When is an abandoned cart, not an abandoned cart? The true answer is we don’t really know. With online shoppers choosing to navigate and interact with retail sites in a myriad of highly personalised ways, the only real certainty is that a customer who navigates away from your store without completing a purchase could have done so for a variety of different reasons. This post will look at the reasons persistent carts can roll to the rescue of not-so-abandoned purchases everywhere.

We know that these days, it’s statistically more likely that a customer will engage with your brand’s site while browsing on a mobile device. While 79% of smartphone owners have made a purchase using their phone in the last 6 months, the fact remains that conversion rates are still highest on desktop. However, it’s interesting to note that the average mobile add-to-cart rate is a reasonable 10.4%, compared to a not-too-dissimilar 12.9% for desktop. This suggests that people are adding items to their carts at relatively comparative rates but, for some reason, are more likely to fall at the final hurdle - a successfully converted checkout - when on a mobile device.

There are many reasons why this could be, but a significant contributing factor is widely assumed to be the time, place and situation of mobile browsing while commuting, waiting in line, watching a TV show, or waiting for a friend to arrive. Typically, if we’re browsing on a mobile, we’re on the go - engaged in, or about to become engaged in, another activity. With this in mind, it’s easy to see how abandoned carts could be seen as reminders or simply interrupted shopping experiences. Indeed, up to 24% of web buyers confess to using the shopping cart as a wish list to save products for future consideration. 

This is where persistent log-in experience can make a real impact on conversion rates. By activating persistent sessions and shopping carts, a user’s experience can be vastly improved as the browse your site across different devices, at different times, and are able to pick up exactly where they left off, with their cart’s contents being retained and remembered. A user could navigate away from your site, say to compare the pricing of a competitor, and return to find their cart unchanged, and ready to remind them of your (hopefully more appealing) pricing.

Perpetual vs. persistent shopping carts.

While a persistent cart will recall previous additions, a perpetual cart is subtly different in that it will display the number of items in the cart and sub-total as a shopper navigates around the site itself. This constant visual reminder of the potential bottom line of a shopping trip is considered to be “very effective” at improving conversion by 64% of retailers, keeping a tally of escalating spend in real-time and helping to avoid customers being put off by a large figure suddenly appearing at check out and being frightened off completing their purchase. While both act in slightly different manners, there’s nothing to stop a retailer from engaging both tactics concurrently.

Shopping cart potential pitfalls.

While the benefits of a persistent log in are clear, it should be noted that there are also some hypothetical downsides. One such issue is the potential for “sticker shock” if a customer forgets, or fails to see, that they have previously added the item they wish to purchase to their cart in a previous session. Unfamiliar with a site remembering their past activity, they assume they are starting a shopping session from scratch, begin adding duplicate items to their cart, failing to notice the increased item numbers, and are then scared off by a total that is double what they were expecting. Similarly, a customer may check out quickly, forgetting other items are still in their basket and be frustrated to be charged for items they weren’t aware they were buying.

Another issue is inventory; if a customer decides to add an item to their cart, and your site recalls this addition, for how long will the item be reserved (if at all?) What if a sale ends or indeed, starts; how will pricing be affected? 

Best practice for your Shopping Cart.

While there are a few pitfalls to be aware of, these can be minimised by following a few rules of best practice for perpetual carts.

  1. Carefully consider the length of time that items will remain in a cart for a user across multiple sessions unless removed by the customer. This should be an informed decision based on your customers’ shopping habits, and your own inventory management.

  2. Clearly communicate how long this period of time will be in the copy of your site. Set expectations and reduce the chance of customers misunderstanding the way that their cart will function.

  3. Consider teaming persistent log-in with a perpetual mini cart, which keeps a clearly visible running total of both the number of items within the cart and a running total of the final amount owed.

  4. Similarly, make sure that when the checkout process begins, ensure that item quantity is very clearly displayed, utilising high contrast design to draw the eye to the number.

A reason to return.

If deployed in a careful and considered manner, persistent login can play a highly beneficial role in saving sales and improving customers' general impression of your store's usability. There's little wonder that Forbes counts the highly rated Persistent Cart app amongst its top ten Shopify apps. A simple but highly effective addition to your site that gives your customers a reason to keep coming back to your store again and again, across devices and browsing sessions alike.

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