Creating cart abandonment urgency is one of the best ways to get customers to revisit abandoned merchandise and complete a purchase. But when it comes to creating urgency around an abandoned cart, the majority of today’s marketers aren’t able to do so effectively, and therefore fall into two camps:

1. Those that don’t bother to send any type of cart abandonment incentive, but instead send a run-of-the-mill “Oops! You Forgot Something” email.
2. Those that do try to create urgency around an abandoned cart, but are unable to send the kind of incentive that makes shoppers want to rush to respond.

The biggest problem is that those marketers who are thinking of ways to incentivize returning to an abandoned shopping cart aren’t doing so in a way that actually speaks to what shoppers need in that moment. We’ve had the opportunity to see the good, bad, and ugly of what today’s marketers are doing to try to drive urgency around cart abandonment, and here’s what we’ve found:

GOOD: A multi-touch approach to cart abandonment

A retailer specializing in kitchen appliances sent multiple cart abandonment emails to try and understand exactly what was preventing us from completing our purchase. When we left a set of ice cream bowls in a shopping cart, the retailer:

1. Sent a traditional cart abandonment email, with the subject line “Don’t forget! Items remain in your cart… (Complete your purchase)”
2. Saw no movement from us to complete our purchase, so sent an email with the subject line “Regarding Your Recent Visit, Here’s Our Most Popular Bowls” and a selection of other bowls for us to consider instead
3. Still saw no movement, and finally sent a last-chance email with the subject line “Check out NOW and get 20% off + Free Shipping,” which included both a coupon and a ticking clock that urged us to complete our purchase ASAP.

By sending multiple cart abandonment emails, each of which offered a solution to one of several problems that cause customers to walk away from merchandise, the retailer showed a dedication towards understanding exactly what went wrong.

BAD: Good message, wrong medium

One of the brands we created an account with specializes in selling trash bags, garbage can liners, and contractor bags at wholesale prices. We abandoned a package of gallon-sized garbage bags in our shopping cart, and the retailer sent two cart abandonment emails in response:

1. A friendly but standard email with the subject line “Did we mess up?” and an invitation to revisit our abandoned cart.
2. An email offering us 10% off our final order if we checked out within 24 hours.

This second email was delivered to us a week after the first, but the problem was that we didn’t actually see the email until 2 days after the send date – meaning that the 10% off coupon had expired by the time we opened the message, and the email was rendered irrelevant. The retailer’s heart was in the right place in terms of creating urgency around our merchandise and incentivizing our return to our shopping cart, but by using email to deliver a time-sensitive message, they failed to account for the fact that it could be hours or days before a customer checks their email. The marketer should have considered coordinating their email send with a message on mobile or web push, so the chances of

UGLY: Don’t threaten your shoppers!

One would think that the above message goes without saying, but a retailer that sells craft supplies and cutting tools for DIY art projects surprised us with their “aggressive” approach towards combating cart abandonment. We abandoned a set of cleaning sponges in our shopping cart, after which we received no cart abandonment emails from the brand. Why? Because, upon being taken to our cart, the brand flashed a message on the screen saying that the items in our cart will automatically be removed after 24 hours.

This is, in a sense, an attempt to create urgency, however poorly-executed. But marketers need to make sure that the customer’s needs are at the forefront of every decision they make – and sending a warning that threatens to empty a shopper’s cart if they don’t come back quickly enough isn’t the way to do it.

What should marketers do instead?

Marketers need to keep in mind that cart abandonment is an opportunity to fix a problem. There’s a reason that your customer walked away from their purchase – whether it’s as benign as planning to come back later, or a bigger problem like price – and your cart abandonment messages should not only recognize these different possibilities, but seek to fix them. Marketers need to think about:

1. Personalizing cart abandonment campaigns to speak to each shoppers unique needs – and solve their unique problems
2. Driving urgency in a way that doesn’t sacrifice customer experience (like in our “Ugly” example, and even in our less ugly but still “Bad” example) but that seeks to improve it wherever possible
3. Communicating with shoppers in real-time to leverage urgency effectively (and not risk missing key opportunities by using email instead of web push or mobile push)

The key is to not only give shoppers a concrete reason to return to their shopping cart and complete their purchase, but to make sure that your messages are accessible, are customer-centric, and are relevant. The best way to create urgency is to speak to what your shopper’s most immediate needs are, and make a promise to meet them.

To learn more, visit or reach out to us directly at or at 877-658-2570.

Sruthi Narayanan
Sruthi is the Marketing Associate at Zaius. When she's not writing and editing marketing content, Sruthi spends her time volunteering for a Cambridge-based arts organization, singing in a post-collegiate a cappella group, and reading novels to her cat, Monty.

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