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The cart abandonment trick that most retailers are ignoring

Rich Towey
January 10, 2024

For eCommerce retailers, cart abandonment is a fact of life.

Conversion rates vary from sector to sector. The general rule is that only 2-4% of eCommerce website visitors will buy a product.

Some of the remaining 96-98% of consumers get nowhere near the checkout. They visit a few pages and swiftly decide to take their business elsewhere.

Others come incredibly close. 

They sift through descriptions, leaving numerous signals that spell out their interests, and place an item in the cart. Unfortunately, they still never make a purchase. 

A key challenge for most retailers is to convert more of these high-intent customers. However, from RevLifter’s analysis of 50 recognized eCommerce brands, it seems very few are even trying. 

The three stages of abandonment

There are three main abandonment scenarios in the eCommerce world. They are:

  • Browser abandonment: shopper leaves the site without an item in their cart
  • Cart abandonment: shopper leaves the site with an item in their cart
  • Checkout abandonment: shopper leaves the site at checkout 

Intervening effectively at the second stage - the cart abandonment phase - would require something along the lines of an exit-intent offer

Unaware of how these work? Allow us to explain.

An exit-intent offer provides a way of reacting to signs of a customer leaving your website. It’s like tackling cart abandonment before it happens.

To deploy an exit-intent offer, you need a trigger. Some popular examples include:

Long dwell times

Customers who stay static on a page for longer than 30 seconds are usually browsing on other tabs. Whether they’re comparing prices on another website or simply losing interest in their purchase, a lengthy dwell time is a reason to suspect abandonment.

Opening new tabs

You need to open a new tab to compare prices while staying on your current website. Customers who do this while having a product in their cart often get targeted with abandonment messages.

Copying product names

To compare prices, you might copy the product name to paste into your browser to gain a quick overview of your options via Google. Retailers can generate some impressive results by using the copying of a product name as an abandonment signal. 

Cursor moves towards the ‘close window’ button

Rather than opening additional pages, some customers will look to abandon a site altogether. When their mouse moves toward the close window button, some retailers present a discount or abandonment message to keep them on-site.  

Examples of exit-intent offers

There are no set rules for what an exit-intent offer should include or provide. For a strong example of this type of promotion in the wild, look no further than Splits59, which came to RevLifter with the challenge of growing its direct revenue.  

As many of the luxury activewear retailer’s products are available in marketplaces, it decided to offer ‘5% off’ to certain visitors typing new web addresses into their browser or dwelling on their page. 

The offer helped Splits59 grow its conversion rate by +133%. Check out the full case study to see some of the other offers that contributed to the brand’s success.

How many retailers use exit-intent offers?

Intrigued to see how many retailers used exit signals as part of their abandonment strategy, we put our customer hat on.

We created a specific user journey to inspect the use of exit-intent offers in three different retail verticals: fashion & apparel, beauty, and consumer electronics.

Our search was kept to mid-to-large retailers selling products that could be found on other sites. These would be the most at risk of price comparison searches.

The retailers also had to have some form of offer on their site to avoid assessing those that avoid discounts in all circumstances – exit or otherwise.

In each case, we followed the same process:

  1. Add a high-value product to the cart 
  2. Dwell on the page for longer than one minute
  3. Copy and paste the product name into the browser
  4. Move the mouse over to the ‘close window’ button
  5. Open new tabs

Over 50 retailers were assessed. Not one had an exit-intent offer or message based on these signals. 

Why are retailers missing an abandonment trick?

It’s important to note that brands aren’t ignoring cart abandonment altogether. 

Email is an option for communicating with users who create an account before deciding against purchasing. While this is a popular strategy, it does mean any visitors who don’t make it to this very late funnel stage are ignored.

Another reason is that brands only want to use discounts as a last resort, which would restrict their action to the checkout abandonment stage. That said, if the offer only appeared in highly specific circumstances (e.g. new customer with a high-value cart), it would have the same discreet feel as a cart recovery email.

The scope of exit-intent offers

Each retailer can dive into their data to see the instances where an exit-intent offer might be triggered. Looking at general benchmarks, the signs are positive.

According to Littledata, an average add-to-cart rate - i.e. the proportion of site visitors who add a product to their cart - is 5.1%. A rate of over 8.1% would put you in the top 20% of retailers, while 10.5% and higher would place you in the top 10%. 

Considering that around 2-4% of site visitors will make a purchase, with an add-to-cart rate of 5.1%, exit-intent offers could engage 1-3% of customers. It’s a small yet significant percentage when considering the potential for this to engage up to 3% of site visitors daily.

Are exit-intent offers right for your brand?

So, should you start reacting earlier to signs of abandonment? The short answer is yes. We recommend:

  1. Testing the effectiveness of exit-intent offers to see how they perform
  2. Testing the type and value of exit-intent offers to optimize performance

For retailers selling products that are available elsewhere, they’re an untapped opportunity for tackling price comparison searches.

Retailers relying solely on direct revenue could explore other triggers, like dwell times, to get customers back into the purchasing mindset.

eCommerce Funnel Optimization Guide