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!