For online and in-store retailers alike, an abandoned cart is a sad thing to see. While there are a lot of reasons why a consumer would abandon a cart, it still represents a situation where a sale went awry at the last minute. The problem is more pronounced for online stores where abandoning a cart is as easy as closing a browser window. A recent survey by SalesCycle helps reveal why people abandon their carts, and it gives retailers some ideas on how to keep these consumers.

To start with the obvious, online cart abandonments happen a lot. According to the consumers surveyed by SalesCycle, nearly three out of 4 (74 percent) of retail shoppers will abandon purchases after adding items to their cart.

The abandonment rate varies from industry to industry, which suggests that price concerns may have much to do with some cart abandonments. The highest retail abandonment rates are for consumer electronics products, at 78.8 percent. On the other hand, the abandonment rates for health & beauty products are the lowest in retail, at 68.2 percent.

The most cited reason for cart abandonment is that consumers were only browsing in the first place. This was cited by more than a third (34 percent) of the SalesCycle survey respondent. Similarly, 18 percent of shoppers abandon carts because they wanted to compare prices.

Retailers can take some heart in the above information because it means that a large portion of cart abandonments occur for reasons that the seller has little control over. If people weren't prepared to buy and were only doing research, then it's to be expected that they will abandon their cart.

This doesn't mean that business owner should simply give up on these customers. Even if people abandoned a cart because they were only researching, retailers can use triggered emails or remarketing ad campaigns (on search or social media) to try and capitalize on the consumer's initial interest.

The other reasons why people abandon their carts have elements that the business owner can improve and therefore convert more sales. For a start, nearly a quarter (23 percent) of shoppers who abandoned carts did so due to issues with shipping. The importance of shipping has been a recurring theme in ways to improve online retail. And with eBay launching a guaranteed 3-day shipping option, business owners will need to make better shipping a to priority.

Abandoned carts don't always have to be a bad thing. According to the SalesCycle study, 15 percent of consumers who abandon carts do so in order to shop for the item at a physical store. This is great for retailers that have a physical and online presence (e.g. Wal-Mart or Target), but not so good for online only retailers.

Businesses that do have physical and digital stores need to be sure to include a ship-to-store option or allow people to in-store items online and pick them up at the store. This clearly requires a lot of work to coordinate online and in-store systems in real time, but this is becoming a growing necessity for business owners who want to compete with larger brands that are already using these kinds of technology.

The other reasons for cart abandonment found by SalesCycle were related to technical issues with the design of the site. Interestingly, these technical issues combined only account for 10 percent of the reasons people abandon their carts. As security concerns grow, people are using different kinds of payment options and want to use sites that allow them to use their preferred method of payment; so much so that 6 percent of consumers will abandon their cart due to payment options. And in only 4 percent of the occasions did consumers cite problems with the site.

All of this data proves that most cart abandonments are related to issues other than the design of the site. Issues of price, consumer intent and delivery options matter a lot more than retailers may realize. However, as was shown before, savvy business owners can update their site and marketing strategy to turn abandoned carts into sales opportunities.

For more recent research on online marketing, read this article on using online video to improve marketing campaigns.