The Key to Effective Cart Abandonment Campaigns

By now, customers usually know what to expect when they receive a cart abandonment campaign from a retailer – the standard campaign is usually a “Forgot Something?”-style email campaign, with a link back to the product abandoned during the checkout process and an invitation to complete their purchase and language like “Hurry back before it’s gone!” There’s rarely much else beyond a simple call-to-action, specifically geared towards turning that abandoned cart into a completed purchase.

But what’s lacking in most shopping cart abandonment messages today is the plain and simple understanding that every customer is different. Abandoned online shopping carts can occur for myriad reasons – plenty of unique problems that lead to leaving behind merchandise happen specifically at checkout, in addition to all the points of friction that occur at different points in the buying cycle – and with the same kind of email marketing message – from subject lines to content – still being sent to every customer, it’s hard for online retailers to even begin to acknowledge all these different customer needs, let alone respond to them with the relevance and personalization needed to maximize open rates and conversion rates.

Last week, however, we received an impressively targeted campaign that can best be described as “customer-centric cart abandonment.” We shopped with a geek-culture brand described as “a Sharper Image for sysadmins” and specializing in odd gadgets and tools for computer enthusiasts. After we supplied our email address and left two products in a shopping cart (a Pokémon mug and a “Sonic Meeting Disrupter” office toy), the brand sent us an email that offered no fewer than three different suggestions for how we could proceed:

First, and as expected, the brand suggested the obvious – that we return to our cart, retrieve our abandoned item, and complete our purchase. Simple enough, standard enough, and the abandoned cart email included a link that would take us right to the checkout page. But they didn’t stop there:


The brand then gave us a personalized discount code that we could use to save money on our purchase, whether that purchase was the items we’d abandoned or some other merchandise. According to Shopify, 56% of shopping carts (and that’s just a fraction of the industry average abandonment rate) that are abandoned at checkout happen because of unexpected last-minute costs, including taxes and shipping costs – by offering cart abandoners a discount up-front, the brand was recognizing this as one of the reasons why customers walk away from merchandise, and was offering a solution. Other brands have successfully addressed this issue by offering free shipping and coupon codes, or even by pulling in customer service to hold their hand.

Finally, the brand suggested that, if the item still wasn’t quite what we were looking for, that we browse some alternatives that they’d handpicked for us. (You’ll notice that all these items are relevant to the Pokémon mug we’d left in our cart.) This best practice can not only drive up conversion rate, but also average order value.


With just one streamlined email campaign, this retailer provided solutions for nearly every reason I could’ve had for abandoning my purchase is huge – either the cost was too high, or the item wasn’t quite right, or I simply needed one final push to finish my purchase.

The majority of cart abandonment email templates (and other recovery emails) today unfortunately do little else beyond pushing a sale – and as long as merchandise is flowing out and dollars are flowing in, online retailers may wonder why it needs to do more than that. But finding a way to speak to your customers’ needs within the context of a cart abandonment email is not only an incredible way to acknowledge the multitude of reasons behind abandoned merchandise with accompanying solutions, it’s a great way to make sure existing and potential customers actually want to finish their purchase. (I know I did, upon receiving this email!) Customer-centricity in shopping cart abandonment campaigns is key to not only targeting the unique needs of each online shopper, but it’s critical to fostering loyal shopping behavior and strengthening customer relationships – one fewer abandoned cart at a time.

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