We’ve all done it. In fact even as I write this, I’m fully aware there’s a shopping basket full of blu-rays on an ecommerce site, from the end of 2013, sitting and waiting for me to click ‘confirm purchase'. They’re definitely still there, I just checked.
As I discussed in my recent article what is retargeting and why do we need it? this very same curtailed ecommerce visit has led to a whole host of retargeted adverts on various related and not so related sites I’ve visited since.
But what of the abandoned basket itself? I’ve heard nothing from the company directly related to it. Right now, I’m the easiest mark there is when it comes to a targeted email.
I obviously wanted these products at more than one stage, I was even so far down the sales funnel that I registered my details, including my email address with them.
Chances are a well-timed email, reminding me this basket is ready and waiting, would have compelled me to make the final purchase, but so far I haven’t heard a thing.
Do basket abandonment emails work? Is there a best practice that ecommerce sites should follow? What is the likelihood that an ‘abandoner’ will come back to purchase after receiving the email? I'll try to answer these questions right here.
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 eDigitalResearch and IMRG’s research that 77% of online shoppers abandoned their baskets in 2013.
Imagine if that amount of shoppers did the same in your local supermarket. It would be anarchy.
The same research claims that 53% of abandoners cite unacceptably high delivery charges as the main reason for cart abandonment. In fact 26% of shoppers placed items in their basket just ‘to check delivery costs’.
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, not offering a fixed date for delivery. These are all ways that an ecommerce site can send customers fleeing elsewhere. Take a look at Chris Lake’s post on why checkout abandonment is still linked to nasty delivery surprises for more guidance.
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 Q3 2013, cart abandonment rates averaged 74% across all sectors, according to SaleCycle. Here’s some more stats that show the effectiveness of targeted emails relating to abandonment.
- Over an eighth (13.3%) of cart abandonment emails are clicked.
- The average order value (AOV) of purchases from basket abandonment emails is 19% higher than typical purchases.
- Nearly half (46%) of all cart abandonment emails are opened.
- Over a third (35%) 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 over $5 in revenue.
In our recent post, nine case studies on cart abandonment, David Moth takes a look at specific examples from various ecommerce sites. In many cases, a three stage retargeting approach is most 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. This could work if it’s a week or two after the last visit and your confident that the customer wouldn’t purchase the goods anyway.
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 are more successful examples from David Moth on retailers retargeting through cart abandonment emails.
The travel industry suffers the hardest, with 81% booking abandonment rates. Even more gallingly, the number of abandoners that the travel company is able to contact with an email stands at a significantly low 10%. Meaning that 90% of cart abandoners have remained anonymous through the adding to basket process.
Obviously the key thing that travel companies need to do here is make email sign-up a necessity when users add flights or packages packages to their shopping carts.
Some travel companies offer membership only discounts (here’s how Secret Escapes and Voyage Prive compare) so customers must fill in their details in order to access the exclusive flash sales. It may or may not be a gimmick, but it means that both these sites can tailor emails to their customers and cart abandoners as personally as the data allows.
Most abandonment happens between 1pm-2pm, with Thursday being the most common day. Is this just us bored at work, idly amusing ourselves during lunch? Is the lack of commitment down to us not trusting the security of the office wifi? Chris Sheen, head of marketing at SaleCycle agrees with the former point.
You can almost picture consumers using a few stolen minutes of their lunch to browse online for purchases in time for the weekend and then abandoning the purchase as the time comes to get back to work.
A key consideration when putting together cart abandonment emails to remember that sometimes all a shopper needs is a little help finding their way back to the stuff they were looking at earlier in the day, perhaps once they’re back home browsing on the sofa.
To conclude, here’s what you should be doing:
- 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.
And of course before any of the above:
- During the customer’s initial visit to your site, ask for their email address when they add their first item to the basket. That way you’ll be able to retarget them later. Then if you make sure that your customers are logged in long-term, they won’t have to enter it again.
There’s loads of great information on basket abandonment and email marketing on the Econsultancy blog. Why not check out abandoned basket emails: the good the bad and the ugly and download our Email Marketing platforms Buyer’s Guide 2013.