How to understand, calculate, and reduce shopping cart abandonment

Shopping cart abandonment is discouraging. It’s hard to attract shoppers, have them add items to their cart…and then leave before finalizing their purchase.

There are two ways you can look at this.

Option A is to think, “Look at all these people who didn’t buy from us! Why? People are annoying.” 

Option B is to think, “Look at all this room we still have for growth! We could increase our revenue a good deal if we get this fixed.”  

If you’re in the Option B camp, this article is for you. Abandonment is an opportunity for ecommerce brands, and there are a number of effective ways to get more of your shoppers to convert into buyers. 

Below, we look at:

  • What is shopping cart abandonment?
  • What is a good abandoned cart rate?
  • Why are your customers leaving their carts? 
  • How can you reduce shopping cart abandonment? 

Shopping cart abandonment is when a potential or existing customer adds something to their shopping cart and then doesn’t make a purchase. 

Someone browsed through your product offerings, selected what they wanted, and added it to their online shopping cart. But before they made a purchase, something happened. They never completed the order and the product remains in the cart until your site automatically clears the order — or you encourage them to come back. 

Now, cart abandonment is often confused with other types of abandonment, so let’s clear that up real quick:

  • Browse abandonment is when a shopper views a product but never adds it to their cart. 
  • Cart abandonment is one step further than browse abandonment. It’s when a customer adds an item to their cart but doesn’t go any further. 
  • Checkout abandonment is when a shopper adds an item to cart, starts down the checkout path, and then abandons purchase before submitting their order and payment. 

Why is shopping cart abandonment a problem for ecommerce retailers? 

Abandoned carts are “bad” for online retailers because they often indicate a website or customer experience problem.

For example:

  • Super slow loading times
  • Poor trust signals
  • A confusing checkout process

These are all issues ecommerce retailers can fix — and recover a good deal of revenue in the process.  

How much revenue? When Baymard Institute looked at solvable checkout problems (stuff you can fix, like slow load times), they found “the average large-sized ecommerce site can gain a 35.26% increase in conversion rate.” Thirty-five percent increase! 

Industry-wide, this translates to about $260 billion US and EU stores can recover.

Some of that revenue applies to your store. Here’s how you can calculate your abandonment rate and the ROI of improving it. 

How do you calculate your abandonment rate? 

Cart abandonment rate is reported as a percentage. It tells you what percent of your total number of shoppers add items to their cart, but don’t complete their checkout.

Here’s how the math works: 

calculate your shopping cart abandonment rate - example graphic

So, let’s assume that your store gets 100 visitors this month. Let’s also assume that 60 of those visitors add at least one item to their shopping cart.

Most of those 60 shoppers won’t actually complete their purchase. They will get distracted by something else, go look for a better price or a discount code, or just “save it for later.”

Let’s say that 20 of those shoppers DO complete their purchase, though. 60 shopping carts were initiated, but 40 of them were never actually purchased, which means that about 66% of your shoppers left without completing their order.

That’s a lot of money left on the table, right? Well, you might be surprised to learn that a 66% cart abandonment rate is actually pretty good compared to industry averages.

What is the average abandoned cart recovery rate?

Based on data from 44 different studies, Baymard Institute reports the average online shopping cart abandonment rate is 69.80%. And these numbers are only increasing. The abandoned cart rate is even higher now than it was pre-pandemic.

Keep in mind though, this is a broad analysis. Some studies found an average rate as low as 57.60% while others reported rates as high as 84.27% (and those were from the same year!). Rates will vary according to industry, niches within industries, and business type as well, so we caution against using any of these numbers as your benchmark. 

What is a good abandoned cart rate? 

But if you don’t use a benchmark, where do you start, and how do you know if your rate is any good? 

We often say “a good conversion rate is one that’s always improving.” The same principle is true for abandoned cart rates. As long as the number is getting smaller, your business is improving.

Meaning, you want to start with your unique abandonment rate and make it better. A good abandoned cart rate is one that’s lower than last month’s. 

To find your rate, you can look at a handful of data sources: 

  • Platform analytics: If you’re using Shopify, you can quickly access all the numbers you need to use the formula above. Under Analytics > Reports, look for (a) the total number of sessions where a customer added a product to cart and (b) the total number of sessions where a customer purchased a product. If you’re on BigCommerce, you can skip the math altogether. They have a handy Abandoned Cart Report, which includes your rate (already calculated!) and several other handy metrics (see image below). If you’re using WooCommerce, you might need to install a plugin, such as Cart Reports, to easily view your rate and metrics such as most abandoned products.  
Example of shopping cart abandonment metrics
  • Google Analytics: Alternatively, if you have the Enhanced Ecommerce feature turned on in Google Analytics, you can access your rate there. It’s in the Shopping Behavior Analysis report, which shows you (per time period) the number of sessions you had at each stage of the purchase funnel. 
google analytics shopping behavior analysis

From there, it’s helpful to look at what kind of ROI you’d see from improving your abandonment rate. Thankfully, we’ve got an abandoned cart ROI calculator to save you some time.

Here’s a quick video showing you how to use the calculator, but you can also keep reading to walk through an example in detail.