Turn abandoned carts into avid shoppers

Abandoned carts are often a nightmare for bootstrapping online stores. To see your leads show promise only to turn away at the last second can be disheartening. But it doesn’t have to be so negative that there’s nothing you can do about it. 

The key to turning a cart dropper into a shopper is getting to the root cause that explains why they turned away in the first place. 

Once you figure out the major concerns that deter customers from making a purchase, you can begin to address what they are and implement changes into your approach. 

In this blog, we hope to give you a fair idea of the reasons customers may drop a purchase right in the middle of their buying journey. But more importantly, we’ll cover a few of the most practical ways you can bring them back. Don’t worry. Contrary to first impressions, abandoned cart-ers can be recovered. You just need to know which buttons to push. 

Key reasons behind most abandoned carts

  1. Extra costs added to the product’s original price tag can often cause customers to withdraw from a purchase. It is somewhat a subversion of expectations. The customer expects that you’re only going to charge what you pitch on the product page. The additional charges that pile up is not only unexpected but might also be seen as a form of cheap marketing.
  1. Forcing your customers to create an account can also negatively affect conversions. Shoppers in a hurry might switch to another store where they don’t have to go through the hassle. 
  1. Frustratingly slow websites and unsecured payment portals can adversely affect shopping fulfillment. Customers are likely to second-guess your brand’s credibility when a transaction page looks sketchy, or when a page stops responding. 

Not all carts are “abandoned”

It’s worth noting that not every shopper who drops a cart has decided to discontinue the purchase. This is a common mistake that a unified customer profile can help you avoid. 

Oftentimes, customers are simply at a point in the buyer journey where they’re browsing through products and testing out prices. It’s common for shoppers to browse through your product categories on one device (eg: their mobile phone) and complete the purchase on another (eg: their work computer). If you have a unified customer data profile in place, you’d be able to recognize which customers can be considered a continued session, albeit on a different device based on the data you have on them (IP addresses, email IDs, etc.) 

Even then, customers who are genuinely interested in a product can also get caught up in a hurry, forgetting to complete the process. In this case, a simple alert or reminder helps.

Either way, the cause behind an abandoned cart can vary according to different customers.  Another way to look at it is that cart abandonment is the norm and conversion is an exception. 

Proven strategies for abandoned cart recovery 

Exit pop-ups and other strategies

There’s a fraction of a moment right before the customer decides to drop the purchase, where they’re contemplating whether they should leave. You can get input on this based on behavior like hovering over the exit button, hitting the escape key, etc.

If they do click on the exit button, you could use a quick pop-up as a last resort to change their mind. This could mention a potential offer they’d be missing out on or a new deal that’s worth trying. The aim is to make it convincing.

If possible, try to make the pop-up message more personalized, based on their current or previous purchases. It is difficult to be that spontaneous. But you can always use general content templates that match your customer.

Retarget with better insights

Ever heard of a retargeting ad? They’re way more effective than cold emails, precisely because you won’t be blindly targeting your leads. The message can be tailored to match their recent purchase, perhaps to suggest a better alternative or to offer a discount. There’s a Shopify plug-in called Shoelace that does a pretty good job of retargeting ads.

Alert through notifications

Do you have an app that your customer installs into their phone? Well, a push notification is a smart way for you to remind them of any recent purchase that they might have dropped out of. Remember to keep the message short, simple, but attention-grabbing without being too intrusive. The last thing you want is for annoyed customers to revoke their subscriptions altogether.

Email campaigns to recover abandoned carts

If you think that emails are the most fast-converting way to recover abandoned carts, guess again. You’re in for a surprise. They’re effective, but very slow-paced and demand a lot of effort. Guess why?

The simple fact is that almost every company or website you know is using email marketing to flood their lead’s inboxes. The more competitive your customer’s email inbox becomes, the harder it is to gain and maintain their attention.

Still, there are a few challenging but creative ways you can make sure that your customers open and read your email. The subject line is the real deal-maker (or deal-breaker). The more inventive you are, the better your responses will be. It is difficult to settle on any one-size-fits-all template for a subject line. But here are a few tips on what not to do:

  1. Don’t make your subject line lengthy. All your customer notices are the first few lines anyway.
  2. Don’t use all caps for every single word.
  3. Try to make your message attention-grabbing, instead of overtly using artificial tactics such as “ALL CAPS” and “Exclamation (!) marks”.
  4. Don’t use big words where a short one is just as effective.
  5. Puns and wordplay are great, but not if they are too difficult for the average reader to catch at first glance.

But the subject line isn’t all that matters. The content of your email should entail some form of reward or incentive that motivates your customer to consider:

1). Completing their purchase, or 

2.) Initiating a new one.

We’ve covered a few tips on how to improve your email marketing in the previous blog. Be sure to check it out.

Dealing with Multi-device users

Sometimes cart-dropping isn’t intentional. Customers can often forget a purchase interrupted mid-search when they switch devices. Most users might not log in to their accounts on all their devices.

Furthermore, they might even have a designated device they use specifically to shop online. This makes it difficult to set push notifications once they log out. This is where you can try incentivizing them to sync accounts across all devices. Be sure to keep your customers on your data policy beforehand to avoid legal pitfalls. 

Add a Personal Touch

In the hyper-digitalized world of texts and emails, it is so much easier to detach and disengage. Sometimes the best alternative is the simplest one: Making a phone call. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Customer support follow up calls are  extremely personal and puts your customer in a space where they respond to an actual human being, instead of dealing with the automated disembodiment of push notifications and email alerts. 
  1. A phone call also guarantees a more responsive customer. Even the ones that reject you will hear you out initially. Which helps you narrow the list down considerably. You get to pinpoint the exact reason why your lead didn’t follow through on the purchase.
  1. Most importantly, a phone call carries with it the element of surprise. Customers usually don’t expect a store to follow up on an abandoned purchase. It is a form of reaching out that takes a specific allocation of staff and resources. Users know very well that automating a templated email is pretty much the easiest thing to do. But an actual phone call shows real commitment, which most customers can appreciate, if not fully reciprocate. 
  1. It also allows you to identify any genuine concerns or issues that your customer may be facing and is unable to raise. Your phone call intervention would be well-timed in that case.

Site speed check-ups

Do frequent tests on your website from random devices now and then, just to get an idea of what to optimize. Sometimes a recent image editor or a theme change can slow your site’s speed down without anyone noticing. 

Mobile optimization is a must

Make sure your store’s website is primed for mobile phone usage. Most of your shopping happens there, and it is unlikely that any significant number of your customers would abandon a purchase on their phone and simply forget about it. On the other hand, there are plenty of customers who drop out simply because the site doesn’t look good on their phone 

If you’re targeting the millennials and Gen Z market like most online businesses, then mobile optimization for your website is unavoidable. 

Removing friction from the checkout

Here’s a tip that can prevent abandoned carts by a greater margin: keep your checkout process super simple and brief. Don’t complicate it with too many steps, contact requests, and information overload. All that will do is leave your customers frustrated because you’re giving them way too much to think about and less to do. 

Minimize the checkout steps down to a maximum of three. Anything beyond that is simply confusing. 

All your customer is looking for is a bill summary and an assurance that they can get their cash back if they dislike and return the product. 

Transparency to build trust

The most pressing concern to shoppers online is the mismatch between product images and the actual product. It isn’t false advertising that they’re worried about. It is being persuaded to buy a product that they aren’t satisfied with.

The best way to curtail this is by using the most realistic and unfiltered product pictures, videos, and descriptions, without downplaying your product. Here are a few helpful tips:

  1. Avoid using subjective words to describe your product. Words like “stunning”, “amazing”, and “awesome”, don’t tell your users anything about your product. Their function in the content is minimal.
  1. Emphasize the customer and not your brand. In other words, instead of extensively listing out all that you’ve accomplished with the product, switch the focus to the customer’s pain points and problems.
  1. Focus on the results, not the features. Allow your customer to get a credible overview of what they can get out of the product, and what results they can expect.

Be upfront about the actual price

Transparency is a big deal in the online shopping world, especially because it is so easy to get hoodwinked out there. There are thousands of cases where shoppers are tricked into initiating a purchase only to be disappointed with the unexpected costs that begin to pile up out of nowhere. The worst part? It hardly helps your business. Most shoppers will simply drop out of a transaction when unexpected costs pop up in their bill summary. Only a few would consider completing the deal.

Customers value transparency and detest brands that get them to spend precious time engaging in a purchase based on what they had advertised only to realize the costs are higher.

Here are a few tips to help you in the long run:

  • Keep your costs transparent and upfront. If you’re planning to add shipping costs to the bill summary, mention the rate you will be charging. Your customers are concerned with the bill total. Give them the rounded figure and let them check the bill amount’s breakup later.
  • Additionally, you could demonstrate how shopping directly from the store can help them get a discount and make a difference in the break-up and total. This way, instead of giving them a figure that begins to appreciate as they progress through the purchase window, you’d be quoting a price that could (potentially) be lowered based on conditions. The effect of both approaches (A. Fixing the price and raising it throughout the process and B. Quoting a raised price and lowering it throughout the customer journey) is wildly different and will be reflected in the customer’s decision-making.

Testimonials and social proof to boost recovery

Store owners often overlook the value of the data they possess. If 1,000 customers have already bought your product, that is a huge plus point that you can leverage and push in your website, marketing campaigns, and other copy. 

FOMO is a real fear that shoppers only experience when they see credible proof that other customers are jumping in on the bandwagon to buy your product. Use ratings, and reviews, but also showcase how much the shopper can save on the purchase. A comparative chart with boldly displayed stats goes a long way in giving your customers perspective.

Rethinking the return/refund policy

Many shoppers will abandon a purchase when they realize that the store doesn’t offer a valid return/ refund/exchange policy. It is the same fear that pervades all online shopping: that the product won’t be up to their satisfaction and that they won’t be able to get their money back. If you don’t have an active return policy already, now might be the best time to start thinking about one. It can save you a great deal of worry about cart abandonment.

We don’t recommend that you offer refunds and returns unconditionally. But completely discarding it as an option won’t work either. Be a little flexible, but also put restrictions on your refund policy, so that customers don’t begin to take advantage of it.

Payment methods that match your customer

As we mentioned earlier, sometimes cart abandonment is a result of a simple technical issue. If your customer can’t find their preferred payment method on your website, they might simply leave the checkout page. Again, there’s no way you can know for sure without reaching out to them personally. This is why it is always a good idea to follow up on cart-droppers through email, but more preferably, through a simple phone call. 

If payment method is what’s causing the delay, you can redirect them to an alternative that works in the short-term, while also considering including their payment method in the long run.

Low And High Discount: Which Is Better? 

Huge discounts are geared towards high-value buyers. When you’re dealing in retail, retaining a larger number of customers makes more sense in the long term. Adding a small discount, however minimal, to each product can go a long way in giving your customers the impression of more value for less.

Free delivery is your leverage

Free delivery is one of the sole incentives that motivate customers to shop online in the first place. So it is self-evident why shoppers might not be enthusiastic about buying from a store where they have to invest extra in shipping costs. It is less about the exact price and more about the sense of distrust that customers experience when they find a spectrum of sudden costs added to the invoice. We’ve covered a few ways you can optimize shipping while maintaining a healthy margin in a previous blog. 

Let your customers guest-shop

Similar to a physical store, shoppers prefer the option of being able to turn down any membership or scheme requests. Allowing your customers to shop and buy first before you bombard them with a sign-up form is ideal for generating more successful checkouts. Customers who have come this far in the buying journey only to discover that they now have to invest another few minutes filling out fields can easily feel frustrated. Try to save the sign-up form for last, after the purchase, and before delivery. This is often the ideal window for securing registered users without disrupting an active investment, which you could potentially lose if you don’t play your cards right.

If you’re still keen on getting customers to sign up, then at least limit it to a few essential fields such as email, contact number, and name. Use this to run registration campaigns eventually, just not mid-purchase.


If you’re just starting or bootstrapping, chances are you’ll encounter plenty of cart abandonment. They’re usually at rates that are pretty high for retail. You don’t have to worry about it because you’re not alone. 

The key aspects you need to focus on are preventing your customers from dropping out of a purchase in the first place, reaching out to those who do, and recovering them through better suggestions. This is a process that takes time.  

You need to have a mindset of trial and error, free from all bias and preconceived assumptions. Work on identifying each customer’s reason for abandoning the cart before you group them into segments and target them with campaigns. A simple pop-up that requests customers to click on why they left can help you categorize them accordingly. The insights you receive could be invaluable to formulating a great cart abandonment recovery strategy. With that being said, feel free to leave a comment to share your thoughts if any of this has been helpful.

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