How Can Online Retailers Learn From “Abandoned Baskets”?

How many times have you perused the internet, your favourite retailer perhaps, and added things to your shopping basket with a wild sense of freedom, only to then exit your browser and go off to make some dinner / meet your friends / watch TV / go to bed. I am guilty of doing this all of the time. It’s even worse for retailers whose app I have installed on my phone (sorry, Debenhams)


For retailers, this represents a well-known conundrum in the online retailing world. What do you do about these shoppers? They came so close to purchasing from you and sealing the deal. Why did they leave? How easy would it be to get them to come back and complete the purchase? Did you do something wrong with your checkout process that scared them off? Or did the shopping experience become frustrating in another way?



 Sressed woman driving in car checking smart phone, bad habits

Is mobile making it even worse? More and more of us are shopping via our mobile. This means we are more likely to be browsing online retailers and placing items in shopping baskets while we are out and about, not sat quietly in our own home. We are much more likely to get distracted (“Ah, here is the train!) and put our phone back in our pocket or bag. Will this mean our basket remains forever abandoned?



60% of baskets are abandoned

There are many figures out there which show that, on average, the number of online shopping baskets that are abandoned range between 60%-70% (I’ve even seen some sources cite 80% but I’m trying to remain optimistic). Does this mean that online sales are perhaps only a third of what they could be?

We know that many retailers have a Basket Abandonment strategy, whereby “Recovery” emails are sent to customers to have added products to their basket  but failed to checkout. And there are many stats to prove their sucesss. Basket abandonment has been said to cost retailers up to £1bn in list sales in the UK. Sounds pretty tragic, but we should understand that it is a common, inevitable, problem that reflects the nature of shopping today.



You may know the parts of your website that tends to get high exit rates from your web analytics. In the business of insight, we are interested in the REASONS behind basket abandonment, and the causes behind why, for some retailers, basket abandonment is particularly high.  If you have customer details (i.e customers have logged in before they have started shopping) there are ways in which we can get in touch with these lapsed customers and find out their reasons for abandoning. But critically, we can find out what needs to IMPROVE, what needs to CHANGE, and what can be done, in order to prevent abandonment happening so much. These reasons, these improvements can be unique to each retailer and will depend on customer group, and purchases made.

We can find out what the barriers are to completing a shop, and what you can do about those barriers.



Basket Abandonment is a lingering issue in online retail, but retailers should see the opportunity it represents: it can be another customer touchpoint. Retailers should treat it the same way as any other marketing opportunity. Research and Insight can drive the effectiveness of marketing to these abandoned customers – and you never know, they may just come back and complete the purchase if your communication is compelling enough.

Get in touch with us to find out how we could help you improve your basket abandonment rates through customer research, website eye-tracking, qualitative research, Real Life (our digital journey tracking tool) and other research methods.

Amy Nichols is a Research Director in the Retail Team at Marketing Sciences Unlimited. She works closely with retailers to listen to the customer, both online and offline, to drive business growth and support innovation.

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Amy Nichols
01962 842211
Article date - 01/07/2015
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