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5 Reasons Shoppers Abandon Their Carts—And What You Can Do to Stop It

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market cart and supermarket view and parkingFor ecommerce sites, shopping cart abandonment rates remain one confounding metric that often seems impossible to move. Looking at the results of 29 recent surveys of the ecommerce industry, it’s reasonable to assume an average abandonment rate just over 68 percent. That represents a troubling majority of shoppers that are motivated to identify items for potential purchase but never complete the transaction. Since the behavior appears to be evenly distributed across ecommerce businesses it isn’t a problem per say, but reducing the abandonment rate clearly represents a huge opportunity for increasing revenue.

Developing testing and optimization strategies focused on the shopping cart can be challenging for several reasons. Technically, this section of a site can be complicated as it often integrates payment, authentication, and other tools in addition to testing and analytics platforms. Understanding consumer mindset while using the cart also poses a challenge. Because it represents a transition point in the consumer decision journey, the cart must satisfy the needs of shoppers in the research phase and those with an established intent to purchase.

When focusing on cart abandonment tests—or the shopping cart in general—it may be useful to consider the following motivators:

1. Need for an organizational tool

Probably the most discussed alternate shopping cart behavior is the need for an information organization and product research tool in ecommerce environments. In this context, the cart becomes less of a purchase portal and instead a single bucket that allows consumers to collect and compare a large number of items. When targeting this behavior, it’s important to remember that during the research phases of the consumer decision journey the consideration set can expand and contract several times before a final purchase is made.

Offering easy access to related products, associated product groupings, guided shopping opportunities like lookbooks and buying guides, and socially driven options such as “customers also liked” suggestions within the cart may seem counterintuitive, but such additional information may help drive consumers to their final decisions.

2. Desire for entertainment

Shopping is a pastime for many people and when shopping for entertainment online, the use of the cart contributes to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction derived from the experience. Unfortunately, this behavior has been positively associated with cart abandonment and negatively associated with overall frequency of buying online. Still, positive past experience—including browsing experience—is related to an increased likelihood to purchase in the future.

Other research has shown that the “more immersive, hedonic aspects of new media” play a critical role in increasing the enjoyment consumers experience while shopping online and as a result, increase their likelihood to purchase. In other words, when consumers shop online, they are not looking for a simple transfer of information. Instead, shoppers seek out experiences that are engaging, emotional, and interactive. Offering an opportunity to return to a more immersive—instead of transactional—experience from the cart may help those shopping for entertainment continue to develop positive brand and product associations, ultimately influencing and inspiring decisions to purchase.

3. Concern over price and total cost

A primary motivator for consumers evaluating a shopping cart is the price of each item and total cost of the order. This has not gone unnoticed and most retailers address these concerns through promotions, email campaigns, and ad retargeting. Offering and emphasizing discounts provides a clear opportunity for increasing cart conversions. Alternate options, too, like in-store pickup may increase shopper motivation to purchase. Another interesting approach may be “member-only” promotions that encourage shoppers to log-in to reveal or receive discounts.

4. Feelings of uncertainty

Though online shopping has become commonplace, concerns over security, privacy, and likelihood of order completion continue to be powerful drivers of shopping cart abandonment. Uncertainty over item quality, fit, brand, and desirability also play a role. Reducing this uncertainty through an emphasis of social proof, by clarifying essential information, and reaffirming guarantees and security benefits could help reduce abandonment among this group of consumers.

By emphasizing these characteristics early and consistently, ecommerce retailers can also foster perceptions of trust, increasing the likelihood of completed purchases in the future.

5. Intent to purchase immediately

Perhaps the most important segment of shoppers accessing the cart are those with a clear intent to complete a purchase. For these consumers, it’s important to create an experience that, in addition to being easy to navigate and quick to complete, reassures them they have made the right decision.

Without advanced personalization techniques, it may be difficult to address the specific needs of all five of these consumer groups with one cart design. A series of A/B tests, however, could pinpoint the factors that have the greatest impact on eventual conversion and, as a result, lead to a better understanding of how your customers are actually using the shopping cart.