The Complete Guide to Checkout Abandonment

Bolt Team July 19

Illustration symbolizing checkout abandonment

Anyone with an online retail store knows it’s a big investment. Running an ecommerce business means spending a lot of money and resources to draw customers to your site, fine-tune their experience, collect data analytics on key metrics and user funnels, and convince users to buy your product.  After all this investment, it’s hard to see customers drop off at the last minute. It’s important to make the most of each customer by driving retention and conversion methods effectively. If you aren’t already, you should be studying checkout abandonment and working towards reducing the impact on your business.

A 2018 study by Baymard Institute examining the reasons for abandonments during checkout took data from 41 separate studies, showing that the majority of checkout abandonment occurs because extra costs are too high (shipping, taxes, and other fees), account creation is necessary, and the checkout process is unnecessarily complicated.

Bar graph showing results of 2018 Baymard Institute study on reasons for abandonments during checkout

Using this type of data, we can begin to understand what stops users along the checkout process and identify areas for improvement. Before we get to practical applications, let’s cover the basics. Keep reading to learn:

It’s important to point out that you will never be able to get checkout abandonment all the way to zero. However, you can reduce it and improve checkout recovery to help mitigate the impact checkout abandonment has on your conversions. We’ll teach you how to improve checkout abandonment rates and find out how you can capture up to 20% of your abandoned checkouts with the proper adjustments.

What Is Checkout Abandonment, and How Is It Different From Cart Abandonment?

Abandoned shopping cart in front of rundown abandoned building

Checkout abandonment is when a customer that has initiated the checkout fails to complete the purchase successfully. The checkout abandonment rate is calculated by dividing the total number of completed transactions by the total number of initiated checkout. High rates typically signal issues with the user experience in the checkout process.

Infographic representing the differences between cart abandonment and checkout abandonment

In contrast, cart abandonment refers to when a shopper adds an item for purchase to their cart during browsing, but then drops off the site or app without purchasing. While very similar to checkout abandonment, the distinction is in when the drop-off occurs. Checkout and payment are a step further than creating a cart and adding items; knowing the difference can help you more clearly identify at what stage your users are abandoning the process.

11 Reasons Why Customers Abandon the Checkout 

Handling checkout abandonment statistics properly means first understanding why your customers are leaving. Without knowing where the leaks are, you can’t plug them. Use behavioral analytics and purchase funnel analysis to determine checkout abandonment reasons and address them directly with solutions.

1. Unexpected additional charges

Credit cards sticking out jeans back pocket

According to a 2018 study by Baymard Institute, additional charges — such as taxes, shipping costs, and other additional fees — are the leading cause of cart abandonment. Customers like to know what they will pay prior to initiating purchase, so that the payment process is seamless and efficient. Adding fees at this stage commonly deters people, as they are now being asked to pay more than expected.

Impact to checkout: Severe.

A customer may decide to return to make the purchase after thinking about the additional charges, but additional charges at the checkout stage is often enough to turn your customer away.

The Solution: Always provide information about full pricing, shipping charges, and any other potential fees that customers will incur prior to the cart or checkout process. In general, avoid surprising customers with charges at the checkout stage to reduce drop-offs. See how Amazon dominated online conversions by offering free 2-day shipping so customers were not wary of additional shipping fees.

2. Forced account creation or registration

Requiring customers to register or create an account with you at the point of payment often drives checkout abandonment. Adding an account registration — while potentially increasing your subscribers and users — interrupts and slows down your customers’ payment process. 

Impact to checkout abandonment: Severe.

The Solution: Requiring the customer to register or create accounts removes the convenience and speed of online shopping, which is partly why your customers are buying from your site or app in the first place.

Instead, set up call-to-actions outside of your checkout process, where you are still going to motivate them to create an account. Consider sending a follow up email post-purchase that invites the user to sign-up for your service by creating an account or registering; this way, you don’t lose them during the sale.

3. Shipping options and pricing aren’t inclusive enough

Row of transport trucks on a cloudy day

Shipping options and fees are an essential part of online shopping, affecting the purchases that people make and from where they buy. Delivery options, including carriers, delivery times, and shipping costs all affect whether a customer proceeds through to checkout. Having long delivery times, additional shipping charges, and other shipping issues at checkout is likely to cause drop-offs. Once a customer decides a product is not worth the delivery costs, they are unlikely to come back to complete the purchase.

Impact to checkout abandonment: Severe.

The Solution: Ensure that you are using a high-quality shipping service, reasonable delivery times for the product you are selling, and decent shipping prices (ideally: free shipping) will help keep customers from dropping off during checkout.

4. Long, complex checkout process

The point of online shopping is to be fast, efficient, and convenient. The longer it takes, the less convenient and appealing it is to the customer. If the checkout process is complex, complicated, and tedious, it won’t save customers time or hassle and they will no longer see the value. 

Account creation or registration is a good example of an additional, time-consuming process that turns potential buyers away. In fact, Baymard Institute recently found that very strict password requirements contributed to a nearly 19% abandonment rate.

Impact to checkout abandonment: High.

The Solution: Streamline your checkout and payment process, removing any unneeded steps or clicks. You want to make it as simple as possible for the user to get from seeing the product they want to ordering it. Consider ways of removing additional steps here and provide users with this information earlier in the process, such as during user onboarding or earlier in a conversion funnel. If desired, try a solution like Bolt that automatically streamlines the checkout for you.

5. Website errors and crashes

Website errors and crashes are a major problem for checkout abandonment, as they can actually impede the customer’s ability to make the purchase. Even if users are able to make the purchase, slow speeds or errors instill a lack of confidence in the payment process.

More than that, it affects your perception of the company’s overall ability to carry out the order, from packaging, to delivery, to payment. If customers see errors early in the process, they are not motivated and won’t bother proceeding. Instead, they will likely go somewhere else to buy the product.

Impact to checkout abandonment: Medium.

The Solution: Technology issues have no real solution, but perfecting the performance of the technology so that these types of errors don’t occur is an essential way to combat checkout abandonment. Regularly test analytics so you can identify issues as they occur and keep your app or website operating smoothly for users.

6. Payment security concerns

Two wall mounted security cameras

Payment security is paramount when running an online service, as customers are only willing to make purchases and input financial information through systems they trust. People are wary of inputting personal information online – especially banking details. Payment processes should have some element of fraud protection to ensure users’ data is protected. Users are understandably cautious about inputting personal and banking information online; if they don’t think your payment process is secure, they are not likely to change their mind and take the risk. 

Impact to checkout abandonment: Medium.

The Solution: It doesn’t always matter how good security is, as many services have good security; it’s more about conveying the appearance of high-quality security. Even if your service is secure, you need to make sure it feels secure to the user. Having a site and app that seems secure helps people feel confident that they won’t be wasting their money if they decide to make a purchase.

7. Browsing and researching because your site isn’t informative enough

Depending on how much information customers have, they are compelled to initiate the cart or checkout process to get those details – such as after-tax pricing, shipping fees, and any other additional costs. Return policies or warranty options are sometimes hard to find, and are often not included until the checkout phase. If they aren’t up to customer standards, they may decide not to proceed. 

No matter what you are selling, both checkout and cart abandonment are affected by browsing and researching. Consider ways you are encouraging this as well as ways of mitigating it. If you have a funnel set up that intentionally provides this information once users are poised to buy to push people closer to buying, it may have adverse effects on checkout abandonment rates. If you want to keep your funnel set up this way, remember that it will impact your drop-offs at the checkout phase.

Impact to checkout abandonment: Low.

The Solution: You likely won’t ever ‘solve’ this problem, but you can reduce checkout abandonment due to browsing and research by providing information to your users upfront, ensuring they do not need to initiate a checkout to get all the purchasing details.

Of all the checkout abandonment issues, this may be one of your least serious as it doesn’t turn away users quite like other problems. However, users that don’t have enough information prior to the purchase process could be driven to check details by initiating the payment process. This will boost and inflate your checkout abandonment rates.

8.  Performance and Load Times

Time lapse photo with blurred car lights in front of old building

 

A slow-moving, low performing website or mobile app fails to build trust or confidence in the user. With a poor experience, they don’t trust that your security, privacy policies, or technologies are able to carry out their job, or customers simply don’t trust the process to proceed further. The quality of the website and app people are using – especially the payment process – is important for getting users to convert. 

Impact to checkout abandonment: Severe.

The Solution: Regularly testing and checking the performance and speed of your checkout and payment process is important to ensure users are confident, comfortable, and safe when making purchases so that they will convert.

9.  Lack of Payment Options

This is a physical impediment to your purchase completion. By not having the payment method available to your customer, you increase your chances that they won’t proceed. Customers are likely to have a few different methods of payment available, and will likely use the most convenient one. As long as you provide common methods of payment, this won’t affect your checkout abandonment as much as other factors. 

Impact to checkout abandonment: Medium.

The Solution: Having as many payment options as possible is the best way to combat this. However, as payment methods are costly to provide, focusing on providing the most popular payment methods can help you get around this problem with most people, while only losing out on some conversions.

10.  Declined Credit Card

Incomplete payments include payments not processed due to an actual transaction error, commonly on the customer’s side in the form of an NSF charge or incorrect card information. These aren’t your errors so much as they are customer errors, and are therefore harder to avoid and reduce. 

This is a great example of why it’s important to consider all potential reasons for checkout drop-offs, as some factors can skew checkout abandonment rates. Declined credit cards and NSF charges, for example, are because of the customer, and might need to be subtracted from the total checkout abandonment analytics to get a clear picture of where you can most effectively improve you process to reduce checkout drop-offs.

Impact to checkout abandonment: Low.

An incomplete purchase caused by a declined transaction is not a major deterrent for customers returning. They are likely to come back to complete the purchase when they can.

Solution: Make the sections for information to input clear, direct, and simple to reduce typos and small errors. Ensure that credit card chargebacks aren’t occurring on your end by flagging transactions as fraud when they aren’t. These falsely rejected payments result in one of the largest streams  of lost revenue, and often go unseen by companies.

11.  Return to Add More Items to Cart

Woman putting red apple in green shopping basket

You could have worse problems than people returning to add another item to their purchase. As long as users come back and follow through on the next purchase, this is actually a positive for you. It shows that your funnel for getting customers to add more items prior to purchasing is working, and you are increasing your conversions on already-converting customers.  

However, it’s important to remember that this is only a positive if they actually come back and buy the additional product. If they return to add another item to the cart, and then drop-off, that is actually negatively impacting your checkout abandonment, as sending them back has caused them to drop the initial purchase.

Impact to checkout abandonment: Low.

The Solution: Show previews of items in the checkout view whenever possible. Consider a plugin that allows you to make suggestions for adding similar items to the cart, before the checkout step is initiated. This will avoid having customers return to product pages after initiating checkout, which increases the risk of checkout abandonment.

Checkout abandonment rate & statistics: where do you rank? 

The checkout abandonment rate represents the percent of customers abandoning the checkout process. It is calculated by dividing the total completed transactions by the number of initiated checkouts abandoned. A low checkout abandonment rate indicates a seamless user experience from browsing to sale.

What is an average, good, or bad checkout abandonment rate?

When determining what a good or bad checkout abandonment rate is, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The average abandoned checkout rate changes based on industry, and it is important to consider this when calculating your own. For example, the food and drink services industry has a significantly lower checkout abandonment rate than other industries.

Based on a range of studies, the average cart abandonment rate as of March 2019 is essentially 69%. That being said, a little higher or lower is still within the average range. While this study refers directly to cart abandonment rate, we can assume checkout rate is slightly less, as it is one step further in the purchase process. Since there is bound to be some checkout abandonment, an optimal checkout abandonment rate is not as low as zero.

This grading system is your basic guide to where your checkout abandonment rate should be:

A+ (10% – 20%) A (20% – 25%) A- (25% – 30%)
B+ (30% – 40%) B (40% – 50%) B- (50% – 60%)
C+ (60% – 65%) C (65% – 70%) C- (70% – 75%)
D+ (75% – 80%) D (80% – 85%) D- (85% – 90%)
F (90% or higher)

In general, the range of 60 – 80% is still within the average; if you are in this range, you should be aiming to reduce your checkout abandonment rate. A very bad checkout abandonment would be higher than 90% and a good checkout abandonment would be lower than 40%. It is speculated that the best optimized cart abandonment rate would be close to 20%, as users drop off because of payment failure, after browsing, and for other reasons outside of the sellers’ control.

However, it’s important to remember that there is some difference based on industry and other variables. Rather than focusing on a specific number, consider what the data is indicating, evaluate ways of reducing checkout abandonment, and continue to fine-tune to get the best results you can achieve. 

Metrics to measure for abandonment analytics

Tracking data in relation to checkout abandonment can seem complicated, but it’s important to capture data analytics to understand why users leave and what the recovery rate is of email campaigns. The following are essential metrics to track in relation to checkout abandonment rates:

  • Email capture rate: the percent of visitors that you are able to get a good email address from
  • Abandoned items value: the monetary value being lost to abandoned checkouts
  • Checkout abandonment email open rate: the percent of recovery campaign emails that are opened
  • Checkout abandonment email click through rate: the percent of recovery emails that are opened and acted upon by resulting in a click-through back to your site
  • Checkout abandonment email conversion rate: the percent of recovery emails that result in a recovered checkout

These are great places to start measuring how your purchasing and recovery funnels are operating. Be sure to find metrics specific to your business that apply as well.


4 ways to reduce checkout abandonment and recover abandoned carts

You can reduce and overcome checkout abandonment by optimizing the checkout process for convenience and efficiency. Ensure that the purchasing process has performance and speed, guides users, does not demand user account creation, and provides all relevant purchasing details to the customers. Find ways of prompting the user to complete the purchase. Trigger notifications when carts are abandoned and send abandoned checkout email reminders to motivate users to return and complete their purchase.

Five paper shopping bags filled with merchandise in a row

Keep reading for more detailed advice about exactly how to reduce checkout abandonment and increase the recovery rate of abandoned carts. Here are our top strategies for keeping customers ready to buy.

1. Optimize checkout efficiency to create a seamless process

One of the biggest ways to reduce checkout abandonment rates is to provide an optimized checkout experience. Customers greatly value a seamless, simple, and convenient user experience and user interface. Provide them a product that performs well, a UX that is convenient for the customer, and an optimized process to make their purchase fast and efficient.

There are a variety of ways to optimize for checkout abandonment, and you should likely be fixing a combination of these at differing levels as they impact your business. Below are ways to optimize the checkout process to prevent users from abandoning their purchase:

  • Speed and performance: Having a convenient, easy, and trusted checkout process is important to reduce checkout fears and develop credibility.
  • Just get their email: Don’t force users to register or create an account, but simply get their email during checkout. It helps you identify and connect with the user if they abandon or complete a purchase, giving you an opportunity to follow up with them either way.
  • Security and fraud protection: Having a secure, protected checkout process that identifies fraud accurately helps you develop trust with customers.
  • Guide the user: Give them information they need at various stages and funnel them towards the purchase with an appealing and direct UX.
  • Shorten the purchase funnel: The pathway from browsing for and choosing a product to purchasing should be as short as possible. Analyze purchase funnels extensively to identify areas that are bogging users down and then trim the excess to streamline the process for customers.
  • Give users the full picture early: The earlier users get information, the less it will impact checkout abandonment later on. Show additional costs (taxes, shipping, etc.), currency conversions, stock and availability, and delivery dates for purchases if possible. By giving the user this information earlier in the process, you avoid letting it drive potential buyers away.
  • Provide as many payment options as possible: Prioritize the most popular payment methods first, so potential buyers have all methods available and are more inclined to close.
  • Let customers save carts: If possible, give customers the option to save their cart when abandoning it, or set up an auto-save function. This gives people that abandoned their checkout a chance to come back and change their mind, helping to combat drop-offs.
  • Send transaction summary: Send post-purchase transaction summaries so that the experience is clear, straight-forward, and enjoyable for the customer; this can motivate them to come back. Consider trying a similar tactic with people that have abandoned their purchase. Send a follow up email outlining the sale and show them the lost value.
  • Targeted Remarketing: When smart, try to funnel potential customers to other products or services, ideally related to what they were going to purchase. This will have to be done with some tact to draw a customer back, as it sometimes turns them off the service. Be cautious when remarketing to those that have already abandoned a purchase.

Overall, having a fast, efficient, and streamlined checkout process builds trust and credibility with customers. Once a user is in a purchase funnel, it’s important to do everything possible to make sure they follow through on the purchase. Having a streamlined process that is efficient and convenient mitigates the risk of checkout abandonment.

2. Show/trigger/add notifications & reminders to bring them back

To effectively trigger customers during checkout, as they are abandoning checkout, or after they have abandoned checkout, you’ll want to understand your purchase funnel and the strategy behind it. Once that’s clearly defined, study the behavioral analytics of your purchase funnel to see where users are dropping off.

From here, determine where the leaks are, prioritize the biggest drop-offs, and isolate ways of improving checkout abandonment rates. Consider prompting users with a popup that asks about their exit intent to understand why they are leaving and apply the feedback in future iterations. Consider auto-saving carts when they are abandoned so users can return to where they left off.

If current strategies are failing without reason, connect users to customer support. This could solve the problem and, at the very least, it could help bring your attention to a problem in the purchasing funnel.

3. Send abandoned checkout emails

This is where getting customer emails comes in handy – and again, their email is all you need.

Follow up with customers after checkout abandonment with an email. Ask them if they want to pick up their cart and return to where they left off, making it easy for them to get back into the checkout process. If you don’t want to seem pushy, ask them for feedback about why they abandoned their purchase. This can provide useful insight into how to adjust your purchase process to reduce checkout abandonment for the next customer.

4. When all else fails, offer an abandoned checkout discount

Despite all these efforts, some customers will still abandon their checkout. If there is no other recourse, consider offering a checkout discount to customers to capture the sale. While you will take a small hit, it may be better than missing out. You should attempt email recovery efforts first, but if you’ve done all you can with no results, consider offering a discount to seal the deal.

This is also a place to prompt the user to create an account or register, potentially bringing them back and turning this offer into a transaction (i.e. offer them a small discount for registering with your service or creating an account).

Mastering abandoned checkout remarketing with emailing and messaging

Checkout abandonment remarketing involves emailing and messaging customers after they have abandoned the checkout process to recover the client and close the sale. Email remarketing campaigns are the easiest and most efficient method, but alternative messaging methods can be used if available.

A common, successful strategy is to send three automated emails to those that abandoned their checkout process:

  1. Gentle Reminder: Soft, pleasant email gently reminding the customer that items are left in a cart and the checkout process is open. Best practices suggest this type of reminder should be sent within 4 hours of the checkout abandonment.
  2. Coupon Offer: Incentivize users to complete their purchase by offering a promo or further discount. Best practices suggest this type of reminder should be sent within the first 2 days of the checkout abandonment.
  3. Final Reminder: This is a last reminder that there are items available for purchase and that their purchase is still incomplete. Best practices suggest this type of reminder should be sent within one week of the checkout abandonment.

To bring potential customers back, the email should have a subject line that draws the reader in and gets them to open the email, a list of potential items for purchase, and a clear, distinct call to action linking them back to the checkout. Consider including a coupon or promo code in the second email that entices the customers to finish their purchase.

No matter what, always create a direct link back to the cart or checkout process, so they can jump back to where they were; the goal is to get the customer back to the point of purchase. Creating a sense of urgency, making a promotional offer to give them a final offer, and using a catchy subject line can all help get the user to open the email, return to their cart, and complete their purchase.

Don’t just focus on email remarketing, but try to message users in real-time to stop them from leaving the purchase process. Sending a notification after a cart is abandoned can help improve abandoned checkout recovery rates and the time to recovery as users come right back to finish their purchase.

Checkout abandonment email templates and examples

Getting customer emails is essential for addressing checkout abandonment and remarketing in any manageable way. By simply collecting a user email, you give yourself the ability to follow up with them and potentially recapture that purchase. Now that we have customer emails, here are ten resources for templates to write the perfect checkout abandonment recovery emails.

1. 14 Abandoned Cart Email Examples Proven to Boost Revenue

Provided By: Optinmonster

Follow along for 14 case studies of what leading industry companies do as part of their checkout abandonment email process. Learn what they did well, how their strategy impacted checkout abandonment, and what tactics need improvement.

2. How to Write Irresistible Abandoned-Cart Emails with Templates Included

Provided By: Teachable

Learn about checkout abandonment and ways to combat it, and get first-hand examples of leading industry abandonment emails. Take some of the work out of it and download a selection of templates by registering for an account.

3. 13 Amazing Abandoned Cart Emails and What You Can Learn From Them

Provided By: Shopify

Get a list of tips and strategies for designing emails that are meant to bring back customers that have abandoned their checkout process. Identify what should be included, what should be left out, and how they should be formatted for the greatest impact.

4. 11 Must-Have Abandoned Cart Emails That Recover Lost Sales [2019]

Provided By: Sleeknote

Taking abandoned checkout examples from industry performers, Sleeknote identifies the type of problem each has, the solution they utilize, and the impact it has. They also provide insights on why an action is a good idea or what they would have done differently.

5. Abandoned Cart Email Template

Provided By: The Search Engine Shop

If you’re sick of finding checkout abandonment email templates that are too specific or complex, here is a simple, easily adjustable template example that can be adapted for your needs. With a simple introduction, a contact support link, the display of products that customers may want to purchase, and then a thank you, this can suit any situation. Simply take the template and edit for your needs and business specifics.

6. Abandoned Cart Email Templates

Provided By: Stripo

Stripo specializes in providing email templates that offer beautiful, interactive, and responsive email marketing content to make sure your followers hang on your every word. With template options available for checkout abandonment emails, this is a great resource to quickly get started and create stunning, high-quality emails.

7. Creative Abandoned Cart Recovery Email Strategies Your Competitors Aren’t Using

Provided By: BigCommerce

Learn these 5 creative strategies for tackling the problem of checkout abandonment through email recovery, thinking outside the box to form new ways to solve this problem. Follow along with real-life examples of checkout abandonment emails by leading companies like Adidas.

8. 12 Free Push Notification Templates To Reduce Cart Abandonment

Provided By: Push Crew

With picture examples of what different companies do for their own abandonment recovery campaigns, learn twelve strategies for creating flawless checkout abandonment recovery emails that are sure to bring your shoppers back. With a focus on notifications, this provides more than just email recovery techniques, and examines messaging strategies as well.

9. 6 Ways to Nail Your Abandoned Cart Emails in 2019

Provided By: Omnisend

Learn the best practices including the top abandoned checkout subject lines (based on statistics), and look at three unique examples of checkout abandonment recovery emails. Review the good and bad of each approach to build off the challenges others have faced.

10. Abandoned Cart Discounts: How to Choose the Right One

Provided By: Klaviyo

Although this isn’t technically a template, this step-by-step guide to creating your own abandoned checkout template – and discount offer – is an essential resource to keep handy for creating emails that aim to draw back customers through discounts.

Bolt: For checkout optimization you can’t beat

Bolt is a full-stack, complete checkout abandonment service that can be integrated to work with your online store to create a seamless checkout that is fast and efficient for the customer. Using an intuitive and stylish overlay, Bolt provides a simple, one-stop payment process for all online payments that is familiar, fast, and secure.

Bolt aims to provide a modern payment solution that performs better, makes the process more enjoyable for the customer, and allows businesses to reduce checkout abandonment and gain lost revenue from customers.

What Bolt can offer you: Capture sales that competitors aren’t by allowing more sales to go through with an advanced fraud detection system that examines more than 200 variables. A 100% guarantee on chargebacks means you can trust Bolt’s fraud protection completely and focus on what you do best – design and sell great products!

Get a fast, simple checkout process for customers that lowers the possibility of user error with few fields and specific fill requirements. Make sure customers can’t make a mistake when buying, provide security that can be trusted, and capture 10% – 20% more sales.

See how others have benefited from integrating Bolt’s checkout into their own platforms.


If ending unnecessary checkout abandonment excites you, we’re hiring across all roles – see our jobs page.

Want to see a 10-minute demo?