Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

If at first you don’t succeed: how to revive an abandoned basket

by Cian Agnew, Executive Director, Client Partnerships, Wunderkind International

If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware that basket abandonment is a common gripe for retailers. According to the Baymard Institute, almost seven out of every 10 (68.8%) digital baskets are abandoned. Even after going through the (sometimes) lengthy process of seeking out a product they like the look of, the vast majority of shoppers ultimately decide — for whatever reason — against making a purchase. 

For all retailers, abandonment is a constant source of frustration, but for brands in the luxury sector the figures are even more stark, with Statista suggesting a staggering 87.93% of high-end baskets are abandoned. Fashion, which sees 87.79% of baskets abandoned, isn’t far behind. 

Some estimates suggest that around $4.6 trillion worth of items are left unpurchased in online shopping baskets every year. To put that colossal number into some context, only three countries in the world — the United States, China and Japan — have an annual GDP that exceeds that figure.

For retailers, an abandoned basket perfectly epitomises the phrase ‘so near, yet so far’. Getting so close to making a sale and missing out at the last minute can be both disheartening and perplexing. Why would someone go so far down the funnel and then refrain from hitting the buy button? What went wrong? What could we (the brand) have done differently?

Certain tactics might encourage more people to buy at the first time of asking — one-click purchasing, for example — but they won’t eradicate abandonment entirely. The real key is giving the basket a second lease of life.

To buy or not to buy

It’s a question commonly asked by exasperated outlets: why do so many people get cold feet just before they enter their card details? 

As it turns out, there are numerous reasons. The most common is a shopper simply not being ready to commit to a purchase. Around 60% of people admit that, in the last three months, they’ve abandoned a cart for this very reason. It’s a prevalent behaviour.

Other frequently cited reasons for abandonment include additional costs (shipping, for example) being too high (46% of respondents), estimated delivery time being too slow (22%), not trusting the site with their card information (18%), and the process taking too long (17%). 

Constantly seeking to enhance the overall shopping experience and being transparent about costs/delivery estimates can go a long way to alleviating some of these problems, but what about those who don’t have obvious issues that can be solved? How can businesses get the 60% of people who abandon baskets because they’re not ready to buy to go through with the purchase?

It starts, as is so often the case in retail, with harnessing data.

Bring the shopper back

Once you’ve got a site visitor to hand over their email address or phone number — generally as part of a value exchange — you can better understand what they like — in terms of products and marketing — and how they like to be communicated with. However, to really benefit from this data, you’ll need to utilise the right technology to monitor the products/categories a customer is looking for and looking at; by doing this, you’ll be able to remarket to them via your owned channels — email and text — which will keep them engaged, and get them to convert further down the line.

There’s also the matter of personalising the approach. You have to consider what will convert a hesitant shopper into one that’s ready to buy, what messaging will resonate, and how you can reach out in a way that’s tailored and — crucially — appreciated.

So, how exactly do you get those people who’ve given you their data to come back to your website? Here are a few of the ways we find to be most effective.


Abandonment emails are the highest converting emails a brand can send. They’re highly personalised — they showcase products or pages the recipient has already shown an interest in — and they can, if you’ve got the right data, be timed to perfection. If used at the right time, and they’re designed to give both the shortest path to conversion and a superior customer experience, abandonment emails can easily account for 6-8% of a brand’s total digital revenue.

Emails triggered by a category, product or basket abandonment can also give brands a chance to showcase other, specially-selected pages or items, thereby encouraging the customer to continue discovering what you’ve got to offer. 

With regard to timings, it’s generally effective to deliver a first reminder email to the shopper’s inbox 30 minutes after they’ve popped an item into a basket and subsequently abandoned it, then another one 24 hours later if they’ve yet to convert. These timings are, however, far from set in stone: what works well for one brand won’t necessarily be as impactful for another, so there’s certainly room to change it up.

Stock change

We tend to focus on two types of stock change emails – back in stock, and low in stock. If some has shown interest in a sold out item and they’ve now got another opportunity to grab it, or it’s on the verge of selling out, an email or text letting them know is going to be valued. Not only will they appreciate the reminder, but they’ll likely be pleased to receive a message that’s so directly tailored to them and has their particular interests at heart. 

Price drop

Price drop emails and texts are sent — you’ve guessed it! — when products a user has previously expressed interest in drop in price or become part of, for example, a buy-one-get-one-free deal. This obviously benefits the customer, but it will also help you clear your warehouse of excess stock; this approach can help you capture early sale conversions before the cost of remaining items drops further.

It doesn’t end with abandonment

Understanding the behaviour of customers, knowing how they like to be communicated with, recognising what, beyond the product itself, compels them to buy (discounts, free shipping, loyalty points), and discerning when they’re likely to be receptive to messaging, is central to transforming deserted baskets into active ones.

Being able to do this effectively requires the gathering of first-party data, and it necessitates having customer buy-in. This is crucial when it comes to recognising website visitors, understanding their actions, and ultimately reminding them of products they’ve either come close to buying, or have shown interest in.

Hit them at the right time, with the right messaging, and via the right channels, and you’ll be able to sell more, all while building a robust, personal relationship with your customers. What’s not to like?