May 27, 2014
Case Study

Mobile Marketing: E-commerce site uses responsive design to achieve an 8% lift in cart abandonment campaign

SUMMARY: The e-commerce website for Warehouse Shoe Sale,, realized that almost 70% of its audience read emails from their mobile devices. However, the design for the emails was not responsive to the device.

See how the marketers took their active cart abandonment email and optimized it for mobile, and how through A/B split testing, achieved an 8% lift in conversions from responsive emails.

by Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content

CHALLENGE, the e-commerce arm of WSS — the new name for Warehouse Shoe Sale, a 62-store chain mostly located in Southern California — has only been up and producing measurable revenue for about the past three years, according to Erica Forrette, Senior Manager of Digital Marketing,

"There was a re-platforming at the time … I joined the company about a year-and-a-half ago and my role is to drive traffic and sales through online channels and mobile channels," she said.

Because of that transition, the team began harvesting more insights into email subscribers, particularly what devices they were using to read WSS emails.

"We found that a really high percentage, close to 70% of people, were using mobile devices to read our emails, so it became pretty clear that we needed to optimize our email creative," she said, adding that around 50% of site visitors are viewing on a mobile device.

The team was aware of the percentage of mobile visitors to the main website, but "email was a whole different story," she said.

The team wasn't doing anything for mobile email subscribers, and the emails viewed on a mobile device weren't optimized at all — knowing that 70% of subscribers were having a poor email experience forced a change for the team.


The team put together a mobile-optimized email surrounding an existing cart abandonment campaign at the end of 2013. The cart abandonment email was sent 24 hours after the abandon.

To test the effect, the team put together an A/B split test version of the campaign. Half of the recipients of the cart abandonment email campaign received the mobile-optimized version, and the other half received the regular version.

The cart abandonment mobile email took several elements from the header, product list and footer and optimized them for responsive design.

Step #1. Redesign the email for mobile responsiveness

The cart abandonment email was redesigned to be responsive for the mobile subscribers, and the team had to rethink how the content and creative would appear on the small screen.

"When you're looking on a mobile device, [for] the responsive design, typically you'll see things kind of reoriented a single column," Forrette said.

The size of the email was scaled down to 320 pixels, and if there are multiple table cells in the email, the cells re-orient into a single column.

"We wanted to apply that same kind of sensibility so that it rendered correctly when you viewed it on a mobile device, because previously, we were just using one big template," she said.

A large table in the non-responsive email had multiple cells in it that did not reorient when you viewed it on a mobile device, so the information came through as "more disorganized, more garbled and you had to do a lot of side-to-side scrolling when you were looking at non-mobile optimized version," Forrette explained.

Simplify the experience

The mobile responsive email was designed to simplify the viewing experience for email subscribers.

Two big buttons were featured as the calls-to-action, one near the top and the other on the bottom. In between the two calls-to-action, the email featured pictures and product descriptions of the items left behind, which were all hyperlinked.

The call-to-action was repeated within the responsive email because if a customer scrolls through the email and views the items, the call-to-action is repeated and they can easily click through to the account.

The email header was simplified, and few pieces of information were taken out. However, all of the information Forrette thought was vital for all subscribers was still included, such as:

  • WSS phone number (customer can call directly from device)

  • Free shipping over $75

  • Thousands of styles

  • International shipping

  • A headline reading: "Did you forget something?"
People were reading the emails on their mobile devices, so simplification was key for WSS. After the header, the images of the products were an essential part of the email, and the visuals worked on the mobile design. Also shown were the descriptions, quantities and the actually price. That was followed by the call-to-action.

To keep the email mobile-friendly, the amount of items left in the cart was limited to three. So if the customer had four pairs of shoes in their cart, only the first three were shown in the email.

Below that were four creative blocks in two columns with useful information for the shopper — the shipping policy, the return policy, privacy policy and a reminder that is a safe and secure website. That was followed by the footer, which was slightly changed from the regular email into a single column.

Step #2. Run an A/B split test

"We just had those really high level goals," Forrette said, and she wanted to assure that the team was meeting those goals before investing in implementing mobile across all WSS emails.

To test the effect, the team put together an A/B split test version of the campaign. Half of the recipients of the cart abandonment email campaign received the mobile optimized version, and the other half received the regular version.

"We just kind of sat back and waited for enough data to be accumulated to see the results," Forrette said.

Because this was a true A/B test, the email content remained the same, only the layout “and the look and feel — so when it was viewed on a mobile device, it all changed to a single column,” she said.

Step #3. Ensure a seamless experience

Because the website is optimized for mobile, Forrette wanted to ensure that customers had a seamless experience no matter how they were interacting with the brand.

Forrette said she is still not happy with the conversion rate in general for mobile visitors on the site and through the email, which is "significantly below what we see for the desktop or tablet user."

However, she maintained the importance of being responsive to mobile consumers.

"I do think that it is important to have that kind of seamless experience," she said, adding that the customer experience is far superior with an email that renders well.

"Everything looks great and the images are sized properly, and you don't have broken table cells or image mapping isn't all whacked out because the designer designed it for a 600 [pixel] wide-email and then on a mobile device you are looking at a 300 [pixels] wide … and [with] the image, mapping gets crazy so links don't work," she said.


"We had really, really high-level goals. To put it bluntly, I'm a one-man marketing team over here and email is but one tiny slice of seven other channels that I'm managing," Forrette said.

Therefore, setting up this consistent opportunity to achieve more opens and conversion was extremely important.

The results WSS was able to achieve with this campaign were:
  • A 5.48% increase in open rate

  • A 17.5% increase in clickthrough rate

  • A 7.8% increase in conversions over a three-month period

Forrette said she has future ideas for the email program, involving triggered emails based on activity, and with "any of those future emails, I'm going to design with the mobile template first and foremost because of the way we see people respond."

Creative Sample

  1. Mobile email



Related Resources

Download your free copy of the MarketingSherpa E-commerce Benchmark Study — Made possible by a research grant from Magento

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Email Marketing: 4 steps to optimize a mobile experience for better conversion

Email Marketing: A canvas for visual storytelling

E-commerce: 3 test ideas to optimize the customer shopping experience

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