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Using SMS to Rescue an Abandoned Cart

We’re likely all guilty of filling an online shopping cart and not following through to make the purchase — either because we change our mind, become distracted or never intended to buy the item anyway. In March 2020, 88% of online shoppers abandoned their buying journey. Annually, online shoppers walk away from their carts 70% of the time, costing ecommerce brands to lose $18 billion in 2018, according to Forrester.

This abandonment rate costs businesses significant lost revenue. Fortunately, companies can do something about it.

Why do People Abandon Online Shopping Carts?

Many factors influence a shopper’s decision to walk away from their cart. One of the biggest reasons: extra costs, like shipping, taxes or extra fees, which aren’t always immediately clear. Additional expenses not appearing until checkout drive 55% of online shoppers to abandon their carts because they’re unwilling to pay substantially more than the posted cost.

Other reasons shoppers walk away include:

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  • Merchant sites requiring an account (34%)
  • A lengthy, complicated checkout process (26%)
  • Unclear pricing (21%)
  • Lack of trust in the website (17%)

Combatting Cart Abandonment and Recovering Lost Sales

Merchants do have at their disposal an effective tool for recouping lost sales: text messaging. With open rates as high as 98%, marketers and businesses often use SMS to engage with loyal customers.

Baymard Institute research found the average cart abandonment rates also differ based on device:

  • Desktop: 69.75%
  • Tablet: 80.74%
  • Mobile: 85.65%

Cart abandonment rates are highest on mobile devices, but there’s an upside, considering that Americans check their phones an average of 262 times each day. Reaching consumers directly on their phones by leveraging SMS can help create an effective cart recovery campaign.

SMS Cart Recovery Campaign Best Practices

SMS enables brands to start reducing your abandoned carts. Here’s what to remember:

  • Give an offer: To offset unexpected costs like shipping charges — the main reason for cart abandonment — offering a discount or free shipping code often gets customer attention. One caveat to this approach: if you constantly offer discounts, you may inadvertently create a pattern of future cart abandonment as consumers wait to see what deals you send. To avoid that possibility, consider creating and implementing a loyalty program that awards bonus points redeemable for discounts at a later date.
  • Personalize links: Don’t just send a link to your website in your abandoned cart text. Include a direct link to the shopper’s cart.
  • Promote urgency: Use action phrases like “your cart is expiring,” or “don’t wait before it sells out.”
  • Simplify: Remove friction from the ordering process by incorporating SMS-based orders that rely on a guest checkout and don’t require an account.
  • Test your demographics: Personalization is the name of the game. It’s not enough these days to simply include your customer’s first name. Not all customers respond to the same messages in the same way. Tweak messaging and delivery as you review the results of each campaign.
  • Be persistent: Follow up more than once with customers who’ve abandoned their carts. Sending several text messages at key intervals may increase their engagement — just don’t go overboard or you’ll come across as spammy.
  • Include a CTA: Ensure each message includes a clear call to action (CTA) and a straightforward path to act.

The most effective abandoned cart campaigns using text messaging remind customers of what they’ve left behind, and succeed in nudging them to return and make the purchase. The message you send can remind shoppers about their waiting cart and reassure them they don’t need to start their purchasing journey.

People already visit your website to browse your products. Over half of those visitors like something well enough to pop it in their cart. While many factors influence someone’s decision to click away without completing the purchase, a well-designed SMS campaign can help recoup a good percentage of those lost ecommerce sales.


Brian Wilson is the Chief Revenue Officer at SlickText. Wilson brings two decades of commercial experience focused on solving business problems through the application of transformative technology. At SlickText, Wilson oversees the intersection of marketing, operations, sales, customer success and overall company development.

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