How to campaign to recover abandoned shopping carts

Making emails about abandoned shopping carts is relatively simple, but full marketing campaigns are another matter.

We have been dealing with abandoned shopping carts for years, sending customers emails… But we still find that there is a lack of knowledge regarding the subject of campaigns against such abandonment. Yes, sending an email and doing it well is one of the important steps in campaigns. It’s not about appearing in the customer’s inbox just because they left without buying something from you. Here are the key steps to knowing you’re doing the right thing:

1- How do I engage with abandonment?

First and foremost, you have to define what abandonment is for you. If the customer leaves my website and has not left anything in the shopping cart, but has been looking at products or services, am I going to do something? When there are products in the shopping cart and there hasn’t been any activity for a few minutes, do I consider it a case of abandonment?

Please note that these campaigns are based on the fact that the customer has shown signs of purchasing, has usually put products in the shopping cart, or has begun the process of contracting a service. Think about what those purchasing signs mean for your business.

Once you consider what a case of abandonment is for you, it’s time to think about how to create a campaign and what data you need. Sometimes a cookie which saves information will work for you, although later on you will see that the campaign will be lacking. You need such a cookie to collect data, that’s for sure. You need to realise that Internet consumption in 2019 is carried out over multiple devices, and that if you want to transfer shopping experiences you have to be totally okay with the fact that your user changes devices. If you depend on cookies it is most likely that you will not always be able to reconstruct the experience.

2-How to deal with abandonment?

At this point we know who is abandoning us, now it is time to think about how to deal with it and whether it can be dealt with.

We now come up against data protection laws! Out of 100% cases of abandonment, you are allowed to impact about 25%. You can do this, if you are aware of such cases and collect the data. Seeing if they have consented to you sending them communications at the time of these cases of abandonment, or being able to make a call to your database to see if they have done so at another time, is important to reach that 25% figure, if you don’t have the right technology, this figure will be even lower.

After getting past the legal pitfalls, it’s time to think about what can be done. Are you going to send one or several emails? Are you going to send an SMS? Are you going to make calls? Or aren’t you going to do anything at all? This depends greatly on your type of customer, your company policy and the needs of your market.

For example, e-commerce users with an email can easily be reached and so return to the shop. But if a person is in the process of buying a car, sorting out the options they want in it, and then abandonments an appointment request to see it at the dealership, it is perhaps more useful for the sales team at the nearest dealership to receive an email as they are the ones who can call the person. Everything is acceptable as long as it’s aligned with your strategy and gets that suddenly interrupted shopping experience back.

3- What do I have to take into account regarding a campaign to recover abandoned shopping carts?

As in any marketing campaign, you have to take into account its purpose and your users, which in the end are the people who you want to elicit a response from. Being very aware that communicating with them needs to be carried out in compliance with GDPR.

A key factor is that such recovery campaigns take place at the same time as other campaigns that communicate through the same medium. The most common type is to send one or more emails reminding of the abandonment of a shopping cart, but what if at 8 am I have a scheduled newsletter? Is it not counter-productive to send a recovery email as well? What do you prioritise? How do I synchronise it?

You can choose to think of them as two independent campaigns that are delivered through the same channel, or to have the processes generate an order so that one communication prevents the other one from leaving. Regarding this last case, you must take into account that you have to host the sending of the communications in the same place or make sure that the sending processes are not wholly separate, that way the processes can communicate with each other, with one paralysing the other, or simply slowing it down.

4- What kind of communication do I send?

As noted above, communication can be approached from many sides. When automated, it is normal to send emails and in some cases SMS, or to combine these two types. But an alarm can be put into operation to a call centre so that a person can actually deal with cases of abandonment or directly, send an email to a third party in a sales team so it can be dealt with, one-to-one, by a sales manager.

What is most commonly done is to send a series of messages via email which are interrelated in time. For example, we send the first email 50 minutes after the case of abandonment, if it has not been opened, a second message is sent 24 hours after such abandonment and, 7 days after not having opened any, a third message is sent. When this is done, each email must have at least one different subject on the subject line, since it is understood that the previous one has not pleased the user enough for them to open it.

Emails and SMS can also be combined depending on the audience and the time of year. If we see that in a few days an email reminding a customer of the abandonment of shopping carts has not been opened, we can send the communication by SMS. The opening rate of SMS is very high, around 98%, but abuse of this system, is considered intrusive and can be detrimental to the brand.

5- When do I send the communication?

These kinds of campaigns are initiated because someone has done something, they are never started up for no reason at all. We know that the user was at a very advanced stage in the purchasing process.

Messages have to be sent quickly, but not so they seem inopportune. If an email is sent between 40 minutes and an hour from the time of abandonment, there is a 264% greater chance of the conversion being achieved than if an email is sent the next day. But be careful, you always have to take your audience into account. The best thing is to get a supplier that can test A/B with delivery times because it is an important factor for campaign optimisation.

6- Who sends the communication?

It seems obvious that if you are going to send an email, you want it to be done in the name of your brand. But these types of email or SMS campaigns are sent through a third party.

Depending on the supplier’s degree of specialisation, you will or won’t be able to send emails with your brand on. Almost all specialised software gives you the option to personalise the sender, at least make sure you do so. But, in the source code of the email, it is where the provider’s domain will appear or you can directly send them with your own. This depends on how specialised the company you contract is.

7- What content do I show?

If you send an email to recover a lost sale, the user expects you to transfer the experience of buying from your website to their email and then take them back to where they left the purchase.

In email marketing we know that the subject lines have to explain what is in the content. Make the subject line attractive, but do not deceive anyone, tell your user the reason for this communication. Address yourself to them directly, tell them that what they are going to see is their car, and that this email is created just for them.

In the content, the user should be able to see what they’re waiting for: their shopping cart. Don’t try to communicate your company’s values, etc., this is not a piece of mass communication, nor is its purpose to make more fans. It’s a one-to-one communication from your shopping cart to refresh your memory and take you back to your website so you finish shopping. Follow this scheme:

  1. Re-personalise the communication by saying hello with their name.
  2. When needed, explain briefly that this email is to help them finish off the purchase they left behind.
  3. Visually, show them the products they left behind, reminding them as closely as possible of the shopping cart that they had abandoned.
  4. Total up! If your web shopping cart totals up, and you are transferring the shopping experience to their email, how can you not include the total?
  5. Use CTAs before and after showing the products, so that before the first scroll they can return to your business.
  6. Don’t forget to take care of the footer. You have to at least remind the user that they can unsubscribe from communications.
  7. Forget the distracting links that don’t lead to where you promised: to finishing the order or to making a contract.

8- Where do I make users come back to?

Now it seems clear, doesn’t it? Take your users back where you promised! Take them to the shopping cart.

Never make them go back to the home page or the product, because it is a campaign to get sales, not traffic. When they return to the web without a full shopping cart, they have to fill the shopping cart again. You’re assuming they’re going to give you their valuable time again, and that’s not what you promised. At this point you know that in UX every extra click means a reduction in the conversion rate, right?

And why isn’t it always done this way? Because most suppliers rely on cookies to rebuild the shopping experience. According to Google, 81% of users use more than one device to shop online. If you depend on cookies to save information regarding the shopping cart, when your user opens the email with a different device than the one they left on, the shopping cart will appear without any products in it (not a good sight, right?). For this reason a lot of tools don’t lead to the shopping cart. Because they’re not capable of doing a cross-device reconstruction. They are not adapted to the type of multi-device consumption we have today.

9- How do I deal with anonymous users?

Give them the opportunity to allow you to offer them a service. Install a pop-up tool that is able to verify which user has not given you permission to impact them, and ask them to do so.

Employ your last-ditch move! Send them a message asking for their email and explaining that you can send them their shopping cart to finish it off at any time.

10- What can I use as a measure? Important KPIs

Keep in mind that these campaigns cover several stages and purchase channels. You have to measure what’s going on on your website and what is going on outside of that.

  • Rate of abandoning shopping carts: Shopping carts with unfinished purchases / total shopping carts. Treatment rate: Shopping carts of users who have accepted Privacy Policy / Total shopping carts.
  • Opening rate: Open communications / communications sent.
  • Rate of return to purchase or click rate: Clicked communications / open communications.
  • Conversion rate: Retrieved purchases / clicked communications.
  • Retrieval rate: Recovered purchases / treated abandoned purchases.
  • Shipping cost per € recovered: Recovered monetary value / communications sent.
  • ROI: Recovered monetary value / cost of the recovery service.
  • Attributed time: Time frame in which the user is considered to have purchased due to the recovery campaign. It is the time that goes by from when the user clicks on the communication until they purchase something.

In short, to make a good campaign to recover abandoned non-purchased items, the purchasing process needs to be facilitated even if it is interrupted at some point. You must be able to offer the user the service of taking them back to where they left off, so they can finish their purchase.

With a good campaign to recover lost sales, sales can increase by 6%. Do you think it’s an action that needs to be carried out to perfection, or only half heartedly.


Blueknow has the most specialised technology in the recovery of lost sales. The blueCart solution is capable of carrying out much more than lost sales recovery campaigns.