November 6th, 2011 | 5 MIN READ

8 Tips for Recovering Abandoned Shopping Carts

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

What is the biggest missed opportunity in ecommerce optimization? Is it A/B testing? Performance testing?

How about cart recovery?

We put a lot of focus on optimizing the cart, getting the customer through to conversion, yet still it's not uncommon to have abandonment rates of 50% or higher. We know a good chunk of abandonment does not occur because the button wasn't big enough or green enough or our web forms are too long. Some got distracted, some wanted to hold items for later, some left and couldn't remember your site URL, some even thought the transaction went through when it did not.

Cart recovery emails enjoy astronomically higher conversion rates and ROI than regular email, and give you a very good chance of saving sales at a relatively low cost.

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The Missed Opportunity with Cart Recovery

A study by RedEye and Econsultancy found that 54% of companies surveyed do not target cart abandoners, compared to 26% that do. If we strip out the 20% that report cart recovery is irrelevant to their business, it’s 68% that don’t and 32% that do.

Compare this to the same survey's findings that 53% of companies use A/B testing, cart recovery is quite possibly the biggest missed opportunity of ecommerce optimization.

But it's not enough to just do it. There are best practices to get the most bang for your retargeting buck.

Don't Delay

This isn’t dating, where you take a phone number and have to play it cool for 3 to 5 days to make it look like you’re really busy and important. Your conversion rate will not increase by making the customer sweat by your self control.

According to SeeWhy research, which has analyzed data from over 60,000 abandoned carts, 54% of all carts that are successfully recovered are won back within the first few hours after abandonment. An additional 10% can be recovered within 48 hours, and at the end of 7 days, 82% can be recovered.

Conversion rates for real-time recovery emails are 11% compared to 6% and 3% for 24 hours and 7 days, respectively. Open rates are also higher for real-time triggers – 60% vs. 55% after 24 hours and 50% after 7 days. Revenue per email is $11, $4, and $3, respectively.

Instant emails also reduce the risk that your customer converts before your "batch" of recovery emails are sent out for the day, saving you the embarrassment of an irrelevant email, or angering the customer that they could have received a discount if they had only not completed their purchase.

Shift from Manual to Automated

The RedEye and Econsultancy research highlights a shift from manual recovery methods to automated from 2010 to 2011. Good. Software is smarter, faster and better looking than us, and we should embrace that.

Be a Serial Stalker

Plan a series of 3 triggers, one for real-time, one after 24 hours and one after 7 days. The copy and creative of the email may be slightly different to reflect the lapse of time and to stagger offers (the first email may be just a friendly reminder, subsequent messages with sweeter deals). When possible, segment out recipients who have not opened the first email, opened but not clicked, and opened and clicked and target them accordingly. You may tinker with a series of more than 3 messages, but 3 is a good place to start until you get the feel for customer behavior.

Segment and Test Different Creative

You may want to trigger certain types of messages and offers depending on what's in the cart. For example, high ticket items can absorb a free shipping offer better than low margin or low price items. Some product categories may naturally have a longer days to purchase or visits to purchase, and reminders rather than discount offers are effective without knicking your profit. And the more exclusive your product, the less you need to woo customers with discounts. Victoria's Secret, for example, does not sell through other retailers. Vicky's abandoned carts may simply need a reminder their cart is saved and ready for them to complete their purchase. The customer may be motivated by "your purchase qualifies for a Bonus Gift, click here to claim."

Treat your emails like landing pages and test them. We know calls-to-action, copy (tone, length, messaging), images and layout all have an influence on persuasion and conversion. Don't just "set it and forget it." For some design inspiration and tips for content, see our previous post 14 Tips for Cart Recovery and 10 Emails Deconstructed.

Don't Reward Abandonment

Discourage customers from abandoning in order to receive the "prize" discount by mixing up your offers. In other words, don't send a discount the first time, every time. If possible, identify and segment out email accounts that have purchased after receiving an offer code. Alternate with "friendly reminder" emails with real-time triggers.

Plaster Your Value Proposition

Persuade comparison shoppers that your site is the right choice to purchase from, regardless of price. Include your value proposition, and don't be discreet about it.

Capture the Email Address Early

Most importantly, capture the email address early, because you can’t trigger unless you have an email address. The best way is to ask for it as the first step, not just in the first step.

Follow Abandoners to Facebook

What about cart summary pages, before you can collect an address? If the customer was referred by an email campaign, it's technically possible you can tie some carts back to the email address. But in most cases, using Google's new Remarketing program allows you to target the cart-abandoner segment with whatever creative you like, such as a 10% off coupon or "your items are waiting for you at {}." Your ad will follow them to Facebook and pretty much any site that shows Google display ads, which may get you more attention than an email series.

In fact, the two can work in tandem. Why not run Remarketing campaigns along with a cart recovery email program?

Looking for help with ecommerce site optimization? Contact the Elastic Path consulting team at to learn how our conversion optimization services can improve your business results.

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