Get It Right: Cart Utilization Is Not Cart Abandonment

  |  July 29, 2014   |  Comments

Many consumers use the shopping cart to help them move their purchase process from one device to another. Don't treat this as shopping cart abandonment - it's shopping cart utilization.

Many marketers still follow the outdated philosophy that consumers add a few items into the cart and then freak the hell out. There's a belief that things such as total order costs, shipping fees, shipping duration, or overall indecision cause the consumer to "abandon" the cart and run for the hills like nothing ever happened. I see so many cart reminder emails built with a tone of "Stop! Come back! Please!!!" These strategies, which I have been guilty of using, sound like we are all going into battle ("Combating Shopping Cart Abandonment!") or that we are all in emotional distress ("Overcoming Shopping Cart Abandonment").

It's time to change that perspective. Need proof? A Google study reported that 84 percent of consumers will start shopping on one device and finish on another. And guess how a great deal of them are transitioning between devices? By parking items in their shopping cart! In a recent survey, we asked consumers about shopping cart usage and expectations and 40 percent told us that they always or occasionally view their cart on a different device. Thirty-six percent always or occasionally view their cart while they are in a store. This is not shopping cart abandonment. This is shopping cart utilization.

Consumers aren't scramming out of the cart because of sticker shock; they are throwing items in a cart while they are at work and then using the cart as a touchstone to pick back up when they're sofa-surfing on their tablets. The cart is revisited to connect the shopper to where they left off, not where they fled in panic.

There is no need for "combating" or "overcoming" this type of behavior. Marketers have an opportunity to connect into this consumer behavior and facilitate the experience rather than trying to instill fear that the cart will expire or to impact sales by providing a discount to complete the order. Wish list features have tried to make this connection but, from my experience, adoption rates are low. We asked consumers about wish lists and found that more than 35 percent of women and 29 percent of men would not use wish lists to store items to view later. I do believe a wish list can be effective, benefiting the consumer's shopping experience while giving marketers a way to distinguish between "wishing" for an item versus adding an item to the shopping cart. The problem is that consumers are already using carts as wish lists and marketers have not done a great job establishing a value proposition for them to change this behavior.

So, here's an easy question: Do consumers shop, check out, and buy differently during the holidays? I'm sure your answer is "Yes." There's no doubt that consumers go wild during the final months of the year.

Next question: Do you plan to modify your shopping cart reminder emails during the holidays? If you are like 20 percent of retailers in Bronto's report, "Loading the Sleigh: Marketers' Plans & Expectations for the Holiday Season," then your answer is "No, I will not change my shopping cart reminder emails during the holidays."

Ugh! Why are shopping cart reminder emails, which pack so much revenue potential and enhance customers' shopping experiences, overlooked during the holidays? This keeps me up at night.

Cart utilization will only increase as shoppers seek out the best holiday deals online and in stores. Purchase consideration for buying a gift requires more thought and research than buying for oneself. It's time to revisit your shopping cart reminder emails (don't call them "shopping cart abandonment" emails!) to see how you can more effectively speak to consumers who are clearly utilizing your shopping cart and not leaving with no plans to come back.

Include product ratings, links to reviews, additional product images, and product descriptions rather than focusing on urgency to revisit the cart. Ensure that links click through to mobile-friendly product pages where consumers who are on-the-go can easily complete their order when ready. Who hasn't made a purchase on a smartphone or tablet right before going to sleep? Include information about gift-wrapping services, return policies, and alternate gifting links such as gift guides, shop by price, or shop by recipient. Provide an easily recognizable, consistent experience for new shoppers by updating the emails design to match any holiday-centric themes.

While consumers have clearly integrated shopping cart utilization into the shopping process, there will still be consumers who truly abandon. Refocusing your shopping cart reminder theme to fit a utilization philosophy will not discourage those consumers from revisiting your site - especially if they have truly abandoned because they do not want to make the purchase. Engaging with the frenzied holiday shopper who is taking advantage of your cart to save items will only help keep the shopping momentum alive and help boost your sales.

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Jim Davidson

As an expert in email, mobile, and social strategies, Jim brings 15 years of experience in online marketing, managing email and cross-channel programs for top retail clients. From strategic vision to implementation, Jim has led clients to successfully meet aggressive revenue and performance goals. As Bronto's head of research, he regularly publishes industry-focused white papers, research reports, and contributes to the Bronto Blog.

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