Ecommerce Brands that Nail Cart Abandonment

According to data from the Baymard Institute, 68.63% of carts get abandoned. Let that sink in. More than two-thirds of customers who add something to a cart — an action that’s typically associated with intent — end up dropping everything and walking away. In all likelihood, this means one of two things: We’re all a bunch of tire kickers (a possibility that’s higher on mobile), or there’s something very wrong with the ecommerce checkout process.

Below are three best practices (with real-world examples of each) you can use to optimize cart abandonment email flows and improve your chances of converting tire kickers into paying customers.

1. Be persistent, but don’t be a pest when sending emails
It’s worth acknowledging up front that there are a lot of reasons people abandon carts.

We’re busy. We love to browse on our mobile devices and complete purchases later on a desktop device (three-quarters of ecommerce sales still come from non-mobile devices). We price shop and buy later after we’re satisfied with our diligence. We showroom (visiting brick-and-mortar stores to experience items, only to buy them online) and reverse showroom (the opposite of showrooming and something 69% of us do according to a Harris Poll).

Ultimately, all of these possibilities can make it incredibly difficult to pinpoint exactly why a customer abandons and how likely it is that he or she will come back. With that being said, there’s one thing marketers can do improve their chances of re-engaging and converting cart abandoners: Persistency.

Now, there’s no clear answer on the exact number of abandonment emails you should send, but it’s safe to say that once isn’t enough. Sure, that first email might be sufficient for people who fully intended on returning to purchase, but what about everyone else? For those customers, it’s a good idea to create a cart abandonment flow that includes two additional emails:

  • A second email 24-48 hours later that encourages them to finish their purchase with buttons that link to their abandoned cart
  • A third email a week later that either creates a sense of urgency or gives the customer some sort of incentive to purchase (more on both of these tactics in the next point)

Here’s an example from home furnishings brand APT2B, which sends emails 4 hours, 3 days, and 5 days after the customer abandons their cart.

Email 1:

apt2b abandoned cart email

Email 2:


Email 3:

A couple of things to note: All three emails prominently feature the black CTA button encouraging customers to return to their cart, but each email has unique copy and the final email offers a 10% discount for completing a purchase.

2. Be thoughtful about when you offer discounts and who you offer them to
While offering a discount can be a highly effective tactic for converting tire kickers who are balking at price, this approach can also lead to people growing accustomed to a discount. And when that happens, customers might just become programmed to throw items into a cart and wait for you to offer them 20% off their purchase.

That’s fine if you’ve built those types of discounts into your margins or customer acquisition strategy, but it’s not a habit you want to get into with every customer and every transaction. One way to work around this is to segment your lists in a way that discounts are only offered to new customers who abandon their carts (more on that in the next point).

Here’s a good example of this from Bonobos (via ReallyGoodEmails):

hey-forget-something1-680x977The headline (“Forget something?”) is catchy, while the copy is playful (“Don’t worry—fit happens”). More importantly, the CTA is clean and easy to see, while the offer isn’t the only focus. The goal here is to get the customer to finish checking out. If the 20% coupon code is what triggers them to do it, so be it.

One tactic to avoid the temptation of discounts is to create a sense of urgency by sending cart abandonment emails that notify customers about low inventory or sale price deadlines.

Here’s a good example of an abandoned cart email from Huckberry that creates urgency by reminding the customer that its sales are limited and time-sensitive:

Huckberry abandoned cart email example

Your goal should be to focus customers’ attention on the most compelling reasons to do business with your brand. This can be accomplished by focusing attention on the quality of your products, the uniqueness of your customer experience, or the ease of shopping on your site. So, think creatively and experiment with many different types of offers before immediately leaning on discounts.

3. Always personalize email flows with customer attribute & behavioral data
Regardless of how many emails you include in your cart abandonment flows, it’s critical to use as much data as possible to segment those flows around specific customer attributes and behavior.

For instance, you might create a separate flow for new customers, another for customers who regularly leave items in their cart and never complete the checkout process, and another for customers who routinely add items to their cart on their phone and complete the purchase on a computer. Within those segments, you might also use demographic and behavioral data to personalize email content and offers even further.

For instance, if you know that students ages 18-22 respond less favorably to abandoned cart emails (one study found that 54% of students find abandoned cart emails “annoying”), you can use that information to influence your flow cadence and messaging. Similarly, if you know that men respond in an overwhelmingly positive way to discounts, you can use that data to create custom email flows.

One example of this is segmenting email flows by cart size.

The number of items in someone’s shopping cart can be indicative of their interest in your brand or their confusion around which product is really right for their needs. In that situation, you might consider displaying similar or related products in the email, or sharing items that might be a better fit for what they’re looking for. Here’s a good example from lawn equipment retailer Worx (via ReallyGoodEmails):

take-another-lookThe Good News: Most People Find Cart Abandonment Emails Helpful. A 2015 Marketing Sherpa poll of more than 2,000 consumers revealed some good news for ecommerce brands: 51% of people find cart abandonment emails helpful and more than 25% say they occasionally drive them to complete a purchase.

Now, for the bad news: 38% find of people also find these emails annoying.

Those are the people you should be thinking about. Why do they find them annoying? Is it the frequency of the emails? The messaging? The lack of value beyond a simple reminder? There could be number of factors that inspire a negative response to these emails. And, frankly, you’re never going to convert every customer who adds something to their cart.

That said, the data shows these emails create a clear opportunity to re-engage customers who fail to complete a purchase. If you can convert even a small portion of them, it can have a significant impact on your bottom line.

Interested in learning more about creating and optimizing abandoned cart automations? Check out these shopping cart abandonment email subject line resources.

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