June 23, 2009, 12:00 AM

Online shoppers cite high shipping costs as top reason for abandoning carts

In a PayPal-commissioned poll 46% of respondents named high shipping charges as a reason for abandoning a web purchase, 37% a desire to comparison shop and 36% a lack of money. Displaying shipping costs early on can help prevent abandonment, PayPal says.

Online shoppers cite high shipping costs, a desire to comparison shop and a lack of funds as the top reasons they abandon shopping carts, according to a survey released today by web payment service PayPal. But the survey shows many eventually return to the web site to buy, or make a purchase in a bricks-and-mortar store.

The survey also finds that 40% of those who abandoned because of shipping costs might have completed the purchase if the retailer had provided information about shipping fees upfront. To address that issue, PayPal announced today a new feature to its Express Checkout online payment program called PayPal Instant Update API that makes it easier for e-retailers to provide shipping options, insurance choices and tax totals earlier in the shipping process.

The survey suggests the economic downturn is a factor in cart abandonment. Lack of funds was cited by 36% of respondents as the reason for abandoning a shopping cart, and 27% say they have abandoned to search for a coupon. However, one-third of shoppers say they have returned to the same e-commerce site to buy and another 20% purchased at a bricks-and-mortar store.

“Merchants who don’t welcome back abandoners with open arms are leaving hundreds of dollars per shopper on the table,” says Eddie Davis, senior director of services for small and midsized businesses at PayPal. “Merchants need to remember the items that customers abandon and make it easy for them to buy when they return. Sweetening the deal with free shipping, coupons and special discounts is also a great way to encourage online shoppers to complete their purchases.”

The survey of active online shoppers who had abandoned shopping carts recently found 45% said they had left carts multiple times in the previous three weeks. The average value of goods in the carts was $109.

Here are the top reasons survey respondents give for abandoning shopping carts:


  • High shipping charges, 46%
  • Wanted to comparison shop, 37%
  • Lack of money, 36%
  • Wanted to look for a coupon, 27%
  • Wanted to shop offline, 26%
  • Couldn’t find preferred payment option, 24%
  • Item was unavailable at checkout, 23%
  • Couldn’t find customer support, 22%
  • Concerned about security of credit card data, 21%


The survey was conducted for PayPal May 12-15 by comScore Inc., which interviewed 553 active online shoppers in the U.S. who had recently abandoned a shopping cart. PayPal is a unit of eBay Inc.

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