Shopping Cart Abandonment – How to Stop It

Try to prevent abandoned shopping carts

Abandoned shopping carts are much more common online than in bricks and mortar retail

We have all done it; meticulously comparing websites, made the decision, selected a couple of products to buy, added them to the cart and then walked away at the last minute, not quite certain of our choice. But why? What makes us abandon the shopping cart at the last minute? It happens rarely in store, so why is it so common online? More importantly, what can be done to regain a customer’s faith in their original decision to buy?

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An abandoned cart could be viewed as a lost sale. To have brought a potential customer onto your website, through good marketing and SEO practices only to have them select a product or service that they feel will adequately resolve a need and then leave, means that all the hard work has been done only to drop the ball at the last moment. In viewing a cart abandonment as a lost sale, marketers can start to understand exactly what drives cart abandonment, and what the best practice to regain that lost revenue.

Current Abandoned Cart Best Practices

To understand how to get customers to return to their abandoned carts, we need to understand why customers abandon carts in the first place. Over the years, there have been numerous studies into what makes shoppers abandon their purchases pre-payment, with high costs, technical issues and consumer anxiety being cited time and time again as the main causes of cart or basket abandonment.

As a result, a wealth of strategies have been created to combat this and bring customers back. Shopping cart technologies have been improved in an attempt to combat technical issues. There is also a whole academic area on how best to relieve consumer anxieties and price points with a series of post cart abandonment emails and other abandon cart solutions. Globally, trends are showing an increase in abandoned carts. Though this is a concern, abandoned cart increases are not an exclusive worry to your site.

As online shopping has advanced hugely, with the shopping cart or basket a final chance for a some quality up-selling. ‘Buying a camera? Just have a quick look at these camera bags, tripods and extra batteries’. These up-selling strategies have been shown to be extremely profitable and are usually seen as useful by customers. The data gathered at this stage allows a highly personalised abandon cart email to be sent in the event that the customer does not complete the transaction. These follow up emails contain information regarding the purchase, further marketing and clear attempts to remove the concerns about the product, post-sales support or even price point, in an attempt to bring the customer back to their abandoned cart.

Studies into Abandoned Cart Solutions – Increasing Cart Abandonment?

Understanding is key, have recent abandon cart strategies actually exacerbated the problem in the long-term? Are customers filling and abandoning carts in order to actively prey on the offers and seduction that will arrive in their in-box later as part of a presumed abandoned cart email strategy?

An in-depth 2013 study from Bronto Software looked into the side effects of abandoned cart strategies on online shopping. Splitting their sample into frequent, occasional and infrequent online shoppers, the study was able to determine not only new trends in why people abandon carts but also what effect previous strategies have had on shoppers.

Bronto’s study showed that customers were using shopping carts as a tool, rather than a necessary step towards purchase. The increase in the use of a shopping cart as an upselling tool meant that there is real use in placing items into a shopping cart – they provide a no hassle, no effort accessories filter for your chosen product.

More than half of shoppers, especially frequent online shoppers, use the basket or cart function as a personal filter. By adding potential products to the shopping cart, they are provided with an easy comparison table for potential purchases, as well as single screen for changing sizes, colours and delivery options. This way, they can explore the best combinations, prices and quantities from a single page, rather than making a series of decisions at the individual item level, before adding them to the shopping cart once the decision to purchase has been made. Some 56% of frequent shoppers used the shopping cart as a storage area for potential future purchases, with no intention of purchasing at the time.

This is where online and offline shopping carts truly differ. Offline, placing an item into a shopping cart means that the decision to buy has been made. Online, placing an item into a shopping cart allows the customer a basis from which to make the decision. This unexpected use of the online shopping cart may explain why cart abandonment is increasing. The savviest consumers will even add items to their online cart to review and compare price, (including postage), whilst looking at the item in-store.

Abandoned Cart Solutions – The Customer’s Expectation

The abandoned cart email is an expected result of walking away from a purchase online. Customers expect this. Following the trends of abandon cart increase, between 70 & 80% of carts can be expected to be abandoned. Follow up email campaigns are enormously effective, with some able to bring back 20% to purchase. These are still seen as a very welcome service by consumers, though there are 32% that find them intrusive and annoying. The key with abandon cart email best practice is to offer service, not to hound. Balance and timing are vital.

21% of consumers expect there to be some form of incentive in a post abandon cart email. This could have been a major cause of the increase in abandoned carts. If you expect an offer of free shipping, or maybe a percentage reduction, why not goad the website into offering you incentives by wantonly abandoning carts left, right and centre?

Timing is also important. Much research has been done to determine the best time frame for an abandon cart email to be sent after the cart browser is closed. Some industries see a huge uplift from sending emails within the first hour after the cart is abandoned, whilst others see results increased from allowing a 24-hour window. The only way to see which is best in your particular case is from A/B testing. Send abandoned cart emails to one section an hour after the cart is left, and another section a day later. By analysing the results, you will be able to determine the best time frame for your abandon cart email solution.

Best Practice Abandoned Cart Solutions

There is still an importance in encouraging customers to purchase once the item is in the cart. 42% of infrequent shoppers will never return to an abandoned cart. They still use the cart in the ‘traditional’, offline way, and an abandoned cart does represent a lost sale. The best practice here is well documented; provide clear, concise product and delivery information, options to change (size, quantity, delivery type, offer product guarantees and a well-functioning, easy to use shopping cart). How though, can new shopping behaviours, bought, in part, by abandon cart solutions of the last few years, be exploited?

One option is to try and return the shopping cart to its intended purpose – as a step to purchase. The way to do this is to provide customers with a specific tool that does what a shopping cart unintentionally does. By providing a wish-list function, where shoppers can add items for easy comparison, accessory filtering and detail changing, as well as creating a list of products to buy later, shoppers will stop using the shopping cart for these unintentional, but useful, reasons. Instead, on moving an item into the cart, they are showing a genuine intention to buy. They may well still abandon their cart, but this time, we know that the use of the cart showed a genuine intention to purchase, not as a place to store potential purchases. Then, we can analyse and work on an abandoned cart solution.

A wish list, as well as shopping cart, must be available, and easy to use, across devices. Another common reason for an increase in abandoned carts is the increase in the use of mobile devices. People may add potential items to a cart on their phone whilst they sit on the bus but have no intention of purchasing until they get home. By allowing the customer to instantly flick between phone, tablet and PC, you are increasing the chance of purchase, and encouraging the customer to return next time they are twiddling their thumbs on the bus too.

Best Practice – Abandoned Cart Emails

One of the biggest factors in abandoning carts, and expectations in post cart abandon emails is price. 56% see discounts and savings as the most influential reasons to return to a basket, whilst 36% wish to see a clear indication of shipping costs, yet at the same time, offers can be seen as too aggressive by a further 29%. However, as discussed, offering promotions and offers at this point both encourages future cart abandonment, and undermines the confidence in the purchase.

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It is better to offer alternatives, or alternative ways to buy. Content marketing is the best practice in online commerce, why should this be any different in abandon cart best practice? Again, to develop the best abandon email solution for you, the content, subject line and incentives must be A/B tested to ensure that you get the maximum return. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to abandon cart emails.


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