We’ve all done it. Maybe we were shopping online, and the phone rang, and we wandered off and forgot. Maybe we filled the cart up, then found a better deal elsewhere and moved on. Maybe we got to the checkout, realized paying would involve typing in a card number and resolved to do it later, then forgot.
Whatever the specific situation, when shopping online people abandon their carts an awful lot. While no human being in their right mind would walk into a physical store, fill a cart with goods, push it to the checkout stand and then simply wander off without finishing the transaction for fear of looking crazy, online there is no such stigma and with no one watching it’s pretty darn easy for consumers to abandon their carts.
And as the data demonstrates, this is not a small or intermittent issue in digital commerce — cart abandonment affects a staggering 75 percent of purchases globally and can cost merchants roughly $4 trillion annually. Many consumers point to shipping charges added at checkout, a lack of preferred payment options and too many checkout steps as reasons to abandon purchases, while one report noted that requiring too much information is the biggest issue that causes shoppers to ditch their carts. Mobile shoppers can be particularly prone to abandoning their purchases. The average cart abandonment rate for these consumers is almost 81 percent — significantly higher than it is for customers who are using laptops or desktop computers to check out.
Merchants obviously have $4 trillion worth of reasons to take on this problem directly — by streamlining their checkout process, limiting last-minute surprises and making it easier to finish off purchases with a simple click, instead of a complicated data entry section. Smoother, faster and with less friction is pretty much always the smart starting point for improving conversions.
But as online shoppers know, merchants often try to build in some extra incentives via the magic of a little additional pressure in the proceedings to help motivate customers along. Some of those messages are subtle, such as emails reminding a shopper they have items left in their cart — a fine tool for motivating an already motivated but forgetful customer, but one they are likely to miss, particularly if their email filter moves such reminders to a spam folder, which they often do.
Some of those reminders add a little additional pressure to the mix, noting that the item the consumer is holding in their cart is about to sell out in hopes of motivating a case of FOMO (fear of missing out) in the customer and putting them in a mindset to convert. The trouble, however, is that retailers have tried that trick so many times with items that were not really at any risk of selling out, that consumers have come to often regard that warning as an empty threat and ignore it. Among the troubles of offering infinite aisle capacity is that consumers start to know that selling out is really a fairly low risk in all but a handful of instances.
A slightly more efficient variation on this pressure tactic is starting to surface and make the rounds at retailers like Net-A-Porter: instead of saying the goods are going to sell out, they warn consumers that their cart will expire in three days.
And while like the prior method it trades on FOMO, it does so in a way that is a whole lot more honest and straightforward. As one PYMNTS staffer and self-proclaimed “serious shopper” said, “Serious shoppers know that some inventory is limited and they don’t want to risk losing stuff when it falls out of their cart.”
And even not-so-serious shoppers who are willing to take the risk of another buyer snapping up an item don’t want the hassle of having to reassemble the cart if they actually want the goods.
Will it turn every abandonment into a conversion? Doubtful, given how often digital shoppers build purely aspirational carts at high-end retailers for the day they hit the lottery. But for interested consumers who might get distracted from a purchase, this could be the motivation they need to get them moving a little bit faster.