October 11, 2006
Case Study

How to Use Auto-Emails to Lower Abandoned Shopping Cart Rates

SUMMARY: Want to test an email campaign to your shopping cart abandons without using a lot of time and resources? Here's a down-and-dirty campaign conducted by an ecommerce site selling gourmet teas to consumers.

Yes, includes how-to tips, creative sample and results data:

Although Adagio Tea has a below-average abandon rate (just 35% compared to the industry average of 59.8%), the team wanted to see if they could get the rate even lower.

The ecommerce site, whose average order is $35, attracts a loyal, baby boomer, NPR-listening, mostly female crowd who tend to respond to emarketing as well or better than most demographics.

Tech Chief Ilya Kreymerman was charged with creating an in-house email program to try to convert these abandons into sales. As a smaller ecommerce site, he didn't have endless resources to create and test the campaign. It would have to be a quick-and-easy campaign to implement.

To keep the campaign as simple as possible, while hopefully effective, Kreymerman decided to send just one single email to registered users who had abandoned their carts.

The creative was HTML and includes an image of a gift certificate and a note that reads, in part, “We see you attempted to place an order of tea with us recently, but did not complete the transaction. We hope this complimentary $5 gift certificate encourages you to reconsider.” The email includes a certificate validation number.

Depending on your willingness to invest in cart and email technology, it's possible to make cart abandon emails extremely personalized -- up to the point of showing the actual contents of that cart in the email itself (see below for a link to a case study on a site that does that).

However, Kreymerman was charged with keeping it simple (if the campaign worked, he could invest more in the future). So his creative template only allowed for dynamic personalization in one place. The only link in the email went back to the home page witha note that said, "Upon entering the 'checkout' part of our store, please select an option marked 'gift certificate' and enter the number of the certificate when prompted.

Kreymerman carefully studied past email campaign logs prior to making timing decisions. Most marketers' automated campaigns (such as autoresponders, trigger campaigns and welcome series) are timed solely based on when the customer happened to trigger them by opting in or registering, irrespective of day of week or even time of day.

Kreymerman decided to go against that tide -- instead, his system grouped together the emails to be sent and sent them all in bursts on the best days of the week and best times of day based on his prior campaigns. For Adagio, that time had been 3 p.m. Eastern time Tuesdays through Fridays. So they decided to group emails together for a daily blast just at that time on those days.

The offer was for a $5 gift certificate. This made the timing of the email delicate -- if he sent the email too soon, a customer who might return of their own accord (8% of Adagio’s customers return to abandoned carts without prompting later on) he would be giving a discount that he didn't need to give. On the other hand, if he sent it too many days later the customer might have forgotten about the site and order entirely.

Kreymerman decided to send at minimum three days after a cart abandon and maximum six days after.

The campaign has performed admirably for 18 months now, and Kreymerman recommends other ecommerce sites test something similar.

They’re seeing a 5.6% lift in conversions from the shoppers who receive the email.

“Our stance has been that if it takes a nudge like the $5 gift certificate to move them to purchase, then it’s worth it,” Kreymerman says. “But if it takes a huge offer to get them as a customer, it’s not lucrative enough for us to pursue.”

Useful links related to this article

Creative sample for Adagio Teas' abandoned shopping cart:

Case Study: Exclusive Results Data from VistaPrint’s Top 10 Marketing Tests

Adagio Teas

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