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You invest years of experience and expertise in making or curating your products. You work nights and weekends writing compelling yet fun yet serious yet readable content. You bust a gut (and smash your credit card) getting traffic to your site. You painstakingly guide your visitor to the checkout.

Then 68.53% (source: Baynard Institute) of them just walk away.

That’s cart abandonment. And what’s worse, you probably didn’t even know about those people or what they were going to buy or, and this is the real juice, why they walked away.

At Selz, we’re all about you selling more online. So in this article we’re going to show you scientific data which proves the 3 main reasons why people are abandoning carts and the simple things you can do about it.

1. Get your ship together

The number one reason carts are abandoned is an unexpected amount at the checkout due to shipping. It accounts for an eye watering 56% of abandoned carts. Let’s look at a few different scenarios, good and bad to see where shipping costs factor in.

Bad practice scenario – unexpected shipping costs

Jerry has an budget of $50 to buy a new sweater. He finds a great one for $55, pops in in the cart and heads to the checkout. Here, he’s unexpectedly hit up for an extra $9.95 shipping – ouch. That blows out his budget to $64.95, $9.95 of which is not something that he sees as a value add. He abandons cart quick smart and we’re down a sale.

Good practice scenario – free shipping

Jerry has an approximate budget of $50 to buy a new sweater. He finds a great one for $59.95 which he still feels is a reasonable price (the seller just factored in their shipping costs to their item prices), pops in in the cart and heads to the checkout. Boom! Sale made.

Good practice scenario – informed shipping

Jerry has an budget of $50 to buy a new sweater. He goes to your site, sees your banner about $9.95 shipping and understands what’s expected. He finds a great sweater for $50, pops in in the cart and heads to the checkout where he is presented with an expected total of $59.95. No nasty surprises here. Sold!

What did we learn from this, Grasshopper?

Shoppers don’t like surprises.

That doesn’t mean you need to be absorbing shipping costs – you’re running a business and your costs should be passed on in your sales. Generally we recommend that you offer free shipping, but that you tweak your product prices a smidge higher to cover your costs – happy seller, happy buyer.

If you must charge shipping, make sure you are up front about the costs involved and offer a flat rate for simplicity if possible, or offer free shipping above a certain price threshold. The Honest Company does a great job of making sure that their shipping costs are clear by displaying a banner on every page as you shop.

How do I get this sale back?

First, you have to know a cart has been abandoned. Then you need to reach out to the customer with a reason to come back and complete the purchase. Simply reminding some people can be enough or you might offer an incentive like a discount or free shipping to push them over the line.

There are lots of services out there you can use to do those things. If you’re using Selz then our Abandoned Cart app does both those things for you automatically and integrates simply with your store or buy buttons.

2. I’m just looking, thanks.

The second most common reason for cart abondonment is that your customer is actually a ‘researcher’ – a potential customers who is just browsing, generally searching for a good deal, or are not quite ready to buy yet. Researchers state that 37% of carts are abandoned.

But don’t be put off because these guys are actually a great opportunity. Why? Because they know what they want, they know that you’ve got it and they’re practically begging you to tip them over the edge. Again, a free or super transparent shipping option will definitely help out here but its not the only thing you can do to help them whip out the credit card.

Security and peace of mind come in to play here, along with a great shopping experience. That means clear communication, easy to understand shipping and purchasing terms and a beautiful looking, fast store (if you’re using Selz, then you’re set). Make sure your product images are high quality and consistent throughout your store (check out our post on how to be awesome at product photography), and that your branding carries through in your fonts and colour choices. It’s essential to have a mobile optimised store so that visitors can browse and buy on phones or tablets.

Consumers also love safety in numbers. Research shows that social proof is more valuable than saving money so put on the peer pressure by having testimonials, positive reviews and ‘bestselling’ products on display. Pura Vida Bracelets are great at including their Instagram feed in their storefront so that you can see images of ‘people like you’ wearing the product, with an invitation to join the club.

And sometimes, all they need is a reminder. Sending a pre-filled shopping cart to them a few hours later ready for them to fulfil is a simple and effective way to convert them from browser to buyer.

3. You don’t offer their preferred payment option.

The third most effective way to push away your customer and lost a sale is not letting them pay in the way that they want to pay. 16% of carts are abandoned for this and related reasons. In this day and age, you really need to be offering all major credit cards and PayPal in an SSL secured checkout – no excuses. If you’re using Selz that’s easy because we process all major credit cards for you and also accept PayPal payments with our a PayPal app. One of our fave sellers’ Amanda Bisk ticks all the boxes here.

It’s also important to make sure you’re offering your products in the best currency for your customer. If you can only pick one, make sure you’ve chosen the currency that suits the majority of your buyers. A foreign currency can be a real turn-off and make buyers worried or confused. Again, clarity is key.

So now we’ve talked about why customers are abandoning carts, let’s look at some simple and effective ways to bring them back.

Best time to send your abandoned card email

Opinions, and research, differ on this. However, the consensus opinion is 1-6hrs for the 1st email then 12-24hrs for the 2nd email.

Best email for abandoned carts

We like to keep it simple. We recommend 2 emails, both with simple messages along the following lines:-

1st email: 1 – 4hrs

This should be a polite reminder. Sometimes just showing the customer the products they had selected is enough. Take the opportunity to remind the customer that they are valued. Maybe add a simple message about making contact to demonstrate your commitment to customer support.

“Thanks you for your visit! We just wanted to remind you that you hadn’t completed your purchase. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to let us know, we’re here to help!”

2nd email: 6 – 24hrs

Obviously it’s really important not to pester. At the same time it’s really important not to apologize because it undermines the credibility of your message. Our favorite approach here is to phrase the 2nd email as if the customer missed the 1st.

“Thanks again for your visit. In case you missed our message, we wanted to let you know we saved your cart and your selected items. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to let us know, we’re here to help!”

Best title for your abandoned cart email

Make sure your brand is identifiable before the email is opened (either by sender name or in the subject line).

“It’s not too late to complete your purchase from Acme Inventions!”

Or make it obvious what the email is about in the subject line.

“You left items in your Acme Inventions basket”

Communication is the key to recovering abandoned carts and missed sales. Friendly reminders and genuinely helpful emails make it far easier to get your customers jumping back to the checkout, this time with the intent to buy. Click here to install the Abandoned Cart app to your store.

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About the author

Melissa Whidjaya

Melissa is the co-founder of Bloombox Co. Bloombox Co works to connect flower growers and flower buyers, creating a distribution system that reduces waste, improves profitability for growers, and removes barriers to consumption, providing flower lovers with a fresher, more sustainable product than ever before.


  1. James

    Excellent advice, shipping i would think is probably higher than the 56% abandonment listed. Not offering all the major payments is another big reason for shoppers to jump ship. Selling online today is very different to even 5 years ago and we must keep up with all the possible reasons a cart can be abandoned and try to seal the caps! One other possible reason is no phone number in checkout.

    1. Kristen

      Hey James, thanks for chiming in and interesting ideas! I think what you’ve mentioned that is very important is that online selling is way different than it was even just 5 short years ago and also that there are many reasons why a cart can be abandoned. I would guess that having a phone number in the checkout process wouldn’t make a difference for some sellers while for other sellers, with a different target market, would be enough to seal the deal. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. Douglas Archambault

    I think the icon of the cart I have should be bigger, I like the new cart but I have no shipping costs to worry about with my e-books. My customers come to my store page and go no further. I would love to see more action. Thanks

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