Why Is Your Online Shopping Cart Being Abandoned

Shopping CartOf course you know that the only way you can make a profit from your online business is by making sales. The formula includes attracting visitors to your website, piquing their interest, and then guiding them toward making a purchase.

You may have gotten the first two parts of this equation down to a science, but without the last part, all your work is for naught. Even worse is when you see a number of visitors get all the way to your Online Shopping Cart, then abandon it. What could have happened?

The main reason a visitor may never actually purchase the items placed in the shopping cart is because they simply couldn’t find the information they were seeking elsewhere on the site. Let’s look at some possible scenarios.

Shipping Costs

Here’s an example. Suppose someone is considering buying a box of widgets. They find your site and quickly see that you sell widgets. But perhaps they are doing a bit of comparison shopping. They are not only interested in the purchase price of the widgets; they want to know how much the shipping costs will be.

If this information is not readily available, it forces the visitor to place items in the shopping cart before the shipping charge is calculated. Maybe a competing site offers the same widgets with cheaper shipping. At this point, the almost-customer will abandon the cart and make their purchase elsewhere.

Hidden Charges

Along these same lines, adding charges to the transaction right before the customer clicks on the “accept” button is not a good idea. Do you have to charge local or state sales tax? Do you add a processing fee? Any time there are charges additional to the cost of the merchandise, make them known before the final purchase screen. Most people do not like being surprised by hidden charges and will abandon the transaction if faced with additional amounts.

Item Availability

Much the same as not including the cost of shipping, not showing the availability of an item before putting it into an Online Shopping Cart is another recipe for disaster. If your visitor finds the perfect product at the perfect price and is ready to buy it, don’t lose the sale because the item is not in stock. Clearly show the inventory available on the description screen.

Shopping Cart Payment Methods

One last reason a shopping cart may be abandoned is that the customer’s preferred form of payment is not available. Maybe you only accept PayPal and they want to use a credit card. Perhaps they are not comfortable giving financial information over the internet and prefer to send a cheque, but your site does not offer that option. Try to include as many forms of payment as you can in order to make the largest number of sales.

The moral of the story? Ensure that the total cost of buying your products is transparent, including any discounts, transaction fees, shipping charges, etc. Provide comprehensive information and answer all the questions your potential customer might have – and don’t make them start a purchase to find out.

Another tip is to add a script to the checkout page for people that abandon your Online Shopping Cart. Try coercing them to buy with a discount or at the very least, see if you can capture their contact information and permission to contact in the future.

You may even consider adding an online survey so that you can learn more about why they’re leaving. Not every shopping cart that’s started will check out, but following the above advice above can help you reduce that number and make your visitors enjoy their online shopping experience.

About Sean Rasmussen

I am a passionate blogger and have been a full time internet marketer since 2005. When I'm not with my family, you will find me doing SEO, building websites for many of my clients, and creating products out of thin air! This is a cool gig and I love it!


  1. Majority of online consumers starts the purchasing process, but fail to hit the “buy” button before they leave a Web site. Thanks for posting and sharing your tips Sean.

    • Hi Tabatha
      Yes many people will leave without purchase. The best you can do is to provide all of the information prior to them clicking the buy button, and follow some of the tips in the article to increase conversion.
      Regards – Sean

  2. This is why I love seanseo.com. Killer post.

  3. I’ll keep this in mind when I get to that stage

  4. That’s like the fish that got away… Pretty annoying to lose a customer at those crucial stages. Worst still, you may not ever get them back. Great tips to minimise that from happening and to help close the sale.

  5. It is interesting to read an organized article about why people don’t buy.

    I know that I very often exit without buying for one or more of the reasons you list.

    My most disliked gimmick is when a cheaper option is offered when I try to exit the site. With this offer not being up front and with the possibility that people are buying at the higher rate as listed on the site really gets me hopping mad. I never buy from those sites.

    Thanks for the insight and recommendations.

    • Hi Dobbs

      I am with you on that one to a point. I realise now that it is worth leaving the site to see if you can get a better offer, especially if you really want the product. I am sure people get to know the gimmicks and know how to ‘play the game’ because that is all it really is. Just a marketing ploy!

  6. Jazz Salinger says:

    Hi Sean,

    This is excellent advice. It’s definitely a case for being as transparent as you can be. I totally agree with disclosing all costs upfront so that the customer knows exactly what they will be expected to pay.

    I’m never happy when I’m trying to buy a product only to get to the end screen and see extra amounts added on that I wasn’t expecting. I also agree with Dobbs. I’m not a fan of sites that offer me a discount when I attempt to leave the site.