Buyers abandon carts. It’s normal. In fact, about three of every four retail shoppers simply leave their items behind in their online cart.

To understand how to deal with this, you really need to get inside your customers’ heads. The key to getting them back is understanding why they left.

To best illustrate it, let’s assume that you’re an electronic retailer and your perfect customer is Brian. Brian is a 54-year-old man looking to buy a new laptop. He’s computer literate and knows all about browsing online stores, hunting for the best deals and buying from abroad.

Let’s see what Brian is struggling with once he has identified the laptop he wants.

How much is shipping and tax?

This Lenovo looks good to me. It has everything I need. It’s listed at $679, but what about the shipping? And I’m not in the U.S.; what about the tax? Maybe if I put it in my cart, I’ll see what the shipping costs.

Ah, there we go. $11 shipping. Oh wait, no. That’s domestic. How do I see international? Perhaps if I take the next step? OK, let’s see…

So, $28 shipping, plus the price has gone up to $703. Maybe I’ll look elsewhere.

Brian has encountered a common problem: struggling to determine the amount he actually has to pay.

How do we get around that?

Amazon does this to great effect for customers ordering from another country, adding on the tax costs and P&P for shipping abroad after just one step. When customers enter their basket and proceed to checkout, they can see a full breakdown of costs specific to their address.


 Maybe I can get a better deal elsewhere?

Wow, $499 for this! OK, let’s get it… but wait. What if there’s a better deal elsewhere? Maybe I should run a quick search and see. OK, there it’s $499, too. Let’s see if they have any discounts. If I buy from them and then find it elsewhere cheaper, they’ll refund the difference …

One of your biggest challenges in ecommerce is being undercut. Someone who shops around and finds the same price elsewhere will make the purchase from whatever store they have open.

However, there is a way to reduce the likelihood of people shopping around – it’s as simple as offering a price match guarantee.

That peace of mind will help people like Brian make up their minds right then and there.


There’s another option, too, but it depends on your market. Brian didn’t buy because he feared there might be a deal elsewhere. He had a fear of missing out.

So why not ramp it up and list how many devices are left on the product page? One way would be to include this information alongside the Call-to-Action to ‘Add to Basket’. does this well with room availability, and combines this with information on other users to create a sense of urgency.


Why do people add items to their cart?

More than one in three cart abandonments happen because the user was just browsing. So while these solutions can reduce abandonment, they don’t come close to solving this issue. The real question is: Are we looking at the right issue?

This laptop looks good. I should save it for later. How can I do that? Oh well, let’s just add it to the cart …

This isn’t a cart abandonment issue, but it has become one because adding the laptop to the cart is the only way Brian can save it as a potential purchase. A wish-list feature is a simple way to stop people adding items to their cart when they just wanted to save them.


However, ultimately you want people to add a product to their basket to move one step closer to a purchase, so make your ‘Add to basket’ CTA more prominent.

What happens afterwards?

Shall we check in on Brian to see what he’s up to?

Oh look, those cats are adorable! I wonder where I should go skiing next year? Do dolphins sleep?

Let’s take a look at the reasons people abandon their shopping carts.


If you take out the factor of price competition and the already-addressed unexpected costs, just browsing and deciding against buying are two of the most common reasons for cart abandonment. So you could sent Brian an email reminding him of his previous interest in the laptop.

It’s that computer I was looking at again. Oh, they’re almost out of stock and they’ve reserved one for me. That’s nice. You know what, that guide was really useful. I think this would be the right choice. Let’s buy it. OK, checking out. Done. Three days and I have a new computer.

Sure, that’s a bit simplified: not all of your potential customers will be so easy. But a visitor who got as far as adding something to their cart can be converted into a customer with a combination of targeted strategies.


A discount is the simplest answer, but it’s not very creative. And if you hand out discounts every time someone abandons their cart, you run the risk of triggering a reaction like Pavlov with his dogs.

Let’s have a quick run-through of the strategies we deployed to encourage Brian to complete his purchase:

  • Hidden costs put him off making the purchase — so make sure everything is upfront.
  • Fear of missing out on discounts caused him to look elsewhere — so offer price-match guarantees. Also, remind him of scarcity.
  • It wasn’t obvious how to save his item to a wish list. Make it obvious.
  • He got an email reminding him of the laptop and offering him something extra.
  • He was given a personalized offer — a reservation on a limited item he had shown interest in— so he bought.

One final suggestion: ask your customers questions.

It sounds basic, but when was the last time a retailer simply asked you how your purchase was? Even a few responses can highlight potential issues with your checkout process.


Dealing with shopping cart abandonment is all about understanding your perfect (and imperfect) customer’s thought process as they navigate your website. Don’t neglect these visitors – often all they need is a little nudge towards completing their purchase.

How to deal with cart abandonment: Inside the mind of a customer

 Asking customers questions may yield a small number of replies, but you’ll always find gold there. That is, after you sift through all the “Why so expensive?!” complaints. No matter what price you have, you’ll always have those.