How to Diagnose and Prevent Abandoned Carts

For every jug of milk left at the candy stand, for every discarded, semi-folded pair of pants in a department store's shoe section, there will be abandoned carts within your store. A cart is abandoned whenever someone at the shoppingcart or one-page-checkout decides to leave the website, failing to purchase the item. Simple enough, right? But by becoming more familiar with abandoned carts (found at Orders > Abandoned/Live Carts in your store dashboard), you can better understand where they’re coming from, and how to close more sales.

Preventing and Resolving Abandoned Carts

There will never be a way to fully prevent abandoned carts, though there are many steps you can take to decrease the volume you're seeing. It's important to think about ways to better the shopping cart user experience, to see more people move through the checkout process.

1. Offer multiple payment options

When running an online store, we recommend having at least two forms of payment options to allow your customers the choice (and convenience) of paying as they wish. I'm not talking about accepting Visa and Mastercard (credit card processing in general counts as one) but particularly about offering PayPal or other payment integration suite. PayPal is still one of the most widely accepted and recognized payment options online, and should be utilized whenever possible. Having it as an option can instill buyer confidence in the checkout process, and can assuage any remaining pain points.

2. Ask if your shipping options are getting the job done

As a retailer, shipping methods can be a problematic issue. You have to cover the costs of goods moving across the country while keeping costs low enough to not be a deterrent. To really move the needle, 9 out of 10 customers say free shipping is an incentive to shop online. If you want to offer a discount like this, you'll need to find a price point that doesn't cut into your bottom line. As your shipping costs are really the last 'surprise' of the checkout process, make sure that the prices are low enough for your customers to handle the shock.

3. Use retention mails

Once someone with an email address has created a cart, make sure to follow up. The ConfigVariable 'Retention Email Waiting Period in House' is the field you're looking to use and update. We actually recommend changing this field to 0 (that's right - zero). This function allows you to send the Abandoned_Cart_Retention email template as soon as you see one, rather than waiting the default 12 hours. Lowering this value allows you to strike while the anvil is hot. Imagine being a customer, leaving a checkout and then getting an email within 15 minutes with a coupon code or quick follow-up message. Looking to automate this process for speedier delivery? Look into to a partner like AutoResponderMax to send out timed emails.

Diagnosing abandoned carts on Volusion

First things first - be sure to enable the ConfigVariable "Collect Abandoned Cart Info." This will allow your store to record contact information (customer ID number, phone number, email address, notes) when a shopper abandons a purchase. This information is only collected if the customer is logged in to a registered account at the time of abandonment. This info is crucial in reaching back out to the customer to close the conversion.


So, to diagnose abandoned carts we'll be looking to two major attributes: who is leaving the cart, and what's in it. Both will determine the next course of action to resolve and lower the amount of carts we're seeing.

To see "who" is leaving the cart, from Orders > Abandoned / Live Carts use the option menu to customize the columns to show the IP and email address column. The latter is the most useful, because you can see which preexisting customers are adding items to their cart and leaving. However, the majority of your customers will be anonymous, so the IP address will provide the next set of clues. If you're seeing the same IP address creating single item carts, fret not - this is most likely just a bot indexing your site. This is because oftentimes, in order to determine sale price and shipping costs or weight, a search index bot or other aggregation source will add an item to its cart and leave. So don't pay as close attention to multiple carts with the same IP like that. Instead, focus on the ones with unique IP addresses, as these are much more likely be real customers.

The second way to diagnose abandoned carts is to use the Quick Edit tool to determine what items are frequently left. Using the options menu, select 'enable quick edit.' This will open a new pane which covers the bottom half of your browser. Once this is enabled, select a live cart by clicking its live cart ID. This will load the shopping cart contents in the lower pane and will provide those import product codes. This can provide crucial information. Follow these steps for your most recent carts and see if there are any trends.


If you see the same product code appearing in many carts, investigate the item as a customer would. Add the item to your cart and proceed through the checkout process to the checkout page (one-page-checkout.asp). You may find roadblocks preventing the purchase, such as prohibitive shipping costs or awkward option settings. A notable example I recall is of a customer who intended to have one of their products weigh 1.2lbs, but a bad import mismanaged their decimal place. Because the item weighed 12lbs, instead of 1.2, shipping charge exceeded the cost of the item itself, and customers began looking elsewhere for a better deal. As a product’s weight doesn’t change much (truly a set-it-and-forget-it product field), the store owner would not have caught this problem without analyzing his live cart data.

So, with these options available keep in mind that abandoned carts are part of the natural process of online window shopping. Seeing abandoned carts is normal, an everyday occurrence, but if you feel like you're seeing an increased amount use some of the tips above to diagnose and resolve your problem.

Have any tips or questions? Feel free to write a comment below!