While it’s generally known for silly videos and viral challenges, TikTok has recently been making waves in the world of politics. Earlier this month, users of the social media app made headlines by making fake reservations to President Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, potentially contributing to the event’s lower-than-expected turnout. Now, TikTokers have discovered a new way to troll the Trump campaign: shopping cart abandonment.
What Is Shopping Cart Abandonment?
Have you ever shopped online, added items to your cart, and then changed your mind at the last minute? That’s shopping cart abandonment, and it can confuse the inventory of a store and cost it money.
When a user abandons their cart, the retailer loses money in two ways. First, the store will often restock the items in the cart, even though they haven’t actually been purchased. This creates an expenditure on replacing inventory without the profit of a sale for the store.
In addition, online retailers will often target users who abandon carts with more ads in a bid to bring them back to complete the sale.
“If you’ve ever abandoned a cart online, you might recall having seen more ads or emails from that brand, oftentimes with discounts,” Mark Irvine, director of strategic partnerships at marketing agency WorldStream, told AdWeek.
This targeted advertising results in further depletion of the site’s advertising budget, particularly if the user has no intention of ever completing the purchase.
A Surprising Issue for Retailers
While these losses might seem like small potatoes for a large online retailer, experts say they can add up quickly. Business Insider, for instance, estimated that e-commerce merchants could potentially lose up to $4.6 trillion in a year to shopping cart abandonment.
Meanwhile, Clayton McLaughlin, an executive at digital marketing agency iCrossing, said that organized shopping cart abandonment “could potentially wreak havoc with a digital campaign.”
“Whether it’s an intended retargeting campaign or a positive signal to an optimization algorithm, those users will likely be targeted again,” McLaughlin told AdWeek. “Plus, other users that share similar traits will start to see the ads as well based on lookalike modeling. Overall, it creates a potentially expensive situation for an advertiser.”
TikTok Takes Up The Call
In a TikTok video shared on Wednesday, June 24, user Shane Meyers explained the concept of shopping cart abandonment, and how it could be used against the Trump campaign.
“I’ve already gotten 20+ ads and I only started doing this 2 hours ago,” Meyers wrote in the video description.
Since then, videos and images have popped up all over the TikTok and other social media sites joining in on the elaborate prank.
oh no what a shame! looks like I cant afford my 80 million dollars of trump merch! looks like I’ll have to go read up on the negative effects of online shopping cart abandonment instead! pic.twitter.com/3Edw1AFUGu— ❀ NoraLikesToDraw ❀ Commissions open! (@noralikestodraw) June 25, 2020
Most posts show users adding thousands of dollars worth of Trump merchandise to their carts before clicking away. However, Irvine said this tactic could backfire for pranksters. He pointed out that retailers might have rules to detect “ludicrously large carts and omit them from these audiences and campaigns.”
AdWeek reports that the Trump campaign may have already taken countermeasures against the prank. As noted by Kyle Rees, director at Gartner for Marketers, the option to add multiple quantities of an item to a cart has disappeared from the store. Nevertheless, Rees said the damage may already be done.
“While it’s now much more difficult for individuals to add $1,000,000 worth of merchandise to a spam shopping cart, it’s also going to create issues for campaign supporters who may have been looking to buy a couple of hats or T-shirts for themselves or their family and friends,” said Rees. “Now they have to manually add items one at a time. That’s a negative hit to site [user experience] for the average site user.”
A New Challenge for Political Campaigns
For McLaughlin, the coordinated prank is an example of a new challenge for all political campaigns moving forward.
“With the upcoming election and all of the news swirl that surrounded foreign interference in the 2016 election, fraud is reemerging as a very real topic that every brand will need to deal with in the coming months,” McLaughlin said. “But political campaigns will have to be especially deft in how they combat this trend.”