale."

According to the Pulse survey, 8% of respondents globally have abandoned their carts because they couldn't remember their usernames and passwords, while 16% ditched a purchase because they were required to create an account but didn't want to.

Top tips for increasing cart conversions

Cohen advises retailers to follow this best practice checklist to minimize cart abandonment rates  and grow sales:

  1. Ensure consistency in brand experience across all channels.
  2. Prioritize transparency by providing shoppers with relevant and accurate information upfront and throughout the journey.
  3. Keep customer lifetime value top of mind.
  4. Align with strategic partners that help you focus as a retailer on what you're good at. From demand generation and payment processing to inventory management and fulfillment, lean on third party expertise to help fully round out your customer's experience.

"The path to purchase doesn't end with the actual click,” says Cohen. “It's the entire experience that increases the likelihood of future purchases."

Ready to get started?

Find out more

  • Discover the Latest Trends in E-Commerce

    Keep up with online shopping trends by exploring the 2019 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper™ Survey.

    Download the study
  • E-Commerce Shipping Solutions

    Give customers choice and convenience, with e-commerce shipping tools, order fulfillment and back-office solutions. 

    Learn more about e-commerce
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