New research shows only 7% of the largest UK ecommerce retailers use abandoned basket emails. Not only is this a massive missed opportunity (worth £billions), but retail significantly lags behind other sectors. In a world where 85% of customers are regularly abandoning baskets this should be a no-brainer for marketers, but it appears not.

A new report researched over 200 retail, insurance and gambling websites and email practices in November 2010. The study includes a look at the complete IMRG Hitwise list of the top 100 online retailers, the top 92 insurance companies listed on and the top 10 worldwide gambling sites according to Hitwise. Key findings highlight behavioural targeting is still in its infancy:

  • Only 7% of retail companies use abandoned basket email triggers
  • 47% of retailers don’t send ‘welcome emails’ to new subscribers or customers
  • Only 7% of online insurance companies use a ‘quote not buy’ email
  • While gambling websites are more sophisticated in their use of email marketing only 30% sent out a specific ‘register not deposit’ email.

Abandoned basket recovery, the simplest form of behavioural email, is underutilised in all sectors, yet yields one of the best revenue opportunities and ROI available. Many companies claim they are exploring it, yet it is available almost immediately, and with little integration, to any ecommerce operation.

With clear, proven benefits basket abandonment email is a valuable tool. For marketers that are exploring this hugely profitable tactic, here are my Top 10 Tips to help overcome any inertia and enable smooth implementation:

  1.  Address the reasons why someone has abandoned the basket

The top three reasons why this happens are: an over-complicated checkout procedure/usability, the price or the fact that the person was comparison shopping. Which is the most likely to have occurred on your site?

  1.  Stick to the subject

Do not clutter the email with any other messages or confuse the consumer. Short, ‘postcard’ style creative addressing the potential problem is best. Keep the text clear, detailing the reason for the email and use white space to enforce the singularity of the message.

  1.  Get the call to action right

The call to action (CTA) is as important, if not more so, on a basket abandonment email as on a ‘newsletter’ format. Keep it above the fold and relevant to the issue, such as “return to your basket here” or “Have you not you not found what you are looking for?”.

  1.  Don’t send too many emails

If an individual abandons five times in 10 minutes, don’t send five emails!! Set a rule that the individual can only receive one abandonment email per month.

  1.  Offer help and assistance

Offer help and assistance, for instance by publishing a telephone number, but don’t forget to make it a bespoke line so the value of the extra bookings can be attributed back to the basket abandonment email.

  1.  Reinforce brand value / USPs

Reinforce the reason why the individual chose your company in the first place… clearly and succinctly state your brand values and USPs.

  1.  Remind the customer of the product(s)

Dynamically generate the content and the product/s sitting in the basket… remind the consumer of what they are missing out on.

  1.  Test timings

Test the timeliness – 6 hours, 24 hours, 72 hours… very often this will depend on the type of product. Large ticket items encourage comparison browsing, so give the individual a few more hours to do their comparisons and to discuss the purchase with their partner or family.

  1.  Experiment with follow-up emails

Test a follow-up abandon basket to those who don’t open, or those who open but still don’t buy.

  1.  Don’t be too generous with discounts

Finally, DON’T teach your best customer to abandon baskets by offering a blanket discount in the basket abandonment email. If you want to offer free P&P or a discount, either do it irregularly (eg every third time) or only if you are convinced that pricing is key and they are/are not a loyal customer.