The numbers that justify sending email to bring back online shoppers who abandon their carts before checkout are pretty compelling. So, why aren't more email marketers following up?
Data Support Cart-Recovery Efforts
First, consider this data from Web analytics provider SeeWhy, a Silverpop partner specializing in real-time abandonment conversion:
- A company doing $200 million in annual revenue loses an estimated $1.2 million a day from cart abandonment.
- All of the marketers in SeeWhy's list of Top 10 converting Web sites remarket to their customers using tactics that include email follow-ups to cart abandonment.
- 15 percent to 50 percent of abandoned shopping carts can be recovered when shoppers are contacted immediately after they leave the site.
- Open rates on reminder emails can exceed 50 percent.
So, the numbers suggest that marketers can use email effectively not just to prospect for sales but also to recover sales that almost don't happen.
However, only 20 percent of merchants follow up via email with shoppers who leave items in a shopping cart, according to a Q4 2009 survey of 100 Web sites by the retail research and consulting firm the E-Tailing Group.
SeeWhy's own research puts the number slightly higher, at 3 in 10 or 30 percent.
So, checkout-reminder emails can give you a competitive advantage and boost the bottom line as well: The E-tailing Group's 2009 survey also found the items left in the cart have an average retail value of $99.
Best Practices: Proper Timing and Tone
1. Act fast.
This reminds more would-be customers to come back and finish what they were doing when their session ended.
Ninety percent of shopping carts go cold within an hour after a session ends, says SeeWhy Founder/Chief Strategy Officer Charles Nicholls. However, cart-abandonment emails might not go out until an average 6.15 days later, according to the E-tailing Group's study.
Nicholls' figures show emails are most effective when they're sent out within minutes after the session ends.
"Follow-up within minutes is 3 times more effective than waiting 24 hours and 7 times more effective than waiting a week," he says.
2. Be a service provider, not a nag.
"A service-based communication works a lot better than one where you're like the shopkeeper who runs after the customer saying, 'Why didn't you buy?'" Nicholls says. "People end sessions for all kinds of reasons. A child is sick, or there's someone at the door. If you present your email as a service, they will value it more."
This also encourages shoppers to hang on to recovery emails longer than other types of email.
"The trend is to use the shopping cart as a wish list," he says. "The email is a nice little reminder. It should have a link that takes them right back to their carts with one click."
More Suggestions for Best Practices
Email is a great channel not just to prospect for sales but also to recover sales that almost got away. Among my suggestions for effective recovery emails:
- Product Inclusion. Test whether to include the actual products your customer left in the cart or just use a generic reminder to come back and purchase them. Always link directly to the cart, however.
- Incentives. Incentives to return aren't always necessary if shoppers abandoned for technical reasons or they got interrupted.
I suggest other tips to get the greatest return on cart-recovery emails in a recent Email Insider column, "Using Email to Remarket to Customers".
Do you have questions or comments on using cart-recovery emails to convert lost shoppers? I welcome your feedback in the comments space below.