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Abandoned Cart Retargeting Ads: Everything You Need to Know

Wilson Lau

Sr. SEO Marketing Manager @ AdRoll

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It happens to all of us — we click on a catchy email from an e-retailer, add a few eye-catching items to our carts, and… close the tab. For one reason or another, shopping cart abandonment happens, and it happens frequently.  Studies show that in 2021, the average cart abandonment rate across all industries hovered at a whopping 60%. Cart abandonment can pose a big problem for e-commerce brands, but luckily, we have a solution: Retargeting ads.

Here’s everything you need to know about these nifty ads that can help boost cart recovery rates for your ecommerce store. 

What Happens When Shopping Carts Are Abandoned? 

When shoppers abandon their carts, it means that they used up and wasted the marketing resources you spent to prompt them to visit your ecommerce store in the first place. Though display or social media ad space is relatively cheap, marketers should still want to maximize their precious marketing dollars as much as possible and reduce their cart abandonment rate. 

In other words, if brands see high shopping cart abandonment numbers, something needs to be done, stat. For more on what to do about abandoned carts, check out this guide.

How Do Retargeting Ads Help Recover Abandoned Carts?

One great way to reduce the rate of cart abandonment is by leveraging retargeting ads — you know, the ones you see on Facebook that say, “You forgot to check out!” or “Here’s an extra 15% off!” These headlines are frequently paired with images of the products shoppers had clicked on. 

Retargeting ads use “cookies”, a small piece of data stored by the Web browser that remembers users who visited your website. Cookies help marketers to keep track of the pages a visitor viewed and action taken on the website. With the information, ecommerce marketers can create ads to target visitors, for example, who added products to the shopping but didn’t start checkout or who started checkout but didn’t complete the purchase. 

Retargeting ads are popular because they work — they have a clickthrough rate of 0.7%, which is significantly higher than the 0.07% rate for regular display ads. After all, it makes more sense that a shopper who has already shown an interest in your products will click on an ad, compared to one with little to no brand awareness. You can also increase the effectiveness of these ads when you make the checkout process easy by sending the customer straight to their abandoned cart when they click the ad.

Simply put, adding retargeting ads to your abandoned cart recovery mix is a faster and more effective way to a sale. They decrease your cart abandonment rate and increase your ROI.

How Do I Optimize my Abandoned Cart Retargeting Ads?

Shopping cart abandonment happens, but consistently analyzing your results, experimenting with creative, and reiterating your retargeting ads is the key to success. Here are some ways you can optimize your retargeting campaign, which you can easily get started with using AdRoll’s abandoned cart recovery solution:


Take advantage of dynamic ads, which see a 2x higher click-through-rate compared to traditional static ads. For the unacquainted, dynamic ads are personalized and based on site visitors’ activity on your site — you can use different dynamic ads designs to serve up best-selling, recommended, or previously-viewed products. 

To feature a single product left in the shopping cart, a classic spotlight design would do the trick, as shown in the image below. This is a standard, single-product design that showcases an option most relevant to an interested consumer. Dynamic ads such as these can lead to 34% lower cost-per-action than a comparable static ad.

Dynamically inserting the products from the shoppers' abandoned carts into the ads is an effective retargeting strategy.

To feature multiple products, you can use a carousel. AdRoll’s classic carousel dynamic ad template includes an animated call-to-action when a retargeted consumer hovers their mouse over the ad. A variety of deals can spur browsing consumers to take action as it is more likely to include a product that sparks their interest.

When retargeting abandoned carts with a variety of product categories represented, a carousel with multiple product offers improves the likelihood your customer will see something that reinvigorates their interest.

To create a sense of urgency, you can even add a countdown timer. Adding a time limit to your dynamic ads can increase abandoned cart conversions as the consumer is given the impression that taking action now will increase the value of their purchase. This means timed sales will be especially effective for consumers on the fence about a product’s price point.

AdRoll’s countdown timer dynamic ad template allows you to edit both the promo and the timer section to your specifications.

Adding countdown timers to retargeting ads can create a sense of urgency that improves click-through rate.

In other words, rather than a generic blast, you’re tailoring your ad to each potential customer on the right platform. This type of personalization is essential for strategies aimed at overcoming shopping cart abandonment. (Dynamic ads can live on whatever channel you decide, from website sidebars to social media to search engines.)


Segmenting your retargeting ads can mean shifting from aimlessly shouting into the void to actually tapping into the pool of shoppers that will convert. It requires looking at trends to spot shoppers’ pain points and understand why they don’t complete the checkout process. 

Beyond the usual demographics of age and gender, marketers can segment their audience for more refined retargeting messages according to user behavior.

Here are the most common ways ecommerce marketers segment their cart retargeting ads:

  • By product. You can deliver dynamic ads that include images of items that the shopper left in the cart. Or, even better, consider showcasing similar products that are known bestsellers. Adding copy such as “This is selling out fast!” can also provide the final push for shoppers to snag the items they want. 

  • By checkout process. Did shoppers abandon their cart right after they saw shipping and total costs? If so, try offering free shipping in a retargeting ad. If that was the pain point keeping a customer from completing a sale, an updated checkout process could do the trick. 

  • By first-time vs. returning customers. Consider offering first-time customers a welcoming discount code. Comparatively, you can thank returning customers for their loyalty in a way that reminds them of their purchasing history — a personalized message that acknowledges their patronage can help them feel appreciated (and compelled to check out.) 

  • By cart value. Messaging, ad spend, and design can also be modified according to the value of the abandoned cart. For example, if a shopper has added $25 worth of items to their cart, you can serve retargeting ads that offer free shipping. Comparatively, a shopper who has added goods valuing $500 to their cart might appreciate more premium deals, such as product personalization or custom consultation. 

Regardless of how you decide to segment your ads, make sure you are leveraging strategic A/B testing on offers, copy, and images. For example, when focusing on the checkout process, offering free shipping is one strategy. However, if that wasn’t your customer’s pain point, they still won’t make a purchase. Instead, find other ways to streamline the checkout process, whether that’s offering guest checkout or more ways to pay. When it comes to driving cart retargeting, small changes can lead to significant results, especially when it’s targeting highly-specific behaviors.

AdRoll can bring your ad campaigns to life with Dynamic Creative. Shown: a dynamic display ad created for G-Star Raw. 

Ad copy and creative

Your copy and creative play a big role in reducing shopping cart abandonment. Nobody wants to see “you’ve abandoned your cart” over and over again. Instead, the best practice is to plan a progression of messages, which uses different ad copy and creative.

You can start by reminding shoppers that they have abandoned their cart, then a friendly call to finish the purchase. If they’re still not budging, provide a compelling offer. (But you’ll want to make sure that you don’t encourage cart abandonment so shoppers can unlock the deal.) 

For creative, make sure you’re using high-resolution images and designs that are visually appealing and catchy. In terms of copy, you’ll want your value proposition to be short and precise to grab attention best. 

Optimize across ad channels

One reason why retargeting is an A+ tactic in marketers’ toolboxes is because of how much flexibility it offers, including where you can launch your retargeting ads. 

Two must-have retargeting channels for any brand are web (such as Google’s remarketing solution) and social media (including Facebook’s retargeting solution.) Given how shoppers seamlessly jump between channels as they browse, click, and purchase, a comprehensive retargeting ad strategy should, at a minimum, cover both web and social. 

Psst: Beyond just ads, consider getting started with email retargeting as well! Email retargeting is a fantastic way to reach out to shoppers who have hit the “subscribe” button — it’s the ultimate opportunity to improve reach and boost conversion rates. 

It’s Time to Start Retargeting Your Cart Abandoners

Focusing on ways to reduce shopping cart abandonment is key to increasing ROI for your online store. Now that you’re familiar with abandoned cart retargeting ads, you’re all set for the next step: creating your own cart abandonment recovery strategy — check out these effective strategies to push past cart abandonment.

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