A playbook for growth marketing

How Virgin America uses email to recover abandoned bookings [Growth Hack]


Good marketing boils down to two primary areas: perfecting standard processes (like AARRR metrics) and uncovering new innovations (popularly termed “growth hacks“).  Hopefully this series on clever growth hacks will inspire new ideas that push the envelope.

For every ten customers who make it to checkout, the average ecommerce site loses just under seven1.  That’s massive!

So if that many customers drop out in the final step, just imagine how much can be gained from (1) making checkout easier and (2) bringing back people who almost made it.

I was recently browsing flights on the Virgin America airline website, and let the site after not finding what I wanted.  Within a couple hours, Virgin emailed me a gentle nudge reminding me that my booking wasn’t finished.


This is a fantastic strategy and probably has a significant impact on the bottomline. I was logged into my rewards account, so sending an email like this isn’t too technologically complex (incidentally, this is also why you should always collect email first in a multi-step funnel).

What they did well:

  • Short and to the point: “It looks like you didn’t complete your booking.”
  • The slight wit is on brand for Virgin America
  • Clear call to action with a large button
  • No discount, but they do reinforce that best fares are guaranteed

What I’d test or change:

  • The email is heavily email based and most people don’t have images on by default
  • The call to action “grab a seat” is below the fold – make the header smaller
  • Also, notice how the CTA button is completely invisible without images?
  • I’d test different CTA wording – perhaps “finish my booking”
  • Remove the social links – do you want people to book a flight or follow you on Twitter?
  • Look into including specifics about the flights explored – “We’re holding your flight to Hawaii”
  • And if possible discounts – “Get 20% off if you book that flight to Hawaii within the next 5 hours”

Overall, just doing something to help recover abandoned bookings likely drives massive success for Virgin America, but they can probably get a lot more with a little optimization.


By Nate Desmond
A playbook for growth marketing

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