By guest columnist Chad White, ExactTarget
A good store associate would never let a shopper walk away from a shopping cart full of merchandise and leave the store without asking if they could help. Yet in the world of ecommerce, this happens all the time - even on the busiest online shopping day of the year, Cyber Monday.
On Dec. 2, ExactTarget clicked through the promotional emails sent that day by more than 90 major online retailers and filled our shopping carts with more than $100 of merchandise. Then we walked away, closing our browser after each shopping session.
Just 1/5 of Retailers Used Triggered Cart Abandonment Emails
Only 21 percent of those retailers sent a triggered email in response within 3 days. Emails that follow up on shopping carts that are abandoned by subscribers often mean the difference between a completed sale and a lost sale on this high-value shopping day. The low adoption of shopping cart abandonment emails presents retailers with a wonderful win-win opportunity to serve shoppers better with service and product information and increase their sales.
Our research also uncovered several opportunities to implement these triggered emails better:
Follow Up Quickly, Especially Around Holidays. Only 50 percent of those cart abandonment emails arrived within 24 hours of abandonment, when they were mostly likely to affect a shopper's Cyber Monday buying decisions.
For peak shopping days and days in the lead up to holidays, when the consideration timeline is much shorter than usual, shorten the delay between abandonment and sending the triggered email. The shortest delay that we saw was 38 minutes, which likely substantially boosted the effectiveness of that retailer's email, compared to those arriving hours after abandonment.
This is a major consideration as we approach Free Shipping Day (Dec. 18) and the end of guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve on Last Sleigh Day (Dec. 20).
Remind Shoppers What They Left in Their Cart.
Slightly more than half of the abandonment emails mentioned the specific product(s) left in our shopping cart. Everyone else required us to click through the email back to our cart. As with most other aspects of ecommerce, extra steps reduce completion rates.
Including the names and pictures of the abandoned products directly in the email jogs the shopper's memory and creates a stronger call-to-action. One-fifth of abandonment emails included the name of a product abandoned right in the subject line, eliminating another click before the shopper was reminded specifically of what was left in their cart. (That said, we did not control for single items versus multiple items left in carts.)
Send a Series, Particularly for More Valuable Carts.
In many cases, a series of triggered emails is considerably more effective than just one. Yet only 10 percent of those retailers who sent an abandonment email sent two or more.
In some cases, we abandoned carts with more than $1,000 of merchandise in it. That's likely worth more than one email. In one instance of a $1,000+ cart, we received four abandonment emails over the course of a week. You should test to see what response you get, but an abandonment series that scales based on value of cart makes good sense, especially if it's a high-consideration product like furniture or a computer.
Make Triggered Emails Seasonally Relevant.
Holidays create urgency, so adding seasonal imagery, secondary messaging, shipping deadlines or a gift services footer can make triggered messages more relevant and therefore effective. A mere 5 percent of the retailers sending abandonment emails included any seasonal messaging.
The diversity of messaging in the shopping cart abandonment emails we received was truly impressive, with each retailer trying to cater to their unique shoppers while keeping their message on brand. Many took a traditional "You left this in your cart" approach, but some were more subtle and sent information about the product category of the product abandoned, for instance. Very few sent an incentive, which is wise because that trains customers to abandon carts to collect the incentive. But others wisely highlighted existing free shipping offers, for instance. Some stressed that their customer service reps were available to answer questions or highlighted reviews for the product.
Whatever your approach - and extensive testing is advised to determine what that should be - service-oriented triggered emails are a great opportunity to bring into the online store the same great customer service consumers expect to get in a brick-and-mortar store.
Chad White is the author of Email Marketing Rules and principal of marketing research at marketing cloud platform ExactTarget, a salesforce.com company.
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