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Checkout vs. Cart Abandonment

Posted on 5.05.2013

Abandonment occurs when website visitors leave before their order is completed. But there's a difference between "checkout abandonment" and "cart abandonment" and as an e-commerce merchant you need to know the difference if you want to improve this key performance indicator - it's also important to have metrics in place to indicate the difference.

Cart Abandonment refers to the loss of a customer that has added products to their shopping cart but not yet arrived at a point where they can submit their payment information. Checkout abandonment on the other hand is when users have added items to their cart, pulled out their credit card and started entering their personal information into available payment fields, only then to abandon the process.

Merchants should know that users abandon carts before reaching the final payment stage all the time - it's not unlike an offline, brick-and-mortar merchant seeing people in store just looking around at their products. Many times, there's nothing you can do - users like to window shop - but that's not the case in every instance.

Industry abandonment averages, which hover around 60%, can be misleading if merchants don't look at exactly where (and why) users are leaving. As a merchant it's very important you understand what's happening on your own e-commerce website (is it cart abandonment or checkout abandonment) if you aim to correct the problem. In the case of cart abandonment, the use of incentives/discounts are a proven way to encourage users to continue to the actual checkout process. Many savvy merchants are even exploring the use of remarketing/retargeting to bring back those visitors that never arrived upon the checkout page.

In the case of checkout abandonment, merchants need to reverse engineer the problem. Exit surveys, for example, could reveal that perhaps the shipping costs were too high, the registration form was too lengthy, or that the coupons they had already expired. What can you do with that information? In the case of shipping costs, that data could be shared earlier in the funnel, registration forms could be shortened to only include payment information or break up lengthier payment forms into more manageable parts.

The problem of "abandonment" is a significant one for retailers but there are steps merchants can take to keep users engaged and moving through the conversion funnel.

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