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Shopping Cart Abandonment and the Savvy Consumer

Retail marketers constantly combat shopping cart abandonment and look for ways to save potentially lost sales. High shipping costs, shopper anxiety, and technical issues are typical causes for abandonment. In fact, many shoppers know they will abandon their orders before they even click “add to cart” on the product page.

A recent study by Bronto and Magento went directly to 1,000 consumers to ask them about their awareness of shopping cart technology, expectations for how a brand will market to them when they abandon a cart, and if nudges from a retailer or brand affect their buying decisions. The study polled Frequent Shoppers, those who buy online daily or weekly; Occasional Shoppers, who purchase online at least once a month; and Infrequent Shoppers, who buy online less than once a month. Respondents were fairly evenly distributed among the groups.

From the retailer’s perspective, it’s now easier to launch an advanced, finely tuned shopping cart function that’s customized at the individual consumer level. This benefits consumers by providing a smooth, consistent shopping experience, while allowing the marketer to guide the customer toward completing the order, decreasing the risk of shopping cart abandonment.  When carts are abandoned, marketers are able to send highly targeted email messages to shoppers encouraging them to complete their order. 

Consumers expect shopping carts to provide options to summarize, modify, or save their selected items pre-purchase and through the purchase. Consumers were surveyed on a range of behaviors, which scale from the most practical cart functionalities to the more advanced device- and channel-hopping behaviors. Let’s look at some of the behaviors surveyed and how consumers responded.

How often do consumers use the shopping cart summary function?

Figure 1: How often online shoppers use the cart to summarize the purchase and decide which items to buy

Summaries make it easier to buy. In fact, more than half of Frequent Shoppers (55%) always use the shopping cart summary as a way to make a final purchase decision. Providing options to modify carted items—like changing sizes, colors, or quantities—can help the consumer quickly navigate the decision-making process without becoming frustrated or overwhelmed to the point where they abandon the cart.

Saving items to buy later

Some 56% of consumers who purchase online at least once a month use the cart to store items to buy later. For marketers this means targeting frequent shoppers—and anticipating their need to store items—can help save sales, even though cart abandonment rates may stay the same.  On the other hand, nearly half (42%) of Infrequent Shoppers surveyed never store items in their cart for later purchase. With this group, marketers need to put some effort in to ensure that more of them complete the order within the shopping session.

Wish lists

Eighty-two percent of Frequent Shoppers will always or occasionally build wish lists, although more than one in four Occasional Shoppers (29%) and over one half of Infrequent Shoppers (51%) will never use a wish list. Wish lists can help defuse the sticker shock of an order with taxes and shipping added in. Wish lists are a good way to reassure shoppers, letting them know items can be saved and purchased at a later date.

Shopping carts help mobile users


Figure 2: How often shoppers use online shopping carts to view product information on different devices

Shopping carts help mobile users make the jump between online and in-store. Over one third of consumers (34%) reported using product information saved on a mobile device while shopping in a brick-and-mortar store location. Fifty-eight percent of Frequent Shoppers report always or occasionally taking online shopping information into a physical store location. Anticipating this behavior for active shoppers can help retailers direct shoppers to their preferred channel to complete an order or gather additional product information, while also helping to attribute specific marketing channels as sales drivers and purchase influencers.

Post-shopping cart abandonment expectations

Don’t be afraid to send an abandoned shopping cart email—they’re an essential part of any email marketing program. Abandonment rates range from 70 to 80%; fortunately, conversion rates from abandoned shopping cart reminder emails can easily exceed 20%. Don’t forget that these automated messages—which are triggered after a shopper has left items in a shopping cart—boost sales and can be executed in a way that provides a service to the shopper.  

More than half of the most active shoppers, Frequent (59%) and Occasional (51%), agree that shopping cart reminder emails are helpful. But 53% of consumers don’t expect to receive an abandoned shopping cart reminder email after they’ve ended a shopping session. Of the 46% who do expect an email, only 21% expect the shopping cart abandonment reminder email to include an incentive. Targeting consumers who expect an incentive can help save a potentially lost sale, while having a better understanding of those who only need a reminder will ensure the full order amount is realized.

Sixty-one percent of all shoppers report that they’re likely to return to a site after receiving an abandoned cart reminder email. But you’ll have to convince the other 39% to do so. Only 32% of consumers are likely to buy based on the cart reminder email alone.

Fifty-six percent of online shoppers believe that highlighting special savings or discounts is the strongest influencer to get an abandoner back to the shopping cart. Including content that resonates with the shopper will help him understand the intention of the email, clarify any confusion, and encourage him to return to the cart to complete the order. 

The purchase funnel narrows significantly once the shopper enters the shopping cart. The consumer begins to share personal information while the marketer is getting closer to getting the sale. This logically means the conversation will become more intense, personal, and hopefully beneficial to both shoppers and marketers.

Once cart abandonment occurs, however, attention must be paid to the consumer’s expectation of receiving a cart reminder. Knowing your customer is a fundamental part of every marketer’s job. For years, data-driven reports and analyses have given marketers tools to better understand trends and anticipate consumer behaviors and then target accordingly. Marketers can use the consumer’s voice to help develop a full-circle approach to maximizing sales and earning loyal, repeat customers.

Jim Davidson is manager of marketing research of Bronto Software

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