Reclaiming Lost Income With an Abandoned Cart Email Campaign

by Paul Atkinson May 31, 2016
May 31, 2016


Ecommerce is, by its nature, prone to being a slave to usage stats. The most important of these being conversions, or how many people your website can convince to transition from spectator to a purchaser. A little-considered but significant subset of that data is the proportion of abandoned carts.


What is an Abandoned Cart?


Any visitor to your website who goes to the trouble, not only to look at your products, but to add them to their cart, proceed to checkout, but then, for one of several possible reasons, fails to purchase. These prospects have “abandoned” their carts. Most good shopping cart software should track these abandonments, and where possible record contact details for your reference.


These abandoned carts represent a significant portion of “lost” revenue. In an aggregation of survey data the Baymard Institute suggests that on average 68.63% of shoppers are likely to leave their purchases incomplete. That data pulls on a range of studies, some of which estimate the abandonment rate is as low as 59.80% or as high as 78.00% (although, the company reporting the highest rate of abandonment just happens to sell you a product to tract and prevent abandonment). However, whatever way you look at it, a good half the people that express interest in your products might never actually purchase.


An abandoned cart email, or campaign, may save you lost revenue by reclaiming or “remarking” to your prospects, but it also might help you find out how to boost sales and make your ecommerce store easier, friendlier and more profitable by minimising the number of people who abandon your checkout process.


And an abandoned cart strategy is something even some of the largest brands, from Apple to Macy’s, are failing to employ. That’s perhaps because their tone and purpose is hard to get right. Nonetheless, the numbers say they are effective: emails remarking to visitors who abandoned their carts have higher than average open and click rates.


Optimise the User Experience First


The first job is to think about how you can minimise the need for your abandoned cart email or campaign, and that means considering the reasons someone might not complete the checkout process. The common reasons may surprise you.


Answer these questions for yourself:



  • Are your postage, packaging, handling, and tax charges easy to find and displayed transparently?
  • Is your cart requiring users to register before they buy?
  • Is your checkout process cumbersome, i.e., does it have too many steps or prompt for too much personal data?
  • Do you have clear, reassuring refund and privacy policies?
  • Is it easy and obvious how to add and delete items or quantities from your cart?
  • Do you have a valid SSL certificate, are you using the https:// protocol by default, and is your cart showing a friendly ‘padlock’ icon to visitors?
  • Does your site work smoothly; are the buttons and steps clearly marked?

If the honest answer to any of these are “no,” rethinking some of these components might earn you sales, not just from abandoned carts but also from visitors who never get as far as entering their contact details.


In Hubspot’s research, some 41% of people abandoned because of “hidden charges.” Shopify surveyed a range of online stores and visitors to find that 39% of visitors reported leaving a store after experiencing a technical problem like a “crash” or network timeout. Therefore, it’s highly likely it’s not your prices, products or services themselves that are driving people away.


All this means that 80% of abandonment is recoverable, either by improving the technical speed and performance of your site or by being clear and transparent with the process and associated costs of purchase (shipping, tax, etc).


Don’t Beg, Don’t Bully, Welcome Them Back


Once you’re satisfied that the user experience is as good as you can imagine it, then it’s time to start thinking about what to send to your potential drop-offs.


As with any email marketing, being friendly and helpful rather than forceful is key. As suggested above, the open rate on these kinds of emails are often higher than a usual campaign, but that doesn’t mean the best place to start isn’t your subject line. Most successful lines are personalised and even a little cheeky. Some tried and tested subject lines are:



  • [Name], we missed you at [store]
  • [Name], thanks for visiting [store]
  • Did you forget something, [Name]?
  • Can we help you with anything, [Name]?
  • There’s still time for a deal at [store]

or simply:



  • You left items in your cart

The body of the email should: (a) invite and encourage the user to purchase again; (b) offer personal help with their purchase, or the opportunity to provide feedback if warranted. Striking a balance between the two goals of the abandoned cart email may be tricky, but keep them both in mind as you write.


Also keep in mind the disparate reasons that someone might have abandoned their cart:



  • The product is “big ticket” which requires commitment/consideration
  • The shopper may have been distracted, but genuinely wishes to purchase.
  • Some facet of the purchase worried the prospect: price, support, trustworthiness of the checkout process, returns policy, etc.

Use language like “we’ve kept your products safe” or “saved your selection”. If at all possible include the basic details – including a photo – of the product(s) left in the cart. Photos stimulate emotional engagement and remind the reader what they’re missing. For the same reason it is important to contact the prospect quickly after they left, experts suggest no more than 24 hours after your shopping cart detected an abandoned cart. Where possible, link to reviews of the items they’re considering purchasing to reinstate confidence with the product.


After reminding people what they’re missing out on, further emphasise the support they’ll receive now and into the future. Offer a chance to chat with you in person about their purchase by providing a genuine email address and your phone number. Take the opportunity to reiterate the benefits of shopping with you: perhaps you’ve got a great money-back guarantee or the best after-sales support?


Lastly, make sure you have a clearly designed email with a call-to-action – a button that is, after all, the primary purpose of your email – to get your prospect back on your site and completing the checkout.


Sign your email off personally, and include a variety of ways to get in touch in your signature.


Tracking, A Follow Up Campaign, and Incentivising Purchase


Once you’ve built the basics, you can perfect the process by installing tracking code into your button to record that this visit was the result of a remarketing opportunity. Ask your Google Analytics expert or webmaster to show you how.


Next, think about what happens if the email isn’t persuasive enough, and how much those lost sales are really worth? Some marketers recommend following up the first email with a second, throwing in an e-book or free resource, something that costs you little to produce but that will encourage a buyer to commit. Some other added incentive might be useful, giving your prospect a coupon to use to get free shipping or 5% off their order may be enough to turn a prospect into a purchaser. Simply experiment with different deals that suit your budget and make sense for your product.


Steps From Here



  1. Find out what kinds of funnel reporting you have on your ecommerce processes.
  2. Ask your webmaster/analytics provider to produce a report on abandoned carts.
  3. Find out how many of those clients actually left an email address.
  4. Think about how great it would be to receive just 3% of that lost revenue.
  5. Optimise your cart to provide the least amount of resistance.
  6. Write and install some savvy abandoned cart emails
  7. Test, tweak, and consider what incentives if any are right for your business.
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