What Are Add-to-Cart Conversion Rates … and Why Do Marketers Need to Pay Attention To Them?


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When you think “conversion rate”, you might well be thinking about the statistic that Google Analytics offers you, showing what percentage of site visits turn into sales.

There’s a lot more to conversion rates than this.

We’re going to take a look at how to understand the metrics that matter when it comes to conversion rates, and why “add-to-cart” conversion rates are so critical.

Are You Underestimating Your Current Conversion Rate?

When it comes to sales, you may be seriously underestimating your conversion rate – especially if you sell big-ticket items that people will want to consider several times before purchasing.

Google Analytics shows you, by default, the percentage of sessions that convert into sales … rather than the percentage of users who buy from you. Inevitably, some users will return two or three times before making the decision to buy (maybe they want to compare your products with your competitors’, or they need to discuss their purchase with a family member, for instance).

This piece about user-based conversion rate explains exactly how to track your user-based rather than session-based conversion rate.

What is an “Add to Cart” Conversion Rate?

When you’re tracking conversion normally, you’re probably looking at how many site visitors convert into customers.

But some people will add your product to their cart … only to never check out at all.

Your “add to cart” conversion rate will, therefore, always be higher than your sales conversion rate. There are various ways to measure it: this page goes through the different options in detail, explaining the pros and cons of each.

In general, a typical add to cart conversion rate is around 10%.

Why Should You Pay Attention to the Add to Cart Conversion Rate?

Your add to cart conversion rate is hugely significant and can help you pinpoint problems with your online store:

#1: Low Add to Cart Conversion Rate: Store is Difficult to Navigate or Products are Unattractive to Your Audience

If your add to cart conversion rate is very low (under 5%), that suggests that there are significant issues with your store itself.

These could be usability issues – your store is hard to navigate or doesn’t work well on certain devices or browsers. Alternatively, the problem might lie with your products: perhaps they aren’t a good fit for your target audience, or they’re at the wrong price point.

#2: High Add to Cart Conversion Rate: Check Out Process is Difficult or Time-Consuming

If your add to cart conversion rate is relatively high but your actual sales conversion rate is low, then the problem lies with the check out process.

For instance, if 10% of users add products to their cart but only 2% of users actually go ahead with a purchase, then 80% of your visitors are abandoning their cart … which is an unusually high percentage. An abandonment rate of around 30% to 40% is normal.

If your check out process is putting customers off, then tweaking your product images or descriptions, or adding yet more glowing reviews, isn’t going to increase your bottom line by much. You’ll need to address the possible issues behind the high rate of cart abandonment.

Why Do Online Shoppers Abandon Their Carts?

There are a number of factors that could lead your customers to abandon their cart. Some key ones include:

  • The check out process takes too long. If a new customer has to fill in several screens of information to place an order, they may well give up part way.
  • New customers have to create an account. Some people prefer to check out as a guest, either for speed or because they are suspicious of registering their details.
  • Shipping is too expensive or will take too long. Often, customers will add items to their cart in order to check the shipping details (and they’ll abandon the cart if they’re not happy with the shipping).

To maximize your sales, you need to look not only at the conversion rate for customers who are buying from you … but also at the conversion rate for those who may not be buying from you.

Track how many prospects are adding products to their cart, and look at how you can boost this percentage (by improving what you offer) or help more of those potential customers to go on to make a purchase (by improving your check out process). By doing this, you can see significant improvements to your bottom line.

If you’re running a small business your indexes might be sligthly different from the big fish. Here is a nice read on small business finance statistics, it’s definitely worth your time.


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