How Online Retailers Can Convert Abandoned Shopping Carts into Sales

By , dealnews Senior Content Editor

If you've ever added items to an online shopping cart, only to leave them there indefinitely, know that you're not alone. A recent study from Milo shows that more than half of all online transactions (67%, to be precise) are never completed, resulting in what the industry has deemed "abandoned" shopping carts.

To break it down further, 55% of consumers leave their carts as a result of "sticker shock" from unexpectedly high shipping costs, while 40% are turned off by shipping costs being presented too late in the checkout process. Meanwhile, 57% of shoppers are simply window shopping, and collecting items they wish to purchase at a later date (say, after a price drop).

How to Combat Abandoned Shopping Carts

Internet retailers are not oblivious to this practice: abandoned carts can result in a loss of revenue and even customer loyalty. However, only about 15% of 1,000 of the top eCommerce stores choose to do anything about it, per a Listrak study. Some stores though, like big-name retailers such as Best Buy and Lands' End, are proactive in reminding customers of their forgotten goods via an email (or two, or several). Other retailers, like ThinkGeek, even go an extra step and offer a modest coupon discount to entice consumers to return and complete their purchases.

Now, that's all well and good, but given our online shopping experience, we have this idea to toss into the ring: make the shopping cart experience less terrible. Some sites have flawless, seamless cart systems that bring our deal writers great joy, but for every shining example, there's another site that hides shipping costs, make it impossible to find promo code boxes, and worse. These frustrations are enough to make a potential shopper abandon ship for something more streamlined. So here are some of our suggestions to improve the checkout process that could keep carts occupied until the very end.

The Simpler The Checkout Process, The Better

If your store offers coupon codes, that's great. If you make customers jump through hoops to find a way to redeem them, that's just frustrating. Shopping carts that are difficult to navigate, buggy, or just plain unintuitive can defeat the purpose of buying online, which is to be a convenience. Shoppers will be reluctant to return to a store that has a cluttered or uncooperative shopping cart, regardless of how much stuff they already added to it. Streamlining the checkout process — that is, featuring prominent information in an organized and easy-to-understand manner — will result in satisfied customers (and of course, a sale for the retailer).

Make Sure Shipping Costs Are Explicitly Marked

One of our online shopping pet peeves here at dealnews is being forced to search for shipping costs; it's also irksome for the average online shopper. In every deal we craft, our staff takes into account the "total" price, that is, the price of an item plus applicable shipping costs, since this can make or break a deal. A 12-pack of ballpoint pens for $3 sounds like a great deal ... until it's revealed that shipping tacks on nearly twice as much. Presenting this information on the product page or even in-cart will allow consumers to make a more informed decision before clicking forward; making them waste their time first will only aggravate them.

Similarly, it makes sense to prominently state when shipping is free, or even better, when upgraded shipping is free or discounted. Several merchants, including Amazon, now offer same-day delivery on applicable items, and Amazon actually observed that displaying an icon on a product page that indicates this increased conversions to 25% (up from 20%). Interestingly enough, however, most consumers opted for the "slower" 2-day delivery, perhaps because of the fear of not being available to accept a delivery with such a short turnaround. Regardless, even the promise of receiving items in under a week is enough to motivate customers to buy.

In Short: Retailers, Be Vigilant!

Consumers aren't likely to abandon the practice of ditching occupied shopping carts any time soon. Online shoppers will continue to walk away from potential buys for their own reasons. However, retailers can make sure it happens less frequently by being vigilant in providing the optimum online shopping experience for their clientele.

Featuring shipping information on the product page (or in-cart), combined with offering an easy-to-navigate checkout process, will ensure that consumers will want to successfully complete a purchase. And for those indecisive shoppers who walk away from their shopping carts, stores should not be reluctant to remind their potential customers of their leftover goods by way of a coupon discount. Should merchants follow these practices, we guarantee that 67% shopping cart abandonment rate will take a mighty dip.

Have you ever abandoned an online shopping cart? What motivated you to walk away from a potential purchase? How much of an influence does the ease of a store's checkout process have on your decision to buy? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Front page photo credit: PFS Web
Photo credits top to bottom: Exact Target,
Magneto Connect, Small Fish,
and Family Home Security

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Some sites don't offer wish list feature so I add to my cart to remember all the items I want
Dan de Grandpre (DealNews)
jls4net — It's manufacturers, not retailers, who require you to add an item to your cart to see a price. That's because manufacturers don't want retailers advertising prices under their required MAP, or Minimum Advertised Price. (They can sell under MAP, but they can't "advertise" a price below MAP.) If a retailer violates MAP, the manufacturer may stop giving the retailer its products to sell.

The only way to eliminate this particular headache is for all of us to stop buying products from these manufacturers. And since the manufacturers include companies like Apple, Samsung, and hundreds of others, that's gonna be tough.
Please send this article link to every retailer that comes to mind ! The article is accurate and common sense and might influence retailers to do better. As a consumer, hidden shipping costs, hidden prices, sneaky practices, demands for personal information before it is necessary, etc., will cause me to walk away every time, leaving unpurchased items in the cart. It happens often in my shopping experience.
I have left online stores and never returned because of the practice of making you give up personal info (name,email address, street address, CC number) just to find out shipping costs. I will now only shop at online stores that when I have completed my selection of goods and supplied them with zip code my shipping costs are revealed.
I often add stuff to my cart just as a way to collect all the items I am considering in one place. If there was some kind of shopping list or wish list feature i wouldn't do that, but most sites don't have that so I just use the shopping cart as a place to put things I'm thinking about buying or want to compare with each other.
Some sites have required me to enter my credit card information before I can enter a coupon code. I want to know the final price before I enter personal information. It's annoying to have to sign-up or log-in before seeing the final price, but I have come to expect this. However they will not get my credit card until just before I finalize my order.
Best Buy and others often make you put an item in the cart before revealing the price. This is aggravating and leads to items left in the cart. I also hate it when they indicate "free" shipping but automatically mark a shipping option with a charge.
1, Shipping cost
2. "Handling" cost
3. State tax - PHONY! (fraud)
4. State tax (real)
5. Cumbersome check-out (log-in, registration, passwords and such)
6. Email address recognized and then demanding password; no way around it.
7. Coupon code box hard to find, non-existent, or available only after signing-in/registration
8. Coupon code never works (MERITLINE - ALWAYS!)
9. Rebate is mail-in.
10. Rebate is conditional on this-and-that (purchase of other items, quantity, etc).
11. Shipping cost is added to EACH item ordered, even if it comes from one location in one package/box.