Increase the Value Of Your Abandoned Cart Emails

As gas prices continue to rise and consumers look for ways to save money, they continue to seek coupons and discounts from the brands they do business with. And as my company’s consumer research shows, getting discounts is the primary reason subscribers join email marketing programs

Most of us email marketers rely on offers to increase engagement and sales. We like to think that we’re driving these behaviors strategically, and sometimes even covertly, pulling levers behind the scenes that consumers respond to without being fully aware. But I read something in the August issue of Better Homes and Gardens that suggests an increase in consumer awareness of some of our more covert tactics. Additionally, consumers are taking overt steps to exploit these tactics to save even more money. 

Are Customers Wise to Your Abandoned Cart Email Tactics?

In the BHG article, consumer savings blogger Jeanette Pavini shares her secret deal tips with the masses. “If you are shopping on a new site, create an account, load up your cart, then wait a few days,” Pavini advises. “Many retailers send introductory offers, but not always right away. Other sites send special offers to shoppers who’ve let their cart languish.”



As we have seen in my last few posts about the consumer habit loop, Pavini’s piece suggests that customers have been trained to recognize our behaviors. Coupon bloggers, email recipients and the public at large have become wise to these tactics, finding ways to capitalize on them.

Two Considerations for Your Cart Abandonment Program

Knowing that your consumers are looking for ways to work your program, how do you increase its value? Ask yourself these two questions:

1.     Should you send an abandoned cart message?
The act of abandoning a cart may define a baseline behavior, but it doesn’t have to motivate an if/then reaction. Just because a consumer placed an item in the cart doesn’t mean that you must send an email. Instead, the act of abandoning is the trigger to asking the question, “Should I send this person an abandoned cart message?” Other measurable behaviors should be taken into consideration when answering the Should I? question:

  • Has this customer received an abandoned cart message in the past XX number of days?
    Look for patterns that emerge with your customers. Do you see an abandoned cart message before each purchase the customer makes or does (s)he make other purchases as well? This can help you to understand if the customer is trying to “game” the system.
  • Does the cart value exceed a specified dollar amount?
    Driving revenue is ultimately the goal for most e-commerce marketers, but it doesn’t mean that your job is to drive conversion at all cost – and you simply shouldn’t do it if it erodes your company’s bottom line. Understand the value of the cart and the value of the conversion before you make the decision to trigger that abandoned cart message.
  • Is this a first-time purchaser?
    If so, the answer to your Should I? question is probably yes. Motivating and driving the first purchase for a new subscriber or recipient is a key KPI for many marketers. The sooner you can drive that behavior, the faster the subscriber becomes an engaged program participant.

2.     Is it necessary to include an offer in the abandoned cart message?
Not every abandoned cart should get an email, and not every cart abandonment message has to include an offer. There are times when a customer is  truly on the fence about making the purchase. Or perhaps there are issues with your checkout process that cause them to give up. The point here is that the thrill of a discount doesn’t always drive the behavior.

With this in mind, consider what you might be able to send the cart abandoner in lieu of an offer. Sometimes an offer is still the best content, but that isn’t always the case. And remember, you can include different elements in the program based on previous behaviors or cart size.

  • Feature reviews and additional product information.
    Depending on the product or service you offer, sometimes it takes a little longer for a consumer to pull the trigger on a purchase, especially if the price point is higher. While a discount may move the needle here, it is possible to help influence a consumer’s decision by providing customer-generated ratings and reviews, tweets and social posts, or even additional information on the product. This can provide consumers with a different perspective and may help validate their purchase decision.
  • Develop a series of messages to encourage conversion.
    An abandoned cart program doesn’t have to consist of one message only. Much like a welcome series, you have the opportunity to leverage multiple touch points to help influence the purchase decision. This is especially true for brands that have expensive items or complex products/services that require some education and comfort for the consumer to complete the purchase. The series can step through messaging that is informative first, and then highlight other items to consider as a second message, saving the offer for the final part of the sequence as a way to close. To determine how many messages to send over a particular period of time, look at the average time of conversion for your customer and set a goal that is better than that. The series doesn’t need to run in perpetuity – but it also doesn’t need to be just one message.
  • Find the right offer.
    If you do determine that an offer is right for your cart abandonment message, then test if it’s the right offer – and the right timing for delivering that offer. Many marketers will randomly choose a dollar amount or percent off number based on what they think will best drive the behavior, but there is very little validation done. This can cost organizations money in the long and short term. Testing in email is one of the easiest things to do, so find what works best for your customers.

As email has evolved over the years, it’s exciting to see that consumers continue to recognize value from engaging with marketers. However, it may be time to start reviewing the tried and true practices we have employed over the past decade. Does the impact of an abandoned cart program become less effective if the consumer is truly gaming the system? What do you think?

3 comments about "Increase the Value Of Your Abandoned Cart Emails".
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  1. Eileen Winters from Winters Digital Marketing, July 22, 2013 at 4:24 p.m.

    I never looked at the abandoned shopping cart as a strategy for some consumers to get discounts. I found the information informative that you provided. Thanks!

    Do you have similar data on how abandoned "shopping carts" work in B2B? For example, if you have a subscription-based service and someone doesn't follow all the way through to purchase would you use the same procedure as in B2C to analyze the customer's behavior.

  2. Elizabeth Ball from It's In The Stars, July 22, 2013 at 6:06 p.m.

    I sell custom astrology reports and send a series of three cart abandonment emails, the first within an hour, the second 24 hours later and the third 24 hours later again. People buying unique gifts are often researching ideas, or need the item sent quite soon. The first one reminds them of the enjoyment they will get from understanding their partner or child, the second is peppered with customer testimonials supporting their decision and the third suggests gift certificates if they don't have the recipients' birth details to hand. Personally, I find cart abandonment emails handy, especially if I'm a first-time visitor to that website and have been searching for a particular product or service.

  3. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, July 23, 2013 at 10:33 a.m.

    @Elizabeth Ball: Exactly! Your final sentence hits the nail on the head. OP is over-analyzing the issue. When you have a website, the reason why you send abandonment emails is because it's an easy way to increase your sales by 15.61%

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