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Increase your sales by using your abandoned cart well

Do you have a high shopping cart abandonment rate?

I went shopping online at three of my favourite stores this week. I dreamt big, and racked up a couple thousands of dollars of purchases. Some shoes (for myself and my dog), a poncho and and glitzy iphone cover. Then I abandoned them, hoping they would care enough to chase after me. They didn\’t. Over a week later and I\’m still waiting to be lured back to close the deal on the red hot doggie socks for my Lola. 

What a missed opportunity. I love these brands and I was expecting some great things from their follow up – and yes of course – I was looking for great examples to show you. I just can\’t believe there was zippo in my inbox. 

Now back to you. Do you have a shopping cart? If so, what happens to those that leave your site, shopping cart abandoned? It\’s such a great missed opportunity to close what is otherwise a lost sale. And because it\’s in the digital space, follow up is so easy. 

First let me convince you. According to both ListRak and SaleCycle, the average abandonment rate for 2015 on shopping carts is about 70%.

The statistics indicate on average, an abandoned cart email will have a 44.1% open rate. Of these that open the email, 11.6% will click through and of these 29.9% will purchase.

These are pretty optimistic figures. So the question to ask is whether you could be doing more with your abandoned shopping cart follow up to boost your online sales.

Do what you can to stop cart abandonment

Before we get started on the actual abandoned cart follow up, let’s make sure that there are no glaring issues or reasons for a high abandonment rate. There’s no point in trying to recapture these lost sales if there’s a fundamental problem with your check out to start with.

1.     Is it really about the number of pages in your checkout cart?

Do you have a one page checkout? In recent year’s there’s been a lot of argument and discussion around this point. It’s mostly being driven by a ‘hard to argue’ premise that simple is easiest. If you keep things on one page, make it quick and simple. This will help to decrease cart abandonment.

To work though, it’s got to be simple right? So many people have shopping carts that just move everything from multiple pages within the shopping cart to one very long page for check out – this just missed the point completely.

So unless you’ve embraced the core concept of less is better, then it’s likely your one page check is not actually achieving what you set out to. If you’re got a long page you might be able to get away with this for a desktop user. However, if your user is on a mobile then it makes for a very long and sometimes difficult user experience. Pity the poor mobile user if you haven\’t got smarts around your error feedback on your forms. There’s nothing worse than when you’ve missed a field or input the wrong data and you’re taken back to the top, and have to scroll through looking for where you went wrong. Very awkward on a mobile.

The other thing that’s a problem with this model is that you don’t save any contact information like their email. If they abandon on this one page checkout then you have no chance of follow up.

There was some research done back in 2010 on a small sample of 1000 that stated the following as reasons for shopping cart abandonment:

  • No transparency and asking for too much information
  • Making the user register first before they can purchase
  • Hidden charges at the checkout
  • Too long a process to checkout
  • No upfront delivery costs and timings
  • Contact details like phone number not provided on website.

All these seem like common sense. But none explicitly indicate that a one page shopping cart is best. I would argue that if your lost sale is for a reason other than a long process (and have you really made it shorter) then you’ve lost an important opportunity to follow up if they abandoned for another reason completely.

It’s long been said and research backs this up, that people are happy to keep clicking as long as they are on the right scent to where they want to be.

On a shopping cart, if you can build three simple pages as follows, you will not have created an onerous or overly complicated task:

  • the first to capture delivery and personal details and confirm purchase
  • the second to capture payment details
  • the third confirmation of the sale.

If you design it right from a mobile perspective, then you get to create short and engaging pages. The key is to be truly ruthless and don’t ask for non-essential information. As tempting as it is, do you really need their date of birth or age?

A short multi page approach also allows you to get a better idea of where they are dropping out on the process. If it’s at the payment page versus the first contact information page, then is there is a trust issue? Do you offer the right kind of payment options? Is this the first time you’ve displayed any additional costs like tax or delivery costs etc.

2. Are people using your checkout like a wish list or book mark for when they return?

Is this true of your customer base? In theory there should be a high return rate and completion of the checkout. However, of course, humans are fickle masters and may well lose track of their momentary desire that made them save it to a cart. Understanding the motivation here and using this as part of your message on your abandoned cart email message would be a very good to do.

If you set up your shopping cart correctly, you should be able to rescue a good proportion of sales that would otherwise have been lost to you.

Your challenge

Your challenge this week is to get some abandoned shopping cart emails up and running that really sell and encourage people to return. Let’s not use your generic system generated emails, they won’t be doing the job.

Step 1

Review your current shopping cart setup.

Make sure you haven’t got any nasties hiding the real reason behind your cart dropout rates. Run through the following as a checklist. Eliminate as many reasons for an abandoned cart before we get to the abandoned cart email stage (because these issues will still be there even when you send the email):

  1. People are adding to the cart in order to get information on shipping and delivery. If this information is not easy to find or if you only display it at checkout, then it’s no wonder people are leaving your cart behind. If you’ve a more complex delivery cost set up based on weight or similar this is still no reason to hide it. Customers look and need transparency in order to handover their hard earned cash.
  2. Create a wish list with follow up emails and reminders. While you might be thinking why, the wish list indicates a completely different intent and state of readiness to purchase. If you allow people to use a wish list instead of a shopping cart, you can tailor your follow up completely differently, and over time develop a relationship around sales and similar products.
  3. Check out the web stats and see what the difference is between your desktop and mobile visitors. If there’s a significant difference between the two, with mobile leading the pack of abandonments then it’s highly likely that the experience on the mobile is too bad for most to complete the process. It\’s a simple thing to do. Sit down with your mobile and walk through purchases and try and use a few different phones (although your mobile stats can tell you down to the type of phone that is abandoning and if there’s a big difference between iOS and Android).
  4. Do users need to register BEFORE they checkout – change the process so that their account is set up as part of the checkout process.
  5. Make sure that there are clear contact details there like phone or email or chat. Don’t give them the impression that you would be difficult to contact.

Now you’re likely thinking that the amount of changes to the shopping cart process on your website may well end up costing you heaps with your developer. But before you even think about cost to fix any issues that you’ve found, sit down and tally up abandoned cart over the last 6 months.

Is this a figure you think would justify time and money spent with your developer?

Step 2

Decide on your approach with your cart abandonment.

Depending on what you’re selling, you’ll need to match the best tactic to your product and customers. Here’s a list of what you could be doing as part of the email follow up:

  • Talk about unique features/benefits and/or compare with competitors
  • Offer a % discount or free delivery
  • Offer reviews and recommendations from other happy customers
  • Include FAQs that you know are often asked as part of the sales process
  • Include competitor deals (if you’re a better deal).

Things to now consider are the timing and frequency. There’s been more research that indicates that when you follow up is pretty important. The research suggests that you should follow up within 20 minutes for maximum conversions and that the rate of success lowers the longer you leave it.

But there’s also a case for the timing to match the value/size of the purchase that will factor here. However as there is very little research available on this aspect a trial and test approach would be best. Needless to say, follow up quickly after abandonment and multiple reminders is the key. However do make sure that your shopping cart is connected into the reminder cycle and you’re not reminding people that have come back and purchased.

Step 3

The next step is to write and design your email. If you can spend time on the look of the email, particularly if you’ve got great images or visuals, remind your lost shopper how lovely your products are. Below are examples of some great follow up cart abandonment emails.

You’ll then need to engage with your developer.

Elements within your email reminder to make an impact to consider are:

  • a great subject line – don\’t be generic by personalising and referencing their abandoned item eg. Jules, did your forget your sweater? Jules, you know you\’ll look great in this
  • make sure that the brand name is visible 
  • interesting and as visual as possible, such as images of the product/s in their cart
  • details around cost and delivery
  • testimonials from customers
  • replicate the navigation of your site in case they don\’t want that item but could be lured to consider other options
  • elements such as low stock levels or a special deal if purchased before the end of the day adds urgency
  • share icons
  • don\’t have just one single reminder, but a series. The second and third could get creative and offer up alternative colours, this goes with that or special deals – particularly around a closing sale date
  • show your brand personality.

Step 4

Oh, don’t forget to put some code on your links so you can track sales from the emails.

Example of a good abandoned cart emails

It\’s visual, reminding you of your possible purchase, along with some alternative items that may grab your attention. 




Just to finish things off you might like to view this infographic from Dotmailer on abandoned carts

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