Questions? (877) 643-7244
FutureNow Post
Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010 at 9:07 am

Cart Full of Money – How to Prevent Cart Abandonment

By Natalie Hart
December 21st, 2010

Whether you’re just beginning optimization or you’ve been doing it for the past 13 years (as we have), cart abandonment rate is one of the first places you should start and continue to cycle back to. This is because visitors who add to cart are yours to lose in the sense that they have already chosen your site, found something they liked, and had enough confidence to add the item to your cart. A friend of mine likes to drive home just how silly this is by imaging a similar situation happening in the offline world: going grocery shopping and leaving a full cart of groceries in the checkout line. If you have a high cart abandonment rate, chances are you’re giving your visitors an excuse to leave.

Recently, while doing some online holiday shopping of my own, I came across a few sites that did a good job at persuading visitors to move quickly and efficiently through the cart to the checkout. While I’m sure they still have some cart abandonment, they’re each taking measures to decrease those leaving, thus increasing their revenue.

Eliminating Hassles

The first site I came across was Banana Republic. Eliminating barriers is the name of the game for preventing most cart abandonment. Often sites place a “coupon code” field in the cart, signaling to the visitor that there may be a way for them to save money, subtly encouraging prospective buyers to leave their cart (maybe even the site) to search for some code to help them save. Banana Republic features “Everyday Free Shipping on any order over $50. No code. No hassle.” By removing a code here, they are eliminating the chance that visitors will leave their cart to search for a free shipping option. If you offer Free Shipping, give visitors free shipping without requiring them enter a code. You may be risking the purchase all together.

Don’t Distract from Checkout

Move visitors through your checkout. Moving prospective buyers in a logical progression to the shopping cart is a simple enough concept, but many sites seem to present more ways for visitors to pause and go elsewhere than to get to the checkout. This may seem simple, but I applaud for having the “continue shopping” button to the left so it doesn’t compete with the primary call to action (to checkout).  Many sites place the “continue shopping” right next to the “proceed to checkout” thus forcing them to compete with each other – especially if they’re the same size and color. If your site has the “continue shopping” and “proceed to checkout” buttons next to each other, make it easier for prospective buyers to distinguish one from the other by creating physical space between the two buttons. Visitors who want to keep shopping will be able to find the button, but those who weren’t intending to will be less likely to click on the wrong button by accident, more likely to proceed to checkout, and more likely to complete their purchase.

Coupon Code, Conversion Barrier?

Coupons can give that little push to visitors who still are on the fence about their purchase, but as described previously, they can also act as a detriment toward completing the purchase. The placement of coupon code fields is something that is seldom discussed. However, some recent testing has begun to reveal that their location may have more to do with conversion that we formerly anticipated. Many shopping carts provide opportunity for visitors to enter these codes directly ABOVE the checkout button. Why is this a problem? Because, by placing this field above the primary CTA, you are giving your visitors an excuse to leave. By seeing the coupon code field, you are signaling to visitors who do not have a coupon code that they may be missing out on additional savings. Many will leave the cart to seek out the missing code, even if there’s not one valid for their purchase, possibly jeopardizing their entire transaction. How can you avoid this? By placing the coupon code field outside of immediate view on their way to the checkout button. Consider left-aligning this field or even placing it below the CTA (you will have to have an update button in the field). These methods allow visitors who are looking for the coupon field to easily find it without distracting those who don’t and are just looking to checkout. 

Another interesting approach I saw recently is featured on They have a drop down that has to be selected for the coupon/gift card field to appear. I’d be curious to see their data…

There are many parts of optimization that can be a gamble, but creating a shopping cart that’s free of barriers and easily moves your visitors from one step to the next doesn’t have to be. Make your buttons clear, the primary action easy to identify, and free your visitors of unnecessary steps. Happy converting!

Add Your Comments

Comments (16)

  1. Nice findings Natalie, and some great examples.

    I’ve seen a lot of bad ecommerce sites before, some with 7 stage purchasing processes. The level of abandonment through time consuming processes can be so high.

    Keep it simple, Offer incentives, and watch your abandonments fall!

  2. Okay guys, first of all I am truly amazed by how much a coupon code can do when its misplaced. I know a few people who will love this post, sharing it!

  3. I think it is nice to add a last page credibility indicator. It isn’t so important for well established brands, but smaller e-comm sites can really benefit.

  4. Natalie as usual your pots are relevant and insightful. I think more often than not it isn’t people that cause themselves to leave, but poor user experience combined with websites failing to boost confidence through the purchase process.

  5. Thanks for the interesting post. I have my own experience that how a misplaced coupon code box can drive the buyers away. Its really a natural intension of customers. While shopping online, i had went away many times for searching coupon codes. Some times I failed to find one, also avoid the previous shopping site to find a new site that has live coupon code savings! As I am still not an owner of any shopping site, but Willing to create one to increase my online earnings. This post will be very helpful for me.

  6. As you mentioned avoiding a high cart abandonment rate is so so very important. As developers and web designers we work so very hard to market correctly and get a visitor to our site and than work so hard on maintaining the visitors attention to keep their interests focused on what we are offering that when we finally have a good chance for our customer to make a purchase that we lose them at the very last minute at the checkout cart because of a poorly placed coupon code area or some other distraction. Great reminder about not forgetting how important it is to have a clutter free checkout cart process.

  7. Hi,
    have any on come across Google cached reverting back to the previous cached soon after it performed a new cached update?

  8. From a customers point of view, having such a long drawn out process to buy is so off putting. For example, I love godaddy, use it for all my domain purchases but when you buy it takes you for ages to actually get to the check out. They try and upsell you everything including their old socks if they could get away with it. Very annoying. If it wasn’t for their great pricing, I would not use them at all.

    Best Regards,

  9. You’ve made some very good observations here, especially the coupon code field and it’s placement. I have often come across this and abandoned a cart or two in search of possible coupon codes. When I didn’t find any I didn’t make the purchase in hopes of coming across a code in the future.

  10. Great article, i think it is easy to focus so much on getting new traffic you forget to monitor what people are doing on your site. As you say the key is making the process as easy as possible.

  11. Natalie these are great ideas for any web designer to remember. It is no about that we don’t know these basic things, but we humans forget constantly and these kind of post make us remember what it is really important to make a sell. I am definitely bookmarking this page.

    Thanks for the tips…

  12. I am very interested to have an e-commerce but I do not understand about the process. whether there is an article that talks about it ..?

  13. @syamchico – check out this post about creating a website and it’s companion piece.

  14. Brilliant post and lots of points for everyone from designers to site owners to think about when trying to lower abandonment rates!

  15. Setting up an eCommerce site is easy, but getting to know the customers by analyzing and interpreting their behaviour is pure science. A post like this helps a lot.

    Thanks for a great post, want more of this kind.

  16. Nice post. But how to prevent buyers from abandoning their carts/orders when they have completed everything on my site, went to paypal payment and then decided not to proceed? This happens a lot to me in all of my stores.

Add Your Comments


Print this Article

Natalie is a Persuasion Analyst with FutureNow.

More articles from Natalie Hart

Marketing Optimization Blog
FREE Newsletter Sign-Up
send it once every: