How Nanoleaf Uses Email to Humanize Its Products to Recover 30% of Abandoned Carts

Nick Winkler
July 20, 2021
minute read

If your products were people…

What would you name them?

Before you stop reading or turn away, I promise it’s not a silly question. In fact, thoughtfully considering and assigning human names to each of your products just might be the secret to recovering millions of dollars in lost sales prospective customers abandon during the checkout process.

“It’s not just something we do to be creative,” says Paul Austin-Menear, Director of Digital Strategy at Nanoleaf, a green technology company offering innovative LED and IoT lighting solutions. “Creating an irresistible personal story–which includes giving the product a human name–is something we’ve rigorously tested and know works.”

If you’re skeptical, understand this is a tactic grounded in psychology…

Some of the world’s most trusted and lucrative companies owe at least a portion of their success to humanizing their brands. In fact, personifying your product, idea, or organization as a human being works especially well for boring, complex, or commoditized offerings. Assigning human qualities to inanimate objects can soften them, make them real, and cause them to become more memorable.

Here then is a story about a lighting product named Isabella…

She’s lonely and fears she has said something wrong that resulted in her prospective owner abandoning her in a digital shopping cart. She desperately wants the person who left her behind to return, sweep her off her feet, and take her home to shine happily ever after.

But first…

You need to understand Isabella isn’t this product’s real name…

And the people who created her don’t give a damn.

The Lighting Industry’s Black Sheep

The idea was a bright one–literally and figuratively…

Bring to market the most efficient LED light in the world.

That was the original vision Gimmy Chu, Tom Rodinger, and Christian Yan had when they launched a Kickstarter campaign in 2012 for a new kind of lightbulb that resulted in more than 5,000 backers pledging more than $270,000. In fact, the demand was so great the three founders lived in the Chinese production facility for six months to make sure the first bulb was perfect.

nanoleaf team

Ultimately, Nanoleaf evolved into a green technology company that designs future-proof lighting products that beautifully blend design and technology to allow people to personalize their lighting experiences. For example, one of Nanoleaf’s best selling products is the Nanoleaf Light Panels Smarter Kit–delivered as individual triangles that customers can fit together in nearly any shape imaginable. Think of it like colorful LEGO only for lights.

nanoleaf lighting example

Thanks to an innovative audio sensor, the LED panels also react to music and offers real time rhythm visualization.

“It’s not just about creating lighting,” Austin-Menear says. “We offer people a canvas for personal expression that just happens to also light up and can be controlled via voice, and automate your lighting environment throughout the day.”

Titans like Apple and Best Buy now carry Nanoleaf’s products. In addition to retail partners, Nanoleaf has also established a global footprint with ecommerce storefronts in four countries that are fed by strategically located warehouses and a streamlined international supply chain. The international storefronts offer content in native languages, allow customers to checkout in their local currencies, and offer faster local delivery without surprise taxes and fees.

Clearly, Nanoleaf is a white knight when it comes to innovative design and top notch customer service…

However, the company is also a self-described black sheep of the lighting industry.

The reason for such a characterization includes the fact that the company pays little attention to industry “end of life” standards. Nanoleaf suggests the standards are only in place to generate unnecessary sales by tricking customers into throwing out lighting that still has a lot of life and light left to give.

“We don’t give a damn about the industry’s end of life standards,” Austin-Menear says. “We over-engineer our products so they can last beyond the ‘rated’ lifespan and don’t wind up in a landfill. We want to make a net positive impact on the planet, not just another unnecessary sale.”

It’s a brazen rebuke of an entire industry that forges deep connections with customers…

Why then does Nanoleaf rely on what it calls “magic” to recover lost sales?

Email Magic Revealed

Badgering people unnecessarily with spam…

That’s how Nanoleaf characterizes much of the email, marketers send.

“We call it the spray and pray approach,” Austin-Menear says. “Email marketing is about much more than just growing and hitting a newsletter list..”

Nanoleaf actually calls it magic…

So what exactly does it take to make your own magic?

Nanoleaf and Austin-Menear are revealing exactly how they recover 30% of the sales lost when potential customers abandon their shopping carts so you can humanize your email to achieve similar results:

The Irresistible Human Story

While Nanoleaf converted a respectable 1-2% of the shoppers receiving its standard “complete your purchase” abandoned cart recovery email, Austin-Menear knew his talented team could do better.

Remember Isabella–the lonely lighting product we introduced you to at the beginning of this piece? Here’s where Nanoleaf humanizes its product by having the product–Isabella–talk directly to the shopper who left her behind.

Note that the personification doesn’t end with just a human name. The product even exhibits human emotions and taps the universal desire people have to be accepted and loved:

nanoleaf abandoned cart email
“The magic really starts to happen when you get personal with your email,” Austin-Menear says. “It gets really interesting when you add an irresistible story to the copy and offer people a message that stands out because it’s both relevant and unique.”

Initially, the humanized Isabella email converted 10% of the abandoned cart shoppers who received it. However, with some fine tuning over the course of several months the Isabella email now converts 30% of the shoppers who receive it.

“With traffic growing six-fold over the same period in which we tested and fine tuned this email, the boost to revenue from having this tactic in place has been utterly thrilling,” Austin-Menear says.

Make Your Own Magic

Rigorous testing, data driven insight, and an automated platform that allows for robust experimentation are the tools and attributes necessary to create an abandoned cart recovery email of the same caliber as Nanoleaf.

“We invest a lot of time looking at creative ways to pair up email with automation workflows to drive sales,” Austin-Menear says. “Backing up your creativity with the right software platform is important—as is the ability to A/B test your messaging and optimize over time. Ideally, you want a solution that allows you to track and analyze purchasing behavior on your site and attribute those purchases to a specific email campaign, and a specific message. If that solution is backed up by a team of experts that treat your brand like their own, you’ll be cooking with gas in no time.”

Ready to create your own magic and make your email irresistible–and lucrative–like Nanoleaf does?

Generously, Austin-Menear offers the following 5-step process:

1. Get an email marketing solution in place that integrates with your shopping cart.

2. Set up a workflow to send an email to an abandoned cart after a specific period of time.

3. Test an offer that’s relevant to your target customer and the products in the cart at different intervals—like 1 hour, 6 hours, 10 hours, 12 hours, and 24 hours. Free shipping is a great promo for this test if you don’t already offer it.

4. Lock in the winning interval, and then start to test variations on email creative. Start with one design layout and keep your tests limited to things that are easy to identify as changes. The fewer differences that exist in your A creative and B creative, the more certain you can be that your change had an impact on conversion.

5. Rinse and repeat! Testing is most effective when you do it continuously.

“For us, abandoned cart email marketing is particularly powerful,” Austin-Menear says. “If you’re smart about how you deploy it, email can really strengthen the customer experience and drive revenue growth.”

Get started by taking the question posed initially one step farther…

If you do give your best seller a human name, what would it say to shoppers who leave it behind?

What to Do Now

  1. Learn more about abandoned cart emails.
  2. Explore Rejoiner’s abandoned cart software features.

Frequently Asked Questions


Nick Winkler


Nick Winkler heads The Winkler Group, a strategic communications firm that provides content marketing services to the world's best known brands, businesses, & marketers. Get more from Nick <a style="text-decoration: underline;" href="" target="_blank">here</a>.

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