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20 practical ways to reduce cart abandonment immediately

It starts promisingly enough: people visit your online store, browse your products, and add items to their carts…but then disappear without completing their purchase. 

It’s called shopping cart abandonment, and it’s more common than you think. The good news: we've got a few simple fixes to turn abandoned carts into more revenue.

Last updated

31 Jan 2023

Reading time

13 min


Nearly 70% of ecommerce shopping carts are abandoned. That’s high—but rather than hanging your head in defeat, you should get pumped about the huge opportunity.

Because people who leave their carts have shown interest in what you have to offer—they just didn’t make it over the finish line. Maybe they got distracted, became frustrated with too many steps, or bumped into a user experience (UX) glitch in your checkout process.

We’ll show you how to identify the most common problems with checkout flows, along with practical ways to turn abandoned carts into new revenue.

To make it easy, we’ve grouped these tactics into five critical themes. Skip to what you need, or start from the top.

  1. Simplifying user experience

  2. Increasing trust and transparency

  3. Empathizing with your shoppers

  4. Winning back cart abandoners

  5. Experimenting with advanced tactics

Improve shopping cart abandonment with Hotjar

Hotjar's ecommerce experience insights tell you ‘why’ shoppers don’t buy. So you can make the changes that’ll make your shopping cart go ka-ching.

Simplifying user experience

Make it easy; make it fast; make it smooth: these are the basics of a good ecommerce user experience. Don’t overlook these deceptively simple ways to reduce cart abandonment.

1. Reduce checkout steps

Every time a shopper has to click to another screen to make a purchase, they lose patience. 

While extra steps like an upsell suggestion or a customer survey may be useful tools for you, they can deter shoppers. 

Review your flow to answer one important question: how could you make it simpler?

From your shopping cart page, three screens are all you need for a tight multi-page checkout flow:

  1. Add personal info + shipping details

  2. Add payment information 

  3. Review order + ‘Buy now’

Follow this with a confirmation screen to reassure your new customer, and you’ve got a simplified checkout flow that shoppers can complete in under a minute.

How to decrease checkout abandonment by 86% over breakfast

Andrew Haehn, Operations Director at ecommerce company Materials Market, has an unusual breakfast routine, which usually includes porridge or a smoothie and 20 minutes watching Hotjar Recordings. That’s how he first spotted the problem in their checkout process:

“I saw that people were just getting confused. It looked like there were too many steps in the process. We were asking people to do too much just to check out.”

– Andrew Haehn, Operations Director, Materials Market

Those insights led to a few simple tweaks to their checkout process that brought big business gains. The results:

  • Before: one in four shoppers abandoned their shopping carts

  • Now: only one in 25 customers leave their carts

#With some new copy, a pop-over modal, and fewer steps, Andrew decreased the checkout drop rate
With some new copy, a pop-over modal, and fewer steps, Andrew decreased the checkout drop rate

2. Limit the number of form fields

Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you don’t need it, don’t ask. Asking a shopper’s gender might be useful to understand your buyer personas, but it’s unnecessary to complete the checkout process. Remember, you can always send a demographics survey later to get to know your audience. 

Do this now:

  • Review all form fields in your checkout flow

  • Remove any fields that aren’t essential for completing a purchase

3. Eliminate unnecessary elements 

Trying to upsell customers with ‘popular items’ and nudging people to sign up for your newsletter are good tactics for your homepage or product pages, but keep these out of your checkout flow. Once people place items in their cart, use call-to-action (CTA) best practices to help people finish their order.

Do this now:

  • Make sure all your CTAs move a buyer forward

  • Eliminate any buttons, links, or pop-ups that may send a shopper off track

💡Pro tip: use Hotjar Heatmaps to quickly identify distracting elements in your checkout process. If you see users clicking in unwanted places, update your cart design to keep users focused on the checkout.

A Hotjar heatmap shows you where users click, and don’t click, on a page

4. Design an intuitive checkout navigation 

You’ve likely applied conversion rate optimization (CRO) best practices to your ecommerce store, including clear and colorful CTA buttons. The same tactics apply to your checkout pages. Don’t make buyers search for where to click next. Instead, make the next step big, bright, and obvious.

Similarly, if there’s an error or missing information, your customer shouldn’t have to guess what’s blocking them. Whenever someone needs to fill out a required checkout field, it should be clear to them.

Do this now:

  • Make all mandatory information fields clear

  • Make ‘next step’ prompts and buttons bolder

  • Highlight missing information with visible prompts or form field outlines

#Lego’s big orange ‘Checkout Securely’ button draws your attention, as does the red ‘Something went wrong’ message if you don’t add your ZIP code
Lego’s big orange ‘Checkout Securely’ button draws your attention, as does the red ‘Something went wrong’ message if you don’t add your ZIP code

💡Pro tip: Hotjar’s heatmaps and session recordings make it easy to diagnose potential navigation issues. 

  • Recordings let you watch users as they navigate your checkout, revealing how clearly your prompts point them to next steps

  • Heatmaps show where people click, including rage clicks when someone doesn’t realize they need to supply missing info

Together, they give you better, user-backed insights for creating a more intuitive checkout navigation with confidence.

5. Make it easy to edit a shopping cart

Some ecommerce stores ‘lock’ people into the checkout process once they're in their cart, making it difficult to remove or revise items already in their baskets. It’s a frustrating experience that inevitably leads to cart abandonment—and keeps shoppers from returning to your store. 

Do this now:

  • Make it easy to eliminate an item added to the cart

  • Provide the option to ‘go back to store’ or ‘continue shopping’

6. Offer a guest checkout option 

If you’ve ever been forced to create an account to make a single purchase, you know how unpleasant it can be. Like you, your prospective customer likely doesn’t care about speeding up future orders; they want to buy the item they want now. And this isn’t the taste you want to leave in a buyer’s mouth. 

Offer buyers two options:

  1. Create an account’ to speed up future orders: with email, Google, or other social logins

  2. Guest checkout’ to speed up the current order with minimal info and steps

#Lego offers two checkout options for new customers: ‘Register’ and ‘Continue as Guest’, plus a ‘Sign In’ option for returning customers
Lego offers two checkout options for new customers: ‘Register’ and ‘Continue as Guest’, plus a ‘Sign In’ option for returning customers

Increasing trust and transparency

One of the biggest reasons people decide not to buy from a new store is doubt. Is this site safe? When will my items arrive? What if I don’t like what I buy? 

The better you answer these questions up front, the more people will be willing to click ‘Buy now’.

7. Make your return policy clear

We strongly recommend offering a generous return policy (see next tip below). But more important is to make your return policy as clear as possible. When linking to a return policy page, it should open as a new window or a hover-over tooltip box, so it’s easy for shoppers to return to your checkout flow.

Answer these questions for your customer:

  • Can I return unwanted items?

  • How do I make a return? 

  • How long do I have to make a return?

  • Who pays for return shipping?

💡Pro tip: not everyone will review your return policy. But those who do care a lot about what they find. Add live feedback to make sure you’re answering shopper doubts in a way they’re happy with.

Add a live feedback widget to your return policy page to make sure shoppers find the info they need

8. Offer a 100% money-back guarantee

Some store owners fear that offering 100% money-back guarantee will lead to more returns—along with logistic and financial reporting hassles. But research shows that offering a full refund will net you more sales in the end. Again, it’s about trust. 

People are more compelled to buy when they know they won’t get stuck with something they don’t want. A money-back guarantee offers this peace of mind. This is especially important if you’re a newer ecommerce site attracting many first-time visitors.

💡Pro tip: if you’re unsure, give it a test. Add an explicit 100% money-back guarantee to your product pages and checkout flow for a set period. Then keep an eye on orders with versus without the guarantee.   

  1. Do you see a reduction in cart abandonment?

  2. Do you see an increase in returned orders?

  3. Do you see positive changes in your net revenue?

You could also set this up as an A/B test using Hotjar to monitor how users react to your money-back guarantee (for more, scroll down to 18).

Note: if you’re unsure about calculating revenue and other ecommerce metrics, find out more about the ecommerce metrics you should be tracking.

9. Build trust with social signals

Who do you trust more?

  1. A company promising you they’re amazing

  2. A friend telling you a company is amazing

  3. A thousand reviews saying a company is amazing

You may have picked 2 or 3, but we guarantee you didn’t pick 1. Whether word-of-mouth from friends and family, or overwhelmingly positive reviews from previous customers, buyers feel more confident with proof. 

To increase trust, add one or more of the following:

  • Customer testimonials  

  • Trustpilot rating (see Materials Market)

  • Secure-payment trust badge

  • Validated security certificates

The stellar 4.8-star rating (and Nicholas A.’s recent purchase) assures Nectar shoppers they’re making a good choice

10. Make all costs transparent from the get-go

One of the fastest ways to lose a sale is to add unexpected costs at the register. Surprise costs and hidden fees make people feel duped, and this isn’t just bad for sales; it’s bad for your brand.

Make sure all costs—including taxes and shipping fees—are transparent from the start so your shoppers know exactly what they’re agreeing to.

💡Pro tip: if you’re unable to calculate shipping (or any other costs) up front, make it clear what costs will be added later. Set expectations; eliminate surprises.

11. Move the estimated delivery date before the checkout process

Imagine finally finding that perfect birthday present for your partner. Yes! You add it to your cart, fill in contact and shipping details, and only then find out it won’t arrive in time. No!

Like hidden costs, this is another unwelcome surprise that turns buyers away. In this case, it’s better to potentially deter a buyer earlier than disappoint them later.

Remember Andrew from Materials Market, who you met above? They moved the estimated delivery date before their checkout process—an easy fix that helped add an extra £10,000 in annual revenue.

#Materials Market’s checkout changes, including estimated delivery dates and Trustpilot reviews, tripled conversions
Materials Market’s checkout changes, including estimated delivery dates and Trustpilot reviews, tripled conversions

Empathizing with your shoppers

Improving your shopping cart abandonment rate starts with investigating what’s wrong. Who better to ask than the people whose opinions matter most: your customers? We’ve got the tactics to bring the voice of the customer (VoC) into your decisions.

12. Experience your checkout through your users’ eyes

What if you could see what shoppers see as they walk through your checkout process? 

With session recordings, you can. See where visitors get frustrated, spot site designs that lead to distraction, and identify areas to improve to reduce cart abandonment.

💡Pro tip: use the Hotjar clicked element filter to easily identify users who started—but didn’t finish—checking out. This helps you pinpoint what prevents users from checking out.

Filter your recordings to focus on sessions with abandoned shopping carts

13. Ask customers what’s missing with an exit-intent survey

A visitor lands on your ecommerce store and adds an item to their cart but leaves before buying. Now imagine if you could tap them on the shoulder and ask: “Why are you leaving? What could we have done better?”

With an exit-intent survey, you can.

One survey to decrease cart abandonment and triple conversions

Tomasz Lisiecki’s agency, NerdCow, had an ecommerce client with unusually low conversion rates. Hotjar Recordings revealed many people abandoning their shopping carts. 

Rather than rely on hunches or guesses, he used Hotjar Surveys to ask visitors directly: what stopped you from buying?

The reason? They forgot! This led to a simple email and website reminder that nearly tripled conversions in just two weeks.

#A Hotjar exit survey lets you capture live feedback before a visitor leaves your site
A Hotjar exit survey lets you capture live feedback before a visitor leaves your site

14. Get in-depth feedback from all the right people

Your ecommerce analytics reveals a lot about what’s happening on your online store. But sometimes, you need a broader set of eyes to identify soft spots in your checkout experience. 

This is where Hotjar Engage helps. Formerly PingPong, Engage is a user research platform that streamlines user testing by letting you invite your own users to test and give feedback (you can also borrow Hotjar's pool of over 175,000 testers if needed).

Run user interviews if you:

  • Introduce a new checkout flow and need to ensure it’s easy, clear, and makes people feel secure

  • Need additional insights to improve your existing flow

Checkout process insights that increase conversions by 491%

TomTom, a leading navigation company, used Hotjar to identify and fix problems in their checkout process. It started with looking through their customers’ eyes:

“We couldn’t see the problem internally—as far as we knew, it didn’t exist. We only identified the issue with Hotjar.” – ​​Dave Powell, conversion specialist at TomTom

This was one of many site improvements that helped increase conversion rates up to 491%.

→ Read more on how TomTom used Hotjar to drive big increases to email click-through rate (CTR) and conversion rates

#A TomTom Hotjar recording in action
A TomTom Hotjar recording in action

Winning back cart abandoners

You’ve simplified your flows, made costs and delivery dates transparent, added elements of trust, and—ta-da—more people are now finishing your ecommerce checkout. But as for the people who’ve already left, there are ways to get them back, too.

15. Use email marketing to bring people back 

It’s a familiar story: someone adds a desired item to their cart, then gets distracted by one of life’s demands and doesn’t complete the process. The solution could be as simple as sending them a gentle email reminder. 

Far from an annoyance, your reminder may make someone’s day. Cart abandonment emails have a 39% open rate and a 23% click-through rate—which means your prospects are happy to see you and more likely to return to finish that purchase. 

Best practices for abandoned cart email sequences:

  1. Provide a clear summary of abandoned items

  2. Add a clear CTA button or link 

  3. Include customer testimonials or reviews if relevant

  4. Test different subject lines

  5. Send multiple email reminders (2-4 seems to be the sweet spot)

This Dote reminder grabs attention with unique copy, a clear cart reminder, and a CTA button

16. Launch retargeting campaigns

Retargeting ads show people the products they’ve viewed on your store, including items they’ve added to their carts. With help from platforms like Google Ads or Facebook, you can use retargeting ads to reduce cart abandonment by 6.5% and increase sales by as much as 20%. 

It works because your ads are seen by people who’ve already shown intention to buy, so you stay top-of-mind with an interested audience.

Experimenting with advanced tactics

To get under that scary 70% average abandonment rate, we suggest starting with the above recommendations. But once you’ve covered the basics, there are a few more tactics to try. The best news: while these ideas are more advanced, most of them are fairly straightforward to implement.

17. Add live chat to relieve last-second doubts

Have you ever had a quick question about a product before buying? The better you assuage a shopper’s doubts, the happier they'll be to hand you their Visa car-, er, trust. Live chat is one option that provides the instant comfort buyers need to finish their purchase.

❗️Warning: live chat can be a useful channel, but it’s also a big commitment, especially for small stores. Before adding live chat, test it on a small cohort of buyers to make sure you have the bandwidth to keep up with potential demand.

18. A/B test shopping cart hypotheses

Does adding a testimonial increase confidence or add distraction? Does allowing users to leave their checkout and continue shopping increase or decrease cart abandonment?

Some questions can only be answered by testing. If a potentially big payoff comes with substantial risk, you might want to invest in an A/B test comparing variant A (your original design) to variant B (your—hopefully!—improved version).

Some elements to test:

  • CTA button placement and color

  • Copy variations, e.g. ‘Checkout now’ vs. ‘Secure checkout’

  • Adding customer testimonials

  • Offering a guest checkout option

A/B testing + session recordings = deep insights

An A/B test can tell you which variant converts better, but it doesn’t necessarily tell you why. Hotjar’s Recordings tool shows you how users work through each flow, so you can pinpoint pain points and get new insights to improve ecommerce conversions

You can also integrate Hotjar with your A/B testing tool to easily compare user behavior across variants.

#Hotjar Recordings lets you see how users scroll, move, u-turn, and rage click on your site and checkout flows
Hotjar Recordings lets you see how users scroll, move, u-turn, and rage click on your site and checkout flows

19. Optimize your site’s performance 

Three seconds: if your pages take longer than that to load, you’re bleeding sales. There are a few ways to test page speed:

  • External page speed tests, like WebPageTest or Google’s PageSpeed Insights

  • From the perspective of real users, with Hotjar Recordings

Page speed also influences how Google ranks your site in Search, so the benefits of optimizing speed go way beyond your cart. And once you’ve got page speed under control, be sure to tick off the rest of the website optimization checklist.

20. Add cart recovery plugins to your ecommerce site

If your ecommerce store is on Shopify or WooCommerce, you’ve got another set of options: cart recovery plugins. They reduce shopping cart abandonment by sending automatic reminders to people who’ve abandoned their carts.

Shopify alone offers hundreds of different abandoned cart apps, and many are free.

Shopify offers numerous plugins for abandoned cart recovery

The sale starts long before clicking ‘Add to cart’

An abandoned shopping cart is a great sign: it means you’ve got people to your ecommerce site, and they’ve found something of interest. That’s the hardest part for many online stores. 

And now you’ve got 20 new ways to push that abandonment rate down—from simplified checkout flows and signs of social proof to new tools that put you in your customers’ shoes.

But remember that a successful ecommerce business is more than just a well-oiled shopping cart. A sale begins when a customer first hears about your brand—and it continues through a buttery-smooth shopper experience that ends in a happy customer owning a product they adore.

Improve shopping cart abandonment with Hotjar

Hotjar's ecommerce experience insights tell you ‘why’ shoppers don’t buy. So you can make the changes that’ll make your shopping cart go ka-ching.

Shopping cart abandonment FAQs