Go beyond abandoned cart emails: Power your full marketing funnel with behavior-triggered messaging

At this point, everyone is acquainted with “Looks like you left something in your cart” emails. We receive one nearly every time we add an item to our cart on a brand’s site. 

This interaction is what is known as abandonment messaging, a valuable means by which marketers can infer customer intent by their site activity and then trigger relevant messages based on this behavior. Most marketers are familiar with and leverage these behavior-triggered messages to capitalize on as much data as they can to help the purchase journey move along. 

But abandoned carts aren’t the only ways consumers signal intent to purchase—not even close. Sure, abandoned carts signal the highest purchase intent, but there is an entire funnel of “intent” to consider surrounding that. By incorporating a fuller-funnel approach to your abandonment messaging strategy, you’re able to build intent with a consumer over time. This not only captures multiple moments of intent, opening various engagement opportunities, but also crucially helps to build brand affinity outside of the abandoned cart. Epsilon research found that 60% of respondents engage with marketing because they know and like a brand—so the more marketers can build a pre-cart customer relationship, the better. 

Additionally, there is the matter of audience authentication. Most abandon program providers are fairly niche and focus solely on reaching out to authenticated audiences, but this misses thousands of unauthenticated users who could be part of your abandonment program. 

In this blog, we’ll explore how to build a better intent-based funnel that goes far beyond just abandoned carts—for authenticated and unauthenticated users alike. 

The intent funnel 

We can break down the “intent funnel” by looking at all spaces someone could interact with your site: Homepage, Search, Category, Product/Browse and finally Abandoned Cart. 


It’s intuitive that visitors who are newer to your site might just be checking it out for the first time; they may be educating themselves about your brand and offerings, or just aren’t ready to purchase yet.  

In this category, we want to pay attention to scenarios in which, say, a user visits a brands website multiple times and leaves without taking any action.  

It is important to take note of signals a customer is sharing through their site behavior—even at the very top of the intent funnel. Start with the assumption that there is some reason this visitor has arrived at your homepage. With this in mind, we recommend sending a follow-up email to customers that visit your homepage. (Just one, though—this helps to avoid opt-outs, while still ensuring you do your due diligence with this consumer). 


At this stage, you have a site visitor that searches for the same, trending or multiple long-tail keywords on your website more than once but then leaves without taking any action. This indicates where that visitor’s general interests lie.  

This is a great opportunity to message the consumer with content relevant to their search queries to recover and inspire their interest. You can recommend content related to their search or based on popular items. 


Category intent goes a little deeper than Search and Homepage. Here, a consumer goes through categories on a brand’s website multiple times but leaves the site without proceeding to products. This is a significant level of intent, as Epsilon has found that 93% of consumers abandon shopping after browsing through the categories on the website. 

In terms of follow-up from your owned channels, here’s where things can get very helpful for the consumer: You can send an email leading to their previously abandoned categories, featuring viewed content and including product recommendations within the category.


At our penultimate type of intent, we’re taking a look at when someone browses products more than once but leaves without proceeding further.

This is a no-brainer for a marketing follow-up, directing the person back to the product they were viewing. Additionally, this part of your intent-building strategy can be highly impactful: According to Epsilon data, typically, browse abandon emails have 80% higher open rates and 50% higher click-through rates compared to traditional emails.

Perhaps mostly importantly in this bucket, it’s smart to consider how to use owned-channel communications to build and strengthen customer relationships beyond just the sale itself. Here is where you are really getting to know a consumer and their interests, and can begin to start addressing them in the personalized, relevant ways consumers prefer to be interacted with. This will help to endear the customer to your brand and start to drive welcome consistency, which helps not only with the intended sale itself, but also the bigger fish: long-term brand affinity. 


Finally we arrive at the abandoned cart. Studies show that shoppers abandon the cart for many reasons: a complex checkout, an extended research phase, cost or simply forgetting they have the tab open.

This is, of course, typically when marketers send abandonment messages encouraging people to return to their cart and finish checking out ("Don’t forget to complete your order!"). There are important best practices to bear in mind, however: 

  • Make it a journey: A stream of 3 to 5 messages was found to be the best series length for cart abandon email journeys.  

  • Offer types matter: Introduce offers in touches 2 or 3. Percent-based discounts are most popular, but dollar-based discounts tend to drive the most purchases. 

  • Make it personal: Product recommendations are great! Try combining with advanced segmentation for greater personalization with lower lift. 

Reaching unauthenticated audiences  

For most marketers, authenticated audiences are who marketers target for abandonment messaging campaigns. These people are:  

  • Logged in to your brand website or previously logged in on the same cookie 

  • Clicked through in an email and landed on the website 

  • Registered for email 

Any abandonment messages sent to these individuals can be hyper-personalized based on their behavior, as they would likely expect. Communications to authenticated users can include name as well as exact categories and/or products. 

The unauthenticated site visitor is a topic with many different definitions.  As we look at it, this is someone who is a subscriber or someone who has opted in. In the United States, as long as the consumer has a preexisting business relationship with a brand, marketing to them is allowed. 

Your ability to identify an unauthenticated user relies on the quality of your partners. The right provider, with person-based identity resolution, can resolve online signals to better understand who specifically is actually doing what on your site, so you can react accordingly, and message users that you know but just aren't authenticated on your site in that moment. 

Does this approach work? 

The numbers suggest that, when done well, abandonment messaging can reap high rewards. 

When a specialty retailer incorporated full-funnel, identity-based Intent Messaging into their existing email strategy, the results were clear. 

Although the numbers behind the brand’s non-Intent messages were solid (1¢/email sent), the Intent messages drove a staggering 10¢ per email sent. For only a $120K investment, the abandonment messages drove $1.5 million abandonment revenue. 

Another specialty retailer was dissatisfied with their existing abandon program provider, and so turned to Epsilon. Epsilon successfully beat the competition by helping the retailer expand to unauthenticated audiences with CORE ID, resulting in increased reach of 145% over authenticated alone. 

With Intent Messaging, part of Epsilon's Messaging solution, marketers across verticals—not only Retail—can engage customers when they abandon a brand ’site at any point in their purchase journey. Learn more on our website here.