How to Drive the Behaviors that Reverse Abandonment

First, let’s define abandonment

An abandoned cart (or bag, depending) is what most likely comes to mind when you think of “Abandonment,” but it’s much more than that. (Yes, you’re being abandoned all the time.)

If we could transparently watch a customer journey like a video game, we could easily differentiate the “classic” abandoned cart from other types of abandonment, such as checkout, browse, or search.

With a proper abandonment taxonomy, we can understand the unique reasons behind different types of abandonment. If we know the cause, we’re much closer to the cure.

Ecommerce Abandonment Terminology 

Abandonment RateA commonly used metric. Most organizations consider AR to be the ratio of the number of abandoned shopping carts to the number of initiated transactions or the number of completed transactions. 
Abandoned SearchA visitor performs a search on your website, but they don’t click results; instead, they leave the website. 
Abandoned BrowseA visitor lands on your website and continues to view product or category pages but then leaves without adding any items to their cart.
Abandoned CartA visitor adds one or more products to the online shopping cart but doesn’t proceed to checkout. 
Abandoned CheckoutA visitor fills their cart and moves into the checkout process but drops off before completion. This category can be broken down further — depending on how far into the process the visitor got — before leaving the site. 


Brands can zhuzh these terms to suit their business, but the terms should retain precise definitions across the org. The important thing is to establish differentiated abandonment concepts for proper measurement, assessment, and implementation so your team can effect change quickly.

For instance, a relatively low-price point brand would likely consider a cart Officially Abandoned after an hour, whereas a high-price point brand might wait substantially longer. By avoiding pre-baked definitions, brands can ensure that any initiatives triggered by the customer’s behavior are specific to that shopper’s unique needs and most likely to drive results.

Second, let’s determine what we’re after

All marketers want customers to buy with as little marketing effort as possible — not because they’re lazy but because they’re strategic. Heavy lifting to influence a purchase event at any scale greater than a mom-and-pop shop is not sustainable.  

As abandoning shoppers are inevitable, abandonment initiatives are a critical part of the marketer’s arsenal. If implemented correctly, abandonment initiatives can dramatically impact core marketing KPIs and overarching business objectives. While revenue is a core unit of measurement, abandonment initiatives can (and should) be considered across other dimensions, which include:

RevenueBy bringing more shoppers back to their carts, abandonment initiatives encourage more checkouts and directly impact total revenue.
Average Order Value (AOV)With the right content, abandonment initiatives can bring folks back to their carts and encourage them to upgrade or add items, thus increasing the average order value.
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)While messages cost money, either directly or indirectly, abandonment campaigns ensure that you close more customers — either newly acquired or existing — increasing conversions and decreasing cost per customer. 


Finally! Driving behaviors that reverse abandonment

Marketers typically align abandonment campaigns to a financial goal, like revenue, but you can encourage a series of micro-conversions to drive the behavior that will reverse abandonment. 

One of the best ways of thinking about this is from the shopper’s perspective and their purchase journey (i.e., the one they take and not the one we chose for them). We can take some time to recognize vital behaviors across every purchase. When patterns emerge, we can make informed decisions to steer customers toward a completed checkout. 

If we consider abandonment as the customer having left the site at some point in their journey, we know that we can track and measure a customer’s progress back onto that journey. We can reframe those metrics as critical micro-conversions: 

MetricTarget Customer Micro-Conversion
Open RateGetting the customers to interact with the communication that was sent to them in follow-up to their abandonment.
CTORGetting customers who engaged with the communication to then follow through on the call to action presented. 
Product Page VisitGetting the customer to revisit the product (or something within the product category) they had initially shown interest in and then abandoned to spark deeper interest. 
Cart VisitGetting the customer to create, revisit, or add to the cart they had abandoned (each action could be a micro-conversion worth tracking). 
Checkout Page VisitGetting the customer to revisit their abandoned cart and initiate or re-initiate the checkout process confirms high intent. 

Rather than boiling the ocean or merely throwing matches in it with your abandonment campaigns, we can isolate and optimize for each micro-conversion through each campaign, which are designed as intentional responses to distinct abandonment types. 

The key to any effort to iterate and incrementally improve an initiative is clarity of where you are and where you’re going. The only way to get that clarity is with data. And the only way to clear a view of the data is by mastering your data strategy.

If you’d like to learn more about how to do that, see this on-demand webinar hosted by Simon Data CEO and Cofounder Dr. Jason Davis on how to build a first-party data strategy.

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