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How product teams can decrease shopping cart abandonment rate by improving UX

Want to win over more customers? Make it easier for them to trust you.

A positive user experience helps you build and maintain a positive customer relationship—and product teams can help create a positive user experience that leads to sales, inspires repeat purchases, and encourages customers to recommend your brand to others.


Last updated

16 Sep 2021

If you have a high cart abandonment rate, it’s up to you and your product team to optimize the user experience by identifying—and then removing—issues and blockers that cause customers to abandon your website (and their shopping carts).

In this article we cover:

What is cart abandonment rate (and how can product teams help)?

Cart abandonment happens when a potential customer starts an online checkout process for an order but drops out before finishing the purchase. Abandonment rate is a direct reflection of the customer journey.

Think of cart abandonment rate as a ‘missed opportunity rate'. It’s like when someone picks up a product in a physical store, decides it’s not worth it, sets it back on the shelf, and leaves.

The good news: knowing where you stand with your current abandonment rate can help your product team move toward better alignment with your customer (and their evolving expectations) and your product (and its potential value).

How to calculate cart abandonment rate

Calculate the shopping cart abandonment rate by dividing the total number of successfully completed purchases by the number of shopping carts created.

The formula looks like this:

[#] completed purchases / [#] shopping carts created * 100 = [%] cart abandonment rate

According to Baymard Institute, the average cart abandonment rate in 2020 was 69.80%. If your cart abandonment rate is higher than that, look for potential issues in your shopping cart checkout flow, website functionality and layout, and any potentially contradictory messaging in your marketing materials. (We'll show you how—keep reading!)

💡 Keep in mind: cart abandonment and checkout abandonment are two different situations, not to be confused or seen as interchangeable.

Cart abandonment means a customer has abandoned their purchase at any stage in the journey leading up to the checkout stage.

Checkout abandonment means the customer has left the process after entering their information in the checkout stage of the process.

4 reasons customers abandon their shopping carts

Here are four common problems that tend to drive customers away from your website or product—with some tips on what you can aim for instead:

1. Lack of trust

If your website is poorly designed or difficult to navigate, you might struggle to make that all-important first impression to keep customers interested in buying from you.

Your customers want to feel secure while they shop, so think about including strong visual cues that make it clear your website is GDPR compliant and set up for SSL certificates.

Some other ways product teams can build stronger trust signals with the customer include:

  • A mobile-friendly website

  • High-quality product imagery

  • On-brand copy

  • More than one payment option

  • Fewer advertisements or interruptions in the checkout process

  • A clearly-stated privacy policy (read Hotjar's approach to privacy, as an example)

  • A consistent visual identity—from color palettes to font choices to logo usage

Reliable trust signals and a better user experience remind your customers they’ve come to the right place for a particular product or service (your product or service!).

Over time, offering a consistent, reliable experience can lead to repeat customers becoming your advocates and loyal fans.

2. Payment options aren’t easy to see (or use)

Your customers are usually shopping around for the best deals. If they can’t figure out how to pay for the product or service they want, they might abandon their carts at the last minute for a competitor.

Offer your customers different payment methods without introducing unnecessary friction or complexity, and save them from decision paralysis.

To make payment methods transparent and less overwhelming, consider offering:

  • A single view of all available payment methods

  • Strong visual cues indicating which payment option was selected

  • Progressive disclosure on forms to preview next steps

  • Microcopy describing the terms and conditions of different payment options

  • Defaulting to popular choices for easier decision-making

🔥 A tip from the Hotjar team: be open to taking risks, trying new things, and learning from failure to figure out what truly works, with a willingness to let go of tactics that don’t help make your customer’s life easier.

"Tiny changes to your pricing page can have a dramatic impact on your bottom line. A 1% improvement might not sound like much, but if you’re a business that generates 7-figure revenue online, that could generate $10,000+ in new sales.

"At Hotjar, we’re continually testing and tweaking our pricing page to get it performing as efficiently as possible. With such a significant page, there’s no test too small. We’ll try everything from completely changing the copy to trialing different colors on our buttons."

— Phill Agnew, Senior Product Marketer

3. Confusing navigation

The best website experiences help customers feel in control, so it’s important that the checkout process feels simple, focused, and informative.

The aim? Less confusion, more decisions motivated by delight.

Product teams can create an easy checkout flow with:

  • A progress indicator that clearly outlines each step in the checkout process

  • A simple checkout page design that drives purchases with minimal decisions

  • Delivery estimates to set expectations about shipping time and costs

Make sure the checkout process is transparent, helpful, and respectful of customers' time—the easier it is for a customer to navigate the checkout process, the easier it will be to close a sale.

💡 Pro tip: Hotjar helps product teams collect user behavior analytics data—a superpower for understanding why customers might find website navigation or checkout flows confusing.

Behavior analytics tools help you answer questions about your visitors and customers that traditional web analytics can't, including:

  • Where on a page they get stuck and struggle before dropping off

  • How they interact with individual page elements and sections

  • What they’re interested in or ignoring

  • What they actually want from your website or product

Knowing how people interact with your website is a good start, but to level up you need to understand why they are taking the actions they take—that’s how Hotjar can help.

4. Lack of localization

Your customers can exist in different cultural contexts, so how will you show that your website user experience can adapt to their lived experience? As a product team, you need to be aware of a message or image’s original intent, style, tone, and context when switching between cultures.

Your team doesn’t have to wait until product launch to consider:

  • Text expansion in the user interface to preserve meaning and character counts across different languages

  • Visual preferences based on cultural contexts, such as minimal design choices versus showing all the information on the homepage

  • Giving customers the option to choose their preferences (currency, language, regional content) based on where they live

User research is a key ingredient here, and behavior analytics can help tailor the user experience to fit different cultures by offering insights that help keep designs flexible and scalable.

💡 Pro tip: Understand the journey before trying to solve the problem. A customer’s purchase decision can take many repeat visits—or just a few moments. Either way, there are typically five stages in the customer journey:

  1. Awareness: the customer learns about your product

  2. Consideration: the customer sees something they like, and they start browsing your site

  3. Intent: the customer adds items to a wishlist or a shopping cart, but they're still only considering the purchase

  4. Purchase: the customer buys your product (also known as the conversion stage)

  5. Engagement: the customer comes back for more—they may purchase again, engage on social media, subscribe to your newsletter, read articles, and subscribe to customer-only bonuses and upsells

Remember: each person takes a unique route to buying, and each customer's journey through the funnel is personal and nonlinear. Learn how to apply your conversion funnel to the way real people shop online.

How understanding user behavior can help lower cart abandonment rate

Now you know common reasons customers abandon their shopping carts, you need to use qualitative and quantitative user research to understand why they're abandoning their carts on your site:

Identify issues and blockers with session recordings

Session recordings are renderings of real actions taken by real visitors as they use your website. Recordings capture mouse movements, clicks, taps, and scrolling across multiple pages on desktop and mobile devices.

Also known as session replays, user recordings, and user/visitor replay tools, Hotjar Session Recordings help you understand how users interact with your website based on actions they take. This visual evidence can help you identify issues and blockers, optimize UX, and ultimately improve conversion rates.

Get in-the-moment user feedback

Combine your session recordings with instant visual feedback to get an even clearer picture of what’s happening on your website or app—and get closer to understanding customers.

Hotjar's Incoming Feedback widget gives you a glimpse inside your customers’ minds. Use the sentiment or suggestions they share to improve UX, reduce drop-offs, and boost conversions.

Discover website issues across devices with heatmaps

Website heatmaps visualize the most popular (hot) and unpopular (cold) elements of a webpage using colors on a scale from red to blue. Heatmaps can show you whether your customers are:

  • Seeing (or missing) important content

  • Seeing and using a page’s main links, buttons, opt-ins, and CTAs

  • Getting distracted by non-clickable page elements

  • Experiencing website issues across devices

As a visual tool, heatmaps help you make informed, data-based decisions for A/B testing, updating, or (re)designing your website.

Heatmaps are also useful on a wider business scale: show team members and stakeholders what’s happening and get buy-in for change. It’s hard to argue with a heatmap, especially when you layer your heatmap data with data from other behavior analytics tools.

Want to learn how to bring more customers back to your website?

Sign up for a free Hotjar account to understand your customers and give them the online experience they deserve.

3 ways to improve cart abandonment rate (with Hotjar's help)

Here’s how to build a solid relationship with your customers when they're still undecided about your brand, using the tools we mention above (and with the help of Hotjar 👋):

1. Build trust with visual and text-based social proof

Think of your website and checkout flow like a two-way conversation: you shouldn’t just be talking about how great you are—include evidence that other people think so, too!

Often called ‘social proof’, a visual or text-based endorsement from an industry or individual can help customers feel safe when shopping with you. Examples that you’re a trusted brand can include:

  • A ‘verified’ badge on your social media profiles

  • A ‘secure payment’ trust badge that’s highly visible during the checkout process

  • Validated security certificates during each step of the payment process

There’s strong evidence that customer testimonials can help drive sales as well. From star ratings and bestseller alerts to celebrity endorsements and social media mentions, carefully-chosen moments or value propositions can help convert a website visitor from a casual user to a committed customer.

Heatmaps can help you learn how to improve your social proof by:

  • Showing if important content is being ignored on certain pages

  • Showing when users ignore a video

  • Showing where (and when) users move their mouse on a webpage

💡 Learn from the success stories of cross-functional product teams:

Did you know that between January 2019 to January 2020, Hotjar was used to generate around 1,715,313 heatmaps for almost 350 thousand organizations?

To learn more, check out the case studies chapter of our Heatmaps guide and read success stories from marketers, UX designers, and product and ecommerce managers who used website heatmaps to improve their sites.

Psst: is your product team working remotely? Hotjar is designed to be used by distributed teams.

2. Include a guest checkout option to speed up the checkout process

When your customer is motivated to buy your product or service, it's in your best interest that it be easy for them to buy. Your product team can use session recordings to look for issues and blockers that slow down (or break) the checkout process, like:

  • Broken page links

  • Slow page loading times

  • Poor or confusing navigation

  • Cross-browser compatibility issues

  • Cross-device compatibility issues

Session recordings also let you see how users behave on your site in the moments before they abandon their cart, which can help you identify patterns and behaviors (like rage clicks or u-turns) that indicate a poor customer experience.

For example, if creating a user account isn't a requirement, new customers may want to skip that step of the checkout process—session recordings can show you how often customers are using a guest checkout option to make their purchase.

On the other hand, if creating a user account is a requirement, session recordings can show you whether customers are creating an account or exiting the page when they get to the account-creation part of the checkout process.—in which case you might consider adding a guest checkout option as a time-sensitive way to guide them to a final purchase decision.

3. A/B test changes to your website

In-depth analysis of user behavior is more than just number crunching—it’s also about understanding how users experience and interact with your website, and running experiments to learn more.

In an A/B test, half of the users landing on your website will see the original (or 'control') version A. The other half will see a 'variation' version B that features a change or group of changes like a different header, images, call to action (CTA), page structure, etc.

To reduce cart abandonment rate, your product team can use A/B testing to experiment with:

  • Different value propositions

  • A variety of special offers

  • The number of allocated steps in the checkout process

  • Variations of CTA buttons

It's easy to monitor A/B tests by integrating Hotjar with Optimizely or Omniconvert. Learn how to monitor A/B tests with Hotjar’s tools.

What other metrics should you be tracking (besides cart abandonment rate)?

To find out what’s motivating a customer to abandon their shopping cart or the checkout process, you can dig a little deeper into some other metrics too, to connect the dots:

Abandoned order value

How much are abandoned shopping carts actually costing you?

Knowing your abandoned order value (AOV) can tell you what you stand to gain by reducing your cart abandonment rate, and can bring up questions around conversion rate optimization (CRO)—which can then lead to improvements to the user experience (UX) like an updated site design or shop layout.

Website load times

The faster your checkout process is, the more likely it is that a customer will make a purchase—plus, they'll have an easier time entering their payment information.

If you’re wondering how Hotjar might affect your site's load time, Hotjar’s script has been designed to have a minimal effect on your site performance. This means Hotjar's usage tracking for Recordings, Heatmaps, and feedback only works in modern browsers that execute JavaScript efficiently.

Device usage

Your customer’s user experience will change depending on whether they’re browsing on mobile, web, or tablet.

Hotjar can help you generate heatmaps, watch session recordings, and gather user feedback on every page on your website, including password-protected pages and dynamically generated pages.

By knowing your customer’s preferred device, your product team can track issues across different devices or identify issues with checkout on a specific device.

Reassure your customers at every step of the customer journey (and stop missing out on sales!)

Cart abandonment recovery is an art you can master over time by investing in tools (like Hotjar 👋) to help you understand what your customer says and does over time—and why.

According to Sue Duris, Director of Marketing & Customer Experience M4 Communications, Inc., every customer will have their ‘zero moment of truth’: when they realize they have a problem and start searching for a solution.

By meeting customers where they are, product teams can figure out what’s most important to them. After all, analysis isn’t only about the tools you use; it’s also about how you use them, and why.

Be diligent about addressing customer issues as they come up: use heatmaps, session recordings, and regular customer feedback to improve your content, make design tweaks, and simplify your website navigation.

Invest attention and effort into understanding user behavior, and you’ll not only realize who you’re serving behind every click but also uphold the value that what’s right for your customer is often what’s best for business.

Want to learn how to bring more customers back to your website?

Sign up for a free Hotjar account to understand your customers and give them the online experience they deserve.