Ai Editorial: Cart abandonment email is evolving, are you?

First published on 20th April, 2017

Ai Editorial: Automation, personalisation and data-driven marketing in addition to certain basics such as content and timing are lending a new dimension to the abandonment email initiative, writes Ai's Ritesh Gupta


You are shopping for your next trip, finalise a flight itinerary, eventually can’t decide and are about to leave the site.

Just then you are given a chance to save the itinerary or a visual pops up that entices you to wrap up the booking, but you decide against taking an action.

After six hours, you receive an email, a reminder about your booking. It is based on a certain travel product bought in the past, your latest search and also acknowledges the fact your birthday is coming up around the same dates you were searching for a flight! You end up booking this flight sooner or later. The efficacy of data-driven automation, a luring video, timing etc. resulted in a conversion.

Such cart abandonment or checkout abandonment recovery is critical for travel e-ecommerce brands.  

As much as companies are trying to keep in check the abandonment rate, the fact remains that the average conversion rate (0.75% - 3%) remains an issue.

Yes, factors such as average order value and comparison shopping do impact travel shopping, but a lot is at stake when a traveller decides to move on or delays the decision to book.

In this context, follow-up emails based on-site browsing behaviour and abandonment has proven to be a strong weapon in lifting up the conversion rate.

Status of shopping “abandonment”  

In its recent study,, a content platform for travel marketing, assessed the efficacy of shopping cart abandonment emails, and evaluated 20 airline websites, 10 hotel and OTA websites, and 10 car rental websites.



“More airlines should do shopping cart abandonment, as more than half of the tested airlines don’t use it at all,” shared Iztok Franko, founder, Buying a travel product is an intricate process, and once a traveller has considered, then airlines need to scrutinize the purchase funnel. And abandonment email can keep them “alive” in the process, says Franko. As for the study, he said Virgin Atlantic stood out among airlines, in general among the travel websites.

How to keep interest “alive”?

Several pieces of a puzzle need to come together while crafting an email, and it might take only a couple of seconds to either revive that booking or be left in the lurch again.

“Ones (those airlines) that do it shouldn’t do it as a “one-and-done” process, but measure and optimize it as any other e-commerce process. Meaning test frequency (most send 1 email only), timing, subject lines, images, call to actions…,” explained Franko.

Here are some steps that are propping up the initiative:

1.    Automation: Email marketing is being streamlined via enterprise-level automation. And cart abandonment is an integral part of this. Simplicity is coming to the fore via the way emails can be designed (opting for a template, user’s cart details from website or a digital platform, timing etc.), how to manage a sequence of abandoned cart reminders, and even ensuring that in case a traveller has completed the transaction before the email is sent, then this user isn’t sent a reminder to get back to the buying process. Of course, emails can be sent depending upon whether users meet trigger and sending criteria or not.

The workflow optimization is must – based on the digital (or online + offline) activity of the shopper, personal details etc. It also needs to be ascertained whether automated needs to be avoided – for instance, in case of sending a personalised email to loyal customers who have abandoned a cart. How to deal with them? Can automation really help?

2.    Being data-driven: As we highlighted in one of our articles, it is time for airlines to go for a platform where relevant data is centralized, structured and connected. The vision is to making every touchpoint, channel an asset, deliver precise passenger communication etc. So work out a mechanism for real-time updates – enterprise-level information, funnel analytics, in-app analytics etc. So how to use contextual data, in real-time for cart abandonment email? How to base it on email eye tracking tests or predictive intelligence layer? How to count on machines for content matching?

Also, the whole effort of abandonment recovery needs to be blended with data around a user wherever applicable.

“They (airlines) capture the search data, but then process is pretty static. Apart from the rare cases (Virgin) most have static workflows of one abandonment email. The opportunities are much bigger here, as most airlines collect a lot of data (number of passengers, seasonality, trip type - business/leisure, gender, age…) that could be used to personalize and make emails more relevant,” recommended Franko.

3.    Making it work: Be it for what is being shown in the subject line or the main copy to the device for which email has been crafted to the timing and frequency of the delivery – all of this is being constantly being tested. Of course, there is a need to understand the performance, and there are basic metrics for email abandonment that airlines should measure and benchmark against - emails sent, open rates, click-through-rates, recovered carts - conversion rate, average order value of recovered cart.

Few tips that have worked:

-       A certain level of exclusivity or immediacy can help.

-       Do highlight the product/ itinerary browsed or added to the cart in a way that it lures ones to book it or take certain action. Place it at the top, should garner the attention once email is opened. An insipid mail won’t serve the purpose. Rather take the conversation to the next level – say showcasing the product via a charming image, a useful video etc.

-       The user abandoned a travel offering and isn’t interested in it. Combat this by cross-selling related products.

-       Specialists recommend inclusion of two call-to-action buttons – one above the cart content and one below.

   “Airlines could do different things to understand abandonment reasons. To begin with having detailed analytics in place to understand booking paths and drop-offs. Additionally, site tracking tools, user testing sessions, interviews, on-exit surveys, etc. could be used to identify reasons,” said Franko. According to him, most mistakes include –

-       Not using customer data to personalise messages;

-       Abandonment emails not being “mobile-first designed”; not clear call to actions and missing deeplinks to proper offers;

-       Not optimized display (subject and other) for Gmail inbox  

As a parting message, Franko recommended that one should look at abandonment emails in a vacuum. You need to have your booking journey mapped and decide which abandonment you will address with email, which with remarketing. Communication on emails should be in-line with the website and other communication so customers “feel” abandonment emails as part of the overall user experience. Additionally, you should have analytics and at least simple email automation in place to monitor the performance of these campaigns.


Gain an insight into intriguing issues at Ai’s 11th edition of Ancillary Merchandising Conference in Spain this year. 

Date: 25 Apr 2017 - 27 Apr 2017; Location: Mallorca, Spain 

For more info, click here

Follow Ai on Twitter: @Ai_Connects_Us


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