4 UX Tips to Reduce International Shopping Cart Abandonment

This is part of our 4-part series on reducing international shopping cart abandonment. You can read the other three parts here: 7 Pricing tips, 4 Shipping Tips, and 4 Trust Tips.

We know how important UX is when it comes to building great eCommerce sites and reducing shopping cart abandonment rates.

That said, UX optimization efforts typically end up being focused on the North American experience, even though users from different cultures and backgrounds won’t necessarily interact with these sites the same way.

For shopping carts in particular, there are a couple of tricky UX details that could make or break the sale for an international user.

Consider this:

Global eCommerce is expected to grow to $4 trillion by 2020, driven by three factors: internet access, smartphones, and increasing expendable cash. A huge portion of this is going to come from the non-English speaking world. These will be new consumers without established brand affinities—in other words, a huge opportunity for new global players, and a huge risk for the more established brands.

The biggest winners will be those who have provided the most custom-tailored experience for their international audiences.

So what can online retailers do today to start optimizing usability across borders?

Be sure international customers’ checkout experiences are fluid and localized.

Approximately 25% of online shoppers say they’ve abandoned their shopping cart because the site was too complicated. Consider, then, the international customer who may be grappling with a checkout process in a language that is not native to them.

Further exacerbating a complicated checkout process are address forms that do not match up with the international customer’s address format. For example, when I lived in Scotland, my address needed 3 street lines—

Flat C
Howard Place
13 Howard Court
St. Andrews
KY16 9HL

United Kingdom

—which wouldn’t fit in the shipping address forms of many carts. Another issue is address forms with fields designed for states and zip codes without consideration for provinces or postal codes.  Of course your international visitors are going to abandon their carts if they aren’t 100% confident their items will arrive!

Lastly, some best practices designed to increase cart value domestically, such as product recommendations or add-on items, can actually be a distraction if the recommendations are generated from a 3rd party personalization tool, where some or all of the content may not have been localized.

Poor localization is a recipe for cognitive overload for your international shoppers—and as we learned in Steve Krug’s seminal book “Don’t Make Me Think,” wary web visitors bail out.

Don’t tire out your international customers, and fewer of them will walk away.

Strengthen your mobile experience.

According to Forrester, by 2021, 78% of Asia Pacific online sales are expected to happen on mobile devices.

While nearly all major websites are responsive today, many shopping carts still remain unoptimized, or poorly optimized, for mobile. Localization can make responsive design even more challenging.

For instance, the average word in the English language is 8.23 letters. On the other hand, most major languages—like Spanish, French, and Russian—are much longer, with German words averaging 11.66 letters each. In the confines of a mobile screen, those additional letters can wreak havoc on even the best laid designs.

If a different language is throwing off your mobile design, international shoppers may find the checkout experience more frustrating and walk away.

On that note:

Be sure your shopping carts are persistent.

If your website’s shopping carts aren’t persistent—i.e., using cookies to remember what a visitor has placed in their cart—you’ll be far more likely to lose customers at a critical moment in the buying journey.


Well, mobile shoppers are more likely to be interrupted. For example, your shopper may be browsing while waiting on the train. When their train comes, they’re going to be interrupted and abandon their carts no matter how strong their intention to buy.

Given the aforementioned stats, it’s likely that your international customers are going to be mobile, ergo, your shopping carts need to be persistent.

Offer locally-appealing payment options.

It’s a well-known fact that offering preferred payment options decreases shopping cart abandonment. It’s estimated that as many as 68% of online shoppers have walked away from their carts for this very reason.)

While many eCommerce sites offer popular North American payment preferences, it’s much rarer to see large international market preferences represented. Take for instance, cash.

According to the 2016 eCommerce Payment Methods Report:

“…2.5 billion of the world’s adults do not have access to formal banking products. Nearly 2.2 billion of these unserved adults live in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. In order to sell goods and services online to consumers in these regions, it is essential to offer cash payments.”

Its counter-intuitive, but cash is still very popular, even in some of the most modern economies.  For example, 25% of Japanese eCommerce purchases are via cash on delivery (COD) or at konbini (convenience stores). Other popular payment forms to consider include:

  • Germans prefer direct bank transfers like Giropay
  • UnionPay, a bank card, is key in China
  • Qiwi is a popular eWallet in Russia
  • India likes prepaid cards like Oxicash

And don’t forget how different payment methods can affect a shopping cart’s mobile layout. Some payment methods even work better on mobile because with a simple authentication, they eliminate numerous billing and shipping fields.

Nevertheless, stay vigilant. Payment preferences are changing all the time. Carte Bleue was the dominant form of online payment in France until it was phased out in 2010.

The takeaway:

After all the hard work etailors put into acquiring site visitors and merchandising the inventory, by the time shoppers are placing items into their carts, the checkout process should be a no-brainer…especially for the shopper!

Still, we frequently overlook the task of optimizing shopping carts for international visitors. It’s important to remember that great UX is as much about function as it is style. Plain and simple—when we don’t provide international visitors with native experiences, it’s no wonder that they abandon their carts at higher rates.

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