Most marketers know by now that when a shopper abandons merchandise in a shopping cart, it’s important to send a cart abandonment campaign almost immediately afterwards – it’s a tried-and-true best practice. And nearly 50% of all abandoned carts are recoverable when marketers deliver the right campaign – one that, ideally, is personalized to the shopper based on the specific items they abandoned and that uses language like “Forgot Something?” or “Hurry Back!” to drive urgency and sustains a customer’s interest.

…So what do you do if a customer ignores those campaigns?

As a part of our ongoing research on the marketing strategies of today’s top brands, we deliberately leave merchandise behind in our shopping carts to see how different retailers handle cart abandonment. The good news is that most marketers do send a cart abandonment campaign. The bad news is that the vast majority of these retailers, upon seeing no response from our end, tend to respond in one of two ways:

1. Not at all
2. By sending almost the exact same campaign several more times, with only the subject line changed

The problem is that most marketers don’t think about how to send multiple cart abandonment touchpoints in an effective way. Marketers need to understand that if a customer isn’t engaging with their initial cart abandonment touchpoints, there’s a reason, and they need to switch up what they’re doing when they reach out again to try and hone in on the problem, as well as offer a solution.

A retailer that sells kitchenwares and home furnishings impressed us with their multi-touchpoint cart abandonment campaigns. After we left a set of ice cream bowls in a shopping cart, the retailer sent a few traditional cart abandonment campaigns, each of which included the bowls we’d abandoned as well as a selection of other items we might: including spoons, placemats, and glassware. So far, the brand was already going above and beyond by including other related products in their cart abandonment campaigns, but we refrained from revisiting our shopping cart to see what the brand would do next.

After several days, during which time we deliberately didn’t engage with our cart or with any other merchandise, the brand switched tactics: they delivered an email with the subject line “Regarding Your Recent Visit, Here’s Our Most Popular Bowls.” One possible reason a customer might abandon merchandise in a shopping cart is not because they simply “Forgot Something?”, but because there’s something not quite right with the specific item abandoned. The brand recognized the possibility that we wanted to buy bowls, but hadn’t found the right ones – and they offered a solution by sending us a series of alternatives we could look at instead.

We didn’t open this email either, and the brand went from Plan B to Plan C: they sent us an email with the subject line “Check out NOW and get 20% off + Free Shipping.” They saw that, despite their earlier efforts, we still hadn’t revisited our abandoned items – so perhaps a concrete incentive was necessary. A coupon or discount is one of the best ways to create urgency get a customer to purchase quickly, especially one that’s time-sensitive like the brand’s was. Their urging that we complete our purchase right away in order to receive the discount is a highly-effective way to get a customer to revisit their merchandise.

The brand identified our unique preferences based on the actions we were (or weren’t) taking, then addressed points of friction preventing us from making a purchase. And when we didn’t respond to their initial cart abandonment emails, the brand took our lack of a response as an opportunity to try and understand what went wrong, then jump in and offer solutions – quite a different approach from the brands that send the exact same campaign repeatedly. Marketers who are sending cart abandonment campaigns must think creatively in order to maximize cart recovery – because sending the exact same message multiple times will quickly turn into white noise for your customer to ignore.

Sruthi Narayanan

When Sruthi's not writing and editing marketing content, Sruthi spends her time volunteering for a Cambridge-based arts organization, singing in a post-collegiate a cappella group, and reading novels to her cat, Monty.