How To Convert Shopping Cart Abandons

I’ve read a lot of posts lately about converting potential buyers who are on your site, put items into their shopping cart, and then before checking out, leave your site. People are close to purchasing your product, but for some reason are changing their minds at the last minute and abandoning their carts.

I’ve read a lot of posts lately about converting potential buyers who are on your site, put items into their shopping cart, and then before checking out, leave your site.

People are close to purchasing your product, but for some reason are changing their minds at the last minute and abandoning their carts.

The Temptation: email your shopping cart abandons. After all, they put their email addresses in the first part of the order form…they just didn’t submit the order yet.

The Problem: buying something and requesting information are two totally separate actions. And these people aren’t doing either.

So what do you do?

You know that a coupon or well-worded follow up is all that separates these abandons from your customers, but as a responsible marketer, you’re not going to spam them.

So, sweeten the pot for them.

The Now-Or-Never Approach

One way to do this is to offer a discount immediately (when they click away from your checkout screen, you say “but wait! I’ll give you this product for 10% off if you buy today!”).

I don’t like that approach, for two reasons.

First (and this is a matter of personal preference), I feel that getting an immediate discount so easily devalues the product I’m thinking about buying. It assumes that price is my only possible objection. This makes me feel like a number. I don’t like feeling like a number.

Secondly, what if you offer that to me, and I say “No, thanks” and leave anyway? Now, I’m gone, and you don’t have any way to follow up with me and get me to come back to your site later.

A Better Approach

When would-be buyers abandon your shopping cart, prompt them to opt-in to a list. Make this a special list specifically for your shopping cart abandons.

Your wording will vary, but the idea you want to convey is “we’re sorry that we weren’t able to help you today, but since you’ve expressed an interest in our __________ , we’d like a chance to tell you more about it.”

This addresses their interest while saying that your goal is to help them fulfill whatever need they have that brought them to the brink of purchasing from you today. You can even add a field to the form for comments about their purchase indecision or questions about your product.

Best of all, it’s completely opt-in.

You now have a chance to follow up with them and provide them with the last piece of information/impetus needed for them to invest in your product.

Of course, you’ll want to follow up with customers after they do buy, and take them off that “abandons” list using an automation rule.


  1. Sharon Vaz

    10/28/2006 7:50 am

    That’s an interesting throught, but statistics show that 80% of customers abandon shopping carts primarily due to poor website design, no apparent mention of return policy on site and fear of credit card fraud; so therefore, unless these issues are addressed, it’s highly unlikely that anyone would choose to opt-in to a secondary web form. There is prevailing doubt about various issues and these need to be overcome first.

  2. Justin Premick

    10/31/2006 3:33 pm


    I completely agree that many would-be buyers abandon due to uncertainty about security, privacy or the availability of a refund.

    I’m personally quite picky about where I shop online, and would never submit credit card details on any site where I didn’t feel 100% confident about the seller.

    However, I would feel comfortable providing an email address, particularly if I were asked for feedback as part of the opt-in form. To me, that shows an interest in better meeting my needs.

    The site owner also benefits by getting feedback on what it is about his/her site is contributing to abandons, whether that be the overall design, a lack of contact information or return policy, or some other factor.

    Of course, the only way to find out if your site benefits from this is to try it out!

  3. Robert T

    11/4/2006 1:12 pm

    Hey does the web form generator for exit pop ups
    does it work against most pop up blockers such as the
    fade in aweber form does?


  4. Tom Kulzer

    11/6/2006 10:55 am


    Exit pop ups use a traditional pop up mechanism. There’s no way for those to avoid pop up blockers.

  5. Andrew

    11/8/2006 8:09 pm

    The problem with any pop-up on leaving a cart system though is that many cart systems use the same "page" for various parts of checkout – .e.g cart.php is actually a 3 page process using different "includes" of other files.

    So, what about when the customer "leaves" the cart to go to the payment page hosted elsewhere by a payment gateway – how can Aweber actually tell the difference between a genuine exit (close browser window) or change or URL – I assume it can’t? If it could then it certainly sounds like a good idea.

  6. Tom Kulzer

    11/9/2006 10:33 am


    All depends on the setup of your cart. Nothing is ever impossible, it’s just a matter of working with the appropriate technology to develop a solution.

  7. Andrew

    11/9/2006 10:40 am

    Hi, yes, I’ve been giving it some more thought and think I could get away with it. However, do you know whether a pop-up will still be created when a change in URL occurs in the same browser session or not? I.e. whether a change from to will create a pop-up even if the window remains open?


  8. Time4Learning

    11/13/2006 2:27 pm

    I like the sensitivity of this approach where you recognize that they had an interest but were not convinced. Also, a fair number of shopping carts abandons are due to technical glitches (at least in our case when people, despite the warnings, seem to want to back up and change something on the previous page).

    The technical problems of integrating a secure multipage shopping cart with the autoresponder have been a show stopper for us. We don’t like the pop-up idea alot since it’s unreliable and pop-ups have always felt invasive to me.

    Instead, since we have their email in our customer database as an abandon, we send them one follow-up email which invites them to stay in touch (ie sign up for our newsletter) and points them towards more information that might be interested in.

  9. Andrew

    11/13/2006 3:28 pm

    Interesting comment Time4Learning. Do you have any take-up figures from those emails? What % of people actually sign up for the newsletter?


  10. Three Methods to Convert Shopping Cart Abandons

    11/16/2006 2:56 am

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  11. best shopping cart software

    11/16/2006 8:07 am

    I think Topica has a solution like this. But unfortunately, according to a popular survey, popups were rated as the number one most hated (and deterring I think) thing on a website. I haven’t got any better ideas though. 🙁 Interested in results though from people who have tried this approach.

  12. PDshop asp

    1/21/2007 5:09 pm

    services like Google checkout and PayPal express checkout is making asp shopping carts more effective for smaller businesses.