2017 Research Report and Look Book: Digital Marketing Trends and Tactics

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Executive Summary

2016 was the year of personalization as marketers moved towards true one to one messaging. Marketers have always had mountains of customer data at their fingertips. However, the ability to use that data remained just out of reach, especially as consumer behavior became more complex. That all changed as new technology was introduced to automate message personalization. Many retailers were quick to jump on board, serving up product recommendations on-site, in emails and in display ads.

We researched over 400 retailers to determine what cross-channel strategies and tactics are being used to engage customers.

Key Findings

  • Leading marketers base the recommendations on each shopper’s browse behavior across multiple devices and touch points. While there is a time and place to share new and popular items, marketers have moved beyond that to truly personalize every experience shoppers have with their brands.
  • 30% of the shopping cart abandonment messages we received included product recommendations based on the items we browsed and carted. The recommendations included items in the same category or sub-category as the abandoned item.
  • We received browse abandonment messages from nearly 15% of the retailers studied and nearly 80% of those messages included personalized product recommendations based on the category or sub-category browsed. We expect more organizations to add messages like this in 2017.
  • Programmatic advertising is on the rise. We were served display ads featuring products we browsed from 70% of the retailers studied. Many of them also included product recommendations featuring items in the same category or sub-category of the merchandise we viewed on-site.


This is our annual study of retailer’s cart abandonment tactics. This year, however, we expanded the report to mimic cross-channel shopping experiences as we not only collected information from email messaging, but also display ads and the relationship between browse behavior and personalized product recommendations.

Listrak’s research is based on 428 mid-size to enterprise-level retailers. We visited all the sites, noting the following for each retailer: responsive site, pop-up/incentive for email acquisition, and product recommendations on home pages, product pages and 404 pages. We signed up for email using the pop-up if applicable. One shopper browsed the site without adding products to her cart while another added products to the cart and then abandoned the sale. We then monitored the welcome emails we received, clicking through and browsing different products and/or abandoning the site again. Our shoppers monitored both browse and cart abandonment emails received, noting the number of messages, personal product recommendations and cadence of the series.

During the shopping process, we also monitored display ads for a subset of the retailers and whether the ads featured products that we browsed.

TREND 1 - In cart abandonment messages, organizations are recommending products based on all browse behavior

Customers abandon carts for many reasons. They do price comparisons before they’re ready to buy; they’re not satisfied with shipping rates or shipping dates; they get distracted mid-checkout; or, if websites aren’t optimized for mobile shopping, customers add items while shopping on mobile devices intending to complete the purchase later on a PC.Cart abandonment messages are commonplace and many customers use them as a way to remind themselves of a product they intend to purchase. The goal of these messages is to persuade the customer to buy the item they abandoned in the cart. There is a high level of intent, lending insight into what types of products the customer is most interested in at any given moment.By basing recommendations on all browse behavior, retailers are able to target the customer’s interests in a personalized way, reminding them of products they looked at but may not have added to the cart. These recovery campaigns capture lost sales and add revenue directly to an online retailer’s bottom line.

TREND 2 - Retailers are starting to send browse abandonment messages

Browse abandonment messages are a great way to use the customer information you collect. Unlike cart abandonment messages, the goal of browse abandonment campaigns is to drive customers back to your site to shop again, not to ensure they purchase the browsed item upon receiving the email. That’s what makes personal product recommendations so powerful in these messages. The product recommendations help shoppers discover items that match their exact requirements but they might have missed during the shopping session.

The concept behind browse abandonment messages isn’t new; but with the addition of personal product recommendations, the messages are certainly improved. When done correctly, these messages are a digital version of a personal shopper as they help customers find the merchandise they are most interested in efficiently and effectively.

Historically, retailers have been slow to adopt these messages. But we saw a major shift in 2016 as more organizations implemented technology to automate these campaigns

TREND 3 - Display ads showing browsed products are becoming commonplace

Programmatic advertising, the automated creation of display ads, accounts for 67% of total digital display ad spending in the US1. Because it does not require email addresses or mobile numbers, it allows retailers to re-target consumers in varying phases of the customer journey, including the non-subscriber and non-purchaser. Programmatic ads deliver efficient and relevant personal ads, reinforcing brand elements and aiding in purchase decisions to drive incremental revenue and ROAS. These display ads are designed to drive site visitors back to your site by reminding them of things they already looked at and showing them product recommendations based on their browse history.



Digital marketing messages that are truly personalized to each site visitor’s browse behavior has become mainstream as more and more retailers continue to adopt the technology to automate these strategies and tactics. Customers expect this level of personalization from every brand. If you are still only recommending top sellers or merchandise based on purchases but not browse behavior – now is the time to update your campaigns. If you are already sending a cart abandonment series, adding a browse abandonment series will boost revenue greatly. A browse abandonment series opens up a lot of opportunities for you to reach shoppers with relevant messages in a way that you couldn’t before – you know what products they viewed so use that to your advantage. For site visitors who didn’t subscribe, or if you are just looking to engage customers at another touchpoint, adding programmatic advertising to your campaign arsenal will add incremental revenue and enhance the shopping experience. To learn more, download our whitepaper “Programmatic Marketing: The Path to True Engagement and Incremental Revenue.”

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