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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20 Responses to “Recovering Sales from Abandoned Shopping Carts With Email”

  1. Baronnn says:

    Is this allowed in terms of privacy issues? People have not completed the sale and hence have no agreement with the company. Is this not spam?

  2. Hi Baronnn, thanks for stopping by.

    In terms of privacy, asking for an email address is fine. It’s what you do with it after that defines spam. The email address is only used in case there was an incomplete order. But I recommend explaining that the email address will be used if there is a problem to reassure hesitant customers that their email address will not be added to a mailing list or resold. It is actually standard practice to ask for an email address at some point in the checkout process in order to send an online invoice or order confirmation. But in order to ensure you will be able to assist the customer in case of problems, you need to capture the address right away.

  3. This works well in a case where it is an identified repeat customer. Other options can include popup windows – I don’t like that method per se but if done using an Ajax lightbox method, it should work sufficiently. Or, for the really hip retailer, use a MyBuys RSS feed system; fire them the promo in a personilzed RSS feed (I totally just made that up and don’t know if MyBuys supports it – but they should as far as I know).

    Retailers should also consider using the after purchase email confirmation for promotion of the next purchase or cross-selling/up-selling. It is at this point the customer is most engaged and will be more willing to respond to an offer. Top of mind.

  4. Abandoned Shopping Carts

    This report looks at reasons that consumer abandon online shopping carts, and what to do about it….

  5. BobB says:

    I had a client that followed every abandoned order with a phone call. He had an 80% conversion rate and his business went from a $2million to $10million turnover (per annum) business in under 18 months. But his average ticket size was over $1000 so it was worth doing.

  6. Very interesting, BobB, I’m curious what industry he is in. I’m assuming travel?

  7. [...] Capturing at least an email address early on in checkout can save sales from abandoned carts [...]

  8. David Y says:

    In terms of privacy, the only people who will get a remarketing email are those who are already on the email list. If you just browse a site anonymously then there is no way to capture a visitor’s email address unless they have 1) logged in to an existing account 2) clicked through an email previously.

    If you don’t know who they are, then you need to serve them a pop-up as they leave if you want to message them.

  9. [...] posted a few months ago about a Marketing Sherpa study on the importance of capturing email addresses in [...]

  10. [...] designs. • Palmer Web Marketing’s post on saving stockout sales. • Trigger email tip for recovering abandoned shopping carts with email, you can use this for low-stocked items sitting in an abandoned cart. • Detailed post on shipping [...]

  11. [...] page designs. • Palmer Web Marketing’s post on saving stockout sales. • Trigger email tip for recovering abandoned shopping carts with email, you can use this for low-stocked items sitting in an abandoned cart. • Detailed post on shipping [...]

  12. Kristen T says:

    While I’m impressed with the statistics on “recovered” sales, I can’t help but think that if I were shopping online, ditched a cart, then got an email (or even worse, a phone call) five minutes later, that this was either hyper-aggressive sales or stalking and harassment. In either case, this would spell “invasion of privacy,” to me, and I would be really offended. Seriously, wouldn’t most people be?

    But obviously most people don’t feel this way, if follow-ups on abandoned carts or stalled orders result in conversion most of the time.

  13. [...] as possible. Eric Leuenberger shares some of his own testing and findings that it’s best to send recovery emails 2-4 hours after the cart is abandoned (provided you captured an email address, of [...]

  14. [...] pragmatique mais surtout empirique d’optimisation consiste en l’utilisation de l’email (via Get Elastic) comme vecteur de retour sur ces paniers abandonnés. Une stratégie qui peut [...]

  15. MarsOcean says:

    Nice experiment.

    However, I think there are some problems:

    1. Many people will put things in shopping cart and place the order later (from web analytical data, this customer “abandoned” the shopping cart). In this case, those email just “steal” revenue from the ordinary website sales, but not “recover” revenue.

    2. Sending incentive after customers abandoned shopping cart will encourage customers to take advantage of the rules. Because they will figure out if they do not place a order immediately, an coupon will sent to their email box.

  16. Excellent points, Mars.

  17. Dave says:

    If the cookie is left on your computer system your items should remain in the shopping cart.

  18. Candace says:

    Has anyone done testing on when to send the re-marketing email? Im considering waiting 2-3 days to not seem to big brother.

  19. @Candace, my gut tells me in this case you want to get them as soon as you can, because if it is a problem with the order, this is good customer service. Plus, you can intercept them before they look elsewhere and purchase from someone else. But that’s just my gut feeling.


  20. [...] you’ve seen me reference Marketing Experiments webinars and research in blog posts about shopping cart recovery, the psychology of numbers in PPC ads, hunters vs browsers (vs howsers) and value propositions. I [...]

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