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Most marketers know the frustration that an abandoned e-commerce cart brings. A potential customer visits the site, browses, and maybe even reads some blog posts. Then they add various items to their cart. The optics look promising — until, well, they don’t. Despite these products patiently waiting in the cart, the customer disappears, never to be seen again. 

Some estimates place shopping cart abandonment by users as high as 80%. It’s a shockingly high number that is especially painful to see, let alone experience. Customers who add items to their carts are so close to converting. 

What do shopping cart abandoners have in common, and more importantly, what can brands do to stop leaking conversions? These are some of the questions we’re diving into for August’s “Chart of the Month,” a new series where we take an in-depth look at an interesting finding dug up by AdRoll’s analytics and insights team.

The Runaway Customer

What do shopping cart abandoners and runaway brides have in common? Both were engaged until they weren’t. Data consistently shows that shoppers who place items in carts are more engaged with brands than shoppers who don’t — after all, they’ve already gone through the steps to find a brand they like, browse its products, and pick items they’re interested in. For marketers, leading customers through that process accounts for a majority of the work.

Problems typically begin once a potential customer reviews their cart. Many reasons customers abandon carts can be traced back to the cart itself — from unexpected shipping costs to lack of express shipping to bulky account setup requirements. Customers are fickle, and sometimes even the smallest of problems can be enough to spook them into taking their business elsewhere. Luckily, various services and tools were born to deal with the most pressing issues that lead to cart abandonment.

However, it’s important to note that not all abandoned carts are the result of technical issues. Carts are sometimes left behind because customers change their minds or are early in their buying journey and simply researching products without an intention to buy. Other times, customers find better deals elsewhere. Every once in awhile, a customer may forgo their cart because they ultimately decide they didn’t trust the website they initially found. All the best shopping cart designs and plugins won’t matter if one of these scenarios happens.

Priming the Pump

Customers are known to make purchasing decisions in a predictable fashion, following a series of largely similar steps. Occasionally, and more often than many sales engineers and e-commerce managers believe, customers take a shortcut and put the (item in the) cart before the horse. This is another large group of cart abandoners — they aren’t quite ready to buy, but they use the shopping cart as a placeholder or bookmark for items they want.

For years, marketers have assumed that this group is in the minority and that most abandoners do so purely for technical reasons. The chart of the month for August throws a bit of a curveball at this assumption.

Add-to-Cart Users Who Are Influenced by AdRoll Are 23% More Likely to Convert Than Uninfluenced Add-to-Cart Users

Contrary to traditional marketing wisdom, it seems that a much bigger pool of cart abandoners can be roped back in. These lost shoppers can be convinced to convert if they’re properly guided before getting to the cart. 

Case in point: our data shows that AdRoll-influenced add-to-cart users (users who have added a product to their shopping cart) are more likely to convert than uninfluenced add-to-cart users.

This makes sense on an intuitive level: If users abandon shopping carts because they weren’t quite ready to make a purchase, a higher level of influence and convincing marketing earlier on might speed up their movement along their customer journey.

But that’s only part of the story. The other part is influence can be exerted even after a cart is initially abandoned, convincing the abandoner to return and finish their transaction. There has been a lot of work done in this sector with email, but retargeted ads imploring consumers to finish their purchases are also incredibly effective. Maintaining a presence in consumers’ shopping after an abandonment is critical to turning abandoners into buyers. 

Charting the Future

No marketer wants to see a possible customer slip away at the last moment. It’s a disappointment matched by little else short of a fisherman feeling a line snap right before they reel a big one into the boat. But what August’s chart of the month shows is that this doesn’t have to happen — at least not as often.

It’s impossible to get cart abandonment down to 0% as there will always be customers who use their e-commerce shopping carts as a bookmark service for products they’re interested in but not ready to buy. There will also always be shoppers who find a better price at the last minute. There will always be shoppers who just decide they don’t like a brand’s website or are otherwise unhappy with some aspect of the checkout process. However, our chart shows a significant number of abandoners can be convinced to turn into real transactions, even if the process for doing so is a little less of a straight line than commonly thought. 

Using the right tools at the right time to influence customers towards a brand’s product can make a huge difference: a 23% difference in abandon cart conversions for AdRoll influenced customers, to be precise. To harness that power, marketers need to do a better job of understanding the customer journey. 

Marketers need to understand the shortcuts users sometimes take along their customer journey. That understanding can, in turn, guide brands in figuring out how to get those potential customers on the right path, and that can add up to big gains in revenue. Recapturing cart abandoners doesn’t just scratch a very satisfying marketing itch — it’s free money just waiting to be collected.

Maria Tateno
Author

Maria Tateno is a Client Insights Analyst at AdRoll.