The Abandoned Shopping Cart: What Customers Want in a Checkout Experience

Ever been to a retail store and absolutely hated the checkout process? Long lines are just the beginning of the bad experience. This is even truer if you went shopping over the weekend or before a big holiday. Convenience is one major reason people opt to shop online as opposed to shopping in a physical store. Yet, online cart abandonment rates are over 70%, which means only three in ten people ever complete a purchase. What is it about checkouts that puts people off like this? Is there a way to turn the checkout process into a memorable experience that results in repeat buying?

The answer is a resounding yes, which is why it is surprising to see that so many retailers take checking out lightly. After all, a checkout, be it in an outlet or an online store, is the last chance for you to leave a good impression on the customer. Why, then, would anyone want to make it complicated, long, and boring in general? There are a few ways to stop making the checkout a process and start turning it into an experience.

Remembering the Customer

Don’t take our word for it, because ample data is available to prove that customers want, even crave, a more personalized shopping experience. In a study conducted by AgilOne, nearly 80% of customers said they’d want brands to provide them with some marker that they are indeed remembered and valued. This could be by remembering details about them, their past purchases, or by sending out personalized emails with their preferences in mind.

Image Source: AgilOne (

In An Offline Store

As far as customer-recall goes, smaller stores have a distinct advantage. Since there are fewer footfalls, a skilled salesperson may be enough to remember each of them. Indeed, this is how mom-and-pop stores thrive. They remember their customers; they remember their preferences. How can a retailer with more footfalls achieve the same effect?

  • The simplest way to remember a customer is to pay attention to them the first time around. At the checkout counter, when you ask for the customer’s name, be sure to truly register what they’re saying. Here’s a useful trick if you want to expand on this process.
  • If you don’t want to take the psychological route, there’s another way to remember customers. It may not be as smooth as actually remembering them, but a skilled cashier can pull it off. If you use a sophisticated POS software, this is seamless too. When you ask for the customer’s phone number, you can make a note of their name and some personal detail about them. The next time, when they present their phone number, you can strike up a conversation about their previous purchases based on the note you made earlier. If they had bought a specialty product earlier, you can ask whether they liked it.

In An Online Store

There’s no point pretending that a machine knows the exact person who is checking out at a given point in time. However, businesses are run by people, so it is worthwhile to personalize the online checkout in other ways.

  • On the landing page of your store site, give customers the option to sign up for a discount coupon. That way, you have their email addresses handy. Whenever they abandon the shopping cart, you can send out a personalized email asking them if they’d like to take a look again.
  • Targeted ads are another way to stay in touch with potential buyers. You may have noticed that when you browse through certain products online, advertisements keep popping up for the same products. These are targeted ads and they’re there to remind you that you abandoned a shopping cart or didn’t make a purchase. Worded well, they can give a customer the impression that you’d like for them to come back and have another look.

How Long Does Checkout Take?

At the very beginning, we talked about how time is a factor that prompts customers to shop online. Customers want checkouts to be worthy of remembering, but they will not tolerate a long drawn out process for the same. A good checkout is a combination of personalization and efficiency.

In An Offline Store

  • The simplest way to reduce checkout time in a retail outlet is to reduce the length of lines. In other words, having more checkout counters can be helpful. Even for a relatively small store, you can consider having extra checkout counters during sales and holiday season.

  • Another foolproof way to reduce checkout time is to do away with manual billing. As you can imagine, writing out a bill can take very long. This is even truer if there are too many items to be processed. Hence, using a barcode scanner and POS software can significantly improve checkout speeds.

In An Online Store

With online checkouts, we are battling two issues that are virtual opposites. On the one hand, we want customers to sign up with us and create an account. We could then use this to keep track of past purchases and give them a more personalized experience when they come back. On the other, most customers don’t like the lengthy process of registration that requires them to spend more time than necessary at checkout.

  • As an online retailer, you need to accept that a customer will only sign up with you if they want to. Hence, always have the option of guest checkout too. If someone doesn’t want to register, they can use the guest checkout and make a purchase.
  • Some product categories are bought more often than others. For example, you may buy clothes more often than a pair of glasses. If you’re a retailer who doesn’t have repeat customers for a while, you cannot make it mandatory for customers to register before making a purchase, because it would seem to them like one redundant step before making a purchase.


Payments can be a world of pain in online stores and retail ones alike. We may not think of it that way, but with every extra step a customer has to take, the chances of them making the purchase go down. In physical stores, there is the option of paying by cash or cards. However, what happens when you set up a stall elsewhere? Is there a way to accept payments by card even when your entire POS setup isn’t with you?

In An Offline Store

  • Never underestimate the power of money’s inherent value. Most developed countries, and several developing ones too, are taking to digital and card payments as opposed to the exchange of notes. By not having a way for customers to pay by card, you may just be driving them away.