Rethinking Online Shopping Cart Abandonment


Online shopping cart abandonment.

It’s the thorn in the side of online retailers. In fact, a thorn with a hefty price tag. I read recently that almost $US4 trillion worth of merchandise was estimated to be abandoned in online shopping carts in 2014 in the US alone, (BI Intelligence estimates). $US4 trillion. That is a LOT of abandoned carts. In fact 7 out of 10 shopping carts abandoned, (

Right now I’m one of those abandoners.I have a favourite online store (US based) and two weeks ago I spent an hour at night happily tossing things into that virtual trolley. Something for me, a little bit of that for the kids. But somehow,  I just haven’t got around to the completing that purchase.  To handing over my hard earned cash. I’ve thought about it, but every time I do I go “I’ll do it tomorrow”.

Top Reasons for online shopping cart abandonment

BI Intelligence compiled a June 2014 study and found that the three top reasons for people abandoning online shopping carts were.

1. Shipping costs
2. Undertaking shopping comparison
3. “I was not ready to purchase, wanted to save the cart until later”.

Viewing online shopping carts differently

Kukar-Kinney et al. (2010) in their study looking at the determinants of consumer online shopping cart abandonment published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science,  found that rather than retailers viewing online shopping carts as a “bad thing” implying lost sales and / or dissatisfaction with the product, price or the online shopping experiences, online shoppers were using their cart as a place to “to store or hold…their desired items”. Call it a visual shopping list of sorts.

Their research indicated that rather than retailers looking forlornly at the ‘lost sale’ what they should do is look at how the customers is using their cart, how they are organising it to store the items they desire and then use this information to target “alternative or complementary products” to this customer.

They also suggest that some shoppers will use the online cart and placing things in it as a way to alleviate boredom and to satisfy shopping thrills without actually handing over their cash. Targeting these customers can mean offering incentives to complete the purchase and  setting the shopping cart for 60 days so that when the customers logins in to the site again their good are still there in the cart – waiting.

Kukar-Kinney et al. go onto say that online shopping carts have been created to mirror real world carts but this analogy might not be always helping retailers. The fact is real world carts are functional (somewhere to hold your products until you get to the checkout) whereas online shopping cart by virtue of their virtual nature can be used for more “hedonistic”, visual arrangement and organisational purposes. As such if you are looking at online shopping cart abandonment you need to consider online consumer psychology and drivers.That  and the fact that online shopping cart abandonment is not always  necessarily a bad thing.

So, thinking of my online cart. Why have I abandoned it? Two key reasons spring to mind:

1. The shipping costs. As I have to pay for shipping, I keep waiting to see if I need to purchase more items (it is coming up to Christmas) before I press that submit button.  [A 2011 comScore study found that 36% of consumers will not buy unless free shipping is offered.  And women are even more susceptible to shipping and handling costs].
2. I”ve forgotten what I put in the cart and have received no follow up emails or incentives from the company encouraging me to return and complete the purchase. [ in their research found that remarketing to consumers who abandon carts has a dramatic impact on them  returning to buy, especially during the first few  critical hours following abandonment.]

What’s your companies strategy for dealing with online shopping cart abandonment?  Would love to hear.