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The Basics of Abandoned Cart Strategy: An Amazon vs Ebay Study

May 28, 2018
4 min reading time

Ah, the abandoned cart. The sad emoji of the e-commerce world. It’s almost cruel how many of these “close but no cigar” situations online retailers have to deal with. Nonetheless, moping around is for the weak. Like tenacious sales warriors, let us instead see the abandoned cart as another golden opportunity to close. Let us look to a few shining examples of abandoned cart strategies that demonstrate how to turn frowns upside down. Let us glean what we can from the battle mastery of the titans that are eBay and Amazon.

Your Abandoned Cart Strategy      

Before we dive into a tactical study of how exactly these two champions make the most of the abandoned cart situation, an important observation. There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” abandoned cart strategy. Comparing these two internet giants is interesting because, while they both offer a massive catalog of items for sale online, their customer’s have very different motivations and expectations.

Above all, your strategy should be informed by what you know about the needs and motivations of your customers. While understanding what works and what doesn’t in a vacuum will always be valuable, we’re trying to make an offer that is more compelling than when the customer abandoned their cart. So it’s vital to try to identify ways to do this that are unique to your brand or product range.

On that note, remarketing an abandoned cart is no time to throw your brand, or your overall customer experience, to the wind. Tragically off-brand or annoying remarketing messages can damage, rather than strengthen your relationships with customers. So ensure that your remarketing messages compliment and tie neatly into the design of your overall customer experience.

eBay, Master Personalizer

If you’re looking for a great example of how to build a customer-centric abandoned cart strategy, then look no further than eBay. Its entire strategy is built on the understanding that its customers are either looking for a rare item or one of those fabled, once in a lifetime eBay bargains. As such, it is unlikely that one of their customers will be able to find that item at a better price, or at all, anywhere else.

Based on this knowledge, eBay pulls out all the stops in ensuring that a customer with an abandoned cart is frequently reminded of the exclusive and time-sensitive nature of the deal they are at risk of passing up. eBay sends emails updating customers on any changes to products in abandoned carts, most notably when the price of an item drops. They also use abandoned cart emails to suggest similar deals that the customer may be interested in. Their approach to this, however, deserves more attention.

While Amazon’s remarketing emails often include its almost trademark “customers like you also purchased X” suggestions, these don’t work for eBay shoppers. Such recommendations are driven by collective filtering – using the purchases and actions of other shoppers to predict what a given customer might want. eBay customers, however, are usually looking for one particular item. It is far less common for any two eBay customers to be interested in the same list of items. Thus, eBay turns to a powerful e-commerce personalization engine to ensure that, in place of collectively filtered recommendations, the customer is shown recommendations based on his own actions on the site, including clicks and past purchases.

Amazon, Master Retargeter        

Amazon is likely the place where many internet users experienced shopping personalization for the first time. Whereas eBay’s abandoned cart strategy focuses on personalized email, Amazon focuses on following customers around the web, taking every live remarketing opportunity possible. Indeed, if you’ve ever made an Amazon purchase (and statistically, the chances are excellent that you have) the pervasiveness of the Amazon remarketing machine will be no news to you. In fact, Amazon is still getting flak for retargeting customers for items which they have already purchased, rather than just abandoned carts. This remains an issue for anyone using cookies as remarketing triggers.

Challenges aside, personalized, relevant remarketing via the Google ad network remains one of the most successful abandoned cart strategies. Its ROI can become even more impressive if you can power it up with a machine learning-driven personalization AI. Just imagine how you would respond to a reduced price offer while browsing the same product on a competing website, for example.

One significant challenge to a live remarketing strategy is ensuring that you’re only remarketing while a customer may still be interested. It’s safe to say that if a customer hasn’t returned to complete her purchase after a couple of months, she’s not going to. Based on the product, most retailers will be able to estimate how long a remarketing message might still be valid. It’s important to clear carts once that period has elapsed, to avoid wasteful spending on remarketing ads.


So that’s two of the internet’s most dedicated remarketers approach their abandoned cart strategies. While the differences in their approaches are clear, as always, there’s a common thread. In this case, it’s personalization. Your ability to make your remarketing messages as relevant as possible to each user will be critical to realizing any level of ROI on your abandoned cart strategy spend. Fortunately, that capability is more accessible than ever. Chat to Liftigniter to find out how simple and affordable it is to power up your remarketing strategy with advanced personalization features.

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