KEY POINTS: 

  • Shopping cart abandonment — when shoppers put items in their online shopping carts, but then leave a website or app before completing the purchase — is the bane of the online retail industry. But it's also a huge opportunity: Approximately $4 trillion worth of merchandise will be abandoned in online shopping carts this year, and about 63% of that is potentially recoverable by savvy online retailers, according to BI Intelligence estimates. 
  • Shopping cart abandonment is increasing, and will continue to do so as more consumers shift to online and mobile shopping. In 2013, as many as 74% of online shopping carts were abandoned by shoppers, according to data shared with us by e-commerce data company, Barilliance. That abandonment rate is up from 72% in 2012, and 69% in 2011.
  • An abandoned shopping cart does not automatically translate to a "lost sale," since three-fourths of shoppers who have abandoned shopping carts say they plan to return to the retailer's website or store to make a purchase, according to conversion experts at SeeWhy. Online-only retailers are at a disadvantage compared to "omnichannel" retailers in this respect, because they have fewer channels through which to recover lost sales. 
  • Retailers can reduce the rate of abandonment and increase conversions by streamlining the checkout process and also by retargeting shoppers with emails after they've left a website. We list some easy, quick fixes and features that can help bring back consumers. Shoppers want a convenient and forthright checkout experience — no surprise costs or unnecessary forms. 
  • E-commerce solutions provider Listrak, which works with well-known retailers including Sony and Adidas, has had success retargeting abandoned shoppers with emails after they left a store's website. Initial emails, sent three hours after a consumer abandons a cart, average a 40% open rate and a 20% click-through rate, which is high for marketing emails. 
  • More broadly, an abandoned shopping cart should be seen as part of the increasingly complex series of steps a consumer might take before finally making a purchase, and a strong indicator of consumer interest in a product or a brand. Technology that helps retailers collect and leverage online shopping cart data is likely to be a worthwhile [...]