May 20, 2008, 12:00 AM

Cart abandonment rises as online shoppers compare prices, MarketLive says

Shopping cart abandonment was up 2.7% and visitors viewing only one page rose nearly 19% in the first quarter over a year ago, according to MarketLive Inc. More visitors are coming from search engines, and they’re comparing prices closely.

Consumers were more likely to click off an e-commerce site after viewing just one page and to abandon shopping carts in the first quarter than they were a year ago, according to data compiled by e-commerce platform provider MarketLive Inc. This reflects more shoppers using search engines and many comparison shopping for the best price, MarketLive says.

The shopping cart abandonment rate went up 2.7% from 57.88% in Q1 2007 to 59.43% in the first quarter of this year, while “one-and-out” visits to e-commerce sites jumped 18.9% from 32.94% to 39.15%, according to the MarketLive Performance Index, based on activity from nearly 100 e-commerce sites MarketLive supports.

“It’s a reflection of the state of the economy and how the social researcher is dominating the marketplace,” says Jaye Sullivan, senior Internet strategist at MarketLive. About two-thirds of consumers now start their research at search engines, she says, which means many visitors are new to e-commerce sites and more likely to click off quickly if they don’t find what they want. “Abandonment follows from that,” Sullivan says. “More people are doing research and they’re price-sensitive, so they’re opening up more carts to check out the price.”

Two other metrics were little changed from a year ago. Conversion rate was 3.96% in Q1 2008 while 8.87% of visitors visited shopping carts, both up about 0.5% from the prior year.

To keep visitors at their sites longer, e-retailers must make sure their landing pages provide relevant and compelling content, Sullivan says. She cites the example of a housewares retailer that was using a third party to handle its paid search ad program. For that retailer, the term “cutting board” was an important keyword, and the search firm was directing all traffic from those ads to a product page showing a single cutting board, when the retailer offered dozens of cutting boards. E-retailers can use analytics tools to pinpoint examples like that of landing pages that are converting poorly, Sullivan says.

To reduce shopping cart abandonment, Sullivan suggests adding text to cart pages that provides information about the company’s history to build trust and to make sure there is a toll-free number customers can call for service. “That tells the customer that this is a legitimate company and I can get immediate help from a live person when I need it,” she says.

The MarketLive Index report, the first to report four quarters of data, also highlights the value of loyal customers. They are more than three times more likely to convert than first-time visitors-25% vs. 8%--and twice as likely to make it to the shopping cart page-34.2% vs. 17.1%-MarketLive says, based on a 15-month analysis of data from 36 long-standing clients. MarketLive recommends making relevant, personalized e-mail offers to customers to retain their loyalty.

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