Shopping Cart Abandon Rate: It’s all About the User Experience

Money leaving shopping cart. I finished the first draft of The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Setting up a Business Online today and tried to convert it into a PDF so I could pass it out to my reviewers.

Unfortunately Windows 7, Office 2010 and Adobe Acrobat Standard 8 don’t work together (at least not on my machine) and Adobe has just stopped support for Acrobat 8.

I was quite happy to update to a current version of Acrobat so I hopped over to the Adobe site to buy it.

When I tried to check out they asked me to log in, but I’d forgotten my password, so I clicked the ‘forgot password’ link and waited for the promised email.

After nearly half an hour it hadn’t arrived, so I figured I’d just create a new account.

During the account set-up process they asked for my address. Even though it apparently ‘did not fit their accepted formats’ (huh..!?), I was offered the option of using it anyway (good move, particularly for ex-pats living abroad).

But when I tried to check out I got a message that I couldn’t, because my address was in Hong Kong. I had to visit the Hong Kong Adobe website.

So I visited the Hong Kong site, logged in, went through the transaction and tried to check out again – with exactly the same result.

I tried clearing my shopping cart and starting the entire transaction from the beginning (for the third time, now) – same result.

I was now on a Hong Kong Adobe website being told I couldn’t check out because my account was a Hong Kong account!

During this process I’d cleared all my caches, including cookies, and I’d even closed and re-booted my browser.

But nothing worked. I either got an error, or I was told I had to go to a Hong Kong site because my account was based in Hong Kong.

So I gave up and bought the PDF Converter Pro from Nuance, which was a totally painless, efficient, smooth-as-silk process.

And my point is?

I’ve said it before: if you’re selling stuff on your website you must also buy stuff on your website.

You have to understand what you’re putting your customers through and you have to make the process as smooth and pain-free as possible.

Shopping cart abandon rates are always high, but you can reduce them by really focusing on improving the customer experience.

However, unless you go through your own shopping cart journey you won’t know what needs to be improved.

And don’t just go through it once, immediately after setting it up. Give it a week or 2 and then go back to it, because then you’ll be approaching it much as a first time customer would.

That’s when it will be illuminating.

And the result today of today’s experience? Based solely on the shopping cart journey, Adobe lost a sale and Nuance gained one.


Martin Malden.

What do you think?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Penelope Nov 11, 2011 @ 15:27

    Sounds like my Dreamweaver problem. Adobe’s passwords for software are infuriating – with me the man on their tech support even more so. After wasting hours with licensing trying to move to a new mac I gave up. For PDF on my mac I use PDF Pen Pro from Smile).

    • Martin Nov 11, 2011 @ 15:32

      Hi Penelope,

      I haven’t heard of PDF Pen Pro, but then I’m not a Mac user 🙂

      So far I’m delighted with Nuance PDF Converter – I hope it lasts (my delight, that is).

      There’s really no excuse for a complicated, frustrating shopping cart experience – shopping carts have always had high abandon rates and companies like Adobe should have got on top of that years ago. After all, Nuance has.



      • Cathy Miller Nov 13, 2011 @ 0:48

        I feel your pain, Martin. I have Adobe Acrobat 8 Pro and ran into all kinds of problems when I got a new computer with Windows 7. I get extremely frustrated with Adobe’s site.

        I never got it taken care of because of my frustration. I want more than just a pdf converter, but one with the functionality of Acrobat. I didn’t know about Nuance, so I am definitely going to check it out. So, they may have gained two sales. 🙂

        • Martin Nov 13, 2011 @ 14:13

          Hi Cathy,

          I’m pretty pleased with Nuance. It’s got a lot of functionality but it works a bit differently from Acrobat, which takes a bit of getting used to.

          Their ‘help’ screens could be clearer – it took me a while to realise that the tool bar button they were referring to (for setting the format of links) had been embedded in Word, rather than the Nuance UI..! I spent a good 20 minutes viewing all the available tool bars in Nuance trying to find this button, which wasn’t there! 🙂



  • Pam Costa Nov 15, 2011 @ 8:34

    Hi Martin,
    Great post about abandoning shopping carts. Thank you.
    Did you know that you can save a Word 2010 document in PDF format? Go to “Save as…” and on the drop down file type there is a PDF option. Works like a charm if you just want to save something in PDF format for email and review purposes.

    • Martin Nov 15, 2011 @ 8:58

      Hi Pam,

      No – I didn’t know that – thanks!

      So Word finally caught up with Open Office, then..! 🙂

      I hope everything is going well for you guys,



  • Theresa Torres Nov 17, 2011 @ 12:56

    Hi Martin,
    I use free tools on the internet for pdf converters. There’s only a few that I’ve found satisfactory though. I’m also gonna check out Pam’s suggestion using Word’s version.
    I like the point that you made about sellers also buying their own stuff so they’ll get a first hand experience of the process. I think every entrepreneur selling products or services should practice this.
    Makes me think of what game developers are doing, hiring gamers to test out their products to fix any bugs before putting it out there.

    • Martin Nov 17, 2011 @ 15:31

      Hi Theresa,

      Yes – I hadn’t realised that Word had incorporated PDF into their Save As options.

      I used to use Open Office on my old machine and that had an excellent built-in PDF creator. The reason I liked it was because you didn’t have to define things like link formats (which you do in Adobe and Nuance) because it took the exact format in the document and converted it accurately. Really simple and quick.