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Source: Toronto Star

Posted on November 8, 2004

      More online shoppers abandoned their carts without completing a purchase in the third quarter despite retailers' best efforts, a recent study from DoubleClick Inc. found.

      Fifty-seven per cent of shoppers abandoned their carts, up from 53 per cent a year earlier, reflecting how savvy Web shoppers have become, said Richard Fleck, director of strategic services at DoubleClick.

      The cart doubles as a wish list and a shopping comparison tool, especially for shoppers who are new to a retailer's Web site, said Fleck.

      Shoppers also spend 10 per cent less time on e-commerce sites than they did a year ago, reflecting comfort with online shopping as well as how convenient retailers have made their Internet sites.

      "There's going to be comparison shopping regardless of how good your site is and how good your product offering is," said Fleck.

      He added that Internet shoppers have also been "carting" more, or putting more items in sites' virtual shopping carts.

      About 8 per cent of all visits result in carting.

      "There's a lot of good energy around carting, even if some of it is abandonment," said Fleck.

      "What I think marketers need to focus on is `How can we get back to (serve) those people who did abandon?' " said Fleck.

      Online apparel retailer Bluefly Inc. wants to keep a closer eye on customers' shopping cart behaviour.

      The firm has developed a model that can analyze a customer's level of interest in purchasing whether she's just browsing or whether she's looking at the details of a sweater before getting out the credit card.

      Bluefly chief executive Melissa Payner-Gregor said she plans to use this information to convince customers to make a purchase in the same session.

      For example, Bluefly could e-mail customers who showed an interest in cashmere items when the e-tailer is holding a cashmere sale.

      A better understanding of customer behaviour when it comes to online shopping carts can also cut down on spam.

      "This is an opportunity for a customer only to hear about the things they're interested in," said Payner-Gregor. "Our goal is to make sure we're relevant."

      Roughly 60 per cent of purchases on Bluefly occur within an hour of a shopper's visit.

      The balance is spread out over about a week, with 15 per cent in the first six hours, another 15 per cent in the next 18 hours, and 10 per cent within seven days.

      Key to improving cart abandonment rates is getting customer e-mail addresses, as retailers can use e-mail newsletters to convert non-buyers to buyers, said Fleck.

      E-tailers also need to work on nudging shoppers toward checkout rather than letting shoppers hold items in their shopping cart.

      It could be as simple as designating the shopping cart in the Web site as the first step in the check-out process, said Fleck.

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