Practical Ecommerce

Conversion Tip: Persistent Carts Help ‘Wish List’ Shoppers

Editor’s Note: This week’s “Conversion Tip” addresses the reality of shoppers that abandon carts, and then return to them later to purchase. The author is Charles Nicholls, founder and chief strategy officer of SeeWhy, a conversion and abandonment-recovery firm.

Research published by University of Glasgow showed that 74 percent of online shoppers use shopping carts as “wish lists.” By placing items in the shopping cart, and then abandoning, shoppers are relying on your ecommerce site having a persistent or permanent shopping cart. Persistent carts store items for individual customers so that when they return to the site they can find them again easily.

Important for Holiday Shoppers

It’s worth recognizing this shopping list behavior and checking to make sure that your site makes it easy for returning visitors. This is particularly important over the holiday shopping season, where cart conversion rates drop significantly as consumers research potential gifts. It may be too late to put a persistent shopping cart on your site this year, but it is something to consider for 2011.

If you already have a persistent cart, then check the time out on your shopping cart. Many default to 24 hours, and it’s amazing the number of sites where default values are used. Setting it to 30 days or more is a quick fix, and one that reflects the way that buyers want to shop online.

Charles Nicholls

Charles Nicholls

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  1. LexiConn November 4, 2010 Reply

    Nice "timely" tip Charles. I agree that you do not want your cart expiring too soon, but merchants also have to balance out other factors such as:

    – Carts that are saved for long periods of time often keep the price of the product the same. If the merchant frequently changes prices, or has short running specials, this can cause issues with profits and confusion for either the customer or merchant.

    – Potential confusion when a shopper is "window browsing" by adding items to a cart, but not intending to buy. They then return a few weeks later to buy something else, and are confused by other items in the cart, or don’t notice them and purchase un-intended items.

    Gotta balance out the above concerns with length of carts being saved to make it work most profitably for the merchant.

  2. Mark Simpson November 4, 2010 Reply

    Nice tips. We too at Maxymiser have seen our clients experience upwards of 80% of online shoppers abandon their shopping carts. Retailers can avoid this by simply multivariate testing and personalizing your site to meet customer wants and needs, you can significantly lower the chance that they’ll abandon their cart, as well as increase the chance that they’ll find what they’re looking for the next time they return.

  3. Susan Petracco November 9, 2010 Reply

    Another issue is that some carts tie up inventory of a product when it’s added to the basket (instead of at order completion). So setting a long timeout, like 30 days, can make products appear "out of stock" because they are sitting idle in someone’s cart.

    With our solution, we implement a persistent cart as a list of abandoned products that can be added back to the cart with a single click. This also addresses the price change concern that LexiConn mentions.