How do your customers really feel about receiving abandoned cart email reminders?

In advance of the 2015 Email Summit, the fine folks at Marketing Sherpa released a study that sought to answer this very question. The results are important for any marketer considering a shopping cart abandonment email program to take note of.

The Study

The Sherpa team polled an audience of 2,057 American adults, qualifying the sample by asking them if they had ever left an item in an online shopping cart. 1,762 members of the sample qualified to answer the following question:

What are your views of reminder emails that tell you when you have an item in your online shopping cart that has not yet been purchased?

In terms of consumer perception, here were the key takeaways from the data:

  • 51% of the sample thought cart abandonment reminders were helpful
  • 38% of the respondents expressed annoyance in receiving a reminder
  • 16% of respondents felt that the reminders were so annoying that they wished companies would stop send them. Ouch!
  • 12% had never received a cart abandonment reminder at all

The graph below shows the breakdown between those that felt the reminders were helpful vs. annoying:

Abandoned Cart Email Customer Perception

The data indicates that cart abandonment email reminders can create annoyance with a non-trivial percentage of customers. The study found particular displeasure with one group: 23% of women 35 to 44 said they are annoying and wish companies would stop sending them.

So, what’s the tradeoff?

If cart abandonment email reminders could potentially annoy a third of your customers, why send them at all?

The purchase influence data from the study is where the answer lies:

  • 6% of the sample said that the reminder emails were helpful and they always complete their purchase after receiving one.
  • In similar fashion, 7% of respondents said that they were helpful and always complete their purchase if there is a promotion or discount included in the reminder.
  • 69% of the sample said that the reminders were either helpful or influenced their purchase decision in some way, even if annoyed.Cart Abandonment Email Purchase Influence

The data indicates that these reminders do in fact influence cart abandoners to purchase, but if used irresponsibly customers will develop a negative impression of the company sending them.

In a recent Reddit thread, several Redditors confirmed that receiving abandoned cart email reminders had a positive effect on their decision to purchase. The rest of the sentiment toward the reminders in the thread was largely positive. Here’s an example:

Cart Abandonment Email Customer Feedback

Just like any marketing program, taking a thoughtful approach to your cart abandonment campaign will reduce the annoyance factor significantly.

The Best Practices

Follow these nine best practices for your cart abandonment email program and you’ll find customers happily turning their abandoned carts into purchases.

  • One-click Opt-out – Give your customers a simple, efficient method for opting out of the campaign. No hoops to jump through. This is a no-questions-asked requirement and please don’t send an opt-out confirmation email. Confirmations just annoy customers even more.
  • Use Humor – Cart abandonment reminders are the perfect opportunity to make your customers laugh. After all, the idea that you are emailing someone about an imaginary cart, that was “left behind” is comical in itself. Take the opportunity to inject some personality into the creative and don’t just send a boring reminder. Here’s an example of a humorous reminder from DoggyLoot:Funny Cart Abandonment Email
  • Frequency Cap – Frequency capping ensures that customers are not bombarded by multiple emails within a short period of time. No customer should receive more than one cart abandonment email automation within a 60 day period.
  • Set Suppression Windows – Based on where the customer is in the purchase lifecycle, build out suppression windows to prevent cart abandonment emails from firing for a set periods of time. A typical use case here is to turn off your cart abandonment reminder program for 30 days after a customer purchases (if they return and abandon another cart).Suppression windows can also be used to prevent repeat abandoners from trying to game the system to receive discounts. Here’s an example suppression window setting within Rejoiner:Rejoiner Suppression Window
  • Include Exclusive Promotions – The data from the study indicates that when discounts are included in cart abandonment reminders, they do influence customer purchase decisions, even for the respondents who felt the reminders were annoying. The data below illustrates respondents’ willingness to buy with and without a discount.cart_abandonment_purchase_with_discountTest your offer with a control group (who doesn’t receive anything) and monitor their behavior over time. Do they come back and purchase when not re-marketed to? This type of hold out test ensures that your campaign is in fact generating profit. This Reddit user summarized how their company runs hold out tests:Cart Abandonment Email Hold Out Test
  • Segment Demographically – You may find that your cart abandonment program generates negative sentiment from one specific demographic segment, or is more effective within another one. The Sherpa study found that 23% of women in a certain age bracket felt the most negative sentiment toward the reminders. On the flipside, 16% of men aged 18 to 34 said they always purchase when the program included a discount.These trends will start to become evident quickly when you start your program and you can segment out certain customers based on their demographic profile, if necessary.
  • Personalize & Reduce Friction – Specificity wins in any email marketing program. By personalizing the email creative with exactly what your customer was expressing intent to buy, you’re creating context to remind them about their interaction with your brand. Most importantly, should they click through the email (from any device) drive them back to the appropriate product page AND make sure you can regenerate cart sessions cross-device.
  • Think Cross-Platform / Responsive – Expect that the majority of the email you send will be opened on a mobile device. So not only does your cart abandonment email have to render well on mobile, its imperative that you can regenerate the user’s session. You are asking a customer to click-through the reminder and take action. The importance of session regeneration cross-drive cannot be overstated. It’s a really frustrating experience to receive a cart abandonment email, click-through, and return to an empty cart.Cross Device Cart Regeneration
  • Be Easy to Reach – Often times, customers abandon cart simply because they have unanswered questions about buying from you. Prominently display your toll-free in the reminder so that customers can reach a real, live human being. Better yet, send the reminder from a monitored inbox so customers can simply click “reply” and get their questions answered. We recently wrote a guest piece for Digital Marketer on cart abandonment email basics and Austin Brawner of the eCommerce Influence podcast posted a great comment that summarized this point perfectly:


What to do next

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Mike Arsenault
Mike Arsenault is the Founder & CEO of Rejoiner. He works with 350+ online retail & eCommerce companies like Hydroflask, Footjoy, GUESS, and Big Chill to help them grow faster using lifecycle email. He also once lived aboard a 36' sailboat in Boston.