Using Email Re-Marketing to Reach Abandoned Shoppers

Using Email Re-Marketing to Reach Abandoned Shoppers

Shopping cart abandonment is a significant issue in the online marketing world. Studies show that between 50% and 70% of online shopping carts are abandoned before check-out. Forrester Research puts the number at 87% of consumers abandoning carts, with 70% of carts being abandoned just before check-out.

Consider Tracie: It is Sunday night, and Tracie is shopping online. She browses a retail site; first looking at black heels, then a grey dress and finally a silver bracelet. She navigates back to the grey dress and puts it in her shopping cart. She begins the checkout process but then abandons the cart and disappears from the retailer’s site.

Why didn’t Tracie buy? What changes her mind? Will she be back? Or, were shipping charges more than she anticipated? And what can the online retailer do to re-capture her attention to make the sale?

Why shopping cart abandonment occurs

The phenomenon of shopping cart abandonment is much more complex than consumers simply changing their minds before transactions. Common reasons for abandonment include the practical, the experience-driven and the behavioral.

The practical: This consumer takes into consideration the basic shopping needs: how much an item costs, when it will arrive and the total of product, tax and shipping costs to evaluate if costs and shipping are as anticipated.

  • 55% of comScore’s respondents indicated that they abandoned their cart because the shipping cost was too high.
  • When a purchase path includes an estimated delivery time of eight days or more, it results in 38% cart abandonment, according to comScore. That number drops to 8% when the estimated delivery is three days or fewer.

The experience-driven: Then there are reasons for abandonment that have much more to do with the consumer’s experience on the website, such as:

  • Shipping costs being calculated in too late in the check-out process.
  • Products or cart total not qualifying for the customer’s anticipated promotion (percentage off, free shipping).
  • Customer’s order history and therefore shipping information not being saved from their past purchase, thus lengthening the time to purchase beyond what the customer is willing to spend.

The behavioral: One of the most interesting aspects of cart abandonment has to do with the fact that many customers are using carts for purposes beyond just buying. For example:

  • Window shopping online, and using the cart to hold their wish list: These customers may purchase offline, may purchase later online, or when they are not reconnected with the brand, may go on to purchase from competitive sites.
  • Many shoppers abandoning carts (56% according to comScore) are simply not ready to purchase, and are saving the items in their cart for later.
  • The “budgeting effect”: Customers at times place items in their cart to calculate shipping, promotional discounts, etc. without an immediate intention to buy.
  • Mobile cart abandonment has been estimated as high as 97% in a recent study by SeeWhy. A customer often browses on mobile or tablet, but, two times out of three, prefers to purchase and pay on a desktop.

Email re-marketing to capture abandoned shoppers

With shopping cart abandonment so prevalent, it’s surprising that only 20% of Fortune 500 merchants have strategies to re-engage. According to Webtrends, only 2% of Fortune 500 brands use email retargeting. However, savvy marketers are gaining wallet share from their counterparts by re-targeting shopping cart abandoners quickly, frequently and with insightful campaigns.

The speed of deployment is important to success, with 67% of Internet Retailer 1000 companies deploying their first re-marketing email within 24 hours of cart abandonment, according to Listrak. But even that industry standard will likely be challenged in the years ahead. Many marketers now have the resources to trigger an instantaneous email when the shopper abandons the cart, and for good reason. A study from MIT shows that the majority of customers who are going to purchase do so within 12 hours. Those first few hours of abandonment are crucial to secure the sale.

Whether an online merchant sends one email or three, the key to effectiveness is an understanding of the customer’s viewing history, purchase history and desires. Consider Tracie again. At a basic level, the retailer could send her an email the next day reminding her that she has not purchased and offer a link to complete her transaction. Or, the retailer could send her an email offering her free shipping if she completes her transaction. In this case the retailer must consider if by offering free shipping – will the item/s still be profitable?

A more studied plan of action, utilizing the outline above, would be to create a series of three re-marketing email communications for Tracie. That series could look something like this:

  1. As soon as the cart is abandoned, she receives an email reminding her to purchase and showing her additional items that would pair well with the dress in her cart, including the two items she previously viewed.
  2. A few hours after abandonment, if she has not revisited the site, she receives an email offering a promotion on a complementary product that is lower in dollar value. Reminding her to purchase and incentivizing her with a discount on the bracelet she viewed may be attractive enough to secure the sale.
  3. If she has still not converted, the retailer could take a few different tactics in the days ahead:
    • She could be offered free, expedited or discounted shipping 12 hours after her cart abandonment.
    • She could receive an email that lets her know when there are only five of the dresses she viewed left in inventory, thus creating renewed urgency.
    • If she is a loyalty member, she could receive an email offering her a “buy and save” option – wherein she could purchase the item in her cart now, and receive a discount to be used on her next purchase.

The options for reaching and converting shoppers who have abandoned their carts are endless and should be implemented with customer understanding at the heart of any program and a focus on ongoing testing and optimization. Email re-marketing to shoppers who have abandoned carts can offer marketers incremental revenue and create competitive advantage when implemented correctly.

Dig deeper into tactics to drive email re-marketing success down load this whitepaper and begin testing before the upcoming holiday season to ensure that shoppers like Tracie come back to the site, finish those outfits and complete those transactions.


Forrester Research: Understanding Shopping Cart Abandonment

Econsultancy via ComScore: 55% of shoppers abandon carts due to shipping costs: infographic

Econsultancy via ComScore: Online Shopping Customer Experience Study

Marketing Daily Commentary: Shopping Cart Abandonment On Mobile


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