Run your Shopify store like a science project — 4 experiments to reduce abandoned carts

That’s one lonely, abandoned cart! Photo by Kai Oberhäuser on Unsplash

There’s one metric that causes a lot of frustration and confusion in the Shopify admin.

I’ll bet it’s bugged you too.

Why are my customers abandoning their carts?

You wouldn’t load up a bunch of groceries at Trader Joe’s and then walk out. Why are they doing it at your shop? Let’s break it down and figure out what to do about it.

In a study by Baymard Institute, the average cart abandonment rate is 68.8%. At least you’re not alone.

So how do you do better than the average abandonment rate? The first step is to understand why potential customers are abandoning their carts. And Baymard has done a lot of the work for us.

Seriously, check out their study. Then come back and we’ll look at how to make this actionable.

Experiment and measure

The first thing to understand is that what’s good for one shop might not be good for yours. Running an online business requires experimentation. Get to know your analytics. Study them, understand what they really mean, and approach your experiments scientifically.

Making a bunch of random changes to your shop is like throwing darts blindfolded. It might be fun, and it might make you feel like like you’re working hard.

But any bullseyes will be pure luck.

So let’s come up with a couple of steps for improving your shop.

  1. Establish a baseline
  2. Come up with a hypothesis
  3. Make one change at a time
  4. Measure and make a decision

You establish a baseline by taking a look at where you’re at right now. Check out the abandoned cart statistics in your Shopify reporting dashboard. View these by going to Analytics -> Dashboards in your Shopify admin and looking for the Online store conversion rate conversion funnel.

Next you need a hypothesis. Why do you think customers are abandoning their cart and what can you do about it? We’ll talk a lot more about this later. Come up with one if/then sentence that describes your idea. For example

If I offer free shipping, fewer customers will abandon their checkout

Make one change at a time. Don’t test a bunch of different hypotheses at the same time. Isolate your changes so you can be more confident about what’s causing the change in your abandoned cart rate.

Run your experiment, measure the results, and make a decision. Look at the change in your conversion funnel over time and decide if your change was a good one.

You can go more in depth with your experiments if you choose, but these four simple steps should get most of the way there.

Four experiments to try (and one bonus)

We’ll start with Baymard’s report, since they‘ve done a lot of research about why people abandon their carts.

Reduce your shipping costs

According to that Baymard study, 61% of of people have abandoned a shopping cart because the extra costs were too high. You’ve probably done it too.

Amazon spoiled everyone.

They’re used to free shipping and if you’re not offering it, it’s hard to be competitive.

Why not experiment with free shipping?

I get it. Shipping is expensive and covering it yourself will eat into your profits. Plus, it’s so simple to add to your Shopify store, you might not have given it much thought.

Do you know what your average shipping costs are? Could you cover the average shipping cost by increasing your prices and offering free shipping? You don’t need a lot of customers to abandon their carts over high shipping prices before you’re losing more money than you’re saving.

If you’re not ready to offer totally free shipping, could you try a low, flat shipping price? As a bonus, you’ll reduce shipping complexity at checkout. Just make sure you let your customers know your shipping rate before they hit checkout so they’re not surprised.

Use Shopify’s trust signals to your advantage

18% of users have abandoned their cart because they didn’t trust the site with their credit card information. If your site isn’t a household name, you’re going to deal with this.

But you have an advantage over someone who rolls their own e-commerce site — you have a shop on the biggest and best e-commerce platform out there — use that to your advantage.

An easy way to ease your customers concerns is to explicitly explain that Shopify processes their payments, and you are never going to have access to their financial information. Now, you’re not asking your customer to trust a store they’ve never heard of. You’re asking them to trust a large company supporting hundreds of thousands of stores.

In your Shopify admin, go to Sales Channels -> Online Store then click the Actions menu and select Edit Languages. Click Checkout & System and scroll down to Partial total label and change it say something like

Total: All payments are processed securely by Shopify. MyStore will never see your financial information.

Do the same for the Total label.

Now, when a user is checking out, they will see this message in their cart information.

It’s important for your shop to appear trustworthy, and showing off your association with a large company like Shopify can increase the trust your users have in you.

Reduce your delivery time

This one is especially relevant to dropshippers. 16% of users have abandoned their cart because delivery was too slow. If you have two week or longer delivery times it’s worth experimenting with some ways to reduce that. If a visitor can find your product on Amazon and have it in their hands tomorrow, they will. Even if they have to pay a few bucks extra.

Could you experiment by shelling out some money up front to maintain a small stock of your products, or find a supplier based in your country? Even if you have to reduce the number of products your shop carries to afford it, you may find your sales rising significantly when customers only have to wait a few days to receive their order.

Be generous with your return policy

10% of users abandon their carts because of the return policy. Can you make your return policy easier or more generous? Assume most of your customers aren’t trying to game the system until proven otherwise and make it easy for them to return products they’re not happy with.

This is especially true with clothing. Things don’t always fit right. And since your customers can’t try on things beforehand, they might be concerned about getting stuck with something they can’t use.

Think Zappos. They offer free unlimited returns. Is there a reason you can’t do the same? Remember you can always adjust later if you find it’s costing you too much.

Bonus: Capture users who were just browsing

According to that Baymard Institute study, almost 60% of users have abandoned a cart in the past 3 months because they were just browsing and weren’t ready to buy.

Okay, makes sense. A lot of your visitors who added something to their cart weren’t really planning on buying. But, what’s the difference between them and someone who browsed a few products and bounced?

These visitors showed an interest in what you’re selling.

They liked something you were selling enough to consider buying it. Maybe they’re not ready to buy it right now, but they might be in the future if they don’t forget about you.

There are a couple of things you can do here to keep this potential customer from disappearing.

  • Get an email address
  • Use retargeting

You have several options for getting an email address, and I suggest you experiment a lot with this. You want to get an email address from users who aren’t ready to buy just yet without disrupting their experience.

One option I like is adding a wishlist or save-for-later feature. There are a bunch of good apps on the Shopify App Store that will add this feature to your shop for free or cheap.

You know how when you shop for something on Amazon, that product seems to follow you around for days or weeks? They use retargeting, and it’s within your reach too. Shopify has AdRoll support built in and it’s easy to set up.

Where to go from here

If there’s a common theme to the experiments suggested here, it’s be generous. Do things that benefit your customers and give them a first-class experience.

If you’re looking for more help optimizing your sales on Shopify, be sure to follow us on Medium. And if you really want to dive into optimizing your shop check out our Shopify testing platform, NeatAB or our free analytics app, NeatTracker.