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Shopping cart abandonment. It's the bane of many online retailers and for some, accounts for a significant portion of lost potential revenue.

There are a number of reasons that potential customers abandon their carts and there are a number of common-sense tactics online retailers can employ to reduce shopping cart abandonment.

One company, however, is taking shopping cart abandonment tactics to a new level. That company is US-based SeeWhy, which is planning to release a product called Abandonment Tracker in June.

Abandonment Tracker, which will come in two flavors (a free basic version and paid Pro version), gives online retailers the ability to remarket to potential customers who abandon their carts. Remarketing follow-ups can be performed manually or in an automated fashion with the Pro version. This version also offers behavioral targeting, multiple-stage follow-ups and integration with email and CRM systems.

To give retailers remarketing ability, Abandonment Tracker requires the email address of the potential customer. This often isn't difficult to obtain. If the customer has shopped with a retailer before, for instance, and is signed in while shopping, Abandonment Tracker will have all the information it needs.

Taking it a step further, in an interview with The New York Times, Charles Nicholls of SeeWhy stated this his company is willing to implement solutions in which anything a prospective customer types into an email field can be captured, even if the prospective customer never submits it.

Needless to say, something like Abandonment Tracker isn't going to win everyone over. It's a bit invasive to be sure, and many potential customers will be turned off by the prospect of receiving emails about purchases they didn't make for whatever reason. Some may even decide to shop elsewhere after receiving a creepy email referencing a cart they thought they abandoned in complete privacy.

But SeeWhy is undeterred and Nicholls told The New York Times that immediate follow-ups are three times as likely to produce sales as follow-ups that come even a day later. He says that Abandonment Tracker beta testers are "seeing great returns on investment". As he would.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about Abandonment Tracker's approach. On one hand, I don't doubt that aggressive remarketing efforts can produce sales and for some types of retailers, the cost-benefit analysis might be favorable. On the other hand, there's no underestimating the privacy issues aggressive remarketing of this nature create. Retailers should recognize that consumers shop differently online than they do offline and that not every abandoned cart is an invitation to send an email to a prospective customer.

As much as we would like to bring the offline shopping experience online, we shouldn't forget that personal communications online are different from those offline. For instance, email is sacrosanct for many customers and marketing unsolicited marketing emails are perceived by some to be a real invasion of personal space. Unlike offline, where, for example, a floor salesman asking you if you found everything you needed as you exit a store isn't a huge deal.

At the end of the day, there's no panacea for shopping cart abandonment. Usability, pricing, messaging and customer service are just as important to minimizing abandonment.

Photo credit: Dano via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 18 May, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2429 more posts from this author

Comments (13)

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David Hamill

David Hamill, Usability Specialist at Freelance

Great -  this will just dimish people's trust in e-commerce websites. Some people need to rtemember who the customer is. This approach is akin to a shop kepper chasing you down the road for not buying anything.

Nice plug Bob. I think we all know that cart abandonement is nothing to do with SEO or PPC. As an SEO person I thought you'd know about rel="nofollow" :0)

over 7 years ago

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Dan Harrison

Wow, that'll be a great tool to chase away future customers! It would be more worthwhile asking abandoners why they didn't complete the purchase. Issues with complexity, shipping costs, lack of payment options, etc could all be part of why the user didn't complete.

over 7 years ago

James Wakeman

James Wakeman, Unsure

Thanks David, was just going to have a go at 'Bob' myself, but you beat me to it.

As an SEO expert, Bob really should know to link relevantly e.g. comment spammer

over 7 years ago

Rob Mclaughlin

Rob Mclaughlin, VP, Digital Analytics at Barclays

Tools to correct abandonment definitely have a place in e-commerce. However...surely there is a need to understand the specific profile/browsing history of the individual before re/marketing to them?

Abandonment emails have relevancy for specific products and for particular customers at specific times. Thus the need for a CRM based approach.

This is our approach at Redeye. This subject is very interesting though and the  relationship between customer and online retailer is constantly developing and varied.

Nice post. Rob

over 7 years ago

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farouk

that makes a lot of sense, thanks for the info

over 7 years ago

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Chike

"Retailers should recognize that consumers shop differently online than they do offline and that not every abandoned cart is an invitation to send an email to a prospective customer"

...Nor does it necessarily mean that they are not going to buy it on another visit. It may just mean that their laptop battery ran out or realised they hadnt signed up to www.companycashback.com and want to claim some free cashback on their purchases.

over 7 years ago

Sonia Kay

Sonia Kay, Consultant at 120 Feet

I don't have an issue with remarketing per se, analytics companies have been offering solutions like this for years.

But surely the idea of using an email address that has been typed into a form but never officially submitted by a customer is so far from permission based marketing that it will never get past the Data Commissioner?  I'm no expert but isn't this WAY more intrusive than the kind of behavioural targetting Phorm were trying to implement?

over 7 years ago

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Charles Nicholls

But surely the idea of using an email address that has been typed into a form but never officially submitted by a customer is so far from permission based marketing that it will never get past the Data Commissioner?  I'm no expert but isn't this WAY more intrusive than the kind of behavioural targetting Phorm were trying to implement?

Hi Sonia

I understand where you are coming from. In fact when I did the interview with the New York Times Randy Stross suggested this idea. We have never implemented such a solution, but I replied that we could if we were asked to by a customer, and that it was not in the standard product. Bit of a storm in a teacup at this stage.

over 7 years ago

Sonia Kay

Sonia Kay, Consultant at 120 Feet

Your clarification puts a different light on things Charles.  There's a world of difference between what is technically possible and what you actually deliver. 

Unlike some of the other commentators, I don't believe that remarketing has to be aggresssive, intrusive or scary for customers, and make them feel like they are being hunted down.  How effectively your tool is implemented will  be, as you say, down to the nous of the marketers who are using it.  So I hope you have some great clients and some great successes.

I saw Rob's post (RedEye), and I happen to know RedEye well, and their approaches to remarketing.  It's been a very powerful and profitable tool for clients like William Hill - but it has been implemented in a very well informed, selective and highly targeted way.  Not necessarily around cart abandonment, and certainly not at the expense of customer experience.  Selective and considered use of the data I think is the key.

Charles - I presume you advocate using your tool alongside research to understand the reasons behind abandonment, and allow marketers to tailor their messaging?

over 7 years ago

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Charles Nicholls

I presume you advocate using your tool alongside research to understand the reasons behind abandonment, and allow marketers to tailor their messaging?

Sonia

You're absolutely right - in fact one common implementation pattern is to use SeeWhy to trigger a survey when it is appropriate. This is rather more spohisticated than merely sampling based on a percentage, since you can use more sophisticated analytics to figure out when to survey; this works well and reduces the intrusion of seemingly irrelevant research.

While surveys are often used at the aggregate level to look at patterns of why people abandon, they can be very useful at the individual level to determine what is the next best action for that particular client as well, always assuming the right permissions are present. 

At a higher level, we work with many of our customers on improving their process flow, from registrations to shopping carts. This can involve both analysis and research.  

over 7 years ago

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Mark

It seems to be giving these guys a bad deal. Sure, they *can* do those nasty aggressive things. But done tastefully, this can be a genuine value added win win situation. Like anything it's all in the details. Despite our best efforts, there will *always* be abandonments, and this can plug that gap.

over 7 years ago

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Grant

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I think retailers often panic when they see the number of people abandoning carts and would go for this kind of thing.

Many people forget that just because you are on a site, and just because you have put something in the basket and made a click through doesn't mean you are going to buy it, I often do this to check postage charges etc due to a lack of info on the site. This is especially true with things like budget flights, you HAVE to go through the checkout process to find out the price once all the extras have been added on potentially doubling the cost.

Also have they considered the fact that the wrong person would get the email. Say I used my computer at home to buy a gift for my wife, I go to a website she buys stuff from, I pick her present, put it in the basket then get a phone call, so decide to go back later and order. She then gets an email telling her what her 'surprise' present is!

I think people will have to opt in for this, as they could get accused of spamming, especially if I got an email telling me to go back and buy something I never looked at!

over 7 years ago

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Grant

Sorry about my last comment, I pasted into word to spell check and it brought all the formatting with it! Sorry!

over 7 years ago

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