Online Shopping Cart Abandonment

I’m guilty.

Cruising Amazon, I suddenly decide maybe I do want the entire Mariah Carey discography. I Google the titles, drop them in the cart, and then come back to my senses. How many hours of high-octave pop can one person really ingest? With the standard up-tempo chart-topping singles and the impassioned ballads, my ears will surely be bleeding.

Go ahead, load it up. Add it to the shopping cart. But somewhere between the millions of clicks that get me through all thirteen product pages and the final hurrah at checkout, I say no. I opt out. I decline. I will delete the entire cart, or I’ll run from the site completely – leaving the items there with the same guilt that comes from ditching a loaf of bread in the office supplies aisle. I do this with reasonable purchases too, like when I hover over a single non-stick pan I’ve been eyeing for months. Something happens with eCommerce that makes me stop, retreat, surrender – I’ll get to it later.

It’s hard for eCommerce to capitalize on the same impulse shopping that can occur at the bricks and mortar. The humiliation of leaving a full cart with the dead-eyed cashier is enough to make me go ahead and ring it up. I’ve often said to myself, “Whatever. I can just return it later.”

This isn’t a new dilemma. Since the rapid rise of online shopping, eCommerce merchants have needed to chisel away at the disparaging statistics: As of July 3, 2013, 67.75% is the “average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate,” broken down by Baymard.

But the Baymard stats in 2012 were at 65.23%. They’ve actually risen. Contrary to these findings, the eCommerce industry itself is actually booming. It’s expected to grow 13% this year in the US, according to Forrester, which means it will reach a whopping estimated $262 billion.

People are buying, but they aren’t buying as much as they initially want to buy. So what really makes us ditch the cart?

It could be a new version of “playing shop.” When I was little, my neighborhood friends and I would sometimes gather together and compile our now-forlorn children’s items. We would pretend to ring each other up and count back money, exercising our newfound knowledge of numbers and imagining that we were able to buy anything we wanted. Granted, this usually consisted of what we actually had on hand: screen-printed t-shirts of the 101 Dalmatians, discarded plastic pizzas from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Pizza Thrower, fruit-scented mechanical pencils.

But the sentiment was that of wonder and escape. We didn’t really have any money, nor did we really owe it. We could pretend we were engaged in a fiscal arrangement, but eventually everyone just got their stuff back.

The online shopping cart is somewhat just as mystical. Suddenly granted access to countless items of your every whim and fancy, there’s a sense of play that emerges with each click and drag. The bubble and fizz that comes from ownership, even if it is imagined, is something that we are perhaps addicted to. Part of our condition is desire. And part of desire is ownership, capture, claim. The whole thing tangles up, and you’ve got your 67.75% abandonment rate. We want to want it, we want to claim it as our own, but if we can do this without actually engaging in the unpleasant part – paying for it – I think most of us sign on.

So what’s a merchant to do? I consider what makes me actually get through checkout.

Sometimes it’s pure necessity mixed with options –  I need Asics Gel Kayano 19s and I’m not going to drag my human body into Sports Authority to stare at the wall that only has four of the seven available colors, none of which are likely to be in my infantile foot size that can fit into light-up Spiderman sandals.

Most often, there are offers or deals that I actually believe aren’t going to be available to me if I don’t purchase online, right now. Web-only exclusives or email discounts for VIPs actually rack up the savings. Free shipping with 20% off on already-discounted sales items means commitment from cart to checkout. In fact, another study finds that 47% of online customers only make a purchase if there is a promotion. 36% only do it if there’s free shipping.

These are realistic choices that merchants can make. The Daily Egg covered the issue in a 2012 article, “9 Ways to Decrease Shopping Cart Abandonment On your eCommerce Website.” Free shipping, transparent fees, and helpful reminders were among the recommendations. Additionally, offering express checkouts with plenty of payment options and not bugging customers with account sign-ups pre-purchase were also suggested. All are concrete options that can turn reluctance into revenue.

But as long as we stay addicted to fantasy, the eCommerce industry is likely to have an issue with cart abandonment.

It’s okay. Abandonment isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Conversion Academy study showed 75% of visitors that abandon a cart will return to either buy or abandon again. Even better, 48% of serial abandoners actually will buy. They are actually 2.6 times more likely to do so.

Good news for Amazon, I suppose. Bad news for my eardrums. Fortunately, I’m more likely to go back and buy something reasonable instead of the sprawling twenty-two disc caboodle.

Here I come, non-stick pan.

Photo credit: r. nial bradshaw

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