News & Insights


How to Recover Abandoned eCommerce Carts

pwd staff OLIVER WOOD
Oliver Wood

|4th December 2018

As an online retailer, the concept of eCommerce cart abandonment is likely the bane of your virtual reality. People scroll through your products, duly adding things to their carts, only to close your website and carry on with their lives, leaving a cyber trolley with an existential crisis behind. Read on as we offer insights on the topic and outline best practice to help you reduce and recover abandoned eCommerce carts.

Studies collated by the Baymard Institute consistently show that more than 55% of visitors to electronic retailers end up being next-level window shoppers. Some of the studies list abandonment rates as sky-high as 81%, and the figures are even higher on mobile phones.


  • Unexpected or expensive tax and shipping costs
  • Unclear delivery dates or slow shipping
  • Preferred payment method not offered
  • A sense of mistrust when sharing credit card information
  • Requests to create an account
  • Difficult returns policy
  • Poor site experience or slow downloads, poor navigational capabilities, lack of mobile optimisation
  • Browsing and researching with no real intention to buy
  • A lack of patience with the checkout process


Shipping costs need to be clearly stated during the checkout process – any confusion for customers results in cart abandonment. Offer free or cheaper shipping within reason. More sales and turnover are only great if they positively affect your bottom-line. Some retailers offer free shipping with a minimum spend so that they don’t have to incur losses – look at your margins to determine your threshold point. Having a threshold also increases average order amounts which is a definite advantage to using this approach. The fact of the matter is, when your competitors with similar product ranges are offering free shipping or using third-parties for free click and collect, consumers are just not going to choose you. So if you do provide free shipping, make it known. Put it above the fold on every page. Update consumers when they’ve reached thresholds or are close to doing so.

Estimated delivery dates also need to be visible. If a product is not going to arrive in time to meet a customer’s needs, they are going to seek out alternatives. Give these consumers the option of paying a premium for faster shipping and you might get more conversions.

Offer more payment methods. There should be enough for everyone including those in other countries, if you’re targeting consumers abroad, to see a preferred option.

If you’re working with a WordPress site, WooCommerce is the most popular eCommerce solution according to Built With. WooCommerce helps you build your online store, comes built-in with PayPal and enables many payment options through extensions.

Having grown up with cell phones, millennials prefer paying for things using mobile. It’s a natural step that will advance with the progression of Apple Pay, Google Pay and other apps that enable impulsive one-click purchases which generate more revenue for retailers.

Shopify cites worries about security when providing payment details as a significant reason for cart abandonment, particularly amongst older consumers. And with good reason. Stories about scams and companies taking money without ever delivering a product are fairly common. People would rather pay through a single channel like PayPal than provide all and sundry with their credit card details.

Make sure your SSL certificates and payment trust seals are visible to inspire confidence in the site and make people more willing to part with their billing info. You need to actively work on building trust with older market segments.

Including a guest account option requiring fewer customer details is a must. Some people don’t want to have to create a username and password for every second website they visit. Once a purchase is complete, and under less pressing circumstances, you can offer the option of registering for future convenience.

95% of online customers will purchase again from a merchant who provides a good return or exchange experience. Denied one, many consumers will abandon their carts.

No one wants to interact with a buggy website so check the site experience you offer on all the main web browsers. And don’t forget that mobile devices work with gestures like pinching, so you need to cater for that. If your site’s pages load in 2 seconds or less, you’ll retain customers. If your site easily offers some measure of personalization and filtering for each visitor’s product viewing experience, you’ll be more likely to reduce and recover abandoned eCommerce carts.

And before anything else, ensure that your site is optimised for search engines so that people can actually find it when they’re looking for the products you offer. SEO best practice involves correct descriptions of pages and pictures – these serve as declarations of what people can expect to find on your site so when they visit, they’re satisfied to have found relevant items and stick around for a while.

Statista found that 40% of people use carts to keep track of items they’re interested in. They’re not necessarily ready to purchase but they’re utilizing the cart to help them make a mental note of things they like the look of and might return to buy.

There’s also a certain satisfaction in saving money that would have been spent on things perceived as wants rather than needs.



Don’t collect more information than you actually need for a transaction. And if you do require a specific nugget of info such as a contact number, the customer needs to perceive that there is a valid reason why. In this case it is ease of delivery.

If you really want to gain insights into your market, ask for info when people opt to create an account, or incentivise consumers to answer a survey by offering discount codes.

Curb the amount of information people have to fill into the checkout form by using address lookup technology for starters.

Automatically fill in a billing address when a shipping address has been proffered.

Make it easy for the customer to see data-entry errors in the checkout form. Good practice is to use red text or automatically shift focus to where there is missing data such as quantity or colour.

Use one-click checkout. If a customer returns to your site after having created an account with stored billing and shipping info, make one-click checkout an option for them. It’s the ultimate in customer convenience and a great way to reduce and recover abandoned eCommerce carts.

Ask for an email address early on in the form so you can actually attempt recovering an abandoned eCommerce cart if it comes to that.

Sale support during checkout in the form of Live Chat with an employee, or a Frequently Asked Questions section so that customers can find answers to any queries they have.

All in all, Optimising the checkout process can boost conversions by 35%.


It’s a weird aspect to humans, but people are hardwired to want things that are rare. The more exceptional your product or promotion, the more a consumer is willing to part with their money.

If you have a substantial discount on an item, include the words ‘while stocks last’, or even better, make the offer time-sensitive. You can also include text that tells customers who have selected an item that there are ‘only 2 left, act fast!’, for example.

The perception of scarcity prompts people to take action rather than letting an item linger in a cart. FOMO is definitely a factor that helps recover abandoned eCommerce carts.

Convey expertise through content marketing and SEO. This encourages trust which encourages sales.

Consumers frequently operate with a group mentality so include a filter showing the best-selling products on your site if you can. Include independent reviews by other customers which create a sense of consensus about the attributes of products under consideration. WooCommerce makes it really easy to display reviews. You can also use recommendations – include the phrase ‘visitors who viewed this product also viewed’ above pictures of other related products offered on your site. Smart Insights suggest that when utilised on product pages, this phrase has led to 68.4% of total revenue.

Write convincing, witty copy with engaging product descriptions. Sometimes people like the idea of having something, but they aren’t entirely sure how to use an item. Communicate ease of use, and versatility where relevant. Suggest ways to style clothing or put product features and benefits front and centre.


Facebook and Google do it all the time and you can too. Choose a control group and a test group where a change has been applied, and compare the two groups.

For example, test a 20% discount code and a 15% discount code. If the latter performs just as well, why should you lose out unnecessarily? Fully implement the change if it’s made a positive impact on reducing and recovering abandoned eCommerce carts.



Unless you employ some kind of authoritarian ‘if you browse, you buy’ approach, cart abandonment is a fact of doing business online. So far we’ve looked at preventative measures. But what measures can you take after a cart has actually been abandoned? Well, as it turns out, all is not lost and you can employ the following:

Retargeting Adverts – It’s as simple as installing some code from an ad network like Google Ads or Facebook which drops cookies, those small and mostly anonymous data files that track your movements on a site. The info can then be sent to these companies. When cart ditchers visit other sites, they will see ads for the things they left behind and these reminders serve as a powerful tool to recover abandoned eCommerce carts.

Retargeting Emails – Sometimes browsers fail, or people forget that they were busy shopping before they got distracted by an important call. According to the Predictive Intelligence Benchmark Report from Salesforce, strategic emails can recover abandoned eCommerce carts within 24 hours 60% of the time. And yet the tactic is incredibly underutilized, even by huge retailers who should know better.


Timing and Frequency

One email should be sent within an hour of a cart being deserted, while a customer is still in the mood to buy, and hopefully before they’ve bought elsewhere. The first email should convey a desire to help if any problems were experienced during the checkout process and it should list a cart’s contents with accompanying images.

This should be followed by an email the next day that again displays the cart’s contents and suggests similar products. Perhaps it also incentivizes going through with the sale. This can be done through free shipping or a discount code for first-time customers and randomly chosen regulars whose business you’d like to acknowledge.

Informing the potential customer that their cart will shortly expire can also create urgency. A customer with real interest might not want to go through the process of searching for and adding products to a cart all over again.

Lastly, 48 hours after a cart is abandoned, and if no action has been taken, a final reminder can drop into an inbox with a virtual wing and a prayer. Bear in mind that it’s only when you have a healthy stock inventory that you should be reserving items for people who may never get around to paying.


There are tools available that work with Shopify and WooCommerce, for example, which can manually and/or automatically send retargeting emails, assess their success rate and provide opportunities to amend tactics.

With WooCommerce, you’ll need to install and activate a plugin like the ‘Save Abandoned Carts’ one from the WordPress repo to capture abandoned carts in the first place. You can also define the amount of time that needs to pass before a cart can be considered abandoned.

If your site times out while a customer is in the middle of checkout without saving inputs, it’s annoying for the customer because they feel like they’ve wasted time and it’s annoying for the retailer because a captured customer is no longer a sure thing. This WooCommerce plugin saves all the info typed into the checkout form field before it’s ever submitted, and the pro version offers the emails via MailChimp.

Shopify has a basic built-in abandoned cart tool but also relies on third-party apps to provide greater functionality to its users.

Look for a plugin that doesn’t slow your site down as that’s anathema to reducing and recovering abandoned eCommerce carts.



Shopify and WooCommerce offer suggestions for how to nudge potential consumers with effective emails:

Excellent copy should be infused with personality that appeals to your target market. Whether using fun puns or expressing luxury, copy should be consistent with your other marketing platforms. From a subject line that demands interest to the quirky way buttons are labelled with CTAs, your words need to push people through the bottom end of the marketing funnel.

Appeal to emotions. The surest way to do this is to make people feel like they’re doing something good by completing the sale. So if you sell jewellery, say something like ‘Go on. Make her week.’

Professional branding and graphics, including product photography and GIFs where appropriate, go a long way to recover abandoned eCommerce carts.

A real person’s contactable email address is better than a general support address which, in turn, is better than a no-reply address.

Peppering emails with active links going back to the cart. Don’t include social media links. Focus attention on the endgame.

Include positive reviews of the product by other site users. When listing products, include the rating and number of reviews for each item.

For customers who’ve signed up to loyalty schemes with your company, include criteria to show how their points balance can help them purchase the items they were interested in. You may just persuade them to recover an abandoned eCommerce cart.


Tailor the recommendations above to your online store. You could dramatically improve customer retention and conversion rates through trust-building, persuasive tactics, user-friendliness and helpful WooCommerce and Shopify plugins. The retargeting email is at the heart of recovering abandoned eCommerce carts.