Shopping Cart Abandonment Strategies For The Holidays

Last year’s holiday season exceeded everyone’s expectations with online sales totaling $32.6 billion, a 12% increase over 2009.This includedCyber Monday’s record breaking $1.028 billion sales total, marking the first sales exceeded $1 billion.  Considering the 2011 holiday sales projections are even greater this holiday season, it’s imperative for retailers to have sound strategies in place.

One imperative issue for online retailers is the rising shopping cart abandonment rate, which has risen from 71% to 75% during the first half of this year.  Imagine the impact on holiday sales if you were able to recoup those lost sales? It’s significant!  Here are a few key tips for a sound shopping cart abandonment strategy.


1.       Strike while the iron is hot

Don’t wait too long to send out your abandonment  campaign – send the first message within an hour of the cart being abandoned.  You’ll reach shoppers while they’re still mulling over their purchase decisions and you’ll gain an advantage over your competitors who wait a day or two before deploying their campaigns.  However, as the saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.  If you rely on that one message alone, the likelihood of a conversion is significantly lower.  Keep their interest by sending a series of messages to shoppers who don’t complete the purchase.  We recommend sending at least three messages, waiting 24-48 hours between deployments.  This strategy works.  We’ve seen retailers convert upwards of 12% in second and third shopping cart abandonment messages, adding significant revenue through subsequent messages.

2.       Don’t add to the inbox clutter

Inboxes are always crowdedthese days, but they’re extra crowded during the holidays.  Your shopping cart abandonment messages should be clear, concise, and useful.  Don’t try to be too stealthy or overly-clever;keep the messages simple. Include an image of the abandoned items, the cost to complete the purchase, and a link to the checkout page.   You could also include product reviews from other customers.  Including reviews has resulting in 4% plus lift in conversions for our retailers.If you do include an offer in your campaigns, save it for the second or third message in your series.  This will maintain your profit margin with shoppers who don’t require an offer to complete the sale, while increasing your conversion for those who do. One of our clients is getting a 51% conversion rate with a free sock offer with purchase. Not too shabby. 

3.       Be wary of message timing

Last year, online retailers sent an average of 4.4 emails per week during the holiday season.  Customers expect an increase in the number of messages during this time, but many retailers don’t consider the timing implications of this when setting up automated campaigns.  If a customer receives too many emails from you in too short a time frame, it will cause confusion, disinterest, and possible opt-outs or complaints.  Look at all of your email campaigns as a whole when developing your holiday strategy.

4.       Optimize messages for mobile

This should be a no-brainer, but take the time to view your shopping cart abandonment emails on your mobile device.  Smartphone screens average 360-480 pixels wide, so emails should be less than 400 pixels wide, this way recipients don’t have to pan around the screen and zoom in to read it.  The messaging should be simple and text in buttons and headlines should be 44 pixels tall in order to render properly.  Keep the design to a single column and be sure images look good when scaled.  Most importantly, your calls-to-action need to be padded at least 10 to 15 pixels to prevent tap errors.  Also – be sure to include security statements and/or icons so shoppers feel safe completing the purchase on their mobile devices. 

5.       Bonus Tip – Fine tune your online checkout process

Abandonments occur at different points in the checkout process.  Maximize the number of reachable customers by collecting the email address at the beginning of the process. Otherwise, your opportunity to recapture those shoppers is lost.

 Shopping cart abandonment is a continually growing issue, but one that retailers can combat. The key is to have an automated solution in place.  Following these tips will help you capture many of your abandoners this holiday season and beyond. 

Ross Kramer is a co-founder and CEO of Listrak. He has nearly 15 years of executive leadership, successfully launching and directing three technology start-ups. He is a thought-leader within the online marketing community, lending his expertise to conferences, seminars, articles, blog  and webcasts. He can be reached at

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