September 12, 2006
Blog Entry

Study Data: Absolutely Pitiful Ecommerce Shopping Cart Abandonment Stats -- 4 Ways to Improve Yours

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, President

I was completely unprepared to hear the horrible truth. We've interviewed dozens of top ecommerce marketers over the years for Sherpa Case Studies, and when we asked them, 'What's your cart abandonment rate?" nearly all told us "around 20-30%."

When we surveyed 1,100 ecommerce marketers this year, I naively expected the data to match up. It didn't. It really, really didn't match at all.

Turns out the average cart abandon rate was 59.8%. (Lesson learned -- never rely on anecdotal data as your primary source for important numbers.) This measurement was the total number of shoppers who actually purchased divided by far larger number of those who put something into their cart.

Why do nearly 60% of online shoppers abandon their carts at some point in the process?

As I've mentioned in a past column,, our research indicates the problem may not be the design of your shopping cart -- in the distant past consumers couldn't figure out how to check out or got tangled on the way. Nowadays, most consumers are very well trained in the steps of using an online shopping cart.

Instead, the problem is nearly entirely marketing related in nature. This should be good news because that means marketing can work to fix things without having to overly involve the technical department or invest in heaps of new programming.

According to our consumer research as well as Case Studies, you should be running the following four tests to see if you can reduce abandons:

Test #1. Promote return/exchange policies

Try placing a hotlinked bit of copy that reads something like "Returns Are Easy" in your cart. The place I would most recommend would be immediately next to the button shoppers click to confirm the order. You'll make that nail-biting moment of final decision a bit easier.

Test #2. Post reassuring security icon(s)

I have to be honest at this point, even though some security vendors may hate me for it. Every single time I've asked marketers if adding a security-related icon to their site helped conversions, they've said yes. However, I haven't seen any significant evidence that one particular icon works better than another. In fact, I strongly suspect the thing to test is not so much which icon but rather how many of them (do multiple work better than singular or is it protesting a bit too loudly about safety?) and the placement of them.

The cleverest test I ever heard of was a lesser-known merchant who placed the Better Business Bureau icon on the button that shoppers clicked to begin the checkout process. On that particular site, it helped sales. I'm not saying this would work for anyone else, just that it’s worth a test!

Test #3. Include privacy and trust language next to fields asking for personal data

We've been hammering on this for years, and it drives me nuts to see how many merchants still completely ignore it. Yes, there's data showing it works. Yes, it's stunningly easy to do … probably about 10 seconds of programming. I have no idea why this is overlooked -- perhaps it's too easy?

All you do is include a briefly worded hotlink such as “We Value Your Privacy” directly next to the form field where shoppers are asked to enter their email addresses.

Test #4. Remind them of their abandoned cart

Some merchants have tested running exit pops for everyone who abandons a cart … usually featuring an extra added discount. However, pops are vastly blocked these days, so you may as well test one, but don't expect much.

The next best thing is to send an email to those abandons -- but don't make it overtly salesly. Instead, make it appear to be a routine transactional email. That's not a lie, because it is after all a transaction they were in the middle of conducting when they left your site. You can simply -- and possibly in text-only -- note that the items are waiting in their cart for them.

Then, a few days later, you can send a second note alerting them the cart is about to expire, so you're contacting them for their convenience so they can check out before it's too late.

Other merchants have tested a "why didn't you buy? or "what did we do wrong?" survey with great success. Partly the information is useful, but also the appearance of the survey in emails often by itself serves as a prod to complete the transaction. Either way you win.

Whatever tests you decide to run to increase cart stickiness, do them soon. Holiday season is a heartbeat away. In the meantime, see link below for more data from this study to help improve your site's fourth-quarter performance.

-- For a copy of MarketingSherpa's Ecommerce Benchmark Guide 2006 featuring 311 charts and 23 eyetracking heatmaps, go to:

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