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Cath KidstonWhen it comes to abandoned baskets, all digital marketers worth their salt should be thinking about how to get their hands on every penny that is not being converted on their websites.

Of course we know that through price, stock or postage checking, all abandonments aren’t truly lost customers, but that doesn't excuse the whopping 73% of purchases that are left idle.

A significant chunk of idle baskets therefore are shoppers who are in the purchase phase and should be followed up with a targeted email.

So with the launch of a new email creative Look Book by those clever folks at SaleCycle I thought I’d review some of my favourite creatives against best practice tips to help demonstrate how you can deliver an actionable abandoned basket email strategy for your brand.

I've picked my top 10 best practice tips with relevant examples as seen in the Look Book, so on with the show...

1. Make it clear what the email is about and stay on topic

If something takes longer than a few seconds to open, read or understand, we're off.

A clear subject line and email header can be the difference between a user ignoring, or opening and clicking on your recovery email. Make sure both are clear from the onset.

Cath Kidston

2. Use personalisation to recognise your recipient

Being ignored isn't nice. Nor is someone you thought you knew forgetting your name.

Use personalisation to reference who you are talking to is a well-established practice and cannot be underestimated - but only if you are confident of data quality. 

3. Reference the items that have been abandoned

Always, always, always reference what the person has left in their basket - especially if they are sale items or in limited stock.

Display the items as thumbnails and include product details to remind the customer, improve the aesthetics of the email, and also trigger the original emotion of why they added it to their shopping bag in the first place.

Going one step beyond, order them in terms of value or priority for sale aligned to your business objectives. 

This is even more important in travel where prices and availability can change dramatically, and lastminute.com does a great job at reminding the customer of the holiday they were looking at, ratings, and flight details.


4. Reference other items that may be of interest

If it’s ‘just not their bag’ (obvious Austin Powers ref), then all is not completely lost.

Include recommendations of other items of relevance as it might lead to the sale of a product that wasn’t previously considered. Gaining a new customer through a recovery email might also be the cheapest acquisition tool to add to your mix.

Office Shoes

5. Make it easy for users to return

Making it obvious what the user needs to do is a critical step in the recovery of an abandoned basket.

Use a clear call to action in a number of formats to improve the clickthrough rate of your retargeting emails and ensure that even when images are disabled, the user can quickly recognise the action they need to take.

Millennium Hotels 

Millennium Hotels demonstrates this technique by including multiple signals throughout the email in forms of text links, buttons, and customer service details if they need further assistance. 

6. Display clear USPs and elements of trust

Just because they looked at your brand, doesn’t mean you’re preaching to the converted.

Include reasons why users should buy from you to gain their trust and also add a point of differentiation to your brand, such as customer testimonials, guarantees, return policy or awards.

Including guarantees, returns policy, delivery to store or other customer benefits as a footer is the way Glasses Direct helps to remove risk for the shopper and promote conversion. 

Glasses Direct 

7. Don't hide delivery charges

Around half of basket abandonments are noted to be because of poor information regarding delivery charges.

Make sure it is clear both what the charges and timescales are, and also to state any free delivery or delivery to store messages if this is relevant. 

8. Offer other methods to interact

What if they are ready to shop but just have a question or need a bit of help?

Think multichannel and don’t be scared to ‘lose’ a sale to another sales channel. Include alternative calls-to-action to offer other methods of getting in touch. 

To monitor the true impact of your recovery email marketing, ensure you have the right processes in place to record any conversions made a result of calls, emails or social media interactions triggered by recovery emails.  

9. Trial incentives but don’t rely on them

Remember that users are savvy. Following up every idle basket with an offer encourages shoppers to intentionally abandon in order to trigger an offer.

A/B test emails to include an offer vs. no offer, use as part of a multi-stage program, trial the impact of different incentives, or use irregularly to elicit clickthrough. Remember that these don’t always have to be monetary e.g. prize draws to win.


Oakley demonstrates this by boldly displaying a ‘free delivery on all orders’ message, which is actually the standard offer but does act as an incentive to remind and persuade.

And finally...

10. Incorporate social media

As we’ve already discussed, you may never recover a sale from a customer who is not in the ‘purchase mentality’, but that doesn’t mean it’s a waste of time retargeting them, or you can’t convert them in the future.

Your abandoned basket email is another media interaction to promote your brand and the service offered.

Include links to your social media portfolio. Use it as an opportunity to both promote them, but also build relationships in the future through your social communities.

Alton Towers 


Getting your abandoned basket emails live is the first step to a well-performing, well-optimised program.

Use best practice tips and different tactics to find out what works best for your brand, review look books and competitor creatives to see what others are doing, and pay attention not only what your customers have done, but what they might do as a result of opening your email.

Rhian Harris (was Simms)

Published 26 April, 2013 by Rhian Harris (was Simms)

Rhian Simms is a Digital Marketing Consultant at Consult&C Digital and a contributor to Econsultancy. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

12 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

Good list of best practices and nice examples. It surprises me how many online retailers don't use or even track abandoned baskets, it should generate a simple sale when used.

I guess there is always and element of surprising the user in a stalker sort of way which could put them off the sale but I think most online shoppers should be used to the idea of being tracked. If being tracked results in great personalisation and customer service then that's a good thing.

over 3 years ago

Rhian Harris (was Simms)

Rhian Harris (was Simms), Digital Marketing Consultant at Consult & C Limited

I agree, Dean. There's a fine balance between 'stalking' and offering additional assistance, but on the whole I believe abandoned basket recovery is an appropriate and cost-effective media as part of the overall mix.

Thanks for the comment!

over 3 years ago


Gareth Robinson, Head of E Commerce at Admiral

Hi there, all good tips. Is there also any merit in adding a free text box where the individual can tell you WHY they never completed the transaction? Maybe only 1/10 people will bother to tell you but over time you may gather a critical mass of responses which provide you an insight in to why they drop off that you can hopefully act upon.

Also, depending on the margin built in to the product that they are buying would it also be worth testing a time sensitive offer/voucher code. To be clear I don't advocate doing this willy nilly but it could be done on orders with high AOV or products that are part of your best range (within a good,better, best product hierarchy). Gareth Robinson

over 3 years ago

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