Here at Adobe, we’re counting down the days until the 2014 Summit. One of the things I love most about Summit is the diversity. It brings together all different types of marketers, from dozens of industries. It’s a place where a young solopreneur who just launched a start-up e-commerce site can trade insights and ideas with the CMO of a billion-dollar global corporation. But regardless of level or specialty, they all have one goal in common: to increase conversions.

Whether you’re selling handmade goods or high-end electronics, your goal is to coax browsers through the checkout process and to the shopping cart. But, more importantly, you need to get them one step further, to order confirmation. Because the harsh reality is that 68 percent of consumers will abandon their shopping carts this year.

It’s a sobering statistic. After all, you’ve worked so hard to enhance the user experience through pitch-perfect page designs, market-friendly pricing, and a seamless path to purchase—only to have a majority of shoppers leave their full carts sitting in the virtual aisle.

Reasons for Abandonment . . . and How to Counter Them

You’re probably already tracking your site’s cart abandonment rates (and if you’re not, it’s staggeringly easy to get the numbers using an intuitive tool like Adobe Analytics). But what are all those people stumbling on? Why the sudden change of heart? The possibilities are limitless, but studies show a few core reasons. Let’s take a look at a few.

Reason #1: They’re wary of spending too much.

In a study by Worldplay, this was cited as the #1 obstacle to completing a purchase. Suddenly, with a single click, a $30 sweater can become $42—inflated by taxes, shipping, and other fees. Another top reason was finding a cheaper price somewhere else.

One way to combat price anxiety is to offer free shipping. Today’s buyers have been spoiled by Amazon, Overstock, and other big players who routinely offer free (or super cheap) shipping. And it doesn’t have to be site wide. You could target a  segment of shoppers, such as those who have spent a certain amount or have subscribed to a premier shopping service. Offering free shipping based on order thresholds is a great way to drive up average order value.

You might also consider offering a loyalty program. If cost-conscious shoppers realize they’ll get regular discounts and free shipping as a premier member, they’ll be more likely to complete purchases (and to buy more).

Reason #2: They’re just looking.

Ah, the age-old excuse given at brick-and-mortar stores in response to overeager salespeople. It holds true online, and it’s even more prevalent because shoppers can leisurely load up their carts without anyone hounding them. I think of this as “play shopping”—consumers may add items just to keep a running wish list of what they like.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Did you know that 99 percent of first-time site visitors won’t make a buy during that initial visit, and that 75 percent of people who abandon a shopping cart intend to come back and complete their purchase at a later date? If customers have interacted with your site, searched for items, viewed pages, added some items to their carts, and then left the site, you haven’t lost. You may not have gotten revenue, but you’ve scored some valuable insights from their experience—as long as you’re looking at the data they’re leaving behind.

Quick retargeting is key here. You have a small window of time to reach these browsers, remind them of what piqued their interest, and offer an enticing incentive to buy. Something has already drawn them to your site, perhaps multiple times.  These consumers are “low-hanging fruit” that can be harvested with timely email or display ad retargeting.

If the user was logged into an account while shopping, the retargeting is a bit easier, as you already have that individual’s email address. In this case, you can use a tool like Adobe Campaign to launch a triggered campaign based on the last item added to the cart.

Personalization is always key, but even more so with cart recovery emails. Be sure to include images of the products in the cart, perhaps some positive shopper reviews or cross-sell/up-sell recommendations, and a strong call to action. Timing is also important. Ideally, the first recovery email should be sent within one day of cart abandonment.

For anonymous users, you can still retarget without an email address. Using a tool like Adobe Target, you can display a targeted message next time they visit your site. This could be a simple reminder that something was left in their cart, a special promotion to entice them to buy, or some other reinforcement of the items they were browsing. Again, test to determine which type of message—and which format and creative—garners the most conversions.

Reason #3: They need interaction.

At a brick-and-mortar store, consumers have the chance to ask questions about things that confuse or worry them. Salespeople can immediately swoop in and address buyers’ concerns, offer impromptu incentives, or just provide that personal, one-on-one attention and reassurance that can make all the difference between “I’ll take it!” and “Not today.”

Obviously, you can’t walk up to online shoppers and offer face-to-face support, but technology provides the next-best thing in the form of live chat. There are countless questions that can distract or concern consumers during the shopping process: “Does this jacket run big? What will it cost to ship it back if it doesn’t fit? Will it definitely get here by Tuesday?” By integrating live chat into your site, you can field these questions and concerns in real time, before customers have a chance to click away to a competitor.

Some sites offer live chat after a certain number of clicks or minutes, others have a pervasive chat on every page, and some sites don’t introduce it until checkout. Which is best for you? Let the data decide: test what type of implementation gets the best results. Above all, the abandon-or-purchase decision reflects the overall user experience.

Using Abandonment Data to Improve the User Experience

These are just a few of the most common reasons that site visitors fail to buy in any given shopping session. The key is to glean insights from the data and use them to create an enhanced experience.

Abandoned carts don’t represent failures. In fact, quite the opposite is true. These would-be buyers have already interacted with your site, learned about your products, and demonstrated a clear intent to purchase. Armed with the data they’ve provided, you can use smart retargeting efforts to reel them back in, reassure them of your company’s integrity, and encourage the first of many happy returns.

Join my sessions at Summit next week for more tips on user targeting, segmenting, and boosting conversions!