Every hour of every day thousands of e-commerce website visitors add items to their shopping carts, then quietly leave without purchasing anything. Even more surprising, most website owners don’t follow up with these visitors in any way. This lack of follow up represents millions of dollars of lost revenue, not just from the current purchase, but from additional purchases these shoppers would end up making over time.
True, some of these cart abandoners were ‘just browsing’ or otherwise had no immediate intent to buy, but others were on the cusp of converting and something wasn’t quite right. In this post, I’ll describe how to recapture the attention - and transactions - of your e-commerce cart abandoners.
There are two things you will need to follow up with these prospects: a) a sequence of cart abandonment recovery (AR) emails, and b) tools for collecting email addresses from cart abandoners.
Not convinced you need to send out AR emails? OK, let’s do some simple math. Say, for example, that you sell budget-priced men’s shoes, and that:
If you can recover just 5% more transactions - and that’s easy to do with good AR tactics - that represents 730 more customers, or US $43,800 in additional revenue. That lift far exceeds the US $5,000 to US $10,000 you’ll likely need to invest (in both staff time and tools) to make these additional purchases happen.
Obviously, if you run a larger scale e-commerce store the gains will be even more significant. Run a calculation with your own data to estimate your potential revenue lift and the associated return on investment (ROI).
The first principle in marketing - and when recovering carts - is ‘Repetition Sells’. You can’t just ask, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to buy the stuff in your cart?’ This sounds too much like begging. No, you need to ask repeatedly, and with compelling variations of email subject lines, copy and calls to action (CTAs).
From my recent work designing and tracking the performance of a few abandonment recovery (AR) email sequences, I’ve learned that a 3-email sequence works the best. Sending more than three emails has ‘diminishing returns’, as an economist would say. In other words, the lower response rate of sending more emails isn’t worth the higher time and money investment.
Based on these learnings, I recommend sending three AR emails:
As advertising guru David Ogilvy once said,
"When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar."
So your headline - or in this case your email subject line - had better be compelling enough to entice more of your viewers to open the email. Once you drive more opens, you can direct more prospects to their carts, or directly to checkout.
For your first email, I recommend a subject line with an apologetic tone, such as, ‘Oops - you left something in your cart at XYZ.com’. This mistake reference grabs attention since it evokes an emotional response. No one likes to forget things.
In the body of this email show the list of items left behind, in order to trigger the desire to buy. Include an image showing the items in use by a contented person, because that’s your prospect’s desired end result.
Keep your first follow up message short and to the point. Act like you’re doing your visitor by sending the reminder.
If your prospect glossed over your first email, it’s time to use stronger messaging. Go for a headline like, ‘Save 15% off your first order from XYZ.com’. This shows that you care enough about their business to offering them a special deal. And everyone loves a good deal.
If the dollar amount of savings is higher, use that amount, because neuroscience research has shown that it’s the absolute value that registers most strongly in the brain. As an example, if the total value of cart items is US $200, use this headline instead: ‘Save US $30 off your first order at XYZ.com’.
If your prospect hasn’t clicked the CTA in either of your two previous AR emails, it’s time to serve up your best marketing pitch. Ask yourself: ‘What is the most I’m willing to give away at this time to potentially get a lifetime customer?’ The offer you come up with should depend, among other things, on your average customer Lifetime Value (LTV) projections.
If, in the example above, your repeat customers have an average LTV of US $250 or higher, you should consider offering a drastic discount. If your average LTV Is more modest - say US $100 - your pitch should be less aggressive.
An example of a good subject line for this third email is:
‘Last chance! Save $30 and Win a FREE Starbucks card’
By automatically entering this prospect into your contest to win a coffee card you are sweetening - actually, ‘caffeinating’ the deal. In your business, just be sure to choose a value-add that your target prospects highly value.
Another emotional trigger you can press: add scarcity. Include, for example, ‘Only 3 left’ copy below the applicable product if you know, based on a data feed from your inventory management system, that you have a limited supply of this product.
A few other things to bear in mind as you create subject lines, copy and CTAs for your emails.:
You know the type of emails to send; now you just need to add more emails to your AR list. But how?
Checkout recovery tools offered by vendors like Datacrushers, Freemius and Rejoiner help to grab email addresses during the checkout process. They do this by moving the email form in your cart to the forefront, and then using cookies to make sure the user’s email address is saved–even if they abandon the cart.
One big advantage of checkout recovery tools is that they have the built-in ability to set up triggered follow-ups. And since cart follow-ups are most effective when sent immediately after cart abandonment, this is a very handy feature.
Cart recovery tools are subscription services that typically cost anywhere from US $50 to US $300 per month, depending on your traffic volume. Whether those numbers work for you depends on your situation; but for most eCommerce sites, that's a pittance compared to the revenue lifts you can expect from recovered carts (see ‘abandoned cart math’ above)
If your website has smaller volume of visitors and abandoned carts, and you use a standardised e-commerce platform like Shopify Plus or WooCommerce, search for the ‘abandoned cart’ solutions available from these vendors. You’ll likely find that these are the most cost-effective and easiest to implement option.
Please, do not ever send promotional emails to the email addresses captured through your AR efforts. Not only is this illegal (visitors must explicitly opt-into receiving such promotional emails), but sending them will definitely tarnish your brand image.
You’ve got the emails, and you’re sending your AR sequence. Now what? Track the most important conversion metrics, which include:
Track these metrics, and any others, that you can directly attribute to your AR campaigns. And move further upstream in your email campaign funnel: Audit your analytics tagging to ensure that all user actions on your cart and checkout pages are tagged so you can quickly learn which clicks correlate with higher conversions. If possible, tie these conversions back to earlier website sessions or email opens.
After you have launched your new AR campaign and let it run long enough to collect benchmark performance metrics, start testing variations of your subject lines, copy treatments and CTAs. You may find that you’re able to further improve your email performance metrics and incremental revenues.
If your e-commerce site gets a significant amount of traffic and conversions each day, the math is clear: you’re losing significant revenues if you’re not capturing more emails during or before checkout, then sending an abandonment recovery email sequence.
More often than not, visitors who cart one or more items aren’t casual browsers; they have a clear intention to buy, either now or later. So make every attempt to re-engage them. You might not just end up with more than a one-time buyer - a longer-term and brand-loyal customer.
By Mark Hall
Seasoned Voice of Customer research and conversion optimization professional. I boost your revenues by making your online experiences more intuitive and persuasive.
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