The COVID Impact on Abandoned Cart & Customer Recovery Strategies

July 16, 2020

You know the drill. Cart and browse abandonment rates are typically impacted by high shipping costs, complicated checkout flows, and website errors. Now, there’s a new reason on the block: COVID-19. 

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting ecommerce in ways we could never have imagined (hello one-month Prime deliveries), but it’s also changing the reasons behind abandoned carts. And, even then, it’s not universal. 

Depending on whether your online store is booming, slumping, or finding its feet, your customers now have a new reason to falter at or before the checkout; and you have an entirely new motivator for bringing them back. 

But what’s the science behind the COVID impact on abandoned carts, and how should you tailor your customer recovery strategy to help? Let’s find out. 

The COVID Impact on Ecommerce & Shopper Behavior

Experts predict that the ecommerce industry will advance the equivalent of 15 years during COVID, and while we wait to see if that’s true, the more immediate effects are already here. 


The impact of COVID on ecommerce has been mixed. 

The boom 

As predicted in the beginning, many stores have seen a significant increase in online sales. The lockdown of physical stores and self-isolation of the public have pushed shoppers online through need, fear, and having more time to browse the internet. 

The slump 

The boom, however, has been far from universal. Many online stores have seen a hefty slump in sales. Changing spending habits, Amazon Prime restricting non-essential deliveries, and supply chains impacted by manufacturers closing in China have reduced the number of products some businesses can sell and the number of people to sell to. 

The uninitiated

We’ve also seen a third group enter the ecommerce market: the uninitiated. Many physical retailers, the newly unemployed, and budding entrepreneurs have started ecommerce businesses as an alternative revenue stream or to take advantage of new gaps in the market. This has created more competition for online sellers. 

Further reading: If you’ve just started your ecommerce journey and don’t know where to start with customer recovery, our three-part blog series will help:

Shopper Behavior

The impact of COVID on shopper behavior has been equally as diverse. 

The spenders

First, we have the spenders – those spending more money online than before. This is because of:

  • Time – lockdowns and social distancing creates more time for people to browse online and find new retailers to buy from. 
  • Panic – fear pushes people to panic buy necessities and basic items in case they run out and are too ill to replenish. 
  • Goodwill – the risk and effects of the illness mean many people are shopping for others who are unable to shop themselves. 
  • Need – the transmission of COVID has given everyone a new need for PPE, working from home equipment, and Friday night Zoom quiz props.

The savers

Secondly, we have the savers – those spending less money online than before. This is because of:

  • Time – the extra time to shop online gives people more time to shop around and find the lowest prices. 
  • Risk – the uncertainty of job security, good health, and the length of the pandemic means many people are conserving money. 
  • Skill – those new to online shopping are more guarded with their spending because they don’t yet trust online shopping or your brand. 

The regulars

Finally, there are the people who are spending online and abandoning carts as per normal. 

What Does This Mean for Customer Recovery Strategies?

A lot. The effect of COVID on ecommerce and shopper behavior has a startling impact on customer recovery strategies in the short and long term. 

Short term

Currently, cart abandonment rates are skyrocketing, regardless of whether customers are spending more and creating a boom, or spending less and causing a slump. For example, more time to shop online gives customers more time to compare prices and buy from someone else, while more fear in the world gives shoppers more reason to deliberate purchases and back out at the checkout stage. 

The COVID reasons for browse and cart abandonment mean that if your customer recovery strategy isn’t working to keep these customers, your business is paying a higher CPL (cost per lead) for the customers you are keeping. Bad for booming businesses and potentially fatal for slumping or news business. 

Long term

The COVID effect on cart abandonment looks set to last far longer than the pandemic itself too. You already know the importance of capturing leads before your competitors to give you a better chance of retaining them and improving CLV (customer lifetime value). 

However, with a surge in entrepreneurs and physical retailers starting e-commerce businesses, capturing those leads shopping or browsing online for the first time has become all the more competitive. Shoppers have more choice, physical retailers have an established reputation, and COVID sales are driving down prices. Challenging for booming businesses and nearly impossible for slumping or new businesses to compete against. 

What does this mean? Regardless of whether your business is booming, slumping, or finding its feet, your customer recovery strategy has never been more important. 

Let’s repeat that. 

Your customer recovery strategy has never been more important; important for converting customers now and retaining them for the future. To do that, it needs a little tweaking. 

How to Tailor Your Remarketing Strategy For COVID & Beyond?

As you can see, the world has changed, which means that your remarketing strategy needs to change a little too. Three key area to focus on are:

Lead capture

Right now, lead capture should be the priority of your remarketing strategy. Specifically:

  • Booming businesses, you want to use this surge in customer numbers to gather as many leads as possible, putting your real-time data capture tool to work. 
  • Struggling businesses, you want to use this quiet period to give your hot and high-value leads extra attention, using abandonment alerts to quickly respond to leads leaving your website. 
  • New businesses, you want to begin your business with a CRM full of relevant leads by transferring on-site visitors using Zapier. 

On-site retention campaigns

With online shoppers abandoning for a whole new range of reasons, tailoring your on-site retention campaigns is fundamental for success. For example, if visitor journey tracking shows that customers are being more conservative with their finances and abandoning when they get to the order total, a discount code pop up could work nicely. 

Some common reasons for COVID abandonment that can be overcome with abandoned cart exit intent and delayed popups are:

  • Shipping speeds = free expedited shipping code. 
  • Price comparison = discount coupon. 
  • Product comparison = buying guide download. 
  • Total spend = alternative payment solutions offered (i.e. Sezzle, Paypal, etc). 

Abandoned cart & customer recovery campaigns

The inbox has become particularly busy with friends checking on each other, people working from home, and businesses keeping customers updated. Your abandoned cart emails need fine-tuning to stand out. 

Emails remain the quickest and easiest way to re-engage lost customers and return them to your website. Review yours to ensure that they follow abandoned cart email best practice, paying particular attention to:

  • Subject Lines – using a subject line that grabs the attention of your customer and not the spam filter. 
  • Personalization – standing out with content relevant to COVID reasons for abandonment. 
  • Trust – establishing trust by including social proof and information on guarantees and returns. 
  • CTA – using the power of persuasion to bring customers back to your website. 
  • Your website – making it easy to resume and finish their shopping journey with a simple checkout flow. 

You might also want to consider email alternatives such as abandoned cart SMS or push notifications to target people not checking their emails or those spending extra time on the internet. Don’t forget, people not currently working may not have access to their inbox, and people working from home might be tempted by a sneaky mid-morning shop.

Useful resources:

And, Don’t Forget…

The more leads you can capture, convert, and recover, the more likely these leads will become repeat customers. As the world slowly recovers and people return to their normal, busy lives, they’ll remember the retailers who won their custom during the hard times, and you’ll be around to help them during the easy times. 

Good luck, keep safe, and stay busy.