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Why Shoppers Ditch Their Digital Carts

Free shipping, delivery times are top trends among shopping cart abandoners

March 26, 2015

Last year, free shipping was the most successful promotional strategy implemented by US retailers, according to a January 2015 study by BDO USA. And in October 2014 research by comScore for UPS, 81% of US digital buyers said free shipping played a major role in the online shopping experience.

Leading Reasons that Digital Buyers in Select Countries/Regions Have Abandoned Their Cart, Oct 2014 (% of respondents)

Shipping costs were a prevailing theme throughout the study, which examined online shopping behaviors and attitudes throughout the path to purchase, and this was especially true when it came to shopping cart abandonment. Nine in 10 digital buyers in the US admitted to abandoning a shopping cart, and issues related to shipping were the top reasons for doing so. Nearly six in 10 respondents from the US said they had abandoned a basket after learning that shipping costs made the total purchase value more than expected, meaning retailers would be wise to include this information up front.

A close 57% said they were doing research on shipping before they were ready to order, saying they wanted to get an idea of total cost with delivery, while half blamed shopping cart abandonment on not being able to qualify for free shipping due to a lower-than-required order value. Overall, US digital buyers were more likely than those from other regions and countries studied to admit to shopping cart abandonment, as well as to blame this on shipping-related costs.

Other industry sources found similar links between shipping costs and cart abandonment. In October 2014 research by Visual Website Optimizer, unexpected shipping costs were the most common reason US digital shoppers abandoned carts. And among those polled in September 2014 by the e-tailing group, 64% said they abandoned carts because of high shipping costs.

Retailers need to keep delivery times in mind as well—and just like with shipping information, making this data easily available to shoppers before checkout is critical, as more than three in 10 US digital buyers in the UPS and comScore study said they had abandoned a purchase because estimated delivery was not provided. When a timeframe was provided, respondents from the US were most likely to leave behind their carts if the delivery time was longer than 11 days, though one-quarter didn’t even want to wait more than five.

Still, when it comes to the battle between free shipping and delivery, free shipping wins. US digital shoppers, who were willing to wait an average seven days for a domestic delivery, said they would add on four more days for free shipping. Similarly, half of respondents had chosen the slowest transit time offered on a retailer’s site because it was free.

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