Retargeting Ads for Cart Abandonment: What You Need to Know

Retargeting Ads for Cart Abandonment: What You Need to Know

By Kuno CreativeApr 7 /2017

shopping-cart-abandonment-retargeting-ads.jpgIt’s become crystal clear that shoppers are comfortable purchasing items online. From clothing to cleaning supplies, consumers embrace the convenience of avoiding bricks-and-mortar nuisances like parking, waiting in line and maneuvering around other shoppers. How do we know this? Online sales on Cyber Monday in 2016 hit $3.45 billion—the largest online shopping day ever and 12 percent higher than the previous year.

But consumers still feel apprehensive before clicking that “submit order” button. On the same Cyber Monday weekend in 2016, a study found that an average of 68.8 percent of carts were abandoned. Shoppers abandon carts for many reasons, so in order to understand how to capitalize on abandoned carts for marketing purposes, we need to first understand why shoppers often don’t follow through with purchases.

What influences cart abandonments?

Product description

Whether the description is vague or hard to understand, when shoppers don’t feel they have enough information about what they’re purchasing, apprehension can play a big role in abandoning their cart. Crafting product descriptions that speak to your customers can help encourage buyers to follow through with their purchases.

Costs and price

The No. 1 reason shoppers leave their online carts is unexpected costs during the checkout process (56 percent of abandoned carts). You’ve probably encountered this problem before and you know how frustrating it is when you find out the listed price didn’t disclose the full story (for example, “price shown is for one shoe”). Similarly, 36 percent of shoppers don’t complete their purchase due to the price of the product itself. Do some research on your competitors’ prices to ensure you’re in line with industry standards.


Another factor that plays a big role in online shopping is how the checkout process is facilitated on mobile devices. Mobile browsing is quickly surpassing desktop. If forms are too small and there’s a whole lot of pinching and zooming going on, shoppers are more likely to leave their carts.

Businesses doing e-commerce see abandoned carts as a prime marketing opportunity to retarget individuals who have been just a click away from purchasing, but opted not to at the last minute. But how do these retargeting campaigns actually work?

There are two types: pixel-based and list-based.

Pixel-based retargeting is an anonymous way to reach a consumer using a piece of JavaScript (also known as “cookies”) on their browser. When a visitor lands on the checkout page where you’ve embedded a pixel, the JavaScript is placed on their browser, creating an audience.

List-based retargeting utilizes the contact information you already have on your visitors. This information could have been collected during a previous sale or when the user created an account before they abandoned the cart. Pixel-based retargeting is more common, but showing ads to leads for whom you already have contact information allows you to personalize the copy.

Retargeting ads are 76 percent more likely to be clicked than a standard display ad. So while the ideal goal is to improve checkout conversion rates and avoid cart abandonment in the first place, follow these steps to implement an abandoned cart retargeting campaign for your e-commerce business.

6 Steps to Implement an Abandoned Cart Retargeting Campaign

1. Segment cart abandonments.

Before you start implementing your retargeting campaign, it’s important to segment the different types of cart abandonments. If you want to personalize the shopper’s experience, you can’t treat each shopper the same in your copy. Segment your database of abandoned carts into the following lists:

Product. Create retargeting campaigns for each product. If you’re recognizing a large portion of your abandonments for a specific product, it’s probably time to revisit your product page. There could be an opportunity to optimize the content or layout to encourage purchases. Consider revising the copy or adding a direct support line.

First time or repeat sale. Someone who has purchased from your company in the past should see ad copy that recognizes this. The copy should speak to the individual as a valued customer and should also include a different incentive than a new potential customer.

Value of the cart. The language in your retargeting ads should differ depending on the significance of their original order. For example, a potential customer who left a $10,000 4K high-definition TV behind probably shouldn’t receive the same copy as someone purchasing a $10 smartphone case. The incentive to drive the recipient back to your site should also differ. Both individuals go through different variations of the buyer’s journey and your copy should align with their current stage.

2. Choose your platform.

Many e-commerce platforms have a built-in cart abandon email function. And while these emails can be effective, they should only be a component of your retargeting campaign. To place ads, there are a number of third-party options. To name a few:

  • Facebook Ads. Using the Custom Audiences feature, you can import lists of your cart abandoners to retarget within their Facebook news feed.
  • AdRoll. This tool allows you to manage where your retargeting ads appear, including Google, Facebook, apps and third-party sites.
  • ReTargeter. ReTargeter can also place ads on various social media platforms and websites, but ReTargeter comes in at a lower price point.

3. Create a burn pixel.

Have you ever bought something online only to continue to see ads for it on other sites? Many retargeting platforms will have an option to create a burn pixel which allows marketers to stop showing the ad once the individual has purchased the item. If you’ve run Facebook ads, you’re probably familiar with the Facebook pixel which works the same way as a burn pixel. To build a relationship with your customers and encourage repeat sales, ensure your burn pixel is set up and working properly.

4. Choose a time frame and frequency.

Timing is key for your retargeting campaign. If you show an ad too soon, you risk pestering the potential buyer as soon as they’ve made the decision to leave their cart, but waiting too long could give them time to shop on your competitors’ sites. Finding that magic number will depend on the behavioral and demographic characteristics of your personas, the nature of the items they’re purchasing and the industry. ReTargeter recommends showing the ad between 17 and 20 times within a month but it’s best to test different combinations of frequencies to find what works for your e-commerce company.

5. Strategically develop ad copy.

The average American is exposed to thousands of ads every day. So to ensure your ads break through the clutter, they need to be strategically written with optimized, goal-oriented yet enticing copy. Your ads also need to speak directly to your customer’s objection. The customer left their cart for a reason. The more accurately you can uncover and speak to that problem, your chances of converting the customer are much greater. If your ads have consistently been resulting in low click rates, have a third-party take a look at your content strategy.

6. A/B test.

Your retargeting campaign shouldn’t be a “set it and forget it” effort, especially if it’s your first cart abandonment campaign where you’re uncertain what tactics work. Leverage A/B tests by creating two variations of the ads. Test one component at a time to pinpoint which elements lead to higher conversions. Headline text, image placement and call-to-action copy can all contribute to click-through rates and should be tested over different periods.

Retargeting can be effective but should be part of a larger overall content strategy. Your website copy should engage visitors and aim to convert them into customers at their first visit. If you’re noticing a significantly high number of cart abandonments, have an expert analyze your copy—it might not be bringing in the right audience to begin with or driving away potential customers.
The New Demand Generation

About the author: Andrea is a contributing writer at Content Harmony. She is a creative, driven marketing and communications specialist with a proven track record in developing lead generation content. Her entrepreneurial spirit and experience with inbound marketing, social media, communications, and design help her connect clients with new customers.

Kuno Creative
The Author

Kuno Creative

Kuno Creative is more than an inbound marketing agency. We blend the best of inbound marketing with demand generation to achieve long-term growth with swift marketing results.