Do basket abandonment emails work? Is there any 'best practice' guidance that ecommerce sites should follow?

What is the likelihood that an abandoner will come back to purchase after receiving the email?

Let's try to answer these questions right now in this revised and updated version of a previously published, and now outdated, post.

According to SaleCycle’s founder and CEO, Dominic Edmunds:

Cart abandonment is one of the biggest challenges facing online retailers, with three-quarters of customers effectively walking away at the till.

That’s a hefty amount of abandonment and certainly falls in line with Hubspot's research that the avearge checkout abandonment rate is 67.4%.

Imagine if that amount of shoppers did the same in your local supermarket. It would be anarchy. 

The same research claims that 41% of abandoners cite hidden delivery charges as the main reason for cart abandonment. 

Clearly a lot can be done in terms of conversion rate optimisation (CRO) in order to curb basket abandonment. Being completely upfront about delivery costs directly on product pages would be a great start.

Burying shipping options and costs in the checkout, forcing shoppers into the checkout process far too early, forcing visitors to register before buying, not offering a fixed date for delivery. These are all ways that an ecommerce site can send customers fleeing elsewhere. 42% of abandoners just needed "more information'.

Chances are that even if your site is doing everything right in terms of CRO, baskets will still be abandoned. We’re a fickle, impetuous and anonymous bunch.

As long as we’re shopping on the internet we won’t feel the embarrassment of leaving our chosen products on the floor, like we would in a tiny boutique shop in Shoreditch with the constant eyes of the single staff member glaring at you.

Unlike that boutique shop on the high street though, there’s a higher chance that the ecommerce store you happily abandoned will have your email address. Email is a highly effective means of tempting you back.

In Q1 2015, cart abandonment rates averaged 75.6% across all sectors, according to SaleCycle. Here’s some more stats that show the effectiveness of targeted emails relating to abandonment.

  • More than a tenth (11.61%) of cart abandonment emails are clicked.
  • The average order value (AOV) of purchases from basket abandonment emails is 14.2% higher than typical purchases.
  • Nearly half (44.1%) of all cart abandonment emails are opened.
  • Nearly a third (29.9%) of clicks lead to a purchase back on site.

And just in case you’re not convinced yet…

  • Every single cart abandonment email sent, delivers more than $8 in revenue.

Examples of winning techniques

In many cases, a three stage retargeting approach can be effective. 

An immediate email after the customer has left the site may come across as off-putting and desperate; however choosing a slightly different tact may be more appealing.

Shoe retailer Boot Barn sent its first email of three after 20 minutes of cart abandonment and it was geared towards customer service. It helpfully asked if something technically went wrong with the purchase and if they could help with any problems. This achieved a 46% open rate.

The second email sent 23 hours after highlighted why the customer should purchase from Boot Barn. This achieved a 40% open rate.

One week later, a third and final email was sent with a clear call-to-action warning that it was the final chance for the customer to retrieve their saved items and complete purchase. This achieved an open rate of 28%.

Another tactic is offering a discount in one of the three retargeted emails. Perhaps the second or third email could contain an exclusive discount code for the basket. achieved an open rate of 54% with a second retargeted email that contained a 10% discount code, leading to a click-through-rate (CTR) of 16%.

Here’s what you could be doing to improve your cart abandonment emails:

  • Use a clear email subject line. Let the customer know exactly why they are being retargeted, therefore increasing the chance it won’t be ignored.
  • Be personal. You have the customer’s details, so use them. 
  • Refer to the abandoned items directly. Use images of the items left in the basket. Also it would be worth adding scarcity to the email by revealing how many of the items are left in stock.
  • If the items are no longer in stock, recommend similar items in the email. In fact you could do this anyway, even if the original items are still in stock.
  • Draw attention to your site’s excellent returns policy.
  • Be absolutely clear on your delivery charges, perhaps even apply an exclusive discount on this via the email if you feel this may be the reason for the initial abandonment.
  • Include a link that leads directly to the cart.
  • Include customer reviews of the items abandoned.
Christopher Ratcliff

Published 6 July, 2015 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (9)

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Duncan Cartledge

There is one very important statistic missing, I agree that 77% of online shoppers abandon baskets, but how many come back naturally without any abandonment emails?

I worked in the travel industry and I found that 60% of the abandoner's came back and made a purchase within two weeks. The true uplift of abandonment emails is not as high as the companies selling a solution will tell you.

Our tracking was quite deep in the check out process which will also have a big impact on abandon rates and intent to purchase.

over 4 years ago


Chris Sheen

That's a great point Duncan. We work with a number of companies helping them with basket/booking abandonment and one of the key metrics is to understand how many customers would come back anyway - the 'natural recovery'.

Of course, there will always be a good number of customers who would come back to you anyway, but we've tracked a good percentage of customers who go on to buy from a competitor instead.

Like all areas of the marketing mix, it's just a case of doing everything you can to make sure customers come back and buy from you!

We're running an Online Event investigating Natural Recovery in more detail later this year, so keep an eye on Econsultancy for info.

over 4 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Sending Basket Abandonment emails is probably the single best way to increase your sales, provided:
(1) You make 10+ sales per day - because it's not worth doing the work if your volumes are very small.
(2) You are already doing email marketing - because "id rate" is crucial and a good remarketing solution will leverage your email marketing list to improve identification.

But we see cart abandonment rates around 60%, not 74%.

I suspect that higher figures can be the result of setting very short "timeouts", so that carts are considered abandoned too early, or situations where a shopper researches products on a mobile device then moves to a PC to buy and the remarketing solution incorrectly treats these as two different sessions.

Regarding Duncan's observation that "60% of the abandoner's came back and made a purchase within two weeks". It's difficult to collect reliable data on natural recovery rates, because clients would have to turn off their remarketing to collect this data, which is extremely expensive for them. But we typically find natural recovery rates around 1% depending on market sector and the frequency of other marketing emails which also act as reminders. A natural recovery rate of 60% is so much higher than this - and indeed higher that the recovery rate that we see with abandonment emails for all but a handful of clients - that there must be something unusual going on.

over 4 years ago




Does anybody know if auto emails can be sent to customers who have started completing a form in wufoo but do not submit?

over 4 years ago

Philip Storey

Philip Storey, Founder & Principal Consultant at Enchant Agency

Hi Ian.

I imagine that if you were to place that wufoo form into an iframe, you could track an impression and abandonment that way. I could be wrong, but there will definitely be some way of you doing this.

Hope that is of some help.

over 4 years ago




The user would have to be logged into a shopping cart system/ website to have such an email sent. The user ID is linked to the cart and is also the users email. These things can be brought onto the page to be processed as a form. The form could carry an if statement and then send an email based on a specific time frame ( if user checks out go to payment page, else send email 1 day ) . This is just a quick idea off the top of my head, there is probably a better way than that. If I were doing this project i would want to go over this with my team and chalk out ideas as to the best way. My way is pretty good though, I must say.

So, yes it's totally possible. Unfortunately a little PHP and some coding skills would be what you need. Although a small budget and one without skills could accomplish this in a few weeks or less.

I think that would make an excellent plugin for ecommerce systems. May have to get that one going ;)

over 4 years ago

Hannah Stacey

Hannah Stacey, Content Marketing Manager at Ometria

Nice post! Another thing to consider with your cart abandonment emails is segmenting them based on where the recipient is in the customer lifecycle.

Are they an active, loyal customer who's likely to come back and purchase anyway? No need to go too hard on the abandonment emails. If they're a customer who you haven't seen in a while and want to win them back? Start experimenting with incentives etc. to reactivate them!

about 3 years ago


Tom Samuels, Director at - Cart Retargetting

Late to the party but the post above is spot on. To Hannah's point, segmention is critical if you're doing a decent volume of sales - targeting different messages to loyal vs. first time customers or high value vs. low value abandoned baskets etc will give you better conversions. To Travis's point - no point coding, to come up with something decent to do the segmentation above is complex and there are excellent, low cost services aplenty out there.

almost 2 years ago


Jade Elk, Manager at Celtic Jewelry

what am I missing? how do I have the contact information of everyone who abandoned their cart? Are you connecting IP address to mail chimp?

over 1 year ago

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