For offline and online retailers, the most important weekend of the year is fast approaching! It can be an exciting and stressful time for online store owners, especially when you consider how much online shopping over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend has increased year over year. Last year, total online sales were up 26% ($7.4B!), which accounted for more than 10% of the total holiday sales of the retailers surveyed (according to research by Adobe Digital Index).

Now’s the time to address one of the major concerns/annoyances of online store ownerships: shopping cart abandonment. Your visitors fill their virtual carts but never make it to check out. Imagine a grocery store with half-filled shopping carts strewn about the aisles, ditched by shoppers who either lost interest or decided they wanted to go look at what was available next door instead.

What can you do to circumvent or work around this setback? Well, the first step is to understand why it happens in the first place.

The main reason? People use their shopping carts for holding as well as shopping.

The Real Versus Digital World

Back to those shopping carts littering your local grocery store. This isn’t a common occurrence, right? People don’t usually spend time loading up their carts just to leave them in a random aisle and go home without making a purchase. It’s much more common to see bags of Cheetos stuffed on a rack in the juice aisle. People change their minds about things, and then ditch them wherever convenient.

If you’re like most online shoppers, you need a way to keep track of items that catch your interest, but you’re still not completely sold on yet. The shopping cart becomes a tool to do just that. But it’s difficult not to translate our reactions to an actual abandoned cart in a grocery store to abandoned carts in the digital world, but different rules apply once shoppers take to the web.

For one, no one has to take responsibility for putting those physical items back on the shelf. Many retailers temporarily reserve items once they’re placed in a cart, but once the time limit is up, they’re made available to other shoppers again automatically. This takes away some of the tedium that can be associated with shopping cart abandonment, but it’s no less frustrating to see the sales that might have been go back on the shelves.

Keep it in Perspective

Remember, filling their virtual carts is part of the perusal process, and anything left in the cart didn’t make the cut. Or your visitors just aren’t ready to buy yet. Your real concern then shouldn’t be figuring out how to snag those in-cart purchases, but in facilitating a way for your visitors to browse without skewing your numbers.

When your online store is a “buying” site, rather than a “shopping” site, your numbers will be imbalanced to show higher bounce rates, fewer conversion, and more abandoned carts.

So let’s take a deeper look at how shoppers behave.

How We Shop Online

As shoppers, we’re first concerned with educating ourselves about our options, narrowing down our choices, and then buying.


How many of us actually make a purchase during our first session on an online store? The vast majority of us do not. It’s during this phase of the shopping journey that world class search functionality on your site would be greatly beneficial. They will begin the process of populating their carts in this phase as they find the items that suit their specific needs and wants. They may even have multiple carts on multiple sites, with no intention of buying everything, obviously. One of these carts is about to be abandoned.


Now starts the comparison of the various items that they’ve found. Something’s not going to make the cut. Items will start being deleted and carts abandoned as the shopper starts weeding out what doesn’t fit their specifications.


Here’s the coveted conclusion of every online store, making that sale! Unfortunately, carts that doubled as holding cells for speculative purchases are now abandoned, and the corresponding website is left wondering what went wrong when they’d come so close.

How to Turn Your Buying Site into a Shopping Site

The first thing you should NOT do is reinvent your shopping cart. Let your shopping cart be a shopping cart, and let your visitors push it all the way to checkout. But also let them have an intuitive way to browse and discard items as they wish.

Create an “I Like These” holding bin that allows shoppers to stash the items they like without misusing your shopping cart. Give them the option to tag these items with notes or symbols that indicate level of interest or links to comparison items, even items they’ve found on other sites.

Remember, this isn’t a wish-list. It’s a venue that has been strategically created for the education and filtering phases of the shopping journey. If you make this venue valuable enough, you will impress your visitors as well as gather data that will further inform your sales and marketing strategies. It’s a win-win!

How have you noticed your users behaving on your online store?


“Shopping in a Digital World: Cyber Monday Blows Past $2B in Online Sales.” (November 19, 2014.)

Marine, Larry. “Why Shoppers Abandon Their Carts—and What Search Marketers Can Do to Help.” (November 11, 2014.)