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Save our shopping carts – why we’re abandoning $4 trillion of goods, and how retailers can avoid this

by Tim Barber | March 6, 2015 | No Comments


In 1995, less than 1% of the world had Internet access. Today, 40% of the world’s population has an internet connection – that’s over 3 billion people1. It’s no coincidence that online retail sales continue to rise steadily. US online retail sales will continue to grow at a CAGR of 10% through to 2018, as each buyer is expected to spend more than $2000 a year online within the next three years. For the UK and Europe, this figure rises to 12%.  And yet, a recent PayPal survey2 found that we’re abandoning our online shopping carts and leaving $4 trillion worth of goods at the checkout. 88 million virtual shopping carts are stacked with goods which are never purchased.


If I were a retailer with an ecommerce strategy, this would bother me.  Retailers are investing in their virtual storefronts and marketplaces. They are spending on mobility, to deliver a seamless, omni-channel user experience through their website. They are also spending on multimedia, feature-rich content to draw customers into their websites. Virtual fitting rooms are being used by the likes of Henri Lloyd and Hawes and Curtis, for example, demonstrating significant increases in conversion rates. Online video, too, is being used by retailers to encourage us to hang around sites a little longer, and share content.


Why aren’t we checking out?


These creative, innovative ways retailers are using to differentiate themselves are clearly costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars, only for shoppers to commit the 21st century equivalent of dumping shopping trolleys in the canal.  Is this a case of post-austerity sensible shopping? Are we free and easy with our shopping cart additions, only to get cold feet when it comes to actually flashing the cash? Or are there other reasons why we’re not actually reaching the checkout?

Take a closer look at reasons behind our unexpected checkout departure, and research3 reveals that 44% of shoppers actually leave ecommerce sites due to costly shipping fees.  Shipping costs can be hugely prohibitive. There’s nothing more off-putting than having to pay for a ‘guaranteed next day delivery’ shipping option, if want to receive a product within a few days. 22% of us leave a website due to a lack of shipping terms. Who’s liable if the package goes missing? Do I have to pay for returns? Are there any hidden costs such as taxes or duties? We don’t know, so we abandon our cart.

Create a customer-friendly shipping policy


Yet these issues are easily addressed, and could save retailers hundreds of thousands a year, if not more.  Shipping policies should be clear throughout the shopping experience, not hidden away – ideally, include a link from every page.  A customer-friendly shipping policy should include:

  • Information on the different delivery options available
  • Shipping and handling fees, including taxes and any extra charges – especially if the package is being shipped overseas which may warrant additional costs
  • The expected delivery timeframe and ideally, details on how the customer can track his or her package
  • Details on how the items will arrive if more than one package is ordered


Shipping costs, as well as shipping policies, need to be transparent. Retailers need to identify those carriers that can help them maintain control of shipping costs. Software can help retailers understand and evaluate delivery factors such as package size and unique handling requirements. Software can also help source the most appropriate, economically-viable local carriers.

Providing transparent shipping costs can become a key differentiator – Next Online in the UK has seen its online profits escalate since it introduced a guaranteed next day delivery standard charge, with very clear guidelines. And the delivery charge is good value: another way of minimising the risk of shoppers logging off before checking out. Other businesses subsume shipping costs into their product costs, and offer free shipping over a set amount of spend.

Using software for transparency


Planet Shoes, a retailer based in the US also serving customers in overseas markets, found that international shipping costs were complex for customers. Packages were being turned away once they’d reached their destination, as customers were unaware of the additional costs imposed on the goods such as taxes and duties. To overcome this, they’ve been working with us using ecommerce shipping software to provide transparent shipping costs, and ultimately improve the customer experience and position itself for growth.

$4 trillion is a lot for retailers to miss out on, but also provides a fantastic opportunity for businesses to make a few small changes, and reap the rewards.


1 Source: Internetlivestats.com

2 Business Review Europe

3 Forrester ‘Understanding Shopping Cart Abandonment’

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