Abandoned Carts Remain A Problem For Online Retailers

The latest issue of DoubleClick's quarterly E-Commerce Site Trend Report shows that while tools like on-site search are prompting consumers to buy more often and spend more per purchase, cart abandonment is still the industry's number one issue.

"Companies must understand where they are losing customers," said Eric Kirby, DoubleClick vice president of strategic services, who emphasized that 57 percent of all carts opened were later abandoned in the second quarter. Kirby said an overabundance of pages leading up to checkout and widespread comparison shopping are among the contributing factors in cart abandonment.

The Second Quarter DoubleClick report showed that Web site visitors are viewing 12 percent more pages per session than last year's Q2, but session length remained flat, indicating an increase in comparison shopping. Carting frequency increased 1 percent from 8.3 to 9.4 percent, but the number of abandoned carts increased 24 percent year-over-year, from 45.9 percent to 57 percent. Consumers are also less likely to return to their abandoned carts to complete a purchase, according to the report.

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Kirby added that retailers who lose customers due to abandonment should "proactively reach out to those consumers," by tracking them and possibly offering e-mail discounts, for example. "They are in the market to buy, [giving marketers] the opportunity to stay in front of that customer."

Iggy Fanlo, chief revenue officer for the Web's largest comparison shopping site, Shopping.com, said that most carts are abandoned because of added tax and shipping costs, which are usually only factored into the price of a product once a user makes a decision to buy. Shopping.com encourages its merchants to give these prices upfront; he notes that Web retailer Amazon.com's free shipping is "a huge, huge [sales] driver" for them.

With respect to surplus pages, Fanlo stated that "ninety-nine percent of the time, more is less--the more pages you make customers go through, the less conversions you'll get." He added that "one-click shopping is the single greatest app of Amazon.com."

Speaking of surplus pages, a recent MarketingSherpa search marketing report showed that most marketers (58 percent) don't send paid search click-throughs to specialized landing pages. Instead, these marketers redirect their potential customers to home pages or other pre-checkout pages, a fact that MarketingSherpa Editor Anne Holland said "leaves a lot of money on the table," because marketers are sending customers to pages that don't convert well.

Shopping.com's Fanlo agrees, but added that conversion rate differentials depend a lot on category. He said it might be more pressing for a DVD retailer to send a potential customer to a checkout page, than an online flower seller, for example.

Despite the increases in cart abandonment, shoppers in general have become more likely to buy, and their spending per purchase has increased overall. Year-over-year conversion rates increased 14 percent, with 4.9 percent of all visits resulting in a conversion. The average revenue per visit also grew a very healthy 25 percent, while the average order grew 15 percent from Q2 2003 to $134.01

The report also noted that on-site search has become a big sales driver since 2003's second quarter. On-site search functionality increased 26 percent year-over-year, while the percent of sales from search increased 17 percent to 8.4 percent of all purchases. DoubleClick's Kirby said that online retailers need to constantly evaluate the performance of on-site search. He said retailers need to ask themselves: "Am I driving a similar amount of purchases relative to the traffic using that feature?" The answer to this question, he said, should never be 'No.'

Data for the E-Commerce Site Trend Report is collected from hundreds of millions of unique visitors, tens of millions of online shopping carts, and over $1 billion in total e-commerce sales. DoubleClick began collecting and compiling this data in the second quarter of 2003.

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