Retailers are likely to see higher than average basket/cart abandonment rates this Christmas, thanks to the volume of traffic. But what can be done about it?

This article by Linda Bustos from the Get Elastic blog has a couple of useful tips. I've summarised them here, and added a few myself...

As several surveys have shown, the reasons for shopping basket abandonment are varied, and not all can be controlled, but retailers can do what they can do deal with the rest.

Linda suggests that, since many customers are simply comparison shopping, and will fill baskets with a mind to possibly returning later, so e-commerce sites need to facilitate this customer behaviour.

Supporting these shoppers by extending cookies to 30 days so that customers who return to the site after a week or two will find the contents still there, and this will give you a better chance of converting them.

Linda also suggests tracking days to purchase and visits to purchase via analytics, in order to learn from and adapt to patterns of customer behaviour.

Here are a few other tips to reduce basket abandonment:

  • Avoid any last minute surprises. Delivery charges and options should be made clear on product pages and elsewhere on the site so customers are aware of this before adding items to their basket.

  • Offer alternative payment methods. Some surveys have shown that customers have ditched baskets as the payment method they want was not on offer. Offering options like PayPal, Google Checkout and even cash will cover as many bases as possible.
  • Add a contact number. If a customer has just added an item to their basket, they may have one or two questions they need answering before they commit themselves. A prominent contact number or live chat option will allow them to quickly contact customer services with any queries, and may help to complete the sale.

  • Allow for easy comparison shopping. If shoppers want to add items to baskets then return later, then, as well as longer cookies, providing save basket options or to create wishlists without a lengthy registration process is another way to do it.
  • Provide all the information on the basket page. Providing an excellent shopping basket page which answers customers' questions about charges, returns policies etc, and reassures them about server security will do a lot to reduce abandonment. New Look's basket page is a good example of how to do it.

  • Offer multichannel alternatives. A recent PayPal abandonment study found that 26% wanted to shop offline, and were probably just researching online first. Retailers with an offline presence can make the most of this customer behaviour by offering collect in store services, pointing them towards their local store, and allowing customers to check inventory levels to save wasted journeys.
  • Email customers to entice them back. Provided you have the customer's email address, then following up abandoned baskets with an email to tempt them back to the site is one possible tactic. especially if you have a discount or some other incentive to offer. Retailers should be careful about the wording and timing of the message though, as some customers may find this tactic intrusive.
Graham Charlton

Published 30 November, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (6)

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Phil Oakley

I find 0845 numbers a deterrent when I'm shopping online, and already have items in mind/in cart. If I'm on the site I find it incredibly frustrating to ring through an automated phone system and practically restart my purchase as the the sales agent doesn't have an understanding of my needs. This is where I agree that Live Help, chat and call, are useful for retailers. The agent can see what I'm looking at and understand what I want, why I need help - it's a better service ultimately and I'm more likely to buy.

I love the extend cookies idea, as I would probably end up buying more if I return to a site and i've already got items in my cart. Simple but clever.

As for click and collect more retailers need to take a leaf out of Argos' book. I buy more from them than any other homeware retailer, even though I have a Focus, B&Q, and Currys closer to my home. I'm tight and I don't like paying for shipping when the store is two miles away; I'm also lazy in that I don't want to go to a store and my item not be there. Argos panders to my tightfisted laziness and because of that I'm a frequent shopper.

over 8 years ago

Mark Patron

Mark Patron, Consultant and non-exec director at Patron Direct LtdEnterprise

Hi Graham,

Thank you for the very timely tips. I'd also refer people to the excellent and easy to read book "Don't make me think!" by Steve Krug and the almost as good Econsultancy/RedEye Conversion Report.

Thanks for the article


over 8 years ago



A useful summary, thank you. Regarding "Email customers to entice them back", having their email address isn't sufficient, you need to have their permission too.

over 8 years ago


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

watch out if extending your cookie duration - check that your technology can handle an increase in baskets being saved: double cookie time wil double the number of baskets to keep state on - which may take your website technology over a knee in it's capacity, and suddenly you've got 5% error rates or worse each evening.

If you haven't already got 24/7 monitoring in place of all the important retail Journeys...then peak shopping season is not a good time to be playing with settings...

It MAY look fine at 3pm in the office, but at 7:30 pm that evening when traffic is high... may be a different story!

If I could drop a picture into this forum...I could show you some journeys that are struggling pretty badly over a few recent evenings...

By important multiple User Journeys  -I'm thinking of these classic etailer ones that are definitely worth web monitoring:

Add to basket - via search
Add to Basket  -via navigate
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over 8 years ago


Martin Leeney

Another factor is trust. It's simply not enough to have a shop on line anymore. Most site owners pay no attention to detail when it comes to making their web site look trustworthy. After conducting research one of the questions people ask themselves just before they put their card details into a form is "do I trust this site to deliver" and for many the answer is "No".

The Tips in this thread really highlight the need for a careful approach.

over 8 years ago

Stuart Wilson

Stuart Wilson, Sales Director at Advanced Labelling Ltd

It's worth making your Christmas delivery cutoff dates prominent too; especially for first time customers.

over 8 years ago

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