Consumers’ Shopping Cart Use and Expectations

Bronto recently released the finale in a trilogy of “Consumer Tell All” studies, and it focuses on consumers’ shopping cart use and expectations.

In the early days of e-commerce, buying online was a new—and sometimes taboo—concept for consumers. Obviously, online commerce has since evolved and consumer use of the shopping cart has changed, too. Retailers need to change, as well, says the report. 

For part three of the study, online shoppers were asked how they use shopping carts and what they expect to happen when they leave items behind. While some consumers still abandon shopping carts with no plans to return, the study shows that the shopping cart has become a tool shoppers use to their advantage.

Shop now, buy later

The majority (73%) of respondents use their cart to store items they plan to buy later. This shows that, for most online shoppers, some level of purchase intent remains when items are left in their cart. Eighteen percent of online shoppers plan to revisit items left in the shopping cart each time they shop, which shows that, for many, this is a fundamental part of online shopping.

Males and females, for the most part, use their shopping cart to store items with plans to revisit later (72 to 74%, respectively). However, more males (21%) use the cart for this purpose every time they shop, as compared to females (15%).

Millennials and digital natives (18 to 29 year olds), use their cart to store items significantly more often than any other age group (88%). Of this demographic, 42% store items in the cart every time they shop, with plans to come back and buy.

These findings should nudge retailers to review shopping carts and reminder emails to see if tone, content, and timing speak to true abandoners or to the majority of shoppers who plan to revisit their carts.

The time between leaving items in a cart and completing a purchase is often a winding path that could include interactions with other buying mediums. To get to the bottom of how consumers use the cart to navigate this path, Bronto asked respondents:

“Do you leave items in the shopping cart to view later on a mobile device or in-store?”

Forty percent of respondents plan to revisit the items left in their cart while in a physical store or on a mobile device. Slightly more (12%) report viewing the carts in a store location each time they shop, compared to those who view on a different device (10%). These responses, the study says, should motivate retailers to ensure that shopping cart pages are optimized for mobile devices and that store staff can help the customer easily transition from the online shopping cart to in-store shopping.




As the prior data shows, consumers have found ways to leverage the shopping cart to their advantage. But what do consumers expect to happen after items are left in the cart?

This section looks at how many online shoppers expect to receive reminder emails when items have been left in a cart. Respondents were asked:

“Do you find notifications reminding you about items in your shopping cart helpful, annoying, or intrusive?” 

Overall, 42% of respondents find the reminders to be helpful, 32% say they’re annoying, and 26% say they’re intrusive.




Overall, 44% of online shoppers expect to review a shopping cart reminder email when items have been left in the cart. To better understand what messages they expect to receive, surveyors asked:

“After leaving items in your shopping cart, do you expect to receive any of the following?”

Nearly half (48%) of all online shoppers who expect to receive a cart reminder do not expect the email to contain a discount, incentive, or free shipping offer. Of the remainder, more shoppers (37%) answered that they expect a reminder email to contain discounts and coupons rather than free shipping offers (15%).

Expectations by:



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