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Abandoned Shopping Carts

Indeed, the problem of customers who choose not to buy is part of the challenge of “abandoned shopping carts.” Many sites (and analysts of various kinds) count the percentage of completed orders and get very concerned if too many shopping carts are used without completing a purchase. From time to time, it's even common to see industry publications wringing their hands over the question of why consumers are abandoning their shopping carts. On the surface, this seems to be a reasonable metric that merits considerable attention. The problem is that many factors contribute to a customer's decision to abandon a cart, and the proper response for a Web site depends on the nature of the problem.

The first and most basic problem with the abandoned shopping cart metric is the assumption that the use of a shopping cart represents an intent to buy. For many people, the shopping cart is often an easy way to keep track of possible purchases, perhaps when comparing prices (or other attributes, such as shipping charges) from different sites. This would be an unusual way to use a physical shopping cart in a physical store, and perhaps the term shopping cart is confusing because the analogy breaks down at this point. As an example, consider a customer shopping for a digital camera. To keep track of different choices, based on various models and prices, at four different sellers, the customer creates a shopping cart at each one. In many cases, there is really no other easy, online way to do this. At the end, the customer buys one camera from one site, and the others are all abandoned. Three out of four carts have been left behind, but the initial analysis doesn't tell us much about why the customer went elsewhere.


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