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With 73% of shopping carts left to become idle, abandoned basket retargeting is a key part of the digital marketing mix.

It might be that users are price checking, or that they intend to complete their purchase later or on a different device, so in truth, these may not all be genuine abandonments.

Either way, with the help of analytics integrations or third-party suppliers, marketing managers are proactively trying to recover that 'low hanging fruit' through abandoned basket emails, and with different creative treatments, messaging and abandonment times, there is quite a spectrum of tactics being employed to do so.

Unfortunately, as with a lot of campaigns it seems that 'getting it live' is where attention ends, leading to little or no ongoing optimisation. 

So I thought I'd take a look at some of the good, the bad and the ugly of what I've seen recently whilst shopping online. 

The good

I have two examples to talk about here: Quidco and Boots Kitchen Appliances

Quidco

We all know that when it comes to chasing that last penny of commission, our entrepreneurial friends in the affiliate industry never fail to innovate.

Quido recently sent me an email following up on a link to Easyjet Holidays that I'd clicked on whilst looking for a last minute ski deal. 

Subject line: You didn't complete your purchase...

Quidco abandoned basket recovery email

With a direct subject line, simple and clean creative treatment, it simply prompts the user they haven't completed their booking and re-explains the cash back benefit to the user to help influence the booking. 

Quidco also hedges its bets in this communication by displaying related offers of similar products and services that might be of interest.

Incidentally, Easyjet Holidays didn't bother to follow up on the holiday I left idle in their shopping basket. 

Boots Kitchen Appliances

I need to admit that this is in fact an old one now (I received it over a year ago, so I am digging into the archives a little), but I thought it was really effective so it deserved a mention. 

Again a simple subject line and clearly displaying a telephone number in the header, this email includes a call to action to take the user back to their basket, which recreated my shopping bag within the 7-days.

It also includes a whole host of reasons to complete the purchase including price, delivery methods, and Advantage Card points.

Subject line: Your Saved Basket

Boots Kitchen Appliances abandoned basket email 

I think the only additional elements that could be added to this are prices and quantity in stock, particularly if they are discounted or end of range items, and perhaps positive customer testimonials or product reviews.  

The bad

At this point, it's worth saying that by 'bad', what I really mean is 'could do better'

Paul Smith

These were intentional abandonments to test the approach of Paul Smith. 

I abandoned two separate products (on different browsers and with different email addresses) and found that this high-end luxury brand treats a shopper wanting to spend £45 on an keyring the same as one of high value worth looking to buy a handbag at £849.

Subject line: A Reminder from Paul Smith

Repeatedly in email marketing strategy we are talking about segmentation and profiling to offer more personalised messaging. So why Paul Smith, who in store would adjust their service to reflect the choice of items a customer was interested in, treats every online user as the same is beyond me. 

This I believe is a missed trick. 

In fact, I don't even think the design of this email works for me. 

Vistaprint 

I'm sure that anyone who has considered printing business cards, post cards, and even photo products will have agree that Vistaprint offers a competitive price to personalise virtually any product you can imagine.

What's more, its deperation to cross sell throughout the checkout process is like nothing I have ever seen before. (Try Go Daddy - Ed)

Unfortunately, its email retargeting is also like nothing I've ever seen before (or quite frankly ever want to see again).

Since abandoning a product, I have received no less than six emails reminding me to complete my purchase.

Vistaprint

I'd suggest this was a little excessive, never mind whether it's actually legal. 

The ugly

Again, I don't like to pick on people (or companies), so this is me saying 'ugly' in a constructive manner.

My contender for this category comes from bicycle retailer, Cycle Surgery

I recently bought a bike and in order to choose it I wanted to try it out, check how the size measured up, feel the quality, and more importantly get it as soon as possible. For me, it's not the type of product I would choose to buy online, unless I'd already been showrooming beforehand, but clearly there are consumers that are happy to order bikes online.

When testing out Cycle Surgery's email retargeting, I purposely chose a folding bike of significant value, albeit less than the Paul Smith handbag, due to its even more complex specification and price tag. 

I received the abandonment email within half an hour of exiting, which I feel is actually too soon given that users tend to exit because they need more consideration time. 30 minutes doesn't seem long enough. 

The email itself is largely image-based and therefore doesn't visually appeal on initial open, contains a brief generic message, and simply displays the product by model name, colour and price. 

Subject line: Your Cycle Surgery Shopping Basket...

Cycle Surgery 

Would that make you want to complete your order for a 'F20 Limited Edition' at £699.99 in a hurry?

My recommendation to improve this email would firstly be to rebalance the image:text ratio so that the user sees at least the brand name, image descriptions, and main navigation when images are disabled, and then to look at incorporating more trust into the creative - particularly for those like me that may need more encouragement to buy a more complex product online.

Including a footer of reasons to encourage the user to complete their purchase, such as returns policy, free, express or delivery to store options if available, suggested alternatives, or related items such as bike accessories might persuade the buyer that buying online is easier than buying in a physical store. 

I would also increase the time between abandonment and send too. 

So, in summary there are some good inroads being made when it comes to email retargeting, but there are still some key points to pay attention to.

Here's my top five:

  1. Test the abandonment time. Make sure it is applicable to the type of product, value of abandoned basket, and customer.
  2. Filter the abandoned purchasesSend segmented creative messaging applicable to the abandoned item / customer value.
  3. Create trust in the brand and service. Use messages to reinforce, provide a telephone number and demonstrate USPs.
  4. Remind the customer of the product. Say more than just the product name and price.
  5. Deploy a considered folow-up strategy. Test and learn but don't send too many emails.

Most importantly, once live don't forget to continue to optimise the campaign for best results.

Rhian Harris (was Simms)

Published 11 March, 2013 by Rhian Harris (was Simms)

Rhian Simms is a Digital Marketing Consultant at Consult&C Digital and a contributor to Econsultancy. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

12 more posts from this author

Comments (10)

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Laura Hopkins, Account Manager at Alexander Hill

A free shipping offer a la ASOS.com is another nice little pull back to an abandoned trolley.

over 3 years ago

Rhian Harris (was Simms)

Rhian Harris (was Simms), Digital Marketing Consultant at Consult & C Limited

Hi Laura,

I tend to steer away from incentivising - particularly at the 1st recovery email - as I've seen users to get savvy to it and abandon on purpose in pursuit of a 'deal'.

In a lot of cases, the non discount related options that can tip the user over can be as strong as a deal, which means as a business less margin is given away to customers that will convert without it.

It's always worth keeping in the back pocket though and worth testing - especially in looking at long term value of a customer. If that free P&P deal converted a new customer who goes on to shop repeatedly, then it' becomes more of a strategic consideration.

Thanks for your comment.

Rhian

over 3 years ago

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Laura Hopkins, Account Manager at Alexander Hill

Hi Rhian,

Guilty on point #1!

But yes, it can create a certain fondness for a brand that can see customers coming back repeatedly.

Laura.

over 3 years ago

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Anon

Really highlights the importance of getting the email content and the timing right. It is also highlights the importance of picking the correct supplier if you are using a 3rd party

over 3 years ago

Rhian Harris (was Simms)

Rhian Harris (was Simms), Digital Marketing Consultant at Consult & C Limited

Absolutely, but I also think it needs to be a partnership in the ongoing optimisation. The 3rd parties will have a lot of insight and recommendations readily available, but the business needs to realise it's about investing time and energy into ongoing optimisation.

Thanks
Rhian

over 3 years ago

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Adam Nicholson, Web Developer at Internetware Ltd

Interesting that you feel half an hour is too short a time to be sending an abandonment email. SaleCycle published an infographic on abandonment emails which lead in with time of send vs conversion rate which suggested the half an hour mark is the ideal. See http://adamnicholson.co.uk/bin/salecycle_abandon_basket_email_infographic.jpg

over 3 years ago

Rhian Harris (was Simms)

Rhian Harris (was Simms), Digital Marketing Consultant at Consult & C Limited

Hi Adam,

I've seen SaleCycle's research and I understand that is an average recommended time?

My point refers exactly to that actually, in that I believe for certain products of complexity or that perhaps require a longer consideration time, the abandonment time should be adapted appropriately. So with the example I gave, I think it is too short for that particular product and price tag and should be tested based on the item abandoned.

For something of lesser value, with free returns, or of a more spontaneous purchase where the reminder is simply there to tip the user over, I agree - a shorter time would be ideal. For me, if I had've been in the market to a) buy a bike or b) spend £700, it's unlikely that I'd have 'forgotten' about it, and a reminder email that doesn't tell me much more than the product description I looked at 29 mins ago wouldn't convert me.

That's where I think a more bespoke strategy should be used, rather than assuming every customer falls within the average.

Hope that makes sense and thanks for the comment though!

Rhian

over 3 years ago

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James

Hi Adam,

What you're also not taking into account is that 30 minutes after abandonment is of course likely to garner a high conversion rate, as a lot of these customers would already return naturally.

As Rhian said the customer would be fully aware of their abandonment at that point.

All those 30 minute emails do is eat into the sales that a merchant would already be getting, except now they pay a premium on top!

over 3 years ago

Rhian Harris (was Simms)

Rhian Harris (was Simms), Digital Marketing Consultant at Consult & C Limited

Couldn't have put it better myself, James! Great comment.

I think those guys at SC (and other 3rd parties) are awesome and they've done some great work over the last few years, but it certainly goes without saying that a shorter window means better commission for them on higher "converted" recovered sales.

Thanks
Rhian

over 3 years ago

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Charles

James, you make a valuable point. A remarketing/reengagement email should be optimised to ensure you do not interfere with a websites own natural return rate. This is even more prevalent if you are using a 3rd party supplier. No?
The value in this type of activity is only there if you are converting customers who would not have returned had you not engaged with them.

over 3 years ago

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