Basket Abandonment

I have lost count of the number of times I have spoken to email marketing managers who  have said something along the lines of…”I’m not sure we should be sending basket abandonment emails, it feels a bit big brother to me” and the look of horror when I suggest not only should they be doing them but where possible, they should be sending browse abandonment emails as well. If you are a traditional retailer and someone walks into one of your outlets and picks up and looks at the same item say 3 or 4 times then you would expect your sales staff to engage them in a conversation about the product and attempt to sell it to them. Well, the truth is, your website is your online shop, why would you treat your customers any different online than you do offline?

So let’s take a look at basket abandonment first. In their June 2014 report on “Abandoning shopping cart” BI Intelligence 58% of people said they abandon because of the shipping costs increased the price to high. 57% said they wanted to get an idea of the price including shipping. 55% said they weren’t ready to purchase and wanted to save the basket for later! 50% said their order didn’t qualify for free shipping and 37% complained shipping costs were shown too late in the process.


A well timed basket abandonment email with perhaps a free shipping offer could have a dramatic impact on conversions and bottom line revenues. All of a sudden, basket abandonment seems to make sense, rather than be “big brotherish” doesn’t it?

How many people abandon baskets? Depending on the statistics provided you by your eCommerce partner you will have an idea how many baskets are abandoned on your site, but in December 2014, the Baymard Institute pulled together the basket abandonment statistics from 29 of the major players in this space and then calculated the mean average of them giving as close to an industry statistic as I have seen. Cue drum roll…the mean average of documented online shopping cart abandonment rate is 68.07%. So more than two thirds of people abandon baskets on your site.

graph for basket abandonment

In the Consultancy article, Nine case studies and infographics on cart abandonment and email retargeting, the one case study that really caught my eye was the one where, over the course of three basket abandonment emails they received a 29% recovery. The first email was sent immediately with a oops! we hope nothing went wrong with your checkout process. The second email was sent 23 hours later and offered a 10% discount and the third a further 4 days later, when in essence you could expect a FMCG product like cookies to no longer have any traction a third email offering 20% discount is sent.

Here are the average metrics for each of the emails:

Email #1

– Open Rate: 54%
– CTR: 28%

Email #2
– Open Rate: 50%
– CTR: 16%

Email #3

– Open Rate: 23%
CTR: 6%
*source not only increased their sales and revenues but if you look at their open rates for these three mailings they also had a dramatic branding effect getting 50% plus opens on two of the emails and 23% on the third.

Interestingly the dramatic drop off in open rate between mailing two and mailing three supports the evidence that my research has found that the optimum number of emails to send in a basket abandonment series is three. My research also suggests that most email marketers only send one if indeed they send any which many don’t.

Unfortunately one of the key challenges marketers face when sending basket abandonment emails is how do you recognise the user, how do you know the email address of the person who left something in the basket. Well, there are a number of ways to get the email in order to trigger the mailing. If you run a site that makes the user log in before getting to the basket element then you can use that information to send a http request to your ESP. If part of the checkout process involves the user giving you their email address this can also be used but it has it’s restrictions, very often, the product is in the basket and the transaction abandoned before the data capture page for email address. We have one client who is suffering from this at the moment and we are working with them to restructure the way the basket process works. Thirdly, if your traffic is arriving site side from your bulk email marketing you can pass the email into the site tracking using the link string and at point of abandonment use that to send your request to the ESP.

Finally, if you are using someone like display block for your basket abandonment they will have a set up which effectively remembers your visitors from session to session so there is no need for them to add their email address site side for you to be able to trigger your basket abandonment email. It is this incredibly effective way of recognising the user which also allows for the greatest number of people to be remembered and for the greatest number of basket abandonment emails to be sent.

It is also this technique which allows for browse abandonment. Now browse abandonment is an even less understood and undertaken type of automated email which has very few statistics available with which to wow you. However, if it is accepted that basket abandonment works then it’s a very small leap of faith to suggest browse abandonment will also work. Although I have little evidence to support my arguments I do have logic on my side. In their infographic on browse abandonment, Triggered Messaging, suggest that 8% of site visitors put something in their basket and then abandon but 39% of site visitors look at specific products but don’t actually basket them. That is 5 times the opportunity that basket abandonment gives you. Now I will accept that conversions will be much lower than that achieved by basket abandons but if you believe the numbers collected by triggered messaging the sales uplift of combining basket and browse abandonment per £1million of turn over is £102k and £30k of this is derived from browse abandonment.

basket abandonment uplift


The ship has sailed for you to become an early adopter of basket abandonment emails, that is pretty mainstream, what you need to be doing here is honing your strategy but there is still time for you to be a pioneer in the browse abandonment space.


Note: This blog was first published on the Only Influencers site, where Mike guest blogged