Web cart abandonment must be addressed

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on December 28, 2011

Web cart abandonment must be addressed

The abandonment of online shopping carts is a common problem for e-commerce brands, and the lack of a 'cart abandonment' strategy can cost a business a small fortune. But by enabling a conversation after cart abandonment, brands can potentially trigger a sale, or at the very least not lose prospects to competitors, according to Sam Cece, CEO for StrongMail.

Recognising the need for a cart abandonment programme is the easy part, but determining what the experience should be to engage customers is a bit more complicated.

Understand the motive There are a number of reasons why potential purchasers abandon shopping carts (i.e. the sales conversion process) but it essentially comes down to price and/or timing. According to Forrester Research, 44% of those who abandon do so because of shipping and handling fees, and 41% cite lack of readiness to buy as a reason for abandonment. There is even a contingency of 24% that put items in the cart with the intention of coming back to it later.

Of course it is impossible to know exactly why a specific online shopping cart was abandoned but it is important to recognise that because the customer left part way doesn't mean they won't come back. Open rates for 'abandoned cart' email messages are around 46% (compared to 22% for other commercial emails), and click through rates stand at 15% compared to 5.6% for other commercial emails. Most importantly, out of those who click to reconsider an abandoned purchase, 21% convert and end up spending 55% more than those who did not abandon their shopping carts.

So how can you implement a successful cart abandonment programme? It starts with understanding the purchase behaviour and cycles of your customer base. It is easy to say that time is of the essence when it comes to cart abandonment - but it isn't everything. The buying cycles of your products and your customer's price sensitivities coupled with abandon behaviours will determine the path which your programmes need to take. Yes, that's programmes, in the plural. While your cart abandonment effort might be over-arching, you should run multiple programmes based on the various possible reasons for abandonment.

StrongMail therefore suggests the following five key factors to consider in forming an effective cart abandonment strategy:

  1. Study and categorise abandonment behaviour By studying the various attributes of the products that are placed in the cart, for example shipping cost, you should be able to accurately discern the reason for abandoning. Next, couple your findings with customer behaviours such as repeat abandon behaviour in a 24-hour period to define the strategy for key segments and products.  
  2. Strike while the iron is hot Research has found that 72% of those who buy a product that was previously abandoned do so in the first 12 hours. As a result, batching abandon cart messages and sending them out every 24 or 48 hours is not likely to be the most effective use of your communication strategy. While not every client is going to be served by an email that is sent within hours, time is of the essence and the window to a conversion decision closes quickly. It is also important to develop business rules that recognise a customer as a repeat abandoner - you don't want to be sending the same message to the customer each time the cart is abandoned, especially if it is the same product. The programme needs to be smart enough to recognise the behaviour and deliver a follow-on message that is timely and relevant to that experience.  
  3. Follow up actions Because of the very small window of opportunity, cart abandonment programmes are often viewed as a "one-and-done" type of email communication. However, there may be opportunities to communicate beyond the initial abandon message if the programme is planned appropriately and positioned correctly. For example, consider this scenario: starting with the cart abandonment, a message is sent to the customer to encourage the purchase of the product, after which no purchase is made. Should your communication stream stop there? Maybe, or maybe not. What if you followed up 24 hours later with customer reviews of the product that was left behind or product use suggestions? Clearly the ability to do this is going to be driven by your products and services, and should always be tested.  
  4. Partner or build In order to drive these communications, you need to have a mechanism in place to get the information from your website to your email system. Analyse the systems available to help you achieve your goals based on the complexity of your programme. In addition to your email service provider, there are a number of other possible partners that can make this effortless, such as SeeWhy and Omniture.  
  5. Establish metrics and KPIs for success Metrics and KPIs (key performance indicators) are necessary for any marketing programme. How can you know how well your programme is performing if you have no baseline against which to measure performance? Define your strategy and the long-term goal of the programme first, and then make sure the metrics you need to prove your theory are attainable. For example, you may want to convert 15% of all cart abandoners using the programme. In order to prove you've achieved this, you need to have that data available. Keep it realistic and make sure that what you are trying to accomplish is a goal that the organisation as a whole can support.

Once you have the basis for a cart abandonment programme, it's time to get it up and running. These programmes can vary greatly in cadence and content, but the ultimate goal is the same: to drive conversion. How you achieve that is going to be different based on product lines, buying behaviours and abandoners, but there are some key points to consider that are applicable across the board. For example:

  • Featuring an image of the product that was left behind;  
  • Including an up-sell of some kind;  
  • Including special offers.

An essential point to remember, however, is not to come across too strongly or appear to be pestering customers. Consumers know that you have their cart information on record, but try not to be too blatant about it. Avoid chasing the customer and asking why they started to buy a specific product and then didn't finish. While that approach might work for some, a gentler and more general approach tends to be more successful. You should also include ratings and reviews from others who have purchased the same products, or offer alternative options for buying the product (e.g. suggesting that they visit a specific bricks-and-mortar store based on what you know about the customer's physical location), or remind the customer of the value and benefits of the product.

Regardless of how you craft the experience, it needs to be a welcoming and pleasant experience. With approximately 75% of online shoppers abandoning their cart, it is a significant risk if you do not implement a programme effectively.

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