E-commerce, Shopping Carts and Usability

In following up on an old December 2004 post, Stats, Ecommerce and Real Life, I note MarketingVox's new Online Search Drives Conversions – Offline tells us:

More than half of purchases by consumers who conducted online searches for various product categories occur offline, according to a new study by Google and ComScore Networks, reports AdWeek.

Of course that's logically got to be true in many instances, depending upon the product(s) sought. For instance, it's one thing to window shop online for monitors; it's another to buy without having seen it in person, or (if you're like me) choosing to wait for it to be shipped if you can zip out to the local bricks & mortar to get it today, having gotten the information needed online.

That's something to take into consideration when the usual "shopping cart abandonment rate" discussions arise.

I like stats, but common sense must apply in order not to make sweeping (and incorrect) generalizations. The fact that website stats reveal that a customer abandoned a shopping cart cannot automatically mean that the sale was lost, much less irretrievably. It may mean s/he's not purchasing today, or that s/he thought better of paying/waiting for shipping versus picking the item up locally, or any of a number of other reasons. We don't even know if the customer simply didn't like the item enough to buy it.

An abandoned shopping cart usually tells us nothing more than that it was abandoned. Website stats simply are not complete enough to allow us to deduce the real reason (without making leaps of faith not backed by evidence), let alone lead us to the conclusion that the sale was lost due to shopping cart usability issues.

Now, if those same not-complete-enough stats could tell us *why* it's happening, that would be something else.

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