Using hamburgers and broccoli to reduce cart abandonment rates

A very interesting study asked subjects to estimate the total calories in a plate (each subject only estimated them for 1 plate only). The first plate contained a hamburger. The second continued the same hamburger plus a side of broccoli, and was estimated to have fewer calories than the plate containing only the hamburger. Somehow, adding more calories in the form of a healthy side lowered the estimates of total calories.

How could we use this principle to try and reduce cart abandonment rate for online retailers? Here’s a couple of (untested) ideas.

Make indulgent shoppers less guilty

For those customers that added expensive, brand-name items to their carts and are now facing the decision to checkout or abandon it, why not prompt them with an offer to add a few home brand, lower-priced essentials? The messaging could be along the lines of: “before you check-out, take advantage of our low price essentials and save some money on items that you need anyway but won’t embarrass you if they’re not branded”. Think black socks for men having in their cart a couple of expensive shirts.

The strategy is: you have in your cart a few items that might make you abandon your cart because they’re kind of guilty/luxury pleasures, but if we offer you a way to save money and do the responsible thing at the same time, or at least give you the pretense that you’re doing it, then you might be more likely to continue with your order.

Tempt cost-conscious buyers into a guilty pleasure

The flip side of course can also be possible. If you have a visitor who added only items on sale to the cart, then you could use the reverse strategy and suggest a few full-priced items that complement the items in the cart already. The messaging would be: “You’re saving $XXX currently on the items in your cart, why not consider these great items with your savings?” Obviously, you wouldn’t use this copy but you get the gist.

Emphasizing the savings realized should nudge some to take on these suggestions and also takes advantage of mental accounting.

Use personalization to amplify the impact

Of course, the more the suggestions you are using are relevant, the more you should see improvements based on them. If you can, use personalization technologies to enable you to display suggestions targeted to your visitors based on the foundational audiences you can define.