September 03, 2013
Case Study

E-commerce: Moving beyond shopping cart abandonment nets 65% more checkout conversions

SUMMARY: Marketers know shopping cart abandonment emails work. But, what about other types of abandonment? For example, can an email get customers who abandon a product page to return to the site and buy?

This e-commerce site cut checkout abandonment 40% with emails targeted at three types of abandoners. The site sells to businesses and consumers, and this article shows the results of three triggered sends. Read on to discover the most effective send times for
by Adam Sutton, Senior Reporter sells almost any type of envelope you can imagine. They come in plain white, translucent green, and dozens of customizations. The site attracts a diverse audience, and that can create challenges for email marketing.

Many of the store's customers are businesses, said Laura Santos, Marketing Manager, Some of these customers consider the store's products a commodity. They visit the site once and buy.

"Most of our purchases happen the same day," Santos said.

However, not all visitors shop this way. A significant number visit multiple times before buying. They may be a consumer who needs envelopes for a wedding, or a freelancer who needs to check designs with a client, for example.

The marketing team reviewed its site data and saw an opportunity to increase sales with these multiple-visit shoppers. By sending emails that encouraged them to return, it could reduce abandonment rates and increase conversions.

The plan worked. cut its checkout abandonment rate by 40% in under two years resulting in a 65% increase in checkout conversions. Here are the site's checkout abandonment rates over that period:
  • 2011: 51.18%

  • 2012: 46.52%

  • 2013 (to date): 30.95%

Read on for three abandonment emails that supported this change and its results.

Campaign #1. Product category abandonment does not send all three of the emails to each shopper. Instead, it selects one of the three depending on where a shopper abandoned the site, and abandonment can happen anywhere.

Product abandonment emails work for some marketers, but they weren't right for, Santos said. The site's products can have dozens of styles, colors and customizations.

"To send a product abandonment email with 10 different A7s in 10 different colors, we didn't find it really to be effective," Santos said.

Instead, her team sends emails that focus on the product category abandoned by the shopper. For example, a customer who views square envelopes on the site and leaves will receive a category email with these features:
  • Product image — A large image shows four colors of the envelopes, which implies they come in a variety of colors.

  • "Thank you" message — The copy thanks the person for shopping, notes their category of interest, and offers help to complete the purchase.

  • "Shop now" button — The email's main call-to-action is a black "shop now!" button.

  • Options to shop — Below the main call-to-action are three links to shop envelopes by size, color and style.

The team sends this abandonment email to anyone who has provided an email address, spent at least four minutes shopping, and failed to complete a purchase. The average shopper spends about 4.5 minutes on the site, Santos said.


The email performed best when sent at 11:30 a.m. on the day after abandonment. Here are the average results:
  • Open rate: 44.28%

  • Clickthrough rate: 7.08%

  • Conversion rate (among shoppers who clicked ): 21.33%

The team tried sending the email three days after the abandoned session and saw slightly lower results:
  • Open rate: 39.37%

  • Clickthrough rate: 7.09%

  • Conversion rate: 19.84%

Campaign #2. Shopping cart abandonment

The marketers at believe customers who begin the checkout process are different from customers who place items into a cart. This is why each group has a separate abandonment campaign.

"A cart is not necessarily as committal as a checkout. A checkout is like you are almost there and you are filling in your information … A lot of people use their cart almost as a wish list, so it's not necessarily as final," Santos said.

A shopper who abandons items in a shopping cart on the site without buying receives an email from about 48 hours later. Here's what it includes:
  • Header — The website's logo and top navigation bar are featured at the top.

  • Headline — The email has a tongue-in-cheek message emphasized with the headline, "Your Cart Misses You." There is also a large image of an empty shopping cart.

  • Call-to-action — Shoppers are encouraged to "rekindle the flame" with the cart via a call-to-action button.

  • Copy — The main copy of the email gives shoppers a "friendly reminder" that they left items in the cart and that those items will be saved.

  • Products — The last portion of the email lists images and descriptions of the products left in the cart. sends two additional reminders to shoppers who do not convert. The emails are very similar to the first with slight differences, such as a headline that states, "Reunited And It Feels So Good."


Waiting 48 hours to send the email earned great results:
  • Open rate: 38.01%

  • Clickthrough rate: 24.71%

  • Conversion rate: 40.00%

Sending this email at 11 a.m. on the day following abandonment showed a slightly higher open rate but significantly lower performance overall:
  • Open rate: 38.63%

  • Clickthrough rate: 19.54%

  • Conversion rate: 27.66%

Campaign #3. Checkout abandonment

The checkout email is very similar to the cart email described above. It lists the products left behind, has a single button for the call-to-action, and uses the same header.

Differences between the two:
  • Creative — The tone of the email is less humorous. For example, the image simply states, "Checkout Today!"

  • Call-to-action — The cart is also mentioned in the copy and the call-to-action button, which states, "View Your Cart."

This campaign also sends two reminders to shoppers who do not convert. These are very similar to the first message with slight changes.


Waiting 24 hours to send this email achieved the best results:
  • Open rate: 39.24%

  • Clickthrough rate: 18.18%

  • Conversion rate: 33.93%

As with the cart email, sending this message on the following morning (this time at 10 a.m.) earned a slightly higher open rate but lower overall performance:
  • Open rate: 39.72%

  • Clickthrough rate: 17.91%

  • Conversion rate: 24.62%

Always test and tweak regularly tests emails to improve performance. For example, the team is wrapping up tests that gauge the impact of the additional reminders. Another test analyzes the impact of including a discount offer.

One insight the team discovered early on is to avoid sending too many emails, Santos said.

"If you make it to the final step, checkout, then you are not going to get a cart email and you are not going to get a category email within a certain time period. We have a buffer zone that we look for before we even attempt to send out a checkout message," she said. "We double check to make sure we don’t bombard people."

Creative Samples

  1. Category abandonment email

  2. Cart abandonment email

  3. Checkout abandonment email


Related Resources

MarketingSherpa Email Awards 2014: Call for entries — Deadline is September 8, and there is no entry fee.

Online Cart Abandonment: 12% lift in captured revenue through customer service-focused email remarketing campaign

Email Marketing: Reclaim abandoned shopping carts with triggered "remarketing" emails

E-commerce: How long should a shopping cart be? (via MarketingExperiments)

Shopping Cart Recovery: Triggered emails recapture 29% of abandoned carts

E-commerce Testing: Redesigned order page, shortened shopping cart drive 13.9% lift in conversion (via MarketingExperiments)

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