Cart Abandonment: Dissecting a Misnomer

Bryan Gudmundsoncart abandonment, checkout abandonment, website abandonmentLeave a Comment

Over the past few years, heads have turned to one of eCommerce’s largest hurdles, “cart abandonment.”  At often alarmingly high rates, online consumers prematurely end their visit to a website and never make the purchase.  Some marketers sifted through their site’s web analytics to try and identify ways to reduce their cart abandonment. Other marketers turned to the short list of cart abandonment solutions that have popped up over the years.

With this rise in popularity, cart abandonment is the topic that’s on every internet marketer’s mind. According to search data provided by Google Trends, people started to take a greater interest in abandoned carts somewhere around early 2009 and, ever since, search queries have remained consistently high.

Cart Abandonment

Search rates for “Cart Abandonment” between June 2008 and June 2013 via Google Trends

In response to these demands, businesses have cropped up specializing in reducing cart abandonment rates and getting consumers to convert at higher, more efficient rates.  Many of these companies specialize even further, looking at improving the one or two areas of the purchase process with which consumers consistently struggle.  Unfortunately, even though technology has become very specific and companies have targeted certain pieces of the eCommerce puzzle, the term is continually used as a blanket definition for eCommerce site abandonment of any sort. So, what does cart abandonment really mean and why is it so important to pin down a definition?

Cart Abandonment Definition


Terms of Agreement
We think there’s a better way to talk about abandonment. An online customer’s journey to purchase is a multi-step process–the shopping cart is just one stop along the way to the sale.  Each part of the shopping process requires input from the user and each presents its own set of challenges for merchants.  While taking a look at a site’s performance, there are a few distinct places along the conversion funnel at which customers tend to drop off.  Each one of these points has an associated type of abandonment, referred to as:

  • Website Abandonment – the general term used to describe all visitors who abandon before converting
  • Bounce Rate – the percentage of visitors who abandon before advancing beyond the entrance page
  • Product Abandonment – a new term used to describe visitors who reach a product page, but abandon before adding the item to their cart
  • Cart Abandonment – visitors who add an item to their shopping cart, but abandon before reaching the checkout page(s)
  • Checkout Abandonment – when a user moves past the cart and begins the checkout process but abandons before completing the transaction

Within this structure, “cart abandonment” refers to just one piece of the abandonment puzzle. Using these terms, abandonment experts and business owners can take a look at where customers are exiting and find solutions catered to specific problem areas of the funnel.  If users are abandoning just seconds after reaching a landing page, then it’s time to look at reducing bounce rates.  If users often make it to a few product pages, but exit without putting items in their carts, then the problem must be somewhere before the cart.


The Problem with Ambiguity
A quick Google search for “reducing cart abandonment” pulls up over 8,500 pages published within the last week.  Many of these pages include strategies for streamlining your checkout process or designing better call-to-actions; while important in their own right, these tips will not help you create a more effective shopping cart and may not help you move consumers from cart to checkout. Each type of abandonment is exceptionally important to address individually and each necessitates a unique set of solutions.

Cart Abandonment

“Cart abandonment” is searched more than five times checkout, website, and product abandonment combined  — via Google Adwords.


Clear Communication
By using a specific set of vocabulary, online retailers can more easily address their site abandonment issues. Armed with definitions for each stage of abandonment, marketers can simplify a complex issue and break it down into smaller, more manageable components. By encouraging the industry to agree to a set of specific terms, solution providers can better target, attract, and assist online marketers with their specific abandonment issues. If the marketer chooses to partner with a site abandonment solution provider, then understanding the industry’s vernacular will create an effective line of communication between the partner and the vendor.


Site Abandonment Solutions
UpSellit develops completely custom solutions that address a client’s specific site abandonment needs. UpSellit begins every campaign with a comprehensive website abandonment analysis. With a light, asynchronous snippet of code, UpSellit can monitor and analyze a website’s entire conversion funnel and determine problem areas and possible solutions. To begin your complimentary website analysis, please schedule a consultation today.


Written by Bryan Gudmundson

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