The evolution of retail: the death of the dropped basket?


By Thomas Jeanjean, regional managing director for mid-market EMEA, Criteo.

This article is brought to you by Retail Technology Review: The evolution of retail: the death of the dropped basket?.

There is nothing more frustrating in life than missed opportunities. For retailers, missed opportunities most commonly come in the form of 'dropped baskets.'

Dropped baskets can perplex and exasperate in equal measure – why would shoppers come that far to throw in the towel at the last moment? The frustration rises when numbers get involved. Globally, dropped baskets cost retailers over £2.8 trillion in sales.[1] Minimising even a small portion of those missed chances could have a significant effect on retailers' bottom lines.

In order to address the challenge, it's important retailers understand why basket dropping happens in the first place. In truth there's no one answer. It could be a combination of a number of factors that make a customer change their mind.

Unexpected costs

Unexpected costs are a financial and time issue for consumers. Delivery costs in particular cause problems – customers expect the very best service, but often they're not willing to pay for it, or at least at the rate retailers charge. Recent research shows that 55% of customers would abandon a purchase order if shipping costs were too high.[2]

Concealing costs until the very end of the customer journey doesn't help either. Very few customers will be so intent on purchasing that they'll simply accept the costs and press 'buy'. Instead, it's infuriating for customers, with 70% likely to abandon a purchase because of hidden charges; and there's a very real chance it could be a long-term 'turn-off'.[3] Hiding costs until the end of a purchase journey may mean that you're not only sabotaging this transaction, but creating issues for future brand engagement.

'No thanks, I'm just browsing'

Consumers browsing with no intention of buying are often cited as the most common problem facing retailers.

  • However, viewed through a different lense, this isn't actually a problem at all. Basket dropping is often just part of a longer purchase process. In fact, 99% of first time site visitors will do just this - so would-be customers who were never going to buy in the first place will often skew data used by retailers. Consumers are time-tight, but they still think through their decisions – they want to reflect on the product, before they sign on the dotted line.
  • In order to maximise these figures, it is critical to get email retargeting and display retargeting triggered at the right time after the cart gets abandoned. The real-time data that is used in today's remarketing campaigns, for example, allows retailers to specifically target abandoned basket shoppers with product specific advertisements that are based on what the user has already seen and, therefore, most relevant to them.

Retailers should also use data to understand what interested consumers on the webpage, and possibly offer combo deals with other products in order to maximise sales potential at the point of purchase.[4] Modern retargeting technology allows retailers to track individual customers, and provide them with product-specific prompts – being aware of these technologies and deploying them effectively is key to improving sales.

Better offer elsewhere

Although an obvious point, it is important that retailers recognise that they might not offer the best deal and monitor what competitors are offering both from a product and a service point of view. Product abandonment is most common in low-cost, commodity-heavy baskets, where a disparity in price rather than quality is the determinant. Using retargeting to emphasise services that competitors can't offer then becomes important, such as 'free shipping', or other customer satisfaction perks. And this works – 56% of customers would be willing to switch brands based on better customer service options.[5]

Moving forward

Consumers are time poor. They are looking for swift and simple interactions with their retailers, so if processes can be as smooth as possible, so much the better. Alongside earlier points, slow-loading pages, technical faults and other threats to engagement should be avoided. Indeed, 44% of consumers will abandon a purchase as a result of slow loading pages, or technical issues.[6]

Its especially important for retailers to make sure their web pages are mobile-ready – 51% of online purchases were made through a hand-held device between November and January this year.[7] Compulsory registration also unnecessarily takes up time for consumers – as proven by ASOS, allowing customers to use a guest checkout can massively reduce the number of abandonments.[8] Every extra step retailers put in front of the purchase point is an extra barrier to transaction, and therefore the sale – minimise those, and retailers will maximise their sales.

The outlook is rosier than abandonment statistics would initially suggest. If retailers can activate a strong re-engagement strategy like retargeting strategies, there's a real possibility for increasing sales quickly. In reality, dropped baskets will never go away; they're a natural part of the customer journey. But understanding that, and maximising return rates, can turn what would initially seem a negative into a positive on the bottom line.


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