Why we wrote this guide
Abandoned cart emails help retail businesses recover sales from people that abandon your shopping cart. We wrote this guide to help anyone that wants to learn how to get started and how to maximize their chances for success right out of the gate.
The idea that 70% online consumers engage with your site to the point where they are about to check out and abandon is nerve wracking.
The Baymard Institute, an eCommerce usability think tank, has aggregated cart abandonment data from various industry sources over the last 9 years. Bad news: Despite major advancements in technology and eCommerce user experience design, the average cart abandonment rate has remained constant.
Industry pundits portray cart abandonment as a problem that costs online retailers billions of dollars in lost revenue every year. Good news: This is an exaggeration. It’s human nature to test the waters before making a purchase while online shopping. There’s no technology, Shopify plug-in, or perfectly optimized online shopping cart in the world that will eliminate it. We must accept the fact that cart abandonment is a very natural part of the eCommerce buying cycle.
What we can do is change our perspective and see shopping cart abandonment as a conversion rate optimization and customer service opportunity for us as eCommerce professionals.
How? By taking a customer-centric approach. Customers are giving you an amazing signal of purchase intent when they abandon a transaction on your site. Think of cart abandonment emails as your second chance to continue the conversation with this incredibly important group of potential customers.
By building a quality abandoned cart email program, one of three things will happen when you follow up:
- You'll win the order 10-15% of the time.
- You'll find out why the customer didn't buy and use this qualitative information to proactively improve your buying process.
- You'll create a great customer service moment and leave an everlasting impression on the customer.
- You’ll use humor to create a positive, emotional connection to your prospective customer.
This guide is written to help you maximize those four outcomes with every cart abandonment email that you send. In addition, you’ll learn to measure the cart abandonment rate on your site, how to identify a higher percentage of customers shopping on your site and how to calculate the expected ROI of an abandoned cart email solution.
Why customers abandon cart 70% of the time
Though shopping cart abandonment is a behavior that we can’t eliminate; we can try to understand its route cause. The study we commonly reference was conducted by WorldPay. A sample of 19,000 consumers were asked why they leave eCommerce sites without paying:
As you can see, three out of the top five reasons given for abandoning an eCommerce website are cost or price related. The others describe customers who weren’t quite ready to buy yet:
- Presented with unexpected costs
- Just Browsing
- Found a better price elsewhere
- Overall price to expensive
- Decided against buying
Below, you’ll learn about email marketing strategies to make sure you never miss out on an order because of a price concern or unexpected shipping costs (most consumers expect free shipping these days). You’ll also learn how to target those “just browsing” customers and uncover million dollar insights into why customers aren’t buying from you in the first place.
How to measure your online store’s cart abandonment rate
There are an endless supply of tools available to help you measure how customers move through each page of your checkout funnel and can visualize where the drop off occurs. A common approach is to use a free tool like Google Analytics in combination with another specialized analytics provider like Rejoiner or Mixpanel. Most solutions are intended for aggregated reporting on how all customers are moving through the funnel, but an important feature is the ability to make the distinction between an identifiable customer and an anonymous one. We’ll cover more ways to identify a higher percentage of site visitors shortly.
MEASURING CART ABANDONMENT RATE
If you’re just getting started, setting up a conversion funnel in Google Analytics is a simple task that you can use to establish a baseline cart abandonment rate. Not only does it empower you to understand how and when people drop out during your conversion process, it also allows you to measure your cart abandonment rate over time.
There are two central ideas when it comes to setting up these reports for your site: A goal and a funnel.
SOME GOAL EXAMPLES ARE:
- Example: Confirmation page Duration (on site/page)
- Example: On website for 5 minutes Number of Pages/Screens Visited
- Example: User visited 5 pages User Event
- Example: Clicked Buy Now Button
A funnel represents the path that a customer takes to reach your goal. For the purposes of measuring cart abandonment, we’re going to use a URL destination as our goal. Typically, that destination is your thank you page or order confirmation page after a user completes an order.
To get started building funnels on your site, we put together a short video to walk you through the process. We hope it’s helpful! If video isn’t your thing, read on for written instructions as well.
HOW TO SET UP A SHOPPING CART FUNNEL IN GOOGLE ANALYTICS:
For the sake of this example, we’re going to use a multi-step checkout as our path to a completed order.
Sign into your Google Analytics account and click Admin in the bottom left-hand corner.
Choose the profile that you’ll be setting up the funnel for and click on Goals
To set up a new goal, click Goals, then click the + New Goal button.
Create a Custom template, and click Continue.
Next, you’ll set up your Goal Description and the Type of goal you’d like to track. Name your goal Completed Order and choose Destination for cart abandonment and select Continue.
Now enter the URL of the last page in your sales funnel – where you want your customers to end up - inside the Destination Equals to field. Think Confirmation page.
IMPORTANT: You will need to select Destination Begins With for your URL if your website dynamically injects a number at the end of your confirmation page.
Next, set the Funnel Option to On. Do a test checkout as your customer would, noting each step in the process. Add in the additional steps as the funnel leading up to your confirmation page. Leave the Required option Off your first URL*.
- Cart page (example: yoursite.com/checkout/cart/)
- Checkout page (example: yoursite.com/checkout/onepage/)
IMPORTANT: Note that setting your first URL to be required means that customers will only be able to enter the sales funnel listed in step one.
Save your new goal.
The data for your funnel report will begin aggregating over the next 24 hours.
You can view your funnel report by clicking Conversions in the left hand sidebar of Google Analytics, then Goals > Funnel Visualization
The end result will look something like:
How to identify a higher percentage of visitors
For eCommerce stores where only a small percentage of customers make it into the checkout process, and an even smaller percentage are registered, this presents a challenge (less people to follow up with if we don’t know who they are - because we don’t have their email address yet).
There are several strategies that can be employed to identify a higher percentage of customers even before they get to checkout, thus capturing a larger number of people for our cart abandonment program to follow up with:
Triggered on-site offers can entice anonymous visitors to opt-in, creating an identifiable session much earlier in the buying process. On-site lead magnets can be paired with your abandoned cart email program, so that after a customer opts-in, their session is tagged while shopping on your site.
If you’ve built up an in-house email marketing list, leveraging your weekly newsletter send can greatly increase the percentage of identifiable customers browsing your website. Your ESP should give you the ability to append the customer’s email address within a query string parameter, should they click through the email. If your cart abandonment email partner can field that query string parameter and tag the session, you’ve just increased the percentage of identifiable sessions on your site.
By using pre-submit tracking, high intent customers can be identified in real-time, as soon they enter an email address on your checkout form, even if they don’t complete the checkout form. We recommend placing the email address field as close to the top of the checkout form as possible. Then, you will need to double check that the customer is opted-into your email list before sending them your abandonment campaign.
Global cookie pool
Some martech vendors offer the ability to tap into a centralized pool of identifiable customers and devices. In this situation, merchants have opted-into sharing their end user’s data across the platform with other merchants using the platform. This approach plausibly enables a retailer to access a larger group of identifiable customers who would have previously been anonymous.
Abandoned cart email best practices
Identify guests, registered customers & existing email subscribers
A successful abandoned cart program engages both guests and registered customers. Pre-submit tracking enables you to identify anonymous customers as soon as they enter an email address on your site, in real-time. Liftopia, the largest eCommerce company selling ski lift tickets, used this feature to identify thousands of potential customers that they didn’t even know existed because they weren’t registered. Within the first month of using pre-submit tracking, they tracked almost $1.3 million in revenue abandoned by customers who were only filling out the few form fields on their checkout page and were never hitting submit.
So, place your email capture field as high on the checkout page as possible to give yourself the best chance to identify a guest customer before they abandon. Since registered customers have already given you their email address, you can use this to track their behavior as they move around your site.
To identify more customers earlier in the funnel, consider a triggered pop-up or opt-in that encourages customers to provide their email address earlier in the process. Tying the opt-in into your campaign will enable you to identify a higher percentage of customers that express purchase intent, even if they don’t make it to the cart or checkout page.
Send a customer service email within 30 minutes of the cart being abandoned
The first email you send should have no other purpose other than to provide responsive customer service. Customers will abandon a purchase simply because they have unanswered questions, had a payment issue, or experienced a network delay while checking out. Take the opportunity and use your first email to create a memorable customer service moment. Encourage customers to pick up the phone and call you or prompt them to reply to the email with their questions.
Handle conversion tracking for phone orders & third party payment processors
Unified conversion tracking across all of the payment methods you offer to customers is essential to staying in step with customers. Customers may abandon an order on your website, then complete the order over the phone. Tie conversions from your internal order processing systems back to those being tracked by your email provider.Ensure that customers are never confused by your emails because one system wasn’t talking to another.
Approach your campaign with a customer service focus
Abandoned cart emails are your chance to continue the conversation with an extremely important group of customers: those that demonstrated the highest amount of possible purchase intent but still didn’t buy. Your job is to provide amazing customer service and find out why. To uncover these insights, include your toll free number prominently within the email and write your copy using a helpful customer service tone.
Send from a live, monitored inbox and ask your customers for feedback. Asking simple questions like, Was there a problem? or How can we help? will generate real, qualitative responses about what friction points are causing customers to abandon in the first place. This is priceless information. To make customers feel more comfortable about providing you this feedback, send from a real person’s name and include a photograph of a real person in the footer of the email.
Customer success is as important as campaign success
Abandoned cart email success is about more than just conversion and revenue. Though it’s important to track engagement/conversion metrics with Google Analytics and your Email Service Provider of choice, these metrics only tell one part of the story. Open rate, click-through rate, conversion rate, bounce rate, unsubscribe rate, attributable revenue, and revenue per email are the baseline engagement metrics for your campaigns.
Also track the number of phone calls that your campaign generates and document the feedback you’re getting from customers.
Track how many customers reply to your emails with unanswered questions or usability problems they experienced on the site. There are enormous qualitative benefits to be had by running this campaign that won’t be captured in the “recovered sales” column. Don’t underestimate these benefits.
Build abandoned cart emails into your customer feedback loop
By asking customer service focused questions like, Was there a problem? or How can we help? you are inviting customers to start a dialogue with you about their shopping experience. The insight generated by having these discussions will be priceless for your conversion rate optimization efforts.
Qualitative feedback from customers will quickly unearth trends around where the friction points exist in your checkout process and what issues are causing customers not to convert in the first place.
Make it a regular practice to review this feedback with your development team and prioritize the on-site issues that are causing customers to bail on your checkout process.
Our customers regularly receive million dollar insights from their cart abandonment email campaigns with this approach.
Trigger in real-time using the customer’s last action on your website
It’s hard to believe that there are still email vendors and eCommerce platforms sending batched cart abandonment email campaigns in 2019. This is a big missed opportunity for the retailers they serve. A batched approach sends to all customers who abandon in a twenty four hour time period, at the same time.
In comparison, a real-time-campaign triggers email sends on a per-customer level based on their last interaction on your website.
Getting that first email out within 60 minutes of a customer’s last interaction on your site is critical for two possible outcomes:
- Getting a response from the customer about why they didn’t buy (before they buy somewhere else).
- Providing great customer service and winning back the sale.
Employ discounts and offers intelligently
Including discount codes in your abandonment program seems like a no-brainer. It is to some degree, but be aware of the pitfalls:
Common concern centers on training customers to abandon transactions on purpose, just to receive a discount. This can be mitigated with intelligent frequency capping. Frequency capping catches the customers who are abusing the system and stops any emails from being sent to them.
Another frequent concern is that discount codes included in cart abandonment emails will be leaked into the public domain. This can be eliminated by generating one-time use codes dynamically and making them unique to individual customers. This means that every customer will receive a unique code that can only be used once.
The more nuanced argument against including discounts is the belief that you’re cannibalizing a sale that had a likelihood to happen anyway, thus giving away margin. This is partially true.
There will be a percentage of customers who abandon cart that would have come back to complete their purchase without an incentive.
The only way to measure the true incremental lift of sending an offer versus not sending it is to run a control group test. Control group tests measure the purchase behavior of groups who don’t receive any emails and compare the value of those customers to a test group of customers who do receive an offer. Comparing the revenue generated by the control group to the test group gives us a true understanding of how much additional revenue is being generated and if there is enough lift to warrant a coupon or offer.
To increase the effectiveness of your chosen offer, consider making the coupon expire and used limited-time messaging to encourage the cart abandoner to take action before it’s too late.
Offer always free shipping or a free shipping threshold
In 2018, online shoppers are conditioned to expect free shipping all the time. Ahem, thanks Amazon. At a minimum, consumers expect free shipping above a certain threshold of spend.
If the economics of your business don’t allow for always free shipping, consider offering some type of shipping incentive for those customers that are spending enough.
Remember, one of the primary causes of shopping cart abandonment are unexpected costs. Don’t let the lack of free shipping deter your next high value customer.
Use humor to make your customer smile
Abandoned cart emails are the perfect opportunity to make your customers smile. The notion that you are reaching out to them about an imaginary shopping cart that was left behind on your website is humorous in itself.
Your copywriting tone and photography can both be used to make the interaction light hearted and fun.
DESIGN & OPTIMIZATION
Don’t distract from a clear call to action
That being said, abandoned cart emails should have one primary goal:
Drive a high-intent customer back to your website to purchase.
Don’t distract them with secondary call to action buttons or links that don’t directly support achieving that objective. Links to social profiles? Test removing them. Primary website navigation? Get rid of it! At Rejoiner, we frequently find ourselves having success employing the mantra, “One send, One goal”. Simplify your abandoned cart templates so that the customer’s attention is focused only on clicking through the abandoned cart email to a seamlessly regenerated cart that is ready to convert.
Personalize beyond salutation
Personalization broadly refers to any tactic that makes an email more relevant to the person receiving it, based on what information you know about the recipient. Basic personalization includes things as simple as including the customer’s first name in the salutation or subject line. For abandoned cart emails, including the contents of the customer’s cart is also a common personalization tactic. This could be as simple as including the name of one of the products they abandoned in the email copy or recreating the cart itself inside of the email template.
More sophisticated personalization techniques use demographic, geographic, and even environmental data to make emails more relevant to recipients. Imagine personalizing a browse abandonment email for a clothing brand, knowing the weather in the recipient’s geography was rainy that day.
Use preheaders to get more opens
An email preheader is a small amount of copy that renders under the subject line in the preview pane of most email clients.
Give your pre-headers careful consideration, as they act as a secondary subject line and can positively (or negatively) influence open rates.
Email preheaders can be hidden in the body of the your template using CSS or visible depending on the requirements of your template design.
VIDEO TUTORIAL: How to add an invisible preheader to your emails.
Assume your customers will open abandonment emails on a mobile device
Over 50% of the 5,000,000 monthly emails sent by Rejoiner are opened on a device that is different than the one the customer originally abandoned on. Think about that for a second. More than half the time, customers will consume your email on a different device than where the first touch occurred.
If you are not employing session regeneration and customers are not signed in on their mobile devices (hint: they probably won’t be), customers will have a disjointed experience and will be less likely to go back and re-add items all over again.
Design and code responsive email templates so that they render well on mobile devices, as this is more than likely where customers will consume them. More importantly, regenerate cart sessions across devices so customers have a seamless shopping experience from device to device.
Segment abandoned carts for better targeting & filtering
Segmentation can be used for more granular targeting of your ideal customers and also for filtering out customers you may not want to send to. For example, you would want to filter out customers in the geographies that you don’t ship to. You also may want to treat wholesale customers differently than retail, or filter them out entirely.
For targeting purposes, segmentation enables you to identify customers with specific traits that you may want to message differently than others. For example, you may want to develop a special campaign for particularly high value orders and use a different offer for a new customer who has never purchased before.. The only way to accomplish this is with a flexible segmentation engine that can segment your customer data using demographic, transactional, and behavioral filters.
Adopt a mentality of ongoing optimization
We routinely hear vendors refer to their cart abandonment campaigns as set it and forget it, as if that was a benefit. This mentality leaves an enormous amount of revenue on the table.
A better approach is to think about your cart abandonment campaigns as a constant work in progress.
Split testing is the most powerful tool at your disposal to improve engagement metrics like open rate, click-through rate and conversion. There is no silver bullet to magically drive conversion upwards overnight, but consistent testing can string together many small wins and a big increase in revenue generated. Our team can increase a cart abandonment campaigns' recovered revenue up to 100% with consistent testing over 6 months.
Focus your testing efforts on subject line improvements first, then progressively test the other facets of your campaign. We've created a helpful guide that outlines 22 different ways you can test your campaigns to grow revenue.
Use control groups to measure your organic return to purchase time and ratio
We’ve established that cart abandonment is a natural part of the eCommerce buying cycle. What’s also natural is that a percentage of cart abandoners will return to your site and convert without further intervention.
Develop an understanding of what percentage of customers come back and convert on their own (organic return to purchase ratio) and how long it takes. These data points will help you schedule your abandoned cart sequence so that order cannibalization is minimized and will ensure that you only follow up with true cart abandoners.
Go beyond cart abandonment with browse and wishlist follow-up emails
Don’t forget about tracking other important signals of purchase intent. Cart abandonment represents a customer with high purchase intent but browse and wishlist abandonment are also effective behaviors to trigger on.
Browse abandonment campaigns focus on customers who are opted into your in-house email list, have engaged with your newsletter or other email marketing, have spent time browsing product detail pages, but haven’t made it to the cart yet.
They may have browsed specific product or category pages and your goal is help them pick up where they left off after they leave your site. Incorporating category top seller recommendations or new products that have just been added to the catalog within your browse abandonment emails are effective tactics.
Wishlist abandonment focuses on customers who have expressed buying intent by saving items for later using the wishlist feature on your site.
Add a second and third email to your abandoned cart email sequence
If your first email wasn’t successful at converting the customer or eliciting a response, try sending a second and third email. Track customer replies and suppress the remaining emails for customers who respond with customer service questions or convert.
Sending 3 emails: first email at 30-60 minutes, second email at 24 hours and the third email at 3 days post abandon is the most common cadence retailers start with.
Test conversational tone for subject lines
We’ve all gotten an abandoned cart email with a subject line like, Oops, did you forget something? or You left something in your shopping cart. It’s fine to start your program with these proven winners as a baseline, but don’t be afraid to test humorous or more conversational variations. Try employing emojis, write your subject line variants with a friendlier, more informal tone, and use this opportunity to create a positive customer service moment.
Use recommendations to increase click-through rates and average order value
Recommendations increase click-through, conversion and the relevancy of your abandoned cart email program. There are many approaches to integrating product recommendations into your emails, but our strategy focuses on recommending products in the same product category that a customer has abandoned. These should be similar products or complementary add-ons to the abandoned products in your customer’s cart. You can also recommend top sellers across the entire catalog, items frequently purchased together, or new products to get your customers buying more from you.
Rejoiner’s recommendation engine allows you to predict what customers are likely to buy next and then intelligently serve images of those products into your cart abandonment campaigns with the goal of increasing click-through rate and average order value.
There two main ways this works:
If someone receives an email but no longer wants the product, you can serve them images of other top selling items in that category that they make like instead. This helps increase click-through rate back to your store and gets this person back into buying mode again.
If someone receives an email for a product they were interested in and are about to buy, you can intelligently serve them with images of other products that are frequently purchased together, which will allow them to add more items to their previous cart and increase average order value in the process (making your cart abandonment campaigns much more profitable).
Maintain CAN-SPAM and GDPR compliance
The best way to combat the SPAM folder is to send highly segmented recovery emails that your customers actually want to open. Aside from that, follow best practices for CAN-SPAM compliance. Include your physical mailing address and a 1-click opt-out link at the bottom of every email.
Sync your unsubscribes across email vendors if you use more than one to maintain continuity. Never use misleading subject lines or envelope information and honor opt-out requests as quickly as you can.
GDPR requires merchants to maintain an entirely different and more rigorous set of standards for consent before abandoned cart emails can be sent to people residing in the EEA (European Economic Area).
Explicit consent must be captured from all end users in order to collect data about their browsing behavior and/or purchase preferences, before you ever send any email. Beyond that, explicit opt-in consent must also be provided before an end user can be sent any type of marketing or email.
Increase deliverability with SPF & DKIM authentication
A Sender Policy Framework (SPF) record is a DNS record that identifies third-party mail servers that you have authorized to send email on behalf of your domain. In the eyes of a receiving email server (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.), an SPF record is a signal that you've given a third party permission to send an email using your domain in the email's From:address.
DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) is a method to verify that your messages’ content is trustworthy and was not altered from the point at which the message left your servers. This is achieved by adding a public key to your site’s DNS record, which must match the private key your server uses to sign outgoing messages.
Calculate your return on investment
It only takes a few minutes to project how much revenue your retailer could be recovering with abandoned cart emails. We’ll need to know a little bit about your site traffic, average order value, and conversion funnel which is all easily pulled from Google Analytics.
Once you’re ready, head on over to our ROI calculator, run the report, and share it with your team.