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What’s the Upside to Shopping Cart Abandonment?

Shopping cart abandonment rate higher than two-thirds

Despite the best efforts of retailers, shoppers abandon their digital shopping carts roughly two-thirds of the time—a level that has remained virtually unchanged over the past few years, according to MarketLive, an ecommerce platform and solutions provider that tracks abandonment rates.

Alarming as this sounds, the data says more about how consumers use carts and less about the ultimate effectiveness of ecommerce platforms. As a measure of shopping cart performance, abandonment rates are not terribly meaningful by themselves, but they can be quite meaningful when viewed in conjunction with other metrics and in the context of shopper intent and buying cycles, according to a new eMarketer report, “Shopping Cart Abandonment: How Retailers Are Using the Metric to Drive Better Results.”

Three major reasons appear to be behind the high abandonment rates seen by retailers: the stickiness of ingrained consumer behaviors, the growth of mobile shopping and the slow economic recovery.

By placing items in a shopping cart, consumers give retailers a goldmine of information, even if the purchase doesn’t follow. Like a search query, the act itself indicates the shopper’s purchase interest—and possibly even the individual’s stage in the purchase path.

Retailers are already tapping these insights for remarketing, but they can dig into this data in a more strategic way to figure out what to show to which consumers—and when.

The shopping cart can tell retailers a great deal about the performance of the ecommerce site, but abandonment rates are only part of the story. In order to see the bigger picture, retailers need to look at other metrics.

Ideally, ecommerce performance would be judged by the visitor and not by the session. That is, customers often visit a site multiple times before buying. With each visit, they become more likely to buy. Abandonment rates and most other web analytics, however, look at the session level, or sometimes over a fixed period of time.

A visitor-centric approach would have to include offline data as well. eMarketer estimates that ecommerce sales capture only 5.78% of total retail sales in the US, but they influence a much higher percentage. Retailers are beginning to link up cart behavior with in-store purchases through loyalty programs and email addresses, but omnichannel attribution remains difficult. Even so, ecommerce metrics viewed in isolation of overall revenues can leave an incomplete picture.


The full report, “Shopping Cart Abandonment: How Retailers Are Using the Metric to Drive Better Results,” also answers these key questions:

  • Are abandonment rates going down?
  • How do consumers use shopping carts?
  • How can retailers address these uses better?
  • Are there better metrics to measure shopping cart performance than abandonment?

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

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