Practical Ecommerce

Ask An Expert: What Data to Mine from Abandoned Carts?

“Ask an Expert” is an occasional feature where we ask ecommerce experts questions from online merchants. For this installment, we address a question about collecting lost customer data from abandoned shopping carts.

The question comes from Jim Richardson, founder and owner of CuddleWorks, a Tigard, Ore.-based stuffed animal and teddy bear retailer.

For the answer, we turn to Josh Pierry. He is CEO and founder of RevenueExpect, a San Mateo, Calif.-based remarketing provider. His company provides services that help merchants contact cart abandoners.

Jim Richardson

Jim Richardson

Jim Richardson: “What information can you mine from abandoned shopping carts? The obvious would be product and email address. But are there clues left behind as to why the customer left, such as the shipping rate was too high or the checkout page was too long? And finally, is it appropriate to follow up with the customer via email to try and capture that sale or is this looked upon as spam?”


Josh Pierry

Josh Pierry

Josh Pierry: “Let’s start with what information you can mine from abandoned shopping carts: abandoned data, trends over time and, abandon rates by field and form.

“The abandoned data you can mine is varied depending on the form and what a user will enter in. But you can capture any data entered into the form, as well as data not entered into the form. This goes to the next two points. Based on what data is or isn’t entered in can start to provide trend data over time and abandoned rates by field and form.

“This data can be used in number of different ways, including:

  1. Identify forms that are too long.
  2. Identify fields that customers have issues with, or never fill out. This is a great way to take out additional fields that are not needed thus optimizing conversions.
  3. Track conversion trends over time by browser. This helps to see if there are cross browser compatibility issues with new code updates, for example.

“The last issue you bring up is whether or not you can follow up on abandoned data. The short answer is ‘yes, you can follow up.’ The good news is that, in our experience, customers also want to be followed up with, as well.

“When following up with potential customers, we don’t recommend sending a sales or offer email, but rather a customer service email. If a user didn’t complete the transaction, then more than likely there was an issue with the site or they have additional questions. Don’t treat your prospective customers like a cash register, instead treat them like a customer and try to provide superior customer service.”

Practical Ecommerce

Practical Ecommerce

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  1. e-onlinedata Erin February 7, 2011 Reply

    Is it better to followup with an email vs. a phone call?

  2. mollygriffin February 7, 2011 Reply

    Great points. I recently read an article today that said consumers were likely to spend 55% more when they are re marketed for an abandoned shopping cart and actually return to make a purchase. I know that our clients here at Dydacomp have seen a similar number when they contact their customers with a short email.

  3. Renegade February 8, 2011 Reply

    Without sounding like we’re intruding or pestering the customer, what should our "customer service" email say to them?

  4. Pamela Hazelton February 8, 2011 Reply


    A customer service call email should simply let the customer know you care and ask him if he faced any issues or had trouble finding what he needed.

    The purpose of the email is akin to a store employee walking up to you and asking, "Is there anything I can help you find?"

  5. Damon February 8, 2011 Reply

    If you have a multi-step checkout, get the email in the first step. That way, you can match up their cart (ie, products and total value) to the email.

    We usually setup a semi-automated system that automatically emails coupons, cart reminders and/or tags an abandoned cart for manual followup. With the cart value data, you know which abandoned carts are more valuable and these can be tagged and scheduled for telephone or personal email followup. The 80/20 rule… work smarter, not harder.

    Lower value carts can receive a couple of automated reminders with small coupons or free ground shipping offers. The best message "tone" I have found is one that is friendly and helpful…

    "I see you started to place an order on Monday for a xxxxxx but didn’t complete the order. I wanted to follow up with you to see if there was a problem placing the order…."

    "Here is a 5% coupon if you would answer a question/take three question survey."

    The feedback can be amazingly helpful. Was the item cheaper elsewhere? Was the shipping too expensive? Was there a bug or error in your checkout?

    Plus, you just might make a sale.


  6. met00 February 11, 2011 Reply

    as the original author of OSCommerce’s recover carts program I could point you to the original e-mail that I created for the followups and the forum posts that turned into a minor flame war on what the purpose was for the recover carts program, and the e-mail.

    When created RCS and used it in alive store it had a recovery rate of over 15%, Of course the limitation was that it could only recover carts from users who had gone through account creation.

    The biggest piece of feedback I was able to get for sales failure was the lack of shipping information before an account was created and the customer went to checkout. Shipping "sticker shock" was responsible not only for cart abandonment, but for over 15% of the account names being phony.

    By moving a shipping estimator to the cart page so that shipping could be determined before account creation I was able to see a substantial drop off in both fake accounts ( and also a drop in abandoned carts. After the change we noticed a drop in recovered carts (down to 7-8%) as well.

    In addition, if a cart is NOT noticed within 48 hours, it won’t be recoverable. It is not that Internet sales are more impulse oriented, but if the sale was going to happen it would happen with you, or your competitor, within the first 48 hours. If you wait over 48 hours to contact the customer for every 24 hours after that you lose 2% from that recovery percentage.

    We also were advised by customers that they don’t want to hear from you one or two hours after they leave the store. As one customer wrote "It’s creepy, like being stalked."

    If you have a recover carts program running in a crontab (automagically running) run it so that it picks up carts that are at least six hours old, and no more than 30. This should ensure that you capture your customers over a 25 hour period, but no too soon after they left the store to creep them out.