I’ve seen a lot of advice recently suggesting that ‘recency is the key’, and all basket abandonment emails should be sent immediately.

I find it quite depressing. Individuals giving this advice assume that all customers are the same. Segmentation, customer analysis, research and even good old fashioned ‘thought’ is ignored for the sake of a headline.

In translation, these vendors are screaming ‘Spam the lot of them immediately!!’

The command that all basket abandonments should be sent immediately does not ring true. Different products and differing customer motivations drives me to the assumption there is a smarter way of doing this.

The answer for me is that the timing of basket abandonment sends will vary based on product type and customer motivation. For instance, we work for a number of holiday and travel organisations.

For these companies, the high cost of the product and the fact that in the vast majority of cases more than one person has a say in the purchase, means a significant percentage of abandoned baskets are caused by the consumer consulting with their family and friends.

And this could take days, so do you really want them to receive an abandonment email within seconds?

When building a somewhat more intelligent approach, a good place to start would be to consider why the customer might be abandoning.

Econsultancy published some research into checkout abandonment last year. The findings were interesting and, in general, in line with other research:

  1. High shipping costs – 44%
  2. Not ready to purchase – 41% 
  3. Price checking – 27%
  4. Price too high – 25%
  5. Wanted to save products for later – 24% 

Abandonment due to high shipping costs may certainly require a real time response. But number two, not ready to purchase, definitely does not.

A real time response could well be unwelcome. The customer needs to be left alone to consider their purchase and, depending on the product, pricing etc, should be contacted later.

Equally, price checkers will not want to be hurried. If it is a holiday, testing longer timescales will be informative. And finally, ‘wanted to save the product for later’… well, an immediate email screaming BUY NOW! could easily have a detrimental affect!

So, what is the solution? Here are some straight-forward suggestions.

  • Research why your customers abandon.
    Surveys are simple and cheap, so set up a trigger to email a short survey to basket abandoners.
  • Segment your booking process.
    Individual online behaviour can be used to define segments. When you have your survey results (or indeed without any survey results) review you booking/purchase process.

    If you have a five stage purchase process it is likely the motivation for abandoning at each different stage will be different. For instance, if you have a pre-registration stage, drop-outs at this stage are likely to object to this.

    But if the abandonment is at final payment, it may be price or shipping fees. 

  • Build separate basket abandonment emails for each stage based on likely motivation.
  • If you are using only one treatment, then address the top three reasons the research tells you people abandon.
  • Always pull in images and information on the product/basket that was abandoned.
    This always increases performance.
  • Test the timing of the basket abandonment email.
    Use your own judgement initially but then let the data guide you.
  • Finally, consider using a two or three stage process, say one hour/three days/seven days.

And why is this worth this investment? Well, basket abandonment emails are your second most profitable behavioural email, usually driving 20% or more of your income from email.

The number one most effective? Well, sorry, but we save that information for clients! 

Good luck!