How to Save Abandoned Carts Without an Email Address

It’s recommended that you capture an email address in the first step of checkout so if your customer abandons at any point during your conversion funnel, you can trigger a recovery email and save the sale.

Some sites, like Amazon, make the email input the entire first step of checkout.

Capturing email as early as possible is a generally accepted best practice (and one of the few sacred cows in conversion optimization). But there are situations when you just don’t have an email address to work with (think of shopping cart review page abandonment or when email field is not the first step).

To follow up from last post Saving Abandoned Carts: The Experts Weigh In, Charles Nicholls from SeeWhy has shared a couple tips on how to recover abandoned shopping carts when you’re going email address commando.

Please note, from this point on it’s Charles speaking, I’ll take a backseat from here. – LB

Detecting abandonment

There are two basic techniques: (1) detect when the browser is closed (i.e. clicking the red ‘X’) and (2) based on a session timeout. Obviously there are abandons where the session has ended (as set by the webserver) but the visitor has not yet closed the browser. So you need to use either a timeout on its own, or a timeout and a browser-close together. Where the browser is closed, then this can be used to send an email (to the subset) without the 20 minute delay.

Recovery abandoned carts without an email address

In the event that a visitor abandons without an email address being captured, then you have two options:

(1) Retarget via advertising
(2) Serve an exit lightbox

Let’s look at both from the point of view of campaign timing.

(1) Retargeted advertising

Conversion rates for retargeted ads drop off just as steeply as with email. So the advice is to serve ads as soon as you can find the visitor on another site, and be prepared to pay extra if it means reaching them more quickly after an abandon. Leads go cold, no surprise there. With retargeted advertising, you can target visitors while they still have their browser open on your site, but are comparison shopping using multiple browser tabs.

(2) Exit Lightbox

An exit light box is a very effective technique which prompts the user as they go to exit a site to enter an email address. In this case you have to use a browser-close action because a time out won’t work. In terms of timing, the email campaign should be triggered immediately because the user has requested their remarketing campaign and won’t expect to wait for 20 minutes before requesting their information.

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6 Responses to “How to Save Abandoned Carts Without an Email Address”

  1. Great tips, Thanks!

    I knew about e-mail part and already using it but idea about exit pop-ups is a good one!

    Just have to figure out now how to set-it up technically. If I want to display cart’s content, it won’t be that easy.

  2. makeonlineshop says:

    Very interesting ! Any idea about how to do that easily with Drupal ?


  3. Hey Andrew,

    Bounce Exchange has that patented exit-overlay technology you are interested in, fill in the contact form, and someone @Bounce Exchange will get you set up. It works on tracking mouse gestures, acceleration, and breaking of the browser plane.


    Really good article, and a good follow-up on the “pop-up” article. Showing an overlay at exit solves a few problems: Not disrupting people and giving them familiarity of the site.

    Bounce Exchange I’m sure would hook up getelastic (and triple get elastic’s email list easily) Both companies were mentioned as “good sites” in the same article too

  4. Great post, life is full of distractions and there are countless reasons why someone might abandon a cart before completing the purchase. I think we, as ecommerce store owners, have assumed for far too long that it was a lost sale and the customer wasn’t interested. The conversion rates on most cart abandonment campaigns is proof of that.

  5. Alana says:

    Hi Linda,

    Thanks for the insightful post ; I just started optimizing ecommerce for a couple of websites I won, and I’ve noticed the drop-off in the number of clients that may be interested in purchasing but for some reason or another, abandon their shopping cart. I am going to try re-targeted advertising first to see how it works ; I’ll report back in about a month. Wish me luck!


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