How to decrease shopping cart abandonment using AB testing

One of the most common challenges e-tailers face today is high cart abandonment rates. According to a 2017 Baymard study, the average cart abandonment rate is just over 69%.  Without a doubt, the high abandonment rate signifies a serious disconnect between visitor expectations and their actual online buying experience.

So the question then becomes, what is causing that disconnect?  According to Baymard’s study, there are several factors that contribute to high abandonment rates, but the handful of influencing factors that stand out to me are extra costs (think shipping, taxes, fees), lack of transparency related to total order cost, lack of trust and the returns policy.  While there are many other possible factors as to why a visitor may abandon their cart, this research gives us a good idea of where to focus our attention initially in order to decrease cart abandonment.

reasons for cart abandonment

As I mentioned in a previous blog, a great way to improve online metrics such as cart abandonment is through regular AB testing.  AB testing allows us to address these customer pain points head on by testing different iterations of page elements that may be causing the disconnect between customer expectations and the buying experience.

In this blog, we’ll explore specific elements you can AB test within your shopping cart to start decreasing abandonment today.  Let’s get started.

1. Extra costs (shipping, tax, fees)

Shipping costs are a major barrier to purchase for many of us. How many times have you added products to your cart only to find out the cost of shipping is either more than the actual product itself or too high to justify the purchase?  If you’re anything like me, plenty I’m sure – it’s no wonder why our visitors feel the same way.

While there are many ways we can use AB testing to reduce customer anxiety around shipping costs, let’s focus our attention on just a few.

  • Test adding a disclosure of how much (more) a visitor must spend to get free shipping. For example, if you offer free shipping at $50 and they have $40 worth of products in their cart, try testing statements similar to “You are $10 away from free shipping”.

Here is a great example of what this might look like:

cart abandonment

  • Test the threshold for free shipping. Using data to inform your decisions, test several free shipping costs to understand at what point visitors are willing to make a purchase and take advantage of your free shipping offer.  For example, how does offering $40 free shipping impact your bottom line?  Does the increase in overall orders outweigh the loss on shipping costs? Or what would be the impact if you increased the shipping threshold to $60? Are customers still willing to place an order?
  • Test the number of shipping options available, including a “pick up in-store” option. Providing the visitor options can help them decide between price of shipping and convenience.

In-store pickup option by BestBuy

cart abandonment

2. Hidden costs/transparency

This concept is closely associated with point #1 in that visitors do not like to be surprised especially when it comes to extra costs such as shipping, taxes and fees. Often times websites do not disclose taxes, fees and shipping costs until further down the purchase path – mostly due to technological constrains. In this case, one should think about testing:

  • The addition of “estimated taxes” based on the visitor’s geographic location.

Walmart Does a great job of this:

shopping cart total

  • Providing context as to why you are/have to collect fees. This could include the use of a tool-tip icon or perhaps testing aggregating the taxes and fees in one line item and giving the visitor the ability to drill down if they so choose.

3. Trust/security

With all of the news around hacking and personal information vulnerability, it is more important than ever to make your visitors feel secure. This can be done in various ways – consider testing the following:

  • The addition of trust/security logos
  • The proximity of those logos to the call to action
  • A lock or similar icon within your call to action
  • A brief statement about why security is important to your brand and how you keep the visitor’s information secure.

Here’s an example from Zappos

security statement

4. Return policy

A common question on the mind of the typical shopper is, “what happens if I need to return my purchase(s)?”.  If return policy information is buried or is difficult to find, it puts doubt in the visitors’ mind which can lead to abandonment. To reduce or remove this doubt, we need to find ways to be more transparent.  Consider AB testing the following:

  • Test adding a link to your return policy or perhaps a short statement about your policy within the shopping cart.

An example of how Gap introduces their return policy

return policy

  • If you don’t already offer free returns, consider testing offering your site visitors free returns.
  • Test the location or the prominence of the return policy.

Here’s a great example of how Zappos uses proximity to the CTA

return policy

Remember, the ideas presented above are just thought starters and “getting it right” takes time. What works for one brand may not work for another, so it is important to embrace testing and use an iterative approach to find your sweet spot – it may take 5, 6, 7 or more iterations of a single element before you find the right implementation for your visitors. It’s all about finding that balance between transparency, the options provided and not overloading the visitor.

Here at OpenText we have run thousands of tests focused on decreasing abandonment rates as well as increasing sales and average order value. We pride ourselves on building successful testing practices within our client’s businesses and would love the opportunity to help you realize significant improvements from our years of expertise in the industry.

If you would like to start testing today or simply learn more, get in touch with us via the contact form on the page here, we’d love to start a conversation with you.

Robert Brennan

Robert is a marketing optimization professional with over 8 years experience in developing and executing optimization strategies. He has executed hundreds of experiments for top tier brands that blend art and science, resulting in significant business impact. Robert blogs on all things marketing optimization related - including how to build effective strategies, the use and impact of data, as well as testing best practices.

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