Store Optimisation

I have 15 "Add-To-Carts" But No One's Buying!

Colleen Thornton

Forget what you think you know about retargeting. As Shopify partners, we know that cart abandonment is a big problem for business owners. But why it’s happening and how to fix it starts with knowing that it’s actually happening, which many online vendors and Shopify merchants don’t know. Do you? If not, then you might not know how much it’s costing you in lost sales. 

In the 2018 UK online retail market, vendors lost more than 18 billion GBP (that’s close to €35,000 a month) because of a new consumer trend known as “surf and turf” (source).

Based on their 2018 survey of 500 leading global brands, SalesCycle reports that the average global cart abandonment rate for Q3 2018 was 76.9% (source).

Why are people loading their carts and ditching them at the final step of the sales cycle?

Generally, there are six reasons why those taunting carts remain occupied and unprocessed (source): 

  • Browsers are “just-looking”
  • Shipping costs & options are too high or restrictive
  • Price comparisons 
  • Preference to buy in-store
  • Lack of payment options
  • Technical issues 

Of course, it depends on the industry. For example, 40% of abandonment cases for clothing products aren’t actually about the product at all. The culprit? Poor website functioning and, it’s reasonable to assume, that causes browsers sufficient frustration to make them give up, or such technical challenges prevent them from completing a purchase (source). (You may have your payment gateway to blame for that, which we’ll get into it later).

But underlying all those reasons is a deeper explanation, requiring us to hone in on insight tools and metrics. 


Many sellers aren’t aware of their abandonment rate, and it’s reasonable to suggest that our problem solving ought to begin with an awareness that a problem even exists. If you don’t know who you’re losing, when you’re losing them, or have some insight into why, then your retargeting efforts will be akin to painting walls just before you tear them down. Pointless. 

Your local Shopify partner can help shed some light on these critical areas for winning shopping-cart drop-outs back.

Here’s a little insight from Barclaycard to get you started:

  • Peak dropout time: 6pm-10pm
  • Most indecisive browsers: millennials (ages 25-34)
  • Highest level of abandonment is in December, followed by November & January
  • Depending on the industry, men & women are equally indecisive
  • 17% of shoppers who abandon their carts never have any intention to buy
  • 12% add to cart as insurance in case the item(s) sell out.


Let’s return briefly to those consumers who are “just looking”. As consumers and Shopify website designers, we feel confident stating that no one is ever just looking. If people aren’t buying, it’s because they haven’t found what they need or want. Granted, not everyone knows what they need or want until they see it. That motive may lurk in their subconscious. 

In such cases, your job is to lead with a trail of breadcrumbs––a picture, a story, evidence-based info––that compels them to take a look and follow through. Every step of their browsing journey should be fashioned to support and give them a reason to take another step forward. 

One of the most fundamental features of marketing psychology is that it’s not about you, it’s about them. It’s not your sales cycle, it’s their buying journey, and it involves what Drew Whitman refers to as “The Life-Force 8”, our hard-wired desires that inform our buying decisions. They are:

  1. Survival & life enjoyment
  2. Enjoyment of sustenance
  3. Freedom from fear, pain & danger
  4. Sexual companionship
  5. Comfortable living conditions
  6. Superiority on social comparison scores
  7. Caring for and protecting loved ones
  8. Social approval

Drew Eric Whitman. “CA$HVERTISING: How to Use More than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone.” iBooks.

For those consumers who do know what they want and are ditching their cart at checkout, their reasons may strike a slightly more personal chord. Maybe there’s something specific about your Shopify requirements or sales process or some doubt about your product and they think twice. 

It’s a catch-22. The sales cycle is about them except when it’s about you, and it’s about you when they’re not buying. So, let’s take a look at what you can do to get the wheels rolling on the 15 or 169 shopping carts that sit idle at your checkout. 


We’ve touched on the psychology of buying, which is an entire discipline in itself and beyond the scope of this article. But as an ecommerce vendor, it’s worth checking out a few resources to gain a better understanding of the average shopper’s mental behaviour as they browse. 

One of the most compelling attractions decorating the buyer’s journey is the words you use, and it may be worth investing in an expert copywriter. To keep it brief, the word of the day is simple, clear, and emotion-targeted. To help prevent browsers from ditching their carts, keep them engaged in their journey.

Implement a Seamless Payment Gateway 

When they get to your checkout, it should be ready to receive the buyer and take them smoothly through the last few steps in their journey. But that’s next to impossible for shopping carts with a wonky wheel. 

Abandonment surveys report that the quality of your gateway can address some of the top reasons for abandoning a shopping cart. If they have to take too many steps, their interest may wane. Or, they may simply be unable to devote the necessary time. According to Baymard, the average large-sized e-commerce site can increase their conversion rate by 35.26% through better checkout design.

The following is a collation of simple suggestions from Shopify experts for streamlining the checkout process:

  • Use auto-fill fields
  • Limit the exit points 
  • Use descriptive CTAs
  • Add security information
  • Enable checkout as guest
  • Request minimal information
  • Use pagination for a multi-step process 
  • Reiterate value prop at the conversion point
  • Use buttons for inputs with less than four options
  • Enable flexibility with options like ‘edit quantity’ or ‘save for later’

Shopify web builder offers customised payment gateway solutions for specific locations. Ensure you choose one that’s accepted and popular in your country (for ecommerce Dublin, see When choosing one, consider your target market, fraud detection, and acceptable card types. Learn the 12 best payment gateways to discover which one applies to your market and industry.

Email Retargeting

You’ve done a pretty good job of getting them as far as the shopping cart. But even your best efforts can’t make everyone happy. Sometimes buyers just need a little nudge in the right direction. You’ve been there before. About to book a flight or buy an electric bike and you get distracted, doubt your decision, or have an inkling you could get it for slightly less, so you pause and allow time to fill in the blanks.

This is prime retargeting time, and time is of the essence. Email has long been regarded and proven as one of the best ways to retarget shopping cart drop-outs. Cart abandonment emails primarily serve to remind shoppers of their contents and purchase intentions. But as you’ve experienced personally, not all emails are effective. If the subject line stinks, for example, you’re likely not even going to open it. But what if it contains your name or has an urgent tone? The likelihood that you’ll at least take a moment to consider it increases. So, in addition to timing, the subject line is a strong feature in whether a retargeting email leads to a click-through or conversion. 

What is the right timing exactly? ‘Soon after’ isn’t exactly definitive. According to SaleCycle data from 500 global brands, one hour from abandonment is the prime time. Not within one hour, but shortly after one hour. 

Diverse, engaging, and changing content is another critical feature of successful emails. Appeal to the shopper’s specific locality. Include visuals. Give them up-to-date information about consumer trends. Provide a summary of their shopping cart contents, a gentle but clear dangling carrot.

SMS Retargeting

SMS messages can work just as well as emails, perhaps even better because people are more likely to check text messages (within 90 seconds) versus emails (within 90 minutes). An SMS can garner an immediate response because people, on average, engage more with text message than with email. Data show that SMS increases both click-through and conversion rates as a retargeting strategy.

Additionally, SMS is a useful strategy to thank actual buyers post-purchase, ask them to respond to a survey, or make recommendations on other products. 

Speaking of surveys… Universal law suggests that if we want something we generally have to ask for it. If you don’t know why shoppers are ditching their carts at checkout, abandonment surveys can help and SMS is an effective way to reach out. 


Nothing haunts us more than the things we didn’t buy. Many marketers prey on this fear, and so they will email bomb potential buyers hoping to make a sale. Annoying shoppers isn’t a solution, so don’t be that seller. There are some great retargeting apps for Shopify, and a Shopify marketing agency can help you choose one to best suit your needs. Check out 14 of the best ones here.

In a lot of cases, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. Every failed conversion situation is unique and the analytics can get a bit tricky, not to mention time-consuming. If you’re noticing abandonment issues on your site, as Shopify experts, we can help determine where things are going wrong and how to turn those wonky wheeled carts into well-oiled wagons loaded with your merchandise.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we’re offering free support to those that need it. Click here to find out more.

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Colleen Thornton

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