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Preventing Shopping Cart Abandonment

Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.
Consumers walk away from online shopping carts for a variety of reasons. While the issue will likely remain a problem for online retailers, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce the risk. Preventing Shopping Cart Abandonment

Abandoned online shopping carts are all too familiar for small businesses selling products online, but making the buying process as simple as possible can reduce the risk.

The term "abandoned shopping cart" refer to situations where a consumer reserves an item in their online cart, but fails to complete the purchase. As all retailers know, this is very common: most market researchers say between two-thirds and three-quarters of all items placed into carts aren’t purchased in the same browsing session.

Abandoned carts cause a number of issues for online retailers. For instance, a customer who leaves without making a purchase may not come back, depriving the opportunity to generate future sales.

Similarly, an unpurchased item sitting in a shopping cart is reserved for the customer who placed it, leaving it temporarily unavailable for other customers and distorting the retailer’s inventory levels. Also, having a large number of items sitting in carts can slow the site’s overall speed.

Consumers walk away from online shopping carts for a variety of reasons:

  • Hidden or high shipping costs. With so many retailers offering free shipping (or building shipping into product costs), some consumers reflexively balk at paying for the convenience of home or office delivery.
  • They’re not ready to buy. Some consumers add potential purchases to shopping carts on different sites as they compare prices. They probably will probably make a purchase when they find what they consider the best deal, but every other merchant is left with an abandoned cart.
  • They’re asked to create an account before ordering. Especially for low-value purchases, being asked to create account creates an extra step that many consumers want to bypass.
  • They’re not sure about the site’s return policy. Being unclear about their ability to return an item can discourage consumers.

Reducing Abandoned Carts

While the issue will likely remain a problem for online retailers, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce the risk:

  • Partner with a major shopping cart software provider. A dedicated e-commerce platform such as Shopify will provide a recognizable interface that reassures customers and potentially increases sales.
  • Mention any guarantees prominently on your item pages, as well as your checkout page. Customers will appreciate the flexibility.
  • Offer free or discounted shipping. Most consumers know shipping isn’t really free, but having shipping bundled into the product price is often more palatable than paying for shipping separately.
  • Allow customers to checkout as guests, without the additional steps associated with creating an account.

Cart Recovery Emails

The most common strategy online retailers use for recovering abandoned shopping carts is sending an email to the customer reminding them that the item is waiting for them, and inviting them to complete the purchase. While this obviously depends on your company having the customer’s email address, it can be a common way to reach out to rekindle the relationship and complete the purchase.

Some information to include in your recovery email:

  • A reminder of the product they abandoned.
  • A link where they can access the car and resume their purchase, a reminder about your shipping cost (if any) as well as your return policy
  • Many online retailers will send a series of emails, starting an hour after a cart is abandoned, followed by similar emails the next day or and a couple days later to try to resuscitate the transaction.

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