May 1, 2001, 12:00 AM

Abandoned shopping carts can be a goldmine of data, says a new white paper

E-retailers should be using information they glean from abandoned shopping carts to make site or product improvements, says Fry Multimedia Inc.

E-retailers should be using information they can glean from their abandoned shopping cart to make site or product improvements, says a new white paper from Fry Multimedia Inc.

Among the insights an e-retailer can gain from such an exercise are:
--How much time and how many visits most people need in order to commit to a purchase.
--To what degree visitors use the online store for browsing and research that ultimately lead to a sale at an offline store or from a catalog.
--The percentage of visitors who start a cart but never try to check out.
--How many visitors who start to check out actually complete the process.

"E-tailers tend to be obsessed with the proportion of online shopping carts that are abandoned and the resulting specter of lost sales," says Kara Heinrichs, Fry`s chief customer experience officer. "We believe this focus is counter-productive and takes the e-tailer`s attention away from measurements that can lead to real insights into online shopping behavior-- and real improvements in online merchandising."

Contrary to current thinking, an abandoned online cart is not tantamount to a shopper deserting a full grocery cart while fourth in line to pay at the supermarket, Heinrichs says. Consumers often use carts to "mark" items of note, for example, much like dog-earing a page in a catalog, or taking a garment to a fitting room, she says.

Looking at where in the checkout process carts are abandoned provides key insights for site and process improvement, the paper says. "E-tailers` back-end systems reveal what consumers actually bought, but abandoned carts show what people wanted to buy but didn`t," Heinrichs says. "That`s intriguing and valuable information. Imagine the cross-sell, personalization, and promotional possibilities this information can inspire."


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