Understanding the Many Reasons Behind Shopping Cart Abandonment

February 12, 2015 — by Danny Essner    

This post is part one of a two-part series on using retargeting to effectively address shopping cart abandonment.

Abandoned shopping carts are painful for any eCommerce business. You work so hard and invest lots of money driving traffic to your site and getting customers to select a product, only to see them walk away prior to purchase.   What’s worse, it happens frequently. According to eMarketer, consumers abandon close to 70% of all shopping carts.



eCommerce marketers have aggressively attacked this problem through display retargeting, serving ads to customers who have left items in their carts with the hope that they’ll return to complete the purchase. While this strategy can be effective, it wrongly assumes that all cart abandoners are the same.

The fact that the overwhelming majority of customers abandon their cart suggests that there is more than one why reason behind this behavior. Numerous buyer surveys on cart abandonment, including one by eCommerce platform Magento, show a few key causes for cart abandonment.

Let’s explore a few reasons why customers abandon their carts so that we can better execute more relevant and effective retargeting campaigns:

1.Total Cost Information

Customers frequently use the shopping cart to confirm pricing. While retailers usually display product prices on their category and product detail pages, those prices often do not reflect any discounts or shipping fees. This problem can be exacerbated by marketer’s own promotion programs which require customers to reach spend floors to qualify for free shipping, or to apply a promotion code in the checkout flow to redeem a discount. Customers push products into the cart to get a true understanding of a product’s cost, inclusive of discounts and shipping costs, in order to make selection and purchase decisions.

2.Product Selection and Decision

Just because a customer has added one or more products to their cart does not mean they’ve made the decision to purchase. Consumers often use the cart as a way of evaluating and comparing two or more products they’re considering. An abandoned cart can imply the customer is still deciding between two products, or hasn’t found what they’re looking for altogether.

3.Cross-Device / Cross-Channel Purchase

Research shows that more than 85% of purchases touch two or more devices or channels. Even though mobile is exploding, we’re not yet seeing conversions significant conversions through mobile. Rather, customers are increasingly using mobile for early-stage research and consideration, and then jumping to desktop or going in-store to complete their purchases. This means that many mobile cart abandons are just channel transitions.

4.Checkout Friction

What do we mean by friction? Friction means all of the site hiccups that online stores have that slow the checkout process down. Too much friction causes customers to give up and walk away.   All sites have some unavoidable friction points such as asking customers for their billing and payment information. However, many have unnecessary fiction that causes customers to get frustrated and walk away. This includes forcing customers to create an account or log in, asking for unnecessary personal information, or having a checkout process that is overly complex.


Shopping is often aspirational. Customers may research and choose the products that they want now, but not be ready to buy them until much later. The cart enables them to keep track of what they want and save for future purchase. In this scenario, the customer is not abandoning their cart, rather they are merely deferring the cart for a future purchase.

With this understanding of the varied causes of cart abandonment, it is obvious why a one-size-fits-all retargeting approach to converting cart abandoners cannot work. The more we can personalize our cart abandonment campaigns to individual customers based on their reasons for walking away, the more effective our cart abandon retargeting campaigns will be.

In my next post I’ll provide recommendations for how you can optimize your cart abandonment retargeting ad campaign strategies based on these different abandonment scenarios. In the meantime, learn more about MediaMath Retail here.

One comment

  • Zoplay Inc

    April 2, 2015 at 10:48 am

    Really helpful article. Lot of concrete and useful tips. One of the keys could be a rewarding system for customers. That could inspire them to finish the purchase and come back for more points & rewards. Building loyalty always pays off.

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