The Mystery of the Abandoned Shopping Cart

Some abandoned carts are cause for concern, some are not

Author: Rimma Kats

March 27, 2017

For digital retailers, abandoned shopping carts represent a bit of a mystery. In some cases, they signify lost sales—obviously a matter of concern. But in others, an abandoned cart is simply a part of a shopping journey that could end in a purchase either online or off, on the same device and channel or another one entirely.

Remarketing company SaleCycle surveyed more than 5,000 digital shoppers worldwide who abandoned their shopping carts on SaleCycle client websites, and found a wide variety of reasons for doing so.

More than a third said they were “just looking.” These shoppers—and others, whose reasons were “wanted to compare prices” or “decided to buy in-store”—are a part of the natural flow of the shopping cycle, said eMarketer analyst Yory Wurmser.

But other reasons for abandoning a shopping cart should be worrisome for retailers, according to Wurmser. “If consumers are finding issues with shipping or payment options, those are addressable by retailers and definitely represent the possibility of lost sales,” he said.

The SaleCycle study found that 74% of retail site visitors who add something to their cart will leave without making a purchase. Breaking it out by product category, consumer electronics and grocery items had the highest abandonment rates.

A separate survey, this one limited to US shoppers, also found that shipping costs are a key reason for cart abandonment.

The Q4 2016 study from FuturePay, which asked digital shoppers about their reasons for cart abandonment, found that 86% of respondents said “cost of shipping.” Nearly three-quarters cited the less specific “cost of order became too expensive.”

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