It's Not Just About The Shopping Cart

by , Apr 10, 2012, 6:20 AM
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I’ve been talking a lot lately about chatter marketing (I literally wrote the book on it!) and I’m still often taken aback when I see companies that are not using the easiest component of chatter marketing to put the R back in CRM: the concept of website reengagement.

Shopping-cart abandonment programs are everywhere. And there’s no question but that they work—to an extent. Opted-in customers visit a company’s website, they look at a number of items and put one or two or three of them in a cart, and then leave the website without completing the purchase. The company then sends the customer an email, noting the items placed in the cart and assuring the customer that, yes, they are in fact still available.

As I said, these emails work. And they’re necessary. Last fall, a study noted that the average shopping-cart abandonment rate jumped from 71% to 75% over the previous year, as more consumers began using the carts for other purposes than simply purchasing. Some use their online carts to compare prices before making a purchasing decision, others abandon their carts due to high or unexpected shipping costs; and then there are, of course, the usual suspects in terms of reasons for abandonment, including running out of time, being interrupted, etc.

But if shopping-cart abandonment emails work so well, imagine the lift you could receive when you’re responding not just to the abandonment of a shopping cart, but to everything that the customer did while on the website. There’s a clear need to identify and pursue those opted-in customers who show interest in the ecommerce website and yet do not place items in a shopping cart. There are a lot more of them, for one thing: many more people abandon web pages than abandon shopping carts … and these are your customers, people that you want to keep engaged!

And it’s not just good business: it’s a necessary component of a robust CRM program. When you communicate based on exactly the content someone is viewing, you eliminate random messaging and you show consideration—in terms of both time and relevancy.

Once these customers/subscribers are identified, their actions on the website can be tracked. The tracking analytics will give you a plethora of useful information about the relative strengths and weaknesses of each webpage. Interesting as that is, it’s really just a useful side effect of the main point of this technology, which is to identify each recorded visitor’s actions and – most importantly – to respond to them appropriately and positively, thus increasing your overall ROI.

So how does it work?

After identifying opted-in customers from your email database when they visit your website, and seeing that no transaction has been completed during the visit, a special email campaign is sent out automatically shortly after the customer leaves your site.

In order to keep within emailing best practices, only one reengagement email is sent to each customer in any preset time period (12 to 24 hours is optimum), no matter how many times that customer visits your website. The point is to reengage them in a positive way!

There are three types of messages that can be deployed:

  1. Default message: a single universal message sent to all identified customers visiting your site, regardless of which page(s) visited;
  2. Shopping-cart message: a specific message sent to customers visiting one or more of your shopping-cart pages without making a purchase;
  3. Page-specific messages: you can design unique campaigns to go to subscribers who visit specific pages on your website (or groups of pages selling similar products).

The shopping-cart message isn’t the same as the one sent with traditional shopping-cart abandonment reengagement emails. It doesn’t employ interruptive popup technology that risks alienating customers, and the message doesn’t pertain to specific items selected by the site visitor, but instead is about reengaging your customer’s interest in a friendly and positive way.

And to keep it positive all the way through, customers may opt out of receiving reengagement messages while still continuing to receive regular emails.

Keeping the message positive — and not enabling customers to abandon the site looking for a “better deal” — is paramount. People respond well to messages that remind them of the end dates of current promotions, provide discount codes or coupons, or even unveil a special sale. 

Typical reengagement campaigns generate open rates greater than 50%, click-through rates greater than 35%, and sales per email four to 10 times greater than what companies are generating with standard email programs, including those going to carefully segmented lists. The implications of these results are clear. 

What is less clear but equally important is the contact with opted-in customers that continues and reinforces your relationship with them. The new CRM is about meeting the customer where he or she is and becoming part of the fabric of his/her shopping decisions, expectations, and experience. 

Website reengagement provides an opportunity to reach out to customers from every page of your website and to send tailored messages based on the customer’s interests determined by the specific pages on the site the customer visited.

My company has been doing this for its client companies for several years now, and with over 50 companies tracked, neither unsubscribe rates or complaints are higher from website reengagement messages than they are for the company's standard email promotions and/or newsletters.

Understanding why people abandon websites and registration pages, and developing ways to address their concerns quickly and effectively, can help you increase conversion rates and grow sales while maintaining those essential close relationships with your customers.

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