Recovering Sales from Abandoned Shopping Carts With Email

Back in high school when I worked at a shoe store, I remember being trained on strategies to save a sale. Probing, offering a discount, encouraging the customer to take the shoes home to try out or offering to order a pair in from another store. It was easy to make these attempts face to face with a customer on my turf.

Online shoppers abandon shopping carts for a variety of reasons. They may balk at a shipping charge or total price of multiple items. They might encounter problems entering credit card information or perceive the checkout process as too long. In the online world, it’s not as easy to recover a sale when a customer interacts with a screen and can exit with a click of a mouse. But it’s not impossible. An interesting study by Marketing Experiments on using email follow ups to save sales from abandoned carts gives some insight on how.

By sending two follow up emails – one sent within an hour of cart abandonment, and the second 24 hours later, the experiment’s test etailer was able to recover $8,000 worth of revenue from saving 277 sales over a six month period.

In order to send a follow up email, it’s necessary to capture the shopper’s email at the very beginning of the checkout process. I suggest adding a sentence that assures the customer that the email address will be used only in case there is a problem. You may even wish to link to your privacy policy, as many users have concerns about the reselling of their email information.

The key with the first email is to respond as soon as possible, even within five minutes of order abandonment – while the customer is still online, in the purchase headspace and before they consider another offer. Automating this follow-up process is a good idea.
The strategy with the second email is to offer a price reduction as an added incentive to come back and complete the order. (A non-incentivized email was also tested, and the incentivized version resulted in a 263% higher email-to-sale conversion rate, and produced 133% more revenue per email despite the reduced margin.)

Towards the end of the Marketing Experiments study, you will find a template for crafting the first and second follow-up emails, which you can modify for your own business. The components of the first email template are:

  • Use a helpful, concerned tone – think customer service

  • Reassure the customer that the order completion is fast, and includes a direct link to complete the order
  • Restate the product features and or benefits
  • Include customer service contacts
  • Offer an extra incentive if necessary
  • Provide an easy “don’t bother me anymore” unsubscribe link or instructions
  • Sign off with a personal signature

The second email should include the above and politely remind the customer of the incomplete order, and mention that it is the last reminder (as to not appear spammy or intrusive and also to communicate a sense of urgency for the offer). Again the tone should be customer service oriented – probing for a reason for the problem and offering to go the extra mile to correct it. An incentive (offered as a courtesy and apology), and an assurance of a complete refund if not satisfied is recommended. An offer to cover shipping costs of returned items would be ideal, though it would further reduce margin.

When applying this strategy to your online business, you are encouraged to do your own testing on email copy, timing, frequency and to track your click through rate, conversion metrics and revenue volume carefully when implementing follow up emails to recover abandoned shopping cart orders.


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