2.1. Online Shopping Cart Abandonment
When consumers shop online on e-commerce platforms, they compare and choose from a large number of products and generate a series of sequence data, such as clicks, favorites, adding products to shopping carts, and purchases. This process is called the buying cycle by the discipline of computer science [15
]. There can be many items that are put into the shopping cart in this cycle, some of which are purchased, and the other unpurchased items continue to be stored in the shopping cart, which is called cart discard (abandonment) [14
]. Broadly speaking, online shopping cart abandonment is also known as Internet Abandoned Cart Syndrome (ACS). It refers to consumers who put products into their online shopping carts during online shopping, but do not purchase any products or abandon the product in the shopping cart [16
]. Understanding why consumers take time to make purchase decisions (browse and put products into online shopping carts), but abandon the products in the shopping cart is an important issue that scholars and companies are paying attention to.
Previous studies have tried to explain shopping cart abandonment in various ways, including considering the characteristics of online shopping and online shopping sites. The main influencing factors of shopping cart abandonment behavior are subjective consumer factors, shopping behavior factors, and product classification factors [7
]. Past research has identified some variables that affect shopping cart abandonment behavior, such as perceived waiting time, perceived risk/privacy safety concerns, perceived transaction inconvenience, using shopping carts as a research tool, willingness to wait for lower prices, entertainment value, and lack of experience. Except for the perceived waiting time, the above variables are all positively correlated with shopping cart abandonment [11
]. Among the motives of shopping behavior, careful consideration, offline physical inspection, and hedonic shopping value have a significant impact on the abandonment of shopping carts [22
]. Product classification (high perceived importance, symbolic value, and price) has a significant impact on giving up shopping carts through three motivations (deliberate, offline inspection, and hedonic shopping value) [23
]. Representative studies have researched consumers who have an abstract (rather than specific) mentality when shopping online. These consumers believe that the products in their shopping cart are important, and so they are more likely to buy these products, thereby reducing the waste of shopping carts [11
]. Three perceptual conflicts, namely, attribute conflicts, interpersonal conflicts, and low self-efficacy, are the antecedents of emotional conflicts. The resulting emotional conflicts lead to hesitation and ultimately to the abandonment of the mobile shopping cart [24
]. The time involvement of adding products to the shopping cart also affects the shopping cart abandonment behavior; that is, the longer the time it takes to add products to the shopping cart, the lower the possibility of purchase [25
]. At the same time, compared with computer-side shopping, mobile shopping cart abandonment behavior is more due to the ambivalence, risk perception, price comparison, and other factors experienced by mobile-side consumers while shopping, which leads to hesitation at checkout and ultimately to shopping cart abandonment [26
Strategies often used to combat the abandonment of online shopping carts include the provision of free shipping and e-coupons. According to reports, third-party escrow services, buyer feedback systems, and real-time customer support can effectively reduce buyers’ perceived risk, thereby helping reduce the rate of abandoned shopping carts [27
]. Also, advertising retargeting (tracking cart abandoners and pushing retargeted ads to them) and email notifications have proven effective in tackling this behavior. The latest research proposes to reduce shopping cart abandonment behavior by mainly focusing on promotion and resource scarcity to stimulate consumers to purchase shopping cart products through coupon issuance, discount reminders, and reducing the number of products [28
]. However, price incentives also have some disadvantages [29
]. They are costly and may indicate low quality [30
]. Alternative methods use non-monetary incentives to allow companies to provide scarce information and emphasize limited supply [31
]. Scarce information has no cost so that it can be used as an “attention grabber”. The fear of missing out and a sense of urgency to buy prompt consumers to act immediately [32
]. One disadvantage of scarce information is that it may not be as powerful as price incentives in facilitating customer purchases [33
Although the abandonment of shopping carts has had a huge impact on the e-commerce industry, and the industry has made great efforts to curb it, the development of online shopping carts continues to model on the shopping carts (shopping baskets) in physical stores. There is a significant difference between a physical store shopping cart and an online shopping cart. The former is usually used to collect and store products for one-time checkout. The latter not only has the functions of the former, but also can be used as a tool for collecting information, comparing products, and collecting functions [23
]. The main factors that affect the abandonment behavior of physical shopping carts are the excessive flow of people and feelings about the wait [34
]. Recently, the online shopping cart had more functions, such as information collection, experience, and entertainment [16
]. In other words, consumers may use their virtual shopping cart as an online multifunction tool, rather than an actual buying tool [7
]. Therefore, our research focuses on the occurrence of online shopping cart abandonment when consumers use the online shopping cart as a multifunctional tool. Based on previous scholars’ definitions of online shopping cart abandonment behavior, we define it as: When consumers regard the shopping cart as a multifunctional tool, they will put the goods into the shopping cart for storage, entertainment, interaction, and information comparison, and leave all or part of the goods in the shopping cart until the goods are actively deleted (consumer removed) or passively deleted (system removed or deleted). From this angle, the current research lacks the second stage of online shopping—the consideration stage to reveal the intermediary mechanism of shopping cart abandonment behavior through mixed research methods.
At the same time, due to the development of China’s e-commerce, most e-commerce platforms allow the accommodation of more products in their shopping carts, such as a single product limit of 1000, a minimum of 100 multicategory products, and a maximum of unlimited products (see Table 1
). To maximize the efficiency of information collection and reduce information overload, online shoppers can use virtual shopping carts to organize their consideration sets. Shoppers compare and contrast their selection criteria in the shopping cart, focusing on those attributes that stand out in their motivations. Therefore, consumers are more willing to expand their choice set to meet their differentiated needs. A larger choice set makes it difficult for consumers to choose a satisfactory product, leading to the choice overload effect. This eventually leads to the abandonment of online shopping carts [37
In summary, previous studies did not consider the versatility of the shopping cart and only considered the shopping cart as a single payment channel for research. However, with the increase of shopping cart functions, online shopping carts not only have the functions of comparison, information collection, and storage of goods, but also have the functions of promotion and entertainment. Therefore, this study examines the abandonment behavior when consumers use the online shopping cart as a multifunction tool.
Consumers’ online buying decisions are divided into two stages: Browsing and considering. The consideration stage is also known as the evaluation of products and the implementation of the purchase stage (i.e., when the goods from the shopping cart are processed to the checkout order stage). Previous literature mainly focused on the influence of commodity ordering in the consideration stage on purchasing behavior [38
In the browsing stage of shopping, scholars are mainly concerned about the influence of the order of information presented on the webpage on purchase intention (see Figure 1
). The information on the web page includes product image sorting information, text description information, sales sorting information, etc. This information will attract consumers’ attention under different sorting rules, leading to different purchase choices. For example, Huang, J (2016) proposed that in search products, putting product pictures in the first place and model pictures in the back will increase consumers’ imagination and processing, leading to higher purchase intentions [38
]. Liu, L (2017) shows that the online product sales (ascending order vs. descending order) ranking will provide consumers with a “reference point” and “anchor” effect [39
]. In this case, consumers will also be less sensitive to prices in the subsequent selection process, making it easier to choose a relatively higher price.
In the consideration stage of shopping—that is, the final selection stage after the product is added to the shopping cart, scholars are more concerned about the impact of the product’s word-of-mouth information on the selection behavior. For example, Wang (2017) pointed out that the order in which consumer reviews are presented will affect product attitudes e-commerce platforms dominated by women are more suitable to present negative information first, and then present positive information, which will weaken the impact of negative information.
Even while making offline shopping decisions, the order of goods will significantly affect consumer purchase behavior. The order of display of goods can effectively reduce the difficulty of selection and improve purchase satisfaction [41
]. The reason for this phenomenon may be the different attention caused by the sequence. The sequence effect refers to the phenomenon that the different sequences of a series of stimuli may affect the individual’s final memory, impression formation, and decision-making judgment [42
]. The number and order of the stimuli presented also affect the occurrence of the sequential effect. When there are too many stimuli, the individual’s attention is not enough to cope with all the stimuli, which will reduce the interest in the stimuli. When the order of the stimuli is different, the primacy effect and the recency effect will occur. For example, the shopping cart products are sorted horizontally according to the list, and the products that appear in a column are arranged in the order of product picture, price, and name from left to right. Then according to the primacy effect, the pictures that appear in the first column at the top and the leftmost will attract the most attention of consumers. The recency effect is just the opposite of the first cause-effect. The last item in the shopping cart list will attract more attention than the item in the middle [44
Overall, product presentation and local presentation also enhance the appeal of advertising to consumers, improving cognitive fluency, which plays an important role in the intermediary mechanism.
2.3. Limited Attention Theory
Individual attention is a limited and scarce resource, especially when the individual is faced with numerous and complex choices [45
]. As opposed to options that are less likely to attract individual attention, more significant features can help individuals make decisions. Effectively attracting individual attention makes decision-making easier. Conversely, when limited attention is distracted by irrelevant attributes or characteristics, the individual will feel higher confusion and pressure [25
]. The research of limited attention mainly revolves around the information acquisition personality. For example, investors show abnormal buying behaviors on stocks that attract great attention, and individuals have slow responses when facing competitive information, and so forth [46
Similarly, while shopping, there are target tasks and non-target tasks that affect the choice of attention. Online shopping mainly captures the fragmented time of consumers. Purposeful shopping is also called just-needed shopping. It attracts consumers’ attention through search, price comparison, keyword advertising, and so forth, and consumers will complete the shopping process in a targeted manner. Specifically, in the context of targeted shopping, the information search method of a query is usually used. Users input keywords in the search box and then conduct attention filtering in the results presented on the website (see Figure 1
). Compared with shopping with goals and tasks, purposeless shopping is also called leisure shopping. Consumers’ needs are ambiguous and waiting to be awakened. Consumers will look forward to being awakened by novelty products, helped by the mood of browsing and adventure; at this time, the consumer’s attention will be distracted and not concentrated [49
]. The function of the shopping cart is mainly focused on the role of favorites, and the behavior of abandoning the shopping cart will be much higher than that of the target task. The products added to the shopping cart will no longer be actively searched, which will cause consumers to forget [51
2.4. Forgetting, Choice Overload, and Psychological Ownership
It is very common to forget to buy something. For online retailers, the forgetfulness of consumers leads to the loss of sales. For consumers, forgetfulness means a missed opportunity, and they must reconsume cognitive resources to redraw purchase plans. Consumers can use memory-based search for shopping by recalling the products they plan to buy from memory and then directly searching for products. According to Ebbinghaus’ forgetfulness curve, when a product is first added to the shopping cart, people’s information about the added product can reach 100%, but as time goes by, if they do not open the shopping cart frequently to browse the product, people’s product information will quickly drop to about 40% [52
]. After consumers decide to purchase a product, they use certain strategies to search for the product they need (i.e., memory-based search and stimulus-based search), which will affect whether they will eventually buy the product. Although these two strategies (and a mixture of the two strategies) are common, most consumers do not use pure stimulus strategies [53
]. Memory-based search is performed by recalling the goods they plan to buy from memory and then directly searching for the product. For example, consumers can use the search function in an online store to look for the product they have in mind. Stimulus-based search refers to systematically moving through the store, visually scanning inventory, and selecting items when they are needed. In the research of Fernandes (2016), it is found that in the online shopping context, if consumers use the search bar to search for goods, searching out of memory will make it easier for consumers to forget the goods they infrequently buy [54
]. However, if they use stimulating search, they are less likely to forget.
Choice overload refers to a negative experience of consumers when faced with a large number of options. The psychological conflict with too many options leads to confusion, anxiety, and inability to choose, ultimately avoiding the phenomenon of choice [55
]. The presence of choice overload can be seen in all aspects of daily life, including in physical items (such as sauce, chocolate, etc.), as well as in virtual items (such as electronic goods, gift certificates, etc.). The measurement of the mediating effect of choice overload mainly adopts two kinds of indicators; one is the subjective feelings of consumers, and the other is the observable, objective behavior of consumers [56
]. This study uses the second observable, objective behavior of consumers to measure the mediating effect of choice overload. This is done by measuring three indicators: Delaying consumer decisions or even not making decisions, changing previous decisions, and opposing big choices. Previous studies have also found that the presentation of information and product classification affect the generation of choice overload. For example, an orderly arrangement of information presentation and the classification of goods based on comparable and non-comparable attributes and complementary characteristics can adjust the effect of selection overload.
Consumers will have psychological ownership of products they have imagined, products they have not owned or have already lost [57
]. Pierce, Kostova, and Dirks (2001) define it as the feeling that something is “mine” [58
]. This is mainly derived from the need for a sense of belonging of psychological ownership, and individuals can have a sense of belonging to various items [59
]. Psychological ownership is different from ownership and does not require legal or formal ownership. In other words, the psychological ownership of an item does not need to own the item—even if it is included in one’s exclusive domain, psychological ownership will be aroused [60
]. Another situation is that when an individual exercises more control over an object, the sense of ownership of the object will increase [61
]. We believe that the shopping cart is a relatively private space, and consumers will most likely think it is personal territory. At the same time, people have invested energy, time, and attention in the context of online shopping [62
], adding products to the shopping cart, creating a connection between the product and the self [63
], which may arouse psychological ownership of consumers [7