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Two Ways Travel Brands Can Resuscitate an Abandoned Travel Cart

Posted September 1, 2015


Cart abandonment, a thorn in the side of ecommerce retailers, is much worse for travel brands. With an 81% abandonment rate among the travel industry as a whole (compared to the 68% that ecommerce brands face), travel brands are faced with an immense challenge to convince customers to complete transactions.

These statistics, according to, found that throughout the entire travel industry, OTAs had it worst at 89%, followed by airlines at 79% and hotels, cruises, and car rentals sitting at roughly 70%.

Related: Breaking Down the Investigation into Expedia’s Acquisition of Orbitz

Although there are many factors to the abandonment rate conundrum according to Qubit—higher ‘add to cart’ rates (25%, compared to roughly 8% in ecommerce retail), higher order value ($750, compared to $75 in retail ecommerce), and longer path to purchase (13.2 days compared to 6.5)—travel brands looking to resurrect and convert cart abandoners have an immense task ahead.


According to, nearly half (44.1%) of all cart abandonment emails are opened, and 11.61% are clicked, leading to a 29.9% conversion rate.

However, it takes more than just a simple “come back.” The cart abandoner leaves behind a plethora of information now available to you. Knowing your traveler—whether it’s an experienced business traveler, a family booking six months in advance, or someone heading to an event in the area—is going to have a path to purchase, and in turn a different need.

Related: Exploring the Role of Today’s Business Traveler

Thanks to a recent Skift Report, “The Habits of Travelers,” there are five factors that you should consider when sending an abandoned cart email:

  1. Timing: There are a few considerations. A study by MIT found that 90% of abandoned carts go cold within the first hour. However, this again depends on the traveler.
  2. Content: Again, depending on the traveler, you already have the information about the destination. If the customer is looking at vacation destinations, it is likely that they will be paying out of pocket. The final consideration is design and call to action.
  3. Tone: Don’t make your email sound like a sales pitch. Sound helpful and care about customer service.
  4. Responsive: Maybe a customer searches on a desktop, but there are a multitude of platforms on which you need to engage him or her. In terms of design, make sure the email looks great on every device.
  5. Adapt: See what works. If something isn’t working, change it.

Retargeting Ads

Maybe you don’t have the email address. Fret not, as there is still anonymized data left behind. An example of a company using retargeted, cross-device displays is that of Expedia, who, in 2013, was able to re-target 38% of the desktop visitors on mobile devices, according to This resulted in a lower cost per booking and a 336% increase in conversions over that of non-retargeted ads.

Related: Book Hotels Smarter with Virtual Cards

A key to this success was using the data at hand to generate effective offers. Expedia succeeded by targeting customers based on their readiness to book, which ultimately boosted app downloads and in turn reservations through the site, mobile site, or app.

An blog covered a few ideas on how to retarget without being a 'creep':

  • Keep it Creative: Again, using some of the tips from email above (remain helpful, customer focused, and provide useful content), make an ad that not only looks good, but meets the needs of the search.
  • Tailored to Individuals: You have the locations for which they searched, the prices they saw, and the dates they look to travel. You may not know the user, but placing anonymized yet personalized ads can be simple.
  • Offer Value: According to Skift surveys, 43.1% of travelers found that the main factor for not completing a purchase was the price—even higher than the ‘just browsing’ response. Knowing this, a retargeting ad can feature some type of value the customer may have not known.
  • Cap the Frequency: Have you ever seen seven banner retargeting ads on one page for the same site? Or on every single site you visit? It scares visitors.

Conclusion: Simplify, Add Value, and Convert

Data. Big, small, anonymized, and never so easily accessible, it’s there for the travel brand before—and after—the purchase.

Related: Into the Light: Travel Payment Reconciliations

Whether you’re a tour operator, online travel agency, travel management company, or any leader throughout the travel industry, making the most of a customer relationship comes from customer engagement and relationships.

After engagement comes purchase, and after purchase comes payment. That’s where we come in. Learn more here about how WEX Travel helps travel brands to improve relationships with suppliers, save time, and gain global access by simplifying the payments process throughout the travel spectrum.

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