An Introduction to Browse Abandonment Emails for Ecommerce

Posted by Hannah Stacey 8 Mar 16

In an ideal world, every person who visited your online store would become a customer.

Anyone who hit your homepage would find something on your site they couldn’t possibly leave without buying, and you could go home each night and dream happy dreams about 100% conversion rates and how brilliant you are at ecommerce. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Of course, we know that in reality the real world can be a cruel and unforgiving place, and most people who wind up on your website (around 98%) won’t flash the cash and make a purchase.

But don’t pack up and go home quite yet! In the game of customer acquisition and activation, there are a number of clever tactics that you employ, so keep reading.

Abandonment emails and the purchase funnel

ecommerce conversion funnel

Here’s a simple diagram of a typical website conversion funnel. As you move down each stage, the level of ‘purchase intent’ (signals that someone may be interested in buying something) increases. Unfortunately, so does the number of people that drop off radar.

Email is a great way of winning these guys back.

Most of you will have come across cart abandonment emails - sent to encourage those who have added an item to their basket and left, or have abandoned in the checkout process, back to complete their purchase.

This blog post, however, will focus on another type of abandonment email: browse abandonment.

These email campaigns focus on activity further up the funnel: on visitors who have viewed category or product pages without purchasing (for whom you have an email address). 

This type of campaign is rather more fiddly to set up -  largely due to the more ambiguous levels of purchase intent shown further up the funnel and the need to integrate on-site data, your ecommerce platform and ESP (incidentally, something that Ometria can help you with).

Nonetheless, using customer browsing history in emails can be a powerful way of luring them back on-site, and is worth persevering with.

Browse abandonment emails and customer lifecycle marketing

Before we discuss how to create the perfect browse abandonment campaign, it's worth briefly talking about the concept of ‘customer lifecycle marketing’: an approach to ecommerce marketing that uses information gleaned from a customer at a number of touchpoints (on-site behaviour, purchase data, demographic details etc.) to build a better picture of their preferences and create more effective marketing campaigns.  

It’s essentially all about maximising the value of each customer; about sending them the right message at the right time in order to encourage them to take the action you want them to take.

Browse abandonment emails are a great example of customer lifecycle marketing in action; of trying to push through that conversion, whether it’s a subscriber you want to turn into a first-time purchaser, a one-off shopper who you’d like to nurture into a repeat customer, a ‘hero’ customer who’s active on your site but hasn’t purchased in a while (the list goes on).

Browse abandonment email objectives 

First things first: let’s get an idea of what you want to achieve with your browse abandonment campaign. These can be defined as:

  1. Driving a purchase - for your email to serve as a reminder of items a subscriber was interested in, and tempt them back to buy them.

  2. Getting a customer back on-site - luring a recipient back onto your site and browsing, regardless of whether they’re interested in the items in the email.

  3. Demonstrating good customer service - finding out if there was a reason for someone abandoning their shopping. 

It’s important to note that these types of emails are aimed at people who you can identify on your site (i.e. you’ve collected their email address and they’ve opted in to communications from you). 

download Ometria's browse abandonment email cheat sheet

Timing & planning

As mentioned above, customer lifecycle marketing is all about sending the right message at the right time. And timeliness is particularly important when it comes to recapturing the attention of browsers with abandonment emails.

a) What counts as ‘browse abandonment’?

Before you start creating any emails, it’s important to establish exactly what you’re going to consider ‘browse abandonment’ to be. After all, if you sent an email every time someone looked at an item, you’d find yourself with potentially a lot of peeved customers!

Setting criteria that govern whether someone qualifies for your browse abandonment campaign is important. You might consider that someone has demonstrated purchase intent by:

  • looking at an item more than once

  • browsing several items in a specific category (e.g. ‘leather bags’)

  • clicking a specific product in an email to view the product page

  • using site search to search for a specific product or category

We’ll discuss how this relates to the content of your email later.

b) Multiple vs single email vs integrated campaigns

With any abandonment email campaign, matching email frequency and tone to the level of purchase intent is key if you want to see results (as casually browsing a dress, deciding you don’t like it and then having it haunt you around the internet and in your inbox is not cool).

As a general rule:

  • Start out by sending a single browse abandonment email (you can test the conversion rates of more than one, but keep in mind that you don’t want to annoy customers).

  • Consider how your browse abandonment email fits in with any social or display network retargeting you’re running alongside - are you hounding people?

  • Consider integrating a visitor’s browsing history into your regular newsletter contact with them by creating a small section of your newsletter that can be personalised using rules-based auto-population. This can be a subtler way of tempting them back.

c) Respond to abandonment as soon as possible

Strike while the iron is still hot and you still have your prospect’s attention! The success rate of any abandonment email diminishes over time, so be sure to send any browse abandonment email within the first 24 hours of someone leaving your store.

d) Consider the broader picture 

If you’re sending out multiple triggered emails, there’s always a risk that you could end up subjecting your subscribers to email overload - you may, for example, end up in a situation where you’re sending a browse abandonment email, a cart abandonment email and a newsletter all within the space of 24 hours.

You may want to have systems in place so that, for example:

  • People will not receive more than one abandonment email (browse or cart) in a specified time frame (48 hours, for example).

  • People will not receive browse abandonment emails if they’ve recently bought something and are on a post-purchase email workflow.

  • If you’re sending more than one browse abandonment email, the campaign stops if someone makes a purchase.


So you’ve figured out when you’re going to send your emails - now it’s time to fill them with brilliant content that’ll get people falling over themselves to return to your site and make a purchase!

a) Product prominence

Earlier we discussed the requirements for someone to qualify for receiving a browse abandonment email. But what products should you feature in them?

Again, there are several options that you may want to test:

1. Featuring a specified number of products that they’ve viewed in the session (see the examples from Pacsun below).

pacsun browse abandonment email example

2. Featuring a number of products that they have viewed, as well as some similar alternatives, like Adidas (we had viewed a hoodie and a pair of leggings).

adidas browse abandonment email example

3. If someone has used site search (another marker of purchase intent), send them an email with multiple options from the category they search for (like Amazon below).

amazon browse abandonment email example

4. Not featuring any products at all, and using a different incentive (a new piece of content, a promotion etc.) to get them back on site (see Dollar Shave Club below).

dollar shave club browse abandonment email

b) Tone

Getting the tone of your emails right is both incredibly important, and also pretty tricky with browse abandonment emails:

  • Don’t attach too much significance to how much the person wants to buy the products viewed (e.g. 'We noticed how much you can’t get enough of these products - buy them IMMEDIATELY OR YOU’LL REGRET IT!’)

  • Don’t be creepy (e.g. go with something like, ‘Thanks for stopping by - here are some products we think you might be interested in’ rather than ‘we’ve been stalking you across our website and noticed you viewed these five products!’)

  • Be helpful (e.g.‘Thanks for stopping by our store! Is there anything we can help you with?’)

  • Try introducing a mild sense of urgency, but don’t push it too much (“These items are selling fast!”)

c) Include visual cues

If you’re featuring specific products in your browse abandonment emails, ensure that there is a visual reminder of what they look like to encourage a second look.

d) Cross sell

Perhaps your visitor abandoned because they didn’t like what they saw so much after all. Including similar products in your abandonment emails can encourage them back even if this is the case.

e) Encourage people who open the email to go back to your site in other ways

Advertising your latest piece of content, including a navigation bar, encouraging openers to check out what’s ‘new in’: these are all ways of encouraging people back on site. Ensure that clicking through to a specific product page isn’t the only option in your emails.

f) Personalise by first name

A familiar, personal tone may encourage an abandoner to open your email. Test both subject line and email contents to see whether personalisation encourages click-throughs and conversions.

g) Consider personalising by lifecycle stage

Get super slick with your customer lifecycle marketing by customising your browse abandonment campaigns depending on the recipient’s lifecycle stage.

For example, if someone is a hero customer who hasn’t bought in a while but you notice them back on your site, you may want to incentivise a purchase by including a promo code in your browse abandonment email.

Likewise, if someone is already a ‘hero’ customer and purchasing frequently, there’s not as great a need to send them browse abandonment emails, as you know they’ll likely be back for more soon anyway.

3 key takeaways

  1. Using a subscriber’s on-site activity to personalise browse abandonment emails is a powerful way of getting them back to your store if they’ve dropped off the radar.

  2. Ensure that you always match the frequency and tone of your emails to the level of purchase intent someone has shown towards a particular product.

  3. Ensure that your browse abandonment campaign works within the context of the other emails that you send - make sure that there are checks and balances in place to stop a prospect from being overwhelmed with your emails.

Triggered email for retailers by Ometria - find out more 


Topics: Ecommerce email marketing, Customer lifecycle marketing

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