I’m lucky to have the opportunity to talk with a lot of online retailers about email marketing. The folks I get to chat with are almost always seasoned marketers and entrepreneurs, but a lot of them are still trying to understand if triggered cart abandonment email is right for their business. Over the last couple of years, some very clear trends have emerged in regards to the questions potential customers ask me.
In this post, I’ll answer all of those common questions and provide you with some resources that will aid in your decision-making process as to whether or not cart abandonment email is the right tactic for you and your customers. This post should also provide you everything you need to know to launch your first cart abandonment recovery email campaign.
Here’s a brief table of contents for the topics we’ll cover in this post:
- What types of businesses does cart abandonment email work well for?
- I just launched my site! Will cart abandonment email work for me?
- What content should I be including in my emails?
- Should I offer a discount?
- How many emails should I send and what should the timing be?
- Do you provide HTML email templates?
- What is a typical conversion rate for a cart abandonment email campaign? (Free ROI Calculator included)
- How do I measure success?
In short, any business that asks its customers to convert online by completing a form or checkout process. Our typical customer is a B2C online retailer selling durable goods, but we have quite a few clients who track B2B quote requests and contact forms with our software. We also work with clients in any industry where customers use a “cart” to buy. It’s amazing how many niche verticals this applies too. We see particularly strong performance in consumer electronics, automotive parts, housewares, and ticketing.
Unfortunately, no. This question usually involves a business owner who is excited to try out the latest technologies to drive conversion on a new ecommerce site. 99% of these conversations end with us suggesting that the retailer focus their efforts on generating more traffic at the top of the funnel. Here’s why:
There’s a threshold of traffic that a site needs to attain in order to run a successful cart abandonment email campaign. I typically use 10,000 unique visitors per month as a benchmark. If your site is doing less than that, you should be focusing your time and financial resources on building traffic at the top of the funnel, not optimizing the very bottom. Are these customers valuable? You bet! Cart abandonment is the best signal of buying intent you could ask for. But, for sites with low traffic, there just aren’t enough people to email to warrant the time and resources necessary to build, launch, and manage a successful campaign.
When customers abandon your conversion process, it’s most likely because they had unanswered questions about buying from you. Cart abandonment emails are your chance to continue the conversation with that very important constituency of customers: the group that almost made a purchase. This is why we always recommend using a customer-service centric tone for your campaign.
Prominently include your toll-free number and provide the customer with a link back to their cart (one that will re-generate it across devices). Include a large photograph of one or more of the items that are saved in the cart as a reminder and a clear headline that connects the body of the email to your subject line. You can include item names and prices, but we haven’t found that they increase or decrease click-through in any predictable way.
Send from a live, monitored inbox and use your business name and/or the name of a customer service rep in addition to your business name, i.e. Jim from Acme Widgets, as the from name. To maintain CAN-SPAM compliance, include your physical mailing address and a clear opt-out link so that customers can stop receiving your reminders if they choose to.
We also do not recommend including navigation, but if necessary it should be pared down. We always advocate for one goal, one call to action. For cart abandonment emails, the goal is to find out why the customer abandoned and give them a clear path back to your site.
We put together this handy infographic that provides a blueprint for what makes a great cart abandonment email.
Most of our new clients launch their first campaign without a discount. Again, the first month of your cart abandonment email campaign should be customer-service focused. Try to gain qualitative insight into what’s causing people not to convert in the first place and then address those issues more proactively throughout your funnel. Once you’ve established a baseline for sales that can be recovered by a simple reminder campaign, you can more aggressively target specific products or product categories with special offers.
First, understand the friction points that are causing customers not to convert. Then, proactively address those concerns while saving the option of employing discounting to entice shoppers to return to your site as your trump card.
A great example comes from a client of ours in the automotive industry. After launching their first campaign, they discovered that the most frequent reason customers were dropping out of checkout was because of some anomalies with shipping cost calculation at checkout. The qualitative insight from customers allowed them to proactively fix an issue they hadn’t previously been aware of. Then they took that knowledge and re-crafted their campaign to give a small promotion on shipping costs for select product categories. Conversion for the campaign went up by 20% and customers felt like they were getting a break on shipping for their expensive parts.
A very common set of questions revolves around the correct “formula” for the sequence of cart abandonment emails you’ll be sending to your customers. Here’s the bad news: there isn’t one. Every business is unique, so instead we recommend a “starter” campaign that we run for 30 days to establish a performance benchmark. Your first campaign will typically be a 3-email sequence delivered 30 minutes, 24 hours and 3-5 days post abandoned cart. Of course, if customers return to convert during the sequence, they are removed from the email queue and don’t receive any further emails.
Yes, and custom design as well. This applies to any email marketing campaign, but we find that the process runs smoother if we can lend a hand with the design and HTML template development for client campaigns. At this point, we’ve done over 350 of them so we’ve got a lot of experience developing email templates that are responsive and that look great across the myriad of email clients that are out there. If you choose the DIY approach, here are some helpful resources to get you started:
Our friends over at Litmus have put together some amazing content on the development of HTML email templates. We highly recommend their email testing tool as well.
We’ve also put together some responsive, sample templates for you to get started as well. These templates include all of the HTML and assets you need to customize the look and feel to fit your business. Shoot us an email and we’ll share the templates with you.
What is a typical conversion rate for a cart abandonment email campaign? How much revenue could my business recover?
Depending on your vertical industry and the urgency that people shop with on your site (think home goods vs. concert tickets), the conversion rate of your cart abandonment email campaign will vary. As a general rule, our clients convert 8-15% of the customers that they send to, and sometimes more.
We’ve also put together a simple ROI Calculator which should help you project what the opportunity might be for your website. It’s free to download and leverages many of the benchmarks we’ve come to develop over the past couple of years.
You can access the ROI calculator here.
Like any online marketing activity, there are multiple dimensions that success can be measured on: both quantitative and qualitative.
From a pure conversion standpoint, of course you want to know how many of your customers click-through your cart abandonment emails and finish their order. Your email marketing vendor should be able to provide these analytics and you should also be tagging all of the links in your email creative with query string parameters from your analytics platform of choice.
Another dimension of conversion, in addition to click-through, is view-through. Although not as strong an argument in terms of influence, many marketers like to understand how many customers opened their cart abandonment emails and then later converted. Your vendor should be able to differentiate between the two.
From a qualitative standpoint, success should be measured on the insight you are gathering from customers relating to what’s causing them not to convert in the first place. Listening to customers is the first step, taking real actionable steps based on that insight to create a more frictionless buying experience is the second.
If there are five points I’d like e-commerce stakeholders to take away from this post, it would be these:
- Abandonment email works for any business that asks customers to convert by filling out a form.
- Abandonment email will not generate significant ROI for sites doing less than 10K unique visitors per month.
- Keep the design of your emails simple. One goal, one call to action.
- Save discounting for after you’ve established a baseline of performance.
- Success should be measured on two dimensions: Click-through and view-through conversion AND what you are learning from customers who aren’t converting.