Do basket abandonment emails work? Is there any ‘best practice’ guidance that ecommerce sites should follow?

What is the likelihood that an abandoner will come back to purchase after receiving the email?

Let’s try to answer these questions right now in this revised and updated version of a previously published, and now outdated, post.

According to SaleCycle’s founder and CEO, Dominic Edmunds:

Cart abandonment is one of the biggest challenges facing online retailers, with three-quarters of customers effectively walking away at the till.

That’s a hefty amount of abandonment and certainly falls in line with Hubspot’s research that the avearge checkout abandonment rate is 67.4%.

Imagine if that amount of shoppers did the same in your local supermarket. It would be anarchy. 

The same research claims that 41% of abandoners cite hidden delivery charges as the main reason for cart abandonment. 

Clearly a lot can be done in terms of conversion rate optimisation (CRO) in order to curb basket abandonment. Being completely upfront about delivery costs directly on product pages would be a great start.

Burying shipping options and costs in the checkout, forcing shoppers into the checkout process far too early, forcing visitors to register before buying, not offering a fixed date for delivery. These are all ways that an ecommerce site can send customers fleeing elsewhere. 42% of abandoners just needed “more information’.

Chances are that even if your site is doing everything right in terms of CRO, baskets will still be abandoned. We’re a fickle, impetuous and anonymous bunch.

As long as we’re shopping on the internet we won’t feel the embarrassment of leaving our chosen products on the floor, like we would in a tiny boutique shop in Shoreditch with the constant eyes of the single staff member glaring at you.

Unlike that boutique shop on the high street though, there’s a higher chance that the ecommerce store you happily abandoned will have your email address. Email is a highly effective means of tempting you back.

In Q1 2015, cart abandonment rates averaged 75.6% across all sectors, according to SaleCycle. Here’s some more stats that show the effectiveness of targeted emails relating to abandonment.

  • More than a tenth (11.61%) of cart abandonment emails are clicked.
  • The average order value (AOV) of purchases from basket abandonment emails is 14.2% higher than typical purchases.
  • Nearly half (44.1%) of all cart abandonment emails are opened.
  • Nearly a third (29.9%) of clicks lead to a purchase back on site.

And just in case you’re not convinced yet…

  • Every single cart abandonment email sent, delivers more than $8 in revenue.

Examples of winning techniques

In many cases, a three stage retargeting approach can be effective. 

An immediate email after the customer has left the site may come across as off-putting and desperate; however choosing a slightly different tact may be more appealing.

Shoe retailer Boot Barn sent its first email of three after 20 minutes of cart abandonment and it was geared towards customer service. It helpfully asked if something technically went wrong with the purchase and if they could help with any problems. This achieved a 46% open rate.

The second email sent 23 hours after highlighted why the customer should purchase from Boot Barn. This achieved a 40% open rate.

One week later, a third and final email was sent with a clear call-to-action warning that it was the final chance for the customer to retrieve their saved items and complete purchase. This achieved an open rate of 28%.

Another tactic is offering a discount in one of the three retargeted emails. Perhaps the second or third email could contain an exclusive discount code for the basket. 

Smileycookie.com achieved an open rate of 54% with a second retargeted email that contained a 10% discount code, leading to a click-through-rate (CTR) of 16%.

Here’s what you could be doing to improve your cart abandonment emails:

  • Use a clear email subject line. Let the customer know exactly why they are being retargeted, therefore increasing the chance it won’t be ignored.
  • Be personal. You have the customer’s details, so use them. 
  • Refer to the abandoned items directly. Use images of the items left in the basket. Also it would be worth adding scarcity to the email by revealing how many of the items are left in stock.
  • If the items are no longer in stock, recommend similar items in the email. In fact you could do this anyway, even if the original items are still in stock.
  • Draw attention to your site’s excellent returns policy.
  • Be absolutely clear on your delivery charges, perhaps even apply an exclusive discount on this via the email if you feel this may be the reason for the initial abandonment.
  • Include a link that leads directly to the cart.
  • Include customer reviews of the items abandoned.