17 helpful abandoned cart tips for ecommerce marketers

Abandoned cart tips

For every 10 shopping carts that are started, approximately 7 will be abandoned. That’s huge. If your average cart value is $100, that means that for every $1K worth of products placed in carts, $700 won’t make it to checkout on the first pass. Get back even a fraction of that with these tips for recovering abandoned carts, and the results will add up fast.

We combed through everything we’ve written about abandoned carts — and it’s a lot — in search of the most useful, actionable, and genuinely helpful advice.

The result? 17 of our very favorite abandoned cart tips, all gathered here in one place. Follow these tips, and you’ll find yourself slashing distracting calls to action and spreading the word about free shipping. You’ll roll out the virtual red carpet for your VIP customers and dial back your discounts.

Best of all, you’ll fine-tune your abandoned cart emails so that they start bringing you more revenue.

1. Be ruthless. Drive clicks to your CTA.
Your goal with an abandoned cart email is to drive the shopper back to the cart, right? Then why do you have social buttons at the bottom of the email? It can be tough to cut links that you’re used to seeing there. But as we’ve explained in our list of abandoned cart best practices, you’ve got to “focus attention on the back-to-cart link.” So keep your eye on the prize and delete those distracting social buttons.

2. Make sure your abandoned cart emails are…live
Does this one sound too obvious to include in a list of abandoned cart tips? Believe it or not, there are plenty of ecommerce marketers out there who recognize the value of abandoned cart emails but don’t have them up and running yet. Remember that perfect is the enemy of the good. Get a basic abandoned cart series live today and then come back to this list of tips to fine-tune and add to it.

3. Become an abandoned cart optimist
As an ecommerce marketer, your mindset matters when it comes to abandoned carts. The glass is half-full? Yes, and the cart is half-bought. “We need to embrace this customer behavior as an industry,” Janet Aronica wrote in our guide to abandoned cart nurturing. “What if instead of viewing items left in a cart as a lost sale, we viewed this action as another indicator of purchase intent?” Maybe they’re not “abandoned” carts after all. Maybe they’re “intent-to-buy” carts.

4. Roll out the red carpet for your VIPs
If you’re a regular at a restaurant, you get an extra-special welcome from the staff. It’s not just that a friendly welcome or a free appetizer is nice to have — those things remind you that you’re a valued customer and keep you coming back. You can set up a special segment of abandoned cart emails for your VIP customers too. Consider adding a special bonus, like a discount or free shipping. At the very least, acknowledge how much you value their business.

5. Gather email addresses at the start
You’ve got to collect email addresses early in the checkout process. If you’re asking for email addresses late in the game, you have no way to reach new customers who abandon their carts. Even if it means adjusting your checkout process so that the email address comes first, do it. You know it’s more likely than not that a cart will be abandoned. At least this way, you’ll have a way to reach back out.

6. Time your discounts strategically
Don’t just toss a discount at every shopper who abandons a cart. Be smart about discounts. Generally speaking, they don’t belong in your first abandoned cart email to anyone — keep that one discount-free. The first one one should just be a friendly reminder. If you’re going to offer a discount, put it in the second email — and consider giving them to first-time customers only. While you’re at it, explain that they’re getting a discount because they’re first-time customers. That way, they won’t become conditioned to expect a discount every time.

7. Lighten the mood with an image
If it fits with your brand, including a funny or goofy image in an abandoned cart email can go a long way to lightening the mood. From big-eyed sad animals to an astonished squirrel, a lighthearted image takes the edge off a message of “hey, you forgot something.”

8. Introduce user-generated content
Have a flagship line of products with great reviews? When someone abandons a cart that includes one of those products, automatically send a special abandoned cart email with positive reviews of the products from your other customers. It’s social proof and specificity all in one package.

9. Use urgency sparingly
Be strategic about when to introduce a sense of urgency. Don’t try to rush your customers right off the bat — and then go on to send them two more emails over the next week. It “can make you sound like the boy who cried wolf” — and put your credibility in jeopardy.

10. Encourage more shopping
What’s the goal of most abandoned cart emails? To get the customer to come back and finish a purchase. But what if you didn’t want the customer to go back and check out right away? For example, in one case we looked at, “12% of customers who came back [added] more products to their carts.” Consider testing messaging that encourages adding more.

11. Don’t throw money away
How low can you go and still encourage a purchase? Once you’ve decided who gets a discount in an abandoned cart email series, next you need to figure out how to maximize your revenue. Maybe you’re offering 20% when 15% would perform just as well. This is one you want to start A/B testing right away.

12. Prevent an out-of-stock crisis
Do your products tend to sell out fast? Imagine how a customer will feel when she clicks on an abandoned cart email and finds out the product in the cart is sold out. If your platform supports it (like Magento or Shopify), set up the out-of-stock safeguards. Once you’ve got it set up, you can rest easy knowing that abandoned cart reminders won’t go out for out-of-stock products.

13. Use winning subject line strategies
There are two subject line strategies that tend to perform well. Fun, irreverent ones that work well for an already lively or humorous brand, and clear, direct ones that work well for just about everybody. What doesn’t work so well: subject lines that are neither fun nor clear. Don’t overthink it. Just ask yourself, “Would my customers open this email?” Then watch your open rates like a hawk to be sure.

14. Are returns easy? Then say so.
In a study with a Japanese retailer, researchers sent two versions of abandoned cart emails to customers (they refer to the process as “retargeting”). The version with information about easy product returns led to nearly 50% more in spending than the control. If your store has a great easy returns policy, you may want to highlight it in your abandoned cart emails too.

15. Display targeted reminders on Facebook
In your email marketing software, create a segment of people who have items sitting in their cart and have placed zero orders in the past three days. Sync the segment with Facebook Custom Audiences and advertise on Facebook specifically to those people. Will you get a 1500% ROI using this method? We have no idea, but it’s worth testing out.

16. Your order ships free!
If you offer free shipping above a certain threshold, don’t keep it a secret — especially from people who are poised to buy. Create a special version of your abandoned cart email series to send automatically when the total value of the products qualifies for free shipping. Shipping costs add a layer of stress to the shopping process. If you can take that off a customer’s plate, be sure to let them know.

17. Have fun with traditional touchpoints
Why should your website have all the fun? If you’ve got a sense of humor as a store, make sure it shows up in your abandoned cart emails too. For instance, in their abandoned cart emails, clothing retailer Chubbies invites shoppers to “teleport to your cart.” Now that’s a button it’s going to be hard to resist!

Do you have any favorite abandoned cart tips that didn’t make the list? Share them in the comments.

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