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Basket abandonment is an inevitability in ecommerce as it's all to easy for shoppers to lose interest, decide to buy from a competitor, balk at delivery charges, or back out because they were only browsing.

We've previously highlighted stats which show that the most common causes are high shipping costs and forced registration, both of which are fairly simple to remedy.

And these new case studies reveal more reasons behind why customers abandon shopping carts, as well as demonstrating the success that can be achieved with retargeting emails...

Almost three-quarters of baskets were abandoned in Q1 2013

  • According to SaleCycle the average shopping cart, basket and booking abandonment rate reached 73.6% in Q1 2013, up from 70.7% in Q4 2012.
  • Most abandonments happened between 8pm and 9pm, with Thursday the most common day for ditching a purchase.
  • Looking at basket abandonment emails, 48.1% of basket abandonment emails were opened (up from 45.9% in Q4) and 33.3% of these clickers went on to purchase a product (up from 30.1% in Q4).
  • The AOV was 58% higher for purchases from basket abandonment emails compared with direct sales (up from 36% in Q4).

Reclaiming sales with email

  • Ecommerce entrepreneur Andrew Youderian was recently kind enough to share the results of his company's basket abandonment email campaign.
  • The abandonment emails came in three stages - an email reminding them about the cart, a second email asking them to finish their purchase and a final email offering a discount to complete the purchase.
  • It achieved a recovery rate of between 3% and 11% each month.

  • Overall, cart abandonment emails made up just under 2% of Youderian's total revenue generated from email marketing for the quarter. 

Slow pages in the checkout kill conversions 

  • Ecommerce agency Strangeloop ran a test to find the impact of slow checkout pages on a client's abandonment rate. Customers were divided into three groups with each delivered a different load time.
  • Group one was delivered a fully optimised set of pages and at the end of the five step checkout process one-third of users had completed a transaction.
  • For group two Strangeloop introduced a two-second delay to the first page of the transaction. As a result conversions dropped by 60%, with only two out of 15 users completing the transaction.
  • For group three it introduced a two-second delay to the third page in the checkout, which resulted in a similar dropout rate as just three out of 15 people converted.
  • Though this test gives a useful indication of the importance of speed, it's important to bear in mind that the sample sizes are extremely small.

Unexpected costs cause abandonment

  • According to a study from WorldPay presenting customers with unexpected costs (56%) is the most common cause of basket abandonment.
  • This was followed by customers 'just browsing' (37%), finding a better price elsewhere (36%) or finding the overall price to be too expensive (32%).
  • The data came from a survey of 19,000 consumers in January and February 2012.

Why do online shoppers leave without paying?

Abandonment emails achieve 29% success rate

  • Online retailer Smileycookie.com implemented a three stage process for retargeting customers that had abandoned a shopping cart.
  • The first email is sent almost immediately to ask whether there was  problem with checking out, the second offers a 10% discount and the third message offers a 20% discount.
  • On average, the triggered email series recaptures 29% of the abandoned shopping carts it targets, turning them into sales. Smileycookie.com is able to identify the email address of about 40% of customers who abandon a shopping cart.
  • The first email achieved an average open rate of 54% and a CTR of 28%, email two achieved and open rate of 50% and 16%, while the final email achieved just 23% and 6% respectively.

More success with retargeting emails

  • Envelopes.com managed to cut checkout abandonment by 40% with emails targeted at three different types of customers, resulting in a 65% increase in checkout conversions.
  • For the purposes of this post, I'll only look at the results from cart abandonment and checkout abandonment emails.
  • The cart abandonment emails were sent three follow up emails, the first of which arrived 48 hours after the shopper left the site. The first emails achieved an open rate of 38.01%, a CTR of 24.71% and a conversion rate of 40%. Sending the email at 11am on the day following abandonment achieved an open rate of 38.63%, CTR of 19.54% and conversion rate of 27.66%
  • For checkout abandonment the email was written with a more serious tone and sent 24 hours after the customer left the site. It achieved an open rate of 39.24%, a CTR of 18.18% and a conversion rate of 33.93%. When the delivery time was changed to 10am the morning after abandonment the open rate was 39.2% and CTR was 17.91%, but the conversion rate dropped to 24.62%.

High open rates from retargeting emails

  • Shoe retailer Boot Barn also implemented retargeting emails to try and recapture some of its abandoned shopping carts.
  • After trying new tactics aimed at capturing a greater number of email addresses, Boot Barn set up a three stage email process.
  • The first email was geared towards customer service and finding out if anything had gone wrong. It was sent 20 minutes after the cart was abandoned and received an open rate of 46.04%, the highest of the three.
  • The second email highlighted reasons why the customer should buy from Boot Barn and was sent 23 hours after the cart was abandoned. It received and open rate of 40.04%.
  • Finally, one week after abandonment the prospective customer received the final email which included a call-to-action warning that it was the customer’s final chance to retrieve saved items and complete their purchase. It received an open rate of 27.54%.

One final email success story

  • As with many sites Movies Unlimited had a high abandonment rate, losing 75% of carts which is equivalent to 28,000 orders each month. To try and improve the situation the company implemented a cart abandonment email campaign.
  • The first email is sent 24 hours after a cart is abandoned with a message that communicates they left the site without completing the transaction and detailing, with images, the items left in the cart.  
  • If no action is taken, five days later a second email is sent with a different subject line reminding the customer of the items left in the cart. If there is still no action, a final email reminder of the cart items is sent.
  • The campaign also incorporates A/B split testing, where version A includes a discount offer and version B does not. Both versions of the email have the same messaging and calls-to-action.
  • The campaign achieved an ROI of 500% and generated 10% of Movies Unlimited's email marketing revenue, while accounting for just 0.2% of the email volume.
  • The campaign had an average 43.4% read rate, a 25.2% click-through rate and a 26% conversion rate. Furthermore, the shopping cart abandonment program had a 27.7% higher average order value than other promotional campaigns.
  • The A/B split test also had interesting results: while the non-offer version had higher initial read and click-through rates, the offer version drove 26% more transactions and resulted in 36% more movies ordered than the non-offer emails.

The science of shopping cart abandonment

David Moth

Published 25 September, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1685 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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Excelent article. Show some techniques also to monitor abandonments.
great job!

about 3 years ago


Matt Lovell, Head of Group Analytics & Digital Insight at Thomas Cook Group AirlinesEnterprise

Some really interesting stuff here. Is there a reason why the link to Andrew Youderian's basket abandonment email campaign doens't work though?

about 3 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

@Matt, that's just my error. I've fixed the link but it can also be accessed here:


about 3 years ago


Theresa Kendall, Social Media Marketing Manager at Net Visibility

This is a really interesting article but what about Livechat tools? - take a look at this : http://digitalmarketingmagazine.co.uk/e-commerce-digital-marketing/pre-basket-abandonment

almost 3 years ago


Michel Hendriks, Online Marketing Specialist at Docdata

When I see articles about special offers included with the abandoned cart emails, I always wonder what the long term effects are. If you offer a discount, or free shipping, won't customers wait longer on purpose, possibly increasing the risk of abandoned carts?

almost 3 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

@Michel Hendricks That's what we found.

We took over a client, cancelled the discount which they had been offering in recovery emails, and the total sales value increased.

(I realize this reply is a bit late, but it may help others arriving via Google.)

almost 2 years ago


Seth Dashper, Marketing Manager at Selective MarketplaceSmall Business

Some visitors would return to the site and complete their transaction without being sent an abandoned email. However, if they are sent a cart abandonment email the sales are allocated to this activity. Has anyone done any work to identify how much incremental value abandoned cart emails really deliver?

over 1 year ago

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