In this article I review some choice statistics about shopping cart abandonment rates from a talk by Anne Holland of MakretingSherpa, Etail Speech Take II: Three Ways to Lower Shopping Cart Abandons Based on MarketingSherpa Research.
Anne's talk is data from the Ecommerce Benchmark Survey, January 2007 – a survey with 1,923 respondents. Across all those respondents, average shopping cart abandonment rates were 52.1% in 2006 (i.e. 52.1% of customers who entered the shopping cart system never made it to the checkout). This was an improvement on 59.8% in 2005. As usual, the average of these things is not much of a benchmark in itself - the results for 2006 fell into a normal curve where the high end of the normal range was 80% abandoned carts and the low end was 12.5%. This presumably reflects the fact that we are not always in the industry of "businesses who sell things using the Internet" - sometimes we are, but there are a lot of concerns specific to a particular sector: buying a car or a computer from a website may not be the same thing as buying a book or CD. To give a practical example, if you are concerned with a site that has a 50% abandonment rate, you don't necessarily know whether you are doing well against your competitors with their 80% rate, or are a real slouch against their 12% rate.
The survey respondents were asked what new improvements they were trying and what worked best. A top tactic for big sites was to introduce a "bill me later" feature - 17% of big ecommerce sites had done this in 2006. MarketingSherpa have a case study with Newegg which in various "bill me later" features were taken up by 10% of customers. But these customers were the big spenders, with much bigger shopping carts than average.
The next way to improve was (once again, as in the 2006 report) by testing the shopping cart. Once again, this was the thing that most respondents reported as being most effective to get a return on ROI. Apparently small or subtle changes, such as changes to the text on buttons could turn out to be important. Coming second and third (again as in 2005) were improving internal search, and improving site copy. So these look like good areas to review in a shopping cart improvement project.
Tactic number 3 was to send email(s) to customers who had abandoned carts (of course you can only do this if you have their email addresses and the relevant permission to use it). 73% of respondents said this was an effective improvement. A case study with Limoges Jewelry showed that the technique could be effective even if the emails were a simple generic one (rather than a customized text): Limoges found this got a 28.77% conversion (though this was only reached after a few months)