Getting Your KPIs Right: Should You Really Be Measuring Shopping Cart Abandonment Rates?


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Different from the days when brick-and-mortar retail still reigned supreme, abandonment of virtual shopping carts is commonplace and often unrelated to the purchase journey. These figures also do not consider the many causes of cart abandonment, nor are they enough to wholly answer the question of why your customers are leaving your site without purchasing.

Due to the state of the industry, incline in online and mobile shopping, and the decreasing attention span of your shoppers, your shopping cart abandonment rates are amplified and provide less value than they used to. Are you tracking the right metrics?

The problem with cart abandonment rates
Calculated by dividing the total number of completed transactions by the total number of opened carts, shopping cart abandonment rates represent the shoppers that do not advance to checkout. These rates, which average around 71% globally according to Dynamic Yield, display a problematic trend for digital buyers.

When your shoppers choose to leave the site without making a purchase, it often gets attributed to poor customer experience (CX). This leaves eCommerce shops to assume that the issue lies with their online or mobile experience, whether it be website security or unaddressed friction during the purchasing journey.

However, this may not always be the case. There are several factors unrelated to the quality of user experience (UX) that can cause shoppers to leave items in their carts.

Other factors that impact cart abandonment rates:
Unforeseen costs and shipping limitations – Unsurprisingly, hidden costs are a common instigator for cart abandonment. Additional expenses, such as taxes and shipping fees, are more responsible for deterring buyers from completing their purchases than a poor mobile experience. In fact, the Baymard Institute lists extra costs as the number one reason why shoppers abandon. Customers who feel misled or surprised at limited or expensive shipping options quickly reevaluate their purchases.

Customers using carts as a Wishlist – With today’s rich eCommerce landscape, buyers dedicate hours at a time to finding the right product. However, the best product and UX means nothing when you’re up against a shopper who is just not ready to buy. Nielson Norman’s recently conducted research across 49 eCommerce sites found that shoppers frequently use their carts as a holding area. Much like a Wishlist, buyers compare, organize, and save products in their carts while they continue to shop or even leave the site. Reluctant to use actual wishlists due to the tedious registration process, customers use their carts as more of a scrapbook than a direct means to purchase.

Save for Later feature not getting usage – Often considered one of the best ways to reduce shopping cart abandonment on eCommerce sites, the save for later feature was intended to prevent users from abandoning items that they aren’t ready to purchase. However, this feature often requires a lengthy and laborious process that repels customers instead of appealing to them. Lists that require users to register or catalog their items in order to begin saving derail the checkout process. Many buyers also prefer not to get the accompanying email reminders and “almost out of stock” alerts about what they may have left behind. Users favor one-click methods like bookmarking, favoriting, and, of course, adding to their carts.

Missing or faulty coupon codes – Some buyers approach online shopping with an almost scientific focus. They browse multiple shops for the best product, researching price, quality, and special offers. More often than not, a better deal elsewhere can convince shoppers to turn their backs on their favorite retailers. To cater to this base, retailers offer a wide array of coupons and codes for occasions, including first-time purchases, holiday events, and more. This is an effective way to gain new business, increase existing customer loyalty, and increase conversions. However, when these codes falter, shoppers take notice. 46% of shoppers that discover a malfunctioning discount code will abandon their cart for greener pastures.

Cart abandonment metrics are bred from such a large pool of conditions that they can be meaningless when trying to isolate why customers abandon their purchase. Two companies with very similar cart abandonment rates may be experiencing them for very different reasons. Solely measuring shopping cart abandonment rates can actually take you farther away from discovering the root cause of a lost sale.

3 Metrics to Consider
If your goal is to isolate the reasons behind high abandonment rates, you may want to consider alternate KPIs:

1. Average Checkout Abandonment Rates
Different from cart abandonment, checkout abandonment rates provide a more specific indication of why your revenue is decreasing or increasing. Generally, your cart abandonment rate will almost always be higher than your checkout abandonment rate as there is a higher volume of people that hit the cart stage.

The checkout abandonment rate, calculated by dividing the total completed transactions by the total started transactions, can uncover how users behave during a checkout flow. Low rates signal a successful CX, while high rates can indicate problems with the user experience or payment process.

To clearly understand the impact on business, checkout abandonment should be measured over time. Yearly, monthly, or weekly can clarify shopper trends and behaviors during the checkout process. This statistic can help you evaluate the effectiveness of any changes made, defining what changes work and where there is room for improvement. By implementing effective checkout optimization strategies, conversions can be increased by up to 35.62 percent.

2. Length of the Checkout Process
Baymard Institute revealed that 1 out of 4 shoppers abandon their purchases due to exceedingly long or complicated checkout processes. Because of this, it’s valuable to track just how many required form fields are shown to users during the checkout flow.

The amount of form fields directly impacts how long it takes for shoppers to input their information and complete payment. Whether it is on the computer or via mobile, more fields increase the chances that customers will drop off before finishing the checkout process.

Ideally, a fully optimized checkout flow can have as little as 7 form fields. Retailers like ThinkGeek and Gymshark successfully put this into practice, requiring customers to enter only the necessities such as full name and address and using type-ahead, predictive technology to standardize, autofill, and verify the remaining required information.

Implementing form field best practices such as eliminating unnecessary fields, providing clear CTAs, and introducing type-ahead verification are key for reducing cart abandonment and increasing profit.

3. Speed of Purchase Journey
For retailers hoping to push shoppers to the final step of the purchase journey, time is money. Essentially, the longer it takes buyers to get through the checkout process, the more likely they are to abandon their carts and move on.

Several things can delay or even halt a final purchase, from the constraints of creating a customer account to the exasperation of having to re-enter credit card or address information. In fact, being forced to create an account is the number two reason people abandon, while 24% of shoppers would rather leave a site than re-enter their shipping address.

Tracking the customer journey from beginning to end is a critical component of improving the UX. This data can identify technical problems, isolate shopper trends, and determine at what point your buyers experience the most friction.

While the cart abandonment rates vary depending on the industry, some industries experience average cart abandonment as high as 83.6%. Discovering the underlying reason behind these figures is challenging. Especially when shoppers can abandon their purchases for causes beyond the seller’s control.

To accurately gauge how you are performing in your industry, expand your research to these different metrics. Doing so will not only help improve your conversion rates but also enhance the UX for future shoppers.

This article was originally published on the author’s blog and reprinted with permission.

Matthew Furneaux
Matthew Furneaux, Director Location Intelligence, Loqate Matthew is a location technology veteran with over 20 years of experience in helping global businesses reach their customers globally. Matthew is a director at GBG and responsible for strategy and innovation for GBG's location intelligence solution, Loqate. Matthew’s also a retail and eCommerce expert, having worked with leading eCommerce brands at Loqate such as Nordstrom, Sephora, Kohl’s, Ralph Lauren & Michaels. Prior to joining GBG, Matthew co-founded Global Address (later acquired by Trillium Software) and helped to create a sing


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