Shopping Carts as Price Checkers

Michael Vizard

As we move into the holiday shopping season, a lot of fuss is usually made about the supposed abandonment of shopping carts on e-commerce sites. The latest insights about all this suggests that on-line retailers are losing billions of dollars because only about 3 percent of the people that fill an online shopping cart actually buy what's in the shopping cart.

Allegedly, this situation exists because of some design flaw in the e-commerce software that is being used online, so naturally the logical conclusion is that a business needs to upgrade its e-commerce software to convert more shopping carts into actual sales.

But what all this hand-wringing over shopping cart conversion fails to take into account is that e-commerce sites typically offer only one way to find out how much something costs, which is by asking customers to load up a shopping cart.

The people that run these on-line sites figure that once customers get what they want into the shopping cart, they are only one click away from buying it. So rather than provide an alternative way for customers to figure out how much something really costs, including shipping, they would rather see people continue to load up their carts.

Of course, shoppers are not going to stay in the dark forever. They eventually figure out that, from their perspective, the online shopping cart is not really the electronic version of standing in line. Rather, it's a glorified price checker that can conveniently become a shopping cart should that prove to be the best deal they can find online.

People have become very use to this model, so trying to change this just because some analysts think that there is something wrong with the high number of abandoned shopping carts would be counterproductive. If customers are abandoning shopping carts online, it doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with the e-commerce system -- it just means they simply found a better deal elsewhere.

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Oct 13, 2009 5:02 AM Heather Dorso Heather Dorso  says:

I agree, shopping carts have become glorified price checkers. How else would customers find the cost? There's another theory regarding shopping card abandonment. It's security. A certain apprehensiveness surrounds customers who shop online because of the rise in identity theft. According to a Yankee Research Study, more than half of consumers (55 percent) have experienced security incidents that caused them to think twice about using an e-commerce Web site. Trust marks like the TRUSTe seal can be a helpful and effective tool to make e-commerce safer for consumers, vastly decreasing risk of identity theft-Web sites with privacy seals like make customers stay longer and come back.


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