Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate Set to Rise in 2012

By Charles Nicholls | 24 Jan 2012

How can it be that shopping cart abandonment is still on the rise when many online stores have adopted sleeker processes to specifically avoid this? Charles Nicholls discovers why.

During the past 12 months shopping cart abandonment rate continued to rise, reaching a new all-time high of 72% by the end of 2011. So why, despite a focus on conversion optimisation by many e-commerce sites, is this still happening?

Everything is more exaggerated over the holiday period: Retailers offer a dazzling array of new products, coupled with equally dazzling promotions, while trying to manage the constant problem of out-of-stocks. And customers make an abnormal number of purchases in a very short period and abandon shopping carts in droves as they search for the best deals.

The 2011 holiday season was no exception. It was a bumper year again for e-commerce, with more than $37 billion in online spending in November-December, up 15% from 2010, according to comScore. And more than half of all online orders over the period offered free shipping. While the volume was up, the average order value was down, reflecting widespread promotional offers.

Studying the shopping cart abandonment rate reveals interesting patterns in the run up to the holiday season.

As in previous years, many customers anticipated promotional offers and deferred purchases, causing the abandonment rate to shoot up, averaging 85% in the weeks running up to Cyber Monday.

Compare this with the average for 2011 of 72%, up slightly over 2010. The highest abandonment day of 2011 was at 89.2% on November 23, the Wednesday before Black Friday.

Shopping Cart Abandonment Rates 2011

Discount Seeking Behavior

An E-tailing Group study conducted at the end of 2011 found that 47% of online buyers would only buy discounted products, except under exceptional circumstances. The same study showed that 73% of consumers rated unconditional free shipping as a critical feature when making an online purchase.

From this, we can conclude that customers are demonstrating ‘deal seeking’ behavior. Given a difficult economic outlook in 2012, it seems likely this will continue.

Abandonment Rates Keep Rising

Online marketers have not stood still – checkout processes have been simplified, security seals added, more payment methods, and a host of other conversion rate optimisation tweaks. Yet despite these significant improvements in conversion techniques, shopping cart abandonment rates continue to climb – and examining the different characteristics of abandoners and those that have never abandoned a shopping cart can help explain why.

In a consumer survey published at the beginning of last year, Forrester Research showed that 89% of online shoppers have abandoned their shopping carts. Abandoners have more experience online, make more purchases, and spend more time on the internet than those that have never abandoned a shopping cart.

One thing is clear: Customers are becoming increasingly savvy, aware of simple techniques to seek out the best deal and of TV-advertised price comparison websites.  Consequently, shoppers are looking online for information to make more informed choices, especially around price.


3 thoughts on “Shopping Cart Abandonment Rate Set to Rise in 2012”

  1. Mark says:

    On what do you base “despite a focus on conversion optimisation by many e-commerce sites”? Most AU stores do little to no conversion optimisation in my experience.

  2. Tom says:

    Imagine you’re shopping for the best deal. You’ll do your research online and find the cheapest price. You then go to a local store where you can see, touch and feel the product/s. You’ve printed out your abandoned shopping cart and so can show it to the retailer. Do you think he’ll match the deal if he can?

    We’re accustomed to customers researching in store and then going online to buy it cheaper. How about this new twist?

  3. Chaslie says:

    @TOM, that’s exactly what I did. Found the Washine Machine online I wanted, then did a seach for Retailers selling that brand online and noted pricing comparisons, Found an online Retailer in Sydney with the best price/delivery package. Then called my local store in South West Victoria, asked could they match the price, they put me on hold for 30 seconds then returned to the phone and said ‘Yes’.

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