Holiday shoppers can be a particularly finicky bunch. Because they're buying for other people, they might not know exactly what to purchase or where to get the best deals. So they fill up their online shopping carts with tons of items and then leave the site without completing their purchases, often never to return again.
Cart abandonment is a challenge for digital marketers year-round, with 72.1 percent of purchases left incomplete. And around the holidays, when people are prepared to spend big, those lost sales can really add up.
The holidays are also an ideal time to remind cart abandoners about items they've neglected to purchase for themselves. So are birthdays or other occasions when people are likely to buy gifts for your users. For instance, with the college bowl games coming up right after the holidays, I've been on my favorite sporting goods company's website adding Alabama gear to my cart so I'm ready to cheer my team on when they compete in the Sugar Bowl for a chance at the national championship.
Now would be a great time for this retailer to send me a reminder email and encourage me to share it with my wife, parents and anyone else who might be shopping for me this holiday season. But I've received no such email.
Don't give up on your cart abandoners so quickly. With the right recovery tactics, you can win them back before your competitors have a chance to snatch them away. Here's what it takes:
The great thing about abandoners is they've told you what they're looking to buy. Perhaps they didn't find exactly the right items, thought your price was too high or simply got interrupted before they could check out. Regardless, they've given you valuable information about what they want, which you can use to craft super-relevant emails and targeted ads.
I'm guilty of cart abandonment just like everyone else. My children are too young to write long lists for Santa, so my wife and I are doing research and comparison shopping to decide what will end up under our tree. In doing so, we're giving online retailers great information that could (and should) be used to trigger cart abandonment emails focused on the items we were interested in, as well as related items we might like.
Send your first cart recovery email as soon as possible, before your browsers end up buying from someone else. About 61 percent of marketers make the big mistake of letting more than a day lapse. Follow up while the shopping experience is still fresh in your customers' minds.
Online retailer S&S Worldwide sends its first cart-recovery message within an hour of abandonment. If the customer doesn't respond to the first message, the company follows up periodically with emails that offer various incentives for completing the purchase. The result? A 25-percent conversion rate. (Read the case study.)
There's a fine line between being persistent and being annoying. The sweet spot for how often you should engage cart abandoners depends entirely on your audience. By testing different frequencies, you'll be able to see when your customers are most likely to buy — and when you've sent so many emails that they're more likely to opt out.
One Silverpop client uses a three-part reminder series, with only minor creative changes, and then offers a modest gift in the final email. Conversion rates for these emails are 22 percent, 15 percent and 24 percent. If this company sent only one message, it would lose millions of dollars in annual revenue.
With all the discounts and sales that retailers offer at this time of year, cart abandoners are often still looking for the best price. Consider reeling those shoppers back in with limited-time discounts or free shipping.
One challenge is that many retailers now offer free shipping on orders over a certain amount, and many customers have come to expect it. In the first quarter of 2014, 58 percent of e-commerce transactions in the U.S. received free shipping, compared to 48 percent one year earlier.
If you don't offer standard free shipping, be sure to make that clear up front. Then, consider offering it to cart abandoners as an incentive to complete their purchases. Depending on your level of sophistication, you might also experiment with only offering free shipping if a shopper meets specific criteria, such as dollar amount in cart, number of loyalty points accumulated, first purchaser, etc.
For more on recovering lost sales opportunities, check out Silverpop's white paper, "Abandonment Issues: Turning Lost Carts, Incomplete Forms and Interrupted Browse Sessions into Revenue!"
1) Tip Sheet: “Using Email to Increase Mobile Engagement – and Vice Versa”
2) Blog: “Browse Abandonment Emails: How You Can Use Them to Bring Buyers Back”
3) Video: “Tips for Incorporating Dynamic Content into Your Automated Emails”