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Abandoned Shopping Cart Rates Rise – And We’re Responsible

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I shop for everything online: clothes, jewelry, tires, travel, and furniture. I don’t just shop — I buy too! Recently, I was shopping for a mattress; mine is in need of replacing. I decided to buy online because the ones I have tried in the stores did not turn out all that great, whereas the last one I purchased online was much better and is still used in my guest bedroom. I looked around the website, added the product to the cart and began the checkout process. It was then that I saw the field that said enter discount code. I didn’t have one so I stopped my purchase and abandoned my shopping cart.

I have to be honest. I abandon my shopping cart often because I shop on my phone for clothes and jewelry more than I should. And I always get that reminder email to come back and get what’s in my shopping cart with a little added incentive like an extra savings. Or later on that night when I’m catching up with friends on Facebook, the shoes I just looked at are now stalking me.

I have officially been trained to wait for the incentive based email or the remarketed ad. Now as a consumer I’m doing what makes me crazy as a marketer – I am not converting! The truth is I want that mattress and if I don’t get a special offer code to come back or a special gift with purchase I will still buy it. But for now I’m waiting for them to give me that added incentive that makes me feel extra special and like I tricked the system. When I realized this the other night the marketer in me laughed out loud at this new digital game we have created – chase the conversion.

Customers are smart. We can’t afford to be foolish.

Media Post recently reported that the shopping cart abandonment rate on mobile devices is 78%. That’s more than 3 out of every 4 sales. Obviously, retailers don’t want to lose those sales. That’s why we’ve seen the development of automated abandoned shopping cart reminders; these email messages act as a last-ditch effort to close the sale. They work. The Baynard Institute has reported a 35% increase in conversion rates when improved checkout processes, including abandoned shopping cart reminders, are implemented. Most, if not all, abandoned shopping cart reminders include some kind of savings offer or an incentive like free shipping.

Shoppers have their own agenda. They want the things they want, but they also want to save money. The use of apps like RetailMeNot, BuyVia, and ShopSavvy has become mainstream shopping behavior; you don’t need to be particularly tech savvy or ahead of the curve to find deals online. For desktop shoppers the Honey extension for Chrome makes finding discount codes during checkout a breeze.

Today’s savvy shoppers observe the deployment of things like retargeter ads. They know they’re being observed on their online shopping excursions, and they have learned that their interest has value. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that letting purchases linger in a shopping cart for a while will result in eventual savings. If instant gratification isn’t the shopper’s top priority, there’s nothing lost and everything to gain by waiting to see what offers will manifest. The question of who is leading who through the sales funnel at this point is a very real one: delaying purchases is a negotiating tool we’ve put in the customer’s hands through the widespread use of shopping card abandonment reminders. A digital game of chase, but who’s chasing whom?

How do we change this learned behavior?

Now we have to talk about what we can do about it. Widespread discounting was already a concern for many retail sectors; Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other shopping events have normalized significant discounts of 50% off and more. Normalizing discounts in response to other shopping behaviors reduces the value of any one savings opportunity: do you get a flicker of interest when you tell a customer they can save 5%? Discounts of less than 20% are often seen as being too trivial to bother with, even on high ticket items. Is it too late to reverse this trend? Are there other ways to incentivize customers to purchase the items they said they want, or do we need to accept that at least every other item that makes it into a customer’s shopping cart may never sell at all?

As technology tools grow and change and online sales continue to grow what new behavior should we begin focusing on? I would love to hear your thoughts. We need real, wide spread ideas on this issue, especially on behalf of those small and independent retailers who bear the cost of discounts disproportionately. Weigh in. Together, we may be able to figure out how to change the rules of the game.

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