Is Shopping Cart Abandonment a UX Problem?

1 Dec

Paypal recently observed that “45 percent of online shoppers in the U.S. abandon carts, leaving baskets worth an average of $109 each time” (Christian Science Monitor:  This is a huge amount of money for online retailers to leave on the table. Surely some of this can be mitigated with the thoughtful application of user experience design. But is shopping cart abandonment just a symptom of poor user experience design?

It seems that abandonment is also largely due to fundamental differences in online shopping versus in-store shopping behaviors. For instance, when a purchase includes multiple items, customers will add them all to the cart just to see their total with tax and shipping. Often this gets compared to competing sites where the shopper does the same. Then they checkout at the lowest priced website and abandon all the other carts. This, however, can be mitigated with “no-signup” wish-lists that allow customers to take an intermediary step between browsing and the cart. However, the wish-list is really just semantic as it should operate exactly as a shopping cart with only nomenclature changes. The real difference is in the mental model the user has toward each function.

Daydreaming is another interesting behavioral trend that has the ability to significantly increase abandonment rates. This comes into play when customers add items to their cart with no intent or ability to purchase. For example, what percentage of customers who configure a Porsche online (which is the same action as adding it to a shopping cart) are financially able to actually buy a Porsche?

So, in the end the 45 percent cart abandonment statistic is interesting only in that it points toward online shopping behaviors and trends that e-commerce user experience needs to conscientiously design for.

Additional articles about shopping cart abandonment:

Christian Science Monitor


Marketing Sherpa

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