It's a good subject to look into, because clearly it is a huge issue. One only has to think of how many times we have all abandoned carts ourselves to accept that it is an untapped opportunity. I'm not sure that it's more than three billion pounds worth of an opportunity, however. It may be appear so -- but is that the reality?
Think of the last couple of times you put something in a cart and then didn't convert. I will bet you that several times you have probably gone on to buy the same or a similar items from somewhere else -- possibly even that store -- and perhaps on a different device or in-store. This would still show up as an abandoned cart. I have recently put items in a cart only to have a last-minute check on Amazon Prime to see if the same goods are on offer at a better price or improved delivery options.
This always reveals an inconvenient truth for big brands. They rarely undercut themselves, but many sell direct to customers on their own site with inferior shipping arrangements. Why pay the same or more on their own website when you can pop to Amazon and have it delivered for free the next day, or failing that, for free a few days later?
While I suspect that Barclays may have overplayed the final figure to get the headlines, it is absolutely right to draw retailers' attention to their delivery terms as playing a role in abandoned carts. It's such a fundamental part of any ecommerce transaction, yet how often do you find a retailer will reveal delivery terms?
Some have delivery tabs on their site, so you can check when you can expect the goods and how much a courier will cost. Many more don't have this, forcing customers to put items in to a cart and proceed to see how much is then added in taxes and delivery charges.
To put it simply, many retailers are missing a trick by not being more upfront about delivery and the final cost of an item. The end result? They are confusing what amounts to a price enquiry with a sale they have lost.
Cross-channel is clearly another factor, as having an item you put in a basket on a laptop still there when you later log in through a mobile phone is a great way to make sure someone can carry on a purchase. But it's amazing how rare this is. As ever, Amazon leads the way here, but it's always a surprise to me how often I have to start afresh if I change device.
However, the effect on abandoned carts can be overplayed. Retail experts always talk about people getting interrupted making a purchase on one channel and then trying to carry on their customer journey while catching a train to work, only to be frustrated. Surely this must happen, but it probably doesn't make a huge dent in the three and a half billion pounds worth of good estimated to be sitting in abandoned carts.
To me, if retailers want to put a serious dent in abandoned carts, they can of course remind people via email or perhaps SMS if they have products waiting to be checked out. Perhaps even display retargeting might work, but I just find it creepy.
What they can really do is realise that a lot of carts are the equivalent of unpriced items in their stores being taken to a cash register to be scanned for a final price. Imagine if retailers considered all of these abandoned in-store carts -- its worth would be huge.
Be upfront about delivery costs, and offer flexibility on days and charges. If possible, work on ways of getting delivery included at no extra cost at the lowest basket value you can afford, but be upfront about it. That's my advice as a consumer who has left more than my fair share of abandoned carts in my ecommerce wake.