For e-commerce retailers, shopping cart abandonment is serious business. According to about 77% of purchases are abandoned once they reach the online checkout—some products, such as baby and child items, can have rates as high as 94%. Over a year, approximately $4.6 trillion worth of merchandise is abandoned.

The good news is that, given the magnitude of those missed opportunities, plenty of research has been conducted to discover why online shoppers abandon carts. Shopping cart abandonment stats show the reasons range:

  • from the intuitive, where the checkout process is too long or complicated; 
  • to the curious, where carts are most likely to be abandoned between 1 and 2 p.m.; and 
  • to the good-to-know, especially for exporters, where Asia and the Pacific Islands have the highest abandonment rates, followed closely by the Middle East and Latin America.

Fortunately, solutions to optimize shopping carts are available. Now online sellers can understand how even small actions, such as streamlined check-outs and more shipping options can reduce cart abandonment rates. In fact, something as simple as including your shipping rates with your products, rather than just at the checkout, can help: some people will take a cart partially through the checkout just to check the shipping cost rates. For more tips to put the brakes on shopping cart abandonment and succeed in online sales, be sure to check out Shopify’s free download, The Global Ecommerce Guide.

Cart localization helps you get more online sales in new markets

If you’re keen to expand to new markets, however, cart localization, a process savvy e-commerce merchants use to customize their websites and checkout processes for different markets, can help to decrease cart abandonment on a global scale. Even localizing your website for Canadian regions and cultures can help you connect with new customers. Cart localization does require time and resources, but the additional sales from new markets can make it well worth the effort.

The beauty of an e-commerce platform is that online shoppers can be reached virtually anywhere in the world. According to, there are almost 4.7 billion internet users today, and nearly 90% of those are outside the U.S., our largest trading partner. And while 90% of the U.S. population has internet access, allowing you to reach nearly 300 million consumers beyond Canada, the fastest growing business-to-consumer e-commerce sales are in the Asia Pacific region. 

A consumer in the Indian market smiles.

3 basic steps to get started

The beauty of cart localization is that you can start small, see what works, and then scale up. Start by learning the market’s preferences, use what you’ve learned to localize your site, then analyze results and scale up. 

1. Learn your chosen market’s preferences 

The first thing to consider when researching a new market is whether your product will succeed there. An easy way to do this, if you already have a website where you’re selling online, is to track where your current sales are coming from. If you have a lot of customers in certain markets, consider focusing your marketing efforts there. 

You can also gauge potential interest and gain insight by seeing if products similar to yours are already selling in the local marketplace, how these competitors are going about it, and how well they’re doing. Simply offering a similar product or customer experience isn’t enough, however; you need to be sure your product can offer something your established competitors can’t, something that these local consumers will value. 

You’ll also need to ensure the price is right. Can the local economy afford your product? Just because your local customers will pay $75 for your product doesn’t mean that consumers in other markets can. To help determine your price, look at what your competitors in the market are charging, as well as merchants who make similar or substitution products locally. You need to make sure that any price drops you need to apply to be competitive in the market will still get you a sustainable Return on investment (ROI). (Remember to include any applicable taxes and duties, as well as shipping costs.) But by the same token, you might want to raise your prices in more affluent markets. Also keep in mind that having the lowest price isn’t always perceived as a benefit, especially in markets that equate low cost with low quality. 

Be sure to research local cultures, customs and celebrations, so you can prepare special offers or enhance your customer experience. In India, for example, sales can soar as much as 75% during Diwali, the five-day festival of lights that takes place in November in 2020 and 2021. And the annual November Singles’ Day in China (11/11), has been shattering e-commerce records year over year. In 2019, this 24-hour event—which began as a tongue-in-cheek “anti-Valentine’s Day”—racked up US$38 billion on Alibaba’s T-mall platform alone. This dwarfs the 2019, four-day U.S. Black Friday to Cyber Monday, which brought in $29 billion for all retail sales.

Even if you decide not to pursue a particular market, reassess your choices periodically because markets change. Until recently, for example, it was difficult to sell online to the Indian market because they preferred to pay cash on delivery. Now, there’s a growing middle class that’s comfortable using credit cards. According to the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), the country’s e-commerce revenue is forecast to grow by 51% to US$120 billion in 2020, making it the highest growth in the world.  

2. Use what you’ve learned to localize your site 

Language. There are numerous ways to localize your e-commerce platform, and while you may not be able to do them all, using the local language is one you won’t want to miss. In fact, almost 57% of consumers say the ability to obtain information in their own language on a website is more important than price. There are about 6,500 languages in the world, but you can reach 90% of online shoppers with just 13: English, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, German, French, Korean, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Dutch, Arabic and Swedish. If you do decide to offer other language options, be sure to invest in a professional, native writer because a poor translation can cast doubt on your company’s credibility and your product’s quality. You may also want to consider hiring a translator that understands local dialects and lingo.

Also be sure to adapt your forms to accommodate any new languages you’re offering, such as characters used in the local language or local customs for addresses and phone numbers. In some European countries, for example, the house number comes after the street name. 

Design. Having an e-commerce platform design that your local market consumers can connect with can go a long way in decreasing shopping cart abandonment, as well as building your brand and customer loyalty. Here are some things to consider:

  • What products or what company brand stories should feature most prominently on your pages? Studying the local culture and analyzing your sales over time may help you determine which products or stories should be highlighted for which markets.
  • Does your market read from left to right, or right to left? Put the items you want them to see first on the appropriate side of the page. 
  • Be sensitive to local colour preferences. You may think choosing the colour green for your “buy now” button will subtly encourage sales, but if your market is in Latin America, green is the colour of death. 
  • Use photos of people interacting with your product, preferably using people and scenery that are local to your market.  
  • Design your checkout to be as simple and as easy to use as possible. This is the place where the majority of cart abandonment occurs. 
  • Offer local currencies and preferred payment methods. Some 67% of online shoppers abandon carts when a site doesn't support local payment methods, so credit card and PayPal, although popular, shouldn’t be your only options. For example, Brazilians prefer Boleto Bancario, a payment method regulated by the Brazilian Federation of Banks. They order online, then print out a paper receipt which they take to a bank, post office or supermarket, and pay cash. Browsing other online retail sites in your chosen market will help you determine which payment methods you should offer. 
  • Make it mobile. Today, more people are browsing online stores from their phones than from their desktops or laptops, so make sure your design is mobile-friendly.

3. Analyze results before scaling up

Once your localized e-commerce platform is up and running on a small scale, see what’s working in the market before scaling up. You may want to do a few tests to see if different prices, stories, or presentations work better. 

Google Analytics and Shopify both offer tools that can help you learn more about traffic and sales patterns on your site. 

These analytics can help you figure out which markets (or demographic groups) you may want to scale up, and which you want to rein in. It can also help you learn what’s working in a market. For example, if you take the number of completed orders for a three-month period a particular market and divide it by the number of unique visitors, you’ll see what percentage of your visitors are actually buying. If the gap is large, you may want to try something different, get advice on what can be done to increase your conversions, or decide to put that market aside for now.  

Remember it’s all about people 

If I can provide one last word of advice, it’s to remember that there’s a real live person on the other side of that internet sales transaction. That may seem obvious, but when you’re selling online rather than face-to-face as in a bricks-and-mortar store, and dealing in analytics and sales figures, it sometimes is easy to forget. As we do more online sales and things become more automated, you have to remember you’re dealing with people behind those screens—whether they’re down the block or half a world away. Communicate with them the way you would in person, and that will always help build your credibility and trustworthiness.