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Checkout vs Cart Abandonment: What is the Difference Between Them?

December 8th 2022

Camilla Bass

By Camilla Bass

Senior Content Marketing Manager

Checkout vs Cart abandonment

Understanding the nuances between checkout abandonment and cart abandonment is crucial for optimizing sales and enhancing customer experience. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they are different stages in the buyer’s journey and require distinct strategies to address. 

What is involved in the checkout?

The checkout process is the critical final stage where your buyer confirms their purchase decision and arranges payment. Simplifying form fields, providing multiple payment options, and ensuring a secure transaction can decrease checkout abandonment and boost conversion, positively impacting ROI. A well-designed checkout facilitates a smooth path to purchase. 

Here are the 7 Most Common Steps of the Checkout Process: 

Cart review: During this first step of the checkout, you have your first chance to make a great impression. Make it easy for your shopper to review the list of items they’ve selected, the quantity of each, and its price. If they are expecting to see sale prices, clearly itemize those discounts here. Ensure shoppers can easily change quantity, size or color from this screen. This is also a great place to offer personalized complementary product recommendations to increase their satisfaction with their purchases and grow your average order value metric. 

Personal information entry: If this is a first-time shopper, they will need to enter personal information, such as their name, phone number, and email address. Optimize form-fill here to make data entry simple – especially from their mobile device. Now is a good time to suggest that they create an account because they won’t have to enter their information when they shop with you in the future and an account provides a more personalized experience. 

Shipping and delivery selection: The customer provides or updates their shipping address and shipping method here. Offering multiple delivery options, including faster shipping for an additional fee, can cater to a variety of customer preferences. Free shipping can be a big incentive for shoppers, but it can be too costly for some online merchants. As an alternative to free shipping, you can include BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) or BOPA (buy online, pickup anywhere – shipping lockers, etc.). 

Billing information entry: The customer enters billing information, which may be the same as the shipping address or different if the bill should be sent elsewhere. 

Payment method selection: Common payment options include credit cards, debit cards, and in some cases, options like ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ services. The No. 2 reason shoppers say they abandon checkout is limited payment options. UK shoppers also want alternative payment methods, including Klarna, PayPal, and MyBank. You can reduce mobile checkout abandonment even more by offering a simple one-click checkout process for Klarna, Apple Pay or Google Pay. 

Final order review: Before finalizing the purchase, give the customer a final chance to review their order. This review should include a summary of the products, the total cost, shipping and billing information, and the selected payment method. 

Promotions, coupons and discounts: Customers can apply coupon, discount, and promo codes to their purchase now that the order is finalized. Unique, personalized codes can be generated in a dedicated tool and then pulled into dynamic content elements such as banners, pop-ups, or countdown timers. Each code has a unique expiration date. The codes can motivate a purchase or newsletter signup, reduce checkout abandonment, reconnect with lapsed customers, and help sell excess stock.

Each step in the checkout process is designed to gather the necessary information to complete the transaction while ensuring the customer feels secure and informed. Optimizing this process to be as efficient and user-friendly as possible can significantly reduce checkout and cart abandonment and improve overall sales. 

Top reasons people abandon at checkout

According to an autumn 2022 online survey of 9000 shoppers, the top reasons for checkout and cart abandonment globally are delivery options (44%), payment options (40%), confusion at checkout (33%), problems with the return policy (32%), security problems (29%), and required account creation (19%). 

There are a variety of other reasons. For instance, maybe the shopper found higher-than-expected prices or was surprised by excessive shipping costs, fees, and taxes. Or maybe something about your checkout concerns them about fraud, data privacy, or data security — 48% said they’ve abandoned for security concerns. 

Keys to understanding how cart abandonment works: Why does cart abandonment occur?

Cart abandonment occurs when a customer adds items to their cart but leaves without purchasing. This can happen at any stage before the checkout process begins. 

Sometimes the reasons for abandonment are less about obstacles in the cart and more about the shopper’s intentions and motivations:

  • Many shoppers have no immediate intention to buy, using the cart as a way to bookmark items for later or to compare prices with other sites.
  • For some shoppers, life’s distractions interrupt their shopping excursion. They fully intend to return but may forget to do so. This is where triggered cart recovery emails are game changers!
  • Making it mandatory for shoppers to create an account can be a real turn-off. Offer guest checkout and then educate them on the personalization benefits an account will provide.

By digging into the reasons behind cart abandonment and continuously optimizing the checkout experience, retailers can recover potential sales and improve the overall effectiveness of their eCommerce strategy. 

Checkout vs cart abandonment

Understanding the differences between checkout abandonment and cart abandonment is crucial in the context of the buyer’s journey. Checkout abandonment occurs at the end of the buyer’s journey — at a time when there is high intent to purchase. Cart abandonment, however, can occur at various stages, but the timing often reflects a lower purchase intent. 

Understanding the buyer’s journey is crucial for marketers looking to attract, engage, and convert shoppers into loyal customers. The stages of awareness, consideration, and decision are critical touchpoints that align closely with the shopper’s actions of browsing, carting, and checkout. Understanding how each action fits into the buyer’s journey stages can help you tailor your marketing strategies to meet shoppers’ needs. 

The buyer’s journey concept

The buyer’s journey is a fundamental marketing concept outlining the steps in the purchasing process. This journey is not always a linear progression, it’s usually quite a winding path where the shopper may retrace their steps multiple times. There are, however, three general stages where you can reduce abandonment: Awareness, consideration, and decision. 

Stage 1: Awareness

The journey begins with the Awareness Stage. In this stage, the shopper has become aware of a need, desire, or problem. This realization might come from experiencing pain, seeing a social media post, or hearing about a cool product from friends or family. 

Browsing aligns with the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey. During this initial phase, the shopper gathers information, learns about different products, and starts to understand the available options. Browsing is the digital equivalent of window shopping. They are not yet committed to buying but are open to being educated and inspired by what they find. 

Stage 2: Consideration

As buyers move into the Consideration Stage, they have a clearer understanding of their problem or need and are committed to researching and understanding all the available approaches and methods to solve it. They are open to learning about different brands and what they have to offer. 

In this stage, shoppers generally begin adding items to their online shopping cart to bookmark them for further contemplation. This is a sign of intent; they are evaluating their options and considering a purchase. They’ve moved beyond awareness and are actively thinking about the suitability of your products for their needs. They compare prices, read customer reviews, compare product specifications, and may even seek expert opinions. 

Stage 3: Decision

In the Decision Stage, the shopper has narrowed their options to a shortlist of solutions, brands, or products, and is getting into the specifics of pricing, vendor terms, customer support, and warranty. In this final stage, detailed product information, demos, trial offers, and sales consultations play a significant role in influencing the final choice. The goal here is to reassure the shopper, validate their decision, and provide an incentive that makes your solution the obvious choice. 

Checkout coincides with the decision stage. Here, the customer has chosen to proceed with the purchase. They have considered all their options and are now finalizing their decision. This stage involves entering personal and payment information, selecting shipping options, and confirming the purchase. If the checkout process goes smoothly during this critical stage, the buyer transitions from a prospect to a customer. 

Post-Purchase Experience

While not traditionally included in the three main stages, the post-purchase experience is increasingly recognized as a critical part of the buyer’s journey. After the decision is made, the customer’s satisfaction with the purchase, the quality of the product or service, and the customer service they receive can all influence whether they become repeat customers or brand advocates. 

Using the buyer’s journey to stop checkout and cart abandonment

Each stage of the buyer’s journey requires different marketing strategies. In the awareness stage, content should be educational and easily accessible. In the consideration stage, content should showcase expertise and differentiate the brand’s offerings from its competitors. Finally, in the decision stage, the content should be persuasive and provide a strong call to action (CTA). 

A deep understanding of the buyer’s journey will allow you to create targeted content and interactions that provide what the buyer needs at each stage. 

The buyer’s journey is more than a marketing model; it’s a guide to understanding the psychology of consumers. By mapping this journey, marketers can tailor their efforts to deliver the right message at the right time to help shoppers make informed decisions and build trust and credibility — the cornerstones of a long, happy customer relationship. 

How to boost your sales with these two concepts in mind 

To reduce both checkout and cart abandonment: 

  • Streamline the checkout process. Simplify forms, provide multiple payment options, and ensure transparency in pricing.
  • Build trust. Display security badges and customer reviews.
  • Retargeting campaigns. Use email, website pop-ups or ads to remind customers of their abandoned carts.
  • Offer incentives. Provide discounts or free shipping to encourage completion of the purchase.

Understanding and differentiating between checkout and cart abandonment is essential for any eCommerce business. By recognizing the reasons behind these phenomena and implementing targeted strategies, businesses can significantly enhance customer experience and boost sales. It’s about creating a seamless journey from browsing to buying, ensuring that customers feel confident and satisfied every step of the way.

Camilla Bass

By Camilla Bass

Senior Content Marketing Manager

As Senior Content Marketing Manager at Fresh Relevance, Camilla leads the global content strategy and manages, writes and edits user-centered content that helps marketers in the eCommerce and travel spaces get their jobs done.