Recent studies indicate that 7 out of 10 online shopping carts are exited before a sale is completed. This abandonment rate seems to be rising, as online shoppers become more comfortable comparing prices and other product or service attributes.
SeeWhy, a website conversion service, reported that shopping cart abandonment rates rose from about 71 percent in mid-2010 to 75 percent by June 2011. These figures are much higher than the rates of about 46 percent that Forrester Research reported in early 2010.
In the past, each cart abandoned was seen as a sure sign that a sale had been lost, but this may not necessarily be the case.
“Shopping cart abandonment is an important part of the normal buying cycle for many customers and for many types of purchase,” wrote Charles Nicholls, founder and chief strategy officer for SeeWhy in a whitepaper on the topic. “This leads to the conclusion that abandonment, rather than being a rejection of the brand’s value proposition, can be a step in the decision process for some buyers and for the majority of purchases. This is visible in the way that some customers will come back multiple times as they consider the purchase, storing items in their shopping carts as ‘wish lists.’”
While it is important to remove barriers to completing the sale — these barriers are often things like price, shipping rates, user experience, trust, or even having to deal with a multi-page checkout — online retailers may also want to reinforce the buying decision, welcome returning customers back, and being patient about all of those abandoned carts.
1. Support the Buying Decision
Encourage the shopper to return and make a purchase with remarketing and emails.
If, as Nicholls suggests, shopping cart abandonment is part of a natural buying cycle as shoppers either take time to consider the purchase or compare prices, then marketers will want to assure shoppers that buying the product and buying it from the marketer's company is a good choice.
There are a few tactics that can help.
Remarketing seeks to show shoppers display advertising after they have left a site or shopping cart. Specifically, a shopper who abandoned a cart may start to see remarketing ads from the store on other sites. Google AdWords, for example, makes remarketing relatively easy. Marketers place a conversion code on key pages, prepare remarketing ads, and those ads are shown across the Google AdWords network, encouraging the shopper to come back.
SeeWhy found that this sort of remarketing boosted eventual conversions by 18 percent.
“This reinforces the need to follow up immediately on abandoned shopping carts since it’s clear that a customer’s interest in making a purchase goes cold fast,” Nicholls wrote.
It may also be a good idea to email cart-abandoning consumers shortly after they leave a site. As an example Bronto Software, an email-marketing platform, found that about 13 percent of leading brands emailed a shopper within three hours of a cart abandonment.
Collecting an email address early in the checkout process means that the retailer may email even an unregistered shopper, asking, as an example, if there was a technical issue.
2. Welcome Returning Shoppers
Show a returning shopper the cart or product front and center.
If a site recognizes that a particular shopper is visiting for a second time, it can be a good idea to show that shopper a larger than usual link to the cart or even place products from the cart directly on the landing page.
SeeWhy estimated that roughly 90 percent of online sales conversions come from shoppers already familiar with a site.
3. Be Patient
Keep abandoned shopping carts active for at least 60 days.
The longer a virtual shopping cart sits empty, the less likely a shopper is to return, reclaim it, and make a purchase. With this in mind, some sites have a tendency to clean up abandoned carts frequently. There's little reason to do this.
Virtual shopping carts do not typically consume much memory and, generally, have little impact on site performance. SeeWhy suggests keeping a cart active for at least 60 days, giving remarketing campaigns and email follow-ups time to work.