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Retailers Rethink Shopping Cart Abandonment

Complex purchase path upends ecommerce metrics

Marketers are used to seeing cart abandoners as lost sales. But the growing complexity of the purchase path requires a more complex viewpoint, according to a new eMarketer report, “Shopping Cart Abandonment: New Ways of Looking at the Purchase Path.”

Smart retailers are recognizing that while some abandoned carts do indeed represent missed revenue opportunities, many others do not.

Over the past four years shopping cart abandonment rates have run in the 60% range, meaning six in 10 shoppers who place items in a cart do not check out.

However, while shopping cart abandonment rate is a meaningful conversion metric, it can be misused because it fails to consider the online shopping cart in the greater purchase path. Consumers may use the cart to compare online prices and shipping rates, or treat their cart as an ongoing shopping list, ultimately converting in-store.

The add-to-cart rate—the percentage of site visitors who add items to a cart—supplements understanding of shopping cart behavior. When Monetate tracked the add-to-cart rate and the cart abandonment rate over five consecutive quarters in 2011 and 2012, it found the add-to-cart rate increased by 2 percentage points, while the cart conversion rate decreased by 2.7 points.

The rising number of consumers who research purchases via smartphone is also inflating cart abandonment rates. They often place items in shopping carts through their phones but prefer to switch most often to a PC or laptop to complete their purchases.

To increase conversion rates, retailers need to question some of their long-held assumptions about cart abandonment and reconsider their strategies for turning browsers into buyers.

  • Retailers should reimagine shopping carts, combining the functions of a shopping list with those of a shopping basket.
  • Retailers should investigate ways to reach out to cart abandoners and give them a good reason to recover their cart. Email is a strategy many retailers are adopting to remind shoppers of the items in their shopping cart.
  • Retailers should re-evaluate the metrics they use to gauge shopping behavior. Some abandoned carts may signify consumer dissatisfaction with goods, services or prices. But others may just be a precursor to an in-store purchase, a return visit on a different device, or simply a return visit once a shopper’s mind is made up.

The full report, “Shopping Cart Abandonment: New Ways of Looking at the Purchase Path” also answers these key questions:

  • Is shopping cart abandonment more common today than it was in the past?
  • How many customers use shopping carts to save items?
  • How can retailers turn shopping cart abandonment into a revenue opportunity?
  • How are retailers using email remarketing to recover sales tied to abandoned shopping carts?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. eMarketer clients, log in and view the report now.


Check out today’s other articles, “Age, Gender Determine 'Go-To' Devices” and “In India, Engagement Tactics See More Marketer Dollars.”

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