If there were only one email campaign we could send for 350+ of our online retail and eCommerce customers for rest of their lives it would be this one….
The cart abandonment campaign.
Because after sending millions of different lifecycle email campaigns, win back, promotional emails, replenishment, welcome series and more, we’ve seen this campaign prove itself as the biggest money maker by far, plus it’s conversion rate to sale (due to customers being deep in the buying cycle) is a lot higher than most other campaigns due to buying intent.
One of our customers, Great Fermentations, a home brewing company, is seeing a 25% conversion rate from its cart abandonment campaign and they’re generating $44.37 for every email they send.
There are a number of great posts on what cart abandonment is, why it happens, and strategies for overcoming it.
Table of Contents
In this post we’re going to explain our process for how we double the amount of revenue this campaign generates. This is, in a way, an ultimate guide (overused though the term is), so here’s a short table of contents:
- How To Run A Holdout Test
- Write Emails That Focus on Customer Service (Here’s How)
- How Can You Improve Your Business W/ Qualitative Feedback from Campaigns?
- Bugs Are Your Biggest Conversion Killers (Optimize for All Devices)
- Regenerating Cart Sessions
- How to Capture More Emails in the Checkout Process
- Our Testing/Optimization Process for Cart Abandonment Campaigns
- How to Approach Segmenting and Targeting
- Personalizing Email (the Right Way to Do It)
- Abandoned Cart Email Timing & Length (Best Practices and Some Research)
- Subject Line Optimization
- 6 Less Obvious Test Ideas to Inspire Your Optimization Process
Even if you’re happy with the results you’re currently seeing from your own cart abandonment efforts, this post will give you ideas on how to improve it’s performance by 100% or more.
Before we get started, we need to address one thing. Lots of people ask us…
Wouldn’t these people [cart abandoners] have come back to our store and purchased on their own without any marketing?
If that’s the case, then logic follows that sending them a series of abandoned cart emails would be or is an unnecessary effort.
We’ve found the answer partly to be: no.
Cart abandonment is a natural part of the eCommerce buying cycle. Yes, it’s also natural that a percentage of cart abandoners will return to your site and convert without further intervention.
That’s why you need to develop an understanding of what percentage of customers come back and convert on their own (also know as organic return to purchase ratio) and how long it takes them.
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 who were never going to come back.
Running a Hold Out Test
To further prove this point, we run a hold out test to measure the value of a:
- Group of cart abandoners who receive a cart abandonment campaign
- Group of cart abandoners that receive no email marketing campaigns
Ultimately, we want to compare these two groups of customers using a common metric – revenue per customer.
After 90 days, we compare the value of a single customer in the holdout group (who receive no emails) vs. the value of a single customer in the marketed-to group.
Here are the hold out test results from one of our customers:
The above example shows that by sending this cart abandonment campaign this company is yielded a customer that was 52.65% more valuable. (So these guys need to keep running this campaign!).
From the hundreds of hold out tests we’ve ran, we’ve found only a small percentage of people who don’t receive an abandoned cart email campaign, will come back and convert on their own.
Our Abandoned Cart Email Campaign Strategy After Setting Up 1000+ Campaigns
We see shopping cart abandonment as a conversion rate optimization and customer service opportunity.
Above all else, we recommend taking a customer service approach.
Why? Because customers are giving you an amazing signal of purchase intent when they abandon a transaction on your site and this is your second chance to create a great customer moment.
By building a quality abandoned cart email program, one of three things will happen when you follow up:
- You’ll win the order 10-25% of the time (this is the range we’ve seen from a 1000+ campaigns)
- You’ll find out why someone didn’t buy and use this qualitative information to proactively improve your buying process. This is a huge hidden benefit of taking a customer service approach to your cart abandonment campaigns. Our customers receive feedback and questions about: shipping to new countries (and opening a whole new market for the company), the shipping calculator not working correctly or the checkout process on their website being broken which was stopping people from converting.
- You’ll create a great customer service moment and leave an everlasting impression on the customer.
Writing Emails With a Focus on Customer Service
Your job is to provide amazing customer service and find out why someone abandoned. You do this by encouraging customers to pick up the phone and call you or prompt them to reply to the email with their questions.
In order to get people to do this, we’ve found these four steps work best:
- Include your toll free number prominently within the email as some people will just pick up the phone and call you (as reported by our customers)
- Write your copy using a helpful customer service tone (don’t make it look like you only care about the sale)
- Send from a live, monitored inbox and ask your customers for feedback ([email protected] is not an option…)
- Send from a real person’s name and include a photograph of a real person in the footer of the email to make customers feel more comfortable about providing you this feedback
Asking simple questions like:
- Was there a problem?
- How can we help?
…will generate real, qualitative responses about what friction points are causing customers to abandon in the first place, which you can then use to improve your checkout process.
How Qualitative Feedback Helps Your Business (With Examples)
One of our customers, KontrolFreek, kept getting asked if they shipped outside of the US. After receiving this response repeatedly in replies to their abandoned cart emails they decided to start shipping to new countries where demand was highest, opening up a new pool of customers for their products in the process.
Here are two examples of companies with perfectly executed abandoned cart email creative:
1) Liftopia.com sell lift tickets online for ski resorts
2) Ghurka.com is a company that sells top of the line travel bags and leather goods
Note: Make sure you handle conversion tracking correctly for phone orders because customers may abandon your website, receive an abandoned cart email and then call you and convert over the phone. (This goes for any offline payment method.)
And you want customers to pick up the phone because “inbound phone calls are 10-15 times more likely to convert than inbound web leads,” as was cited in this call tracking article.
This is partly the reason we use a customer service approach, to get people to either reply via email or to call up on a toll free number.
Optimizing for All Devices
“50% of the cart abandonment emails sent by Rejoiner are opened on a device that is different than the one the customer originally abandoned on”
Maybe this statistic is higher or lower for you. But generally it’s no secret that optimizing the user experience for different devices is important as shoppers jump from device to device before making a purchase and more people are starting to convert on mobile and tablet devices.
That’s why we design and code responsive email templates that render well on mobile devices as this is where a big percentage of customers consume them.
In this case study, Crocs found total revenue and revenue per email were highest for responsive email design.
Plus, we use email testing tool Litmus, which allows us to preview each email in 50+ apps and devices; validate that links, images, and tracking work properly and test email load time before launching a new campaign.
If you’re going to be sending hundreds of thousands of emails each month / year, you’ll want to make sure people can actually read them and click on them no matter what device or browser they like to use.
As Peep has said – “bugs are your main conversion killer.”
Regenerate cart sessions across devices so customers have a seamless shopping experience (and buy more from you)
Session regeneration is the ability to restore a user’s previous shopping cart regardless of the device they use to return to your site.
As of Q4 2015, 37% of all eCommerce transactions involved multiple devices and mobile commerce now represents 35% of total eCommerce transactions globally.
People not only use mobile devices to research online, they also use mobile to buy products. The notion that customers don’t convert on mobile just isn’t true anymore.
So why is session regeneration important?
Without session regeneration this is what happens:
- Customer gets distracted and abandons the checkout flow on their desktop computer
- 30 minutes later they’re sitting down on the couch with their mobile device
- They open their emails and see an abandoned cart email from you
- This time they open the email on a mobile device and decide they want the complete their purchase so they click through and get taken back to your site
- They get taken to the checkout page but their previous cart has disappeared (due to no cart regeneration)
From here, one of two things usually happen:
They give up and go back to watching TV / checking other emails.
They start searching again for the product they were interested in so they can buy it.
We’ve found the latter isn’t as common.
We ran an A/B test inside a client’s account to show how session regeneration impacts a cart abandonment campaigns performance.
A Session Regeneration Case Study
Here we tested: session regeneration off (control) vs. session regeneration on (variant), inside Autoplicity.com’s cart abandonment campaign.
Our hypothesis being:
Without cart regeneration it is harder for consumers to complete the checkout process on different devices. Adding cart regeneration to the abandoned cart email campaign will increase conversions.
This test resulted in a 33.96% lift in conversions. You can read the full post and case study on session regeneration here.
Make sure your cart abandonment software has session regeneration as a feature. If it doesn’t, swap to one that does as this alone can provide a big increase to the amount of conversions your cart abandonment campaign generates.
How To Capture More Emails In The Checkout Flow To Generate More Revenue
The more emails you capture from cart abandoners, the more people you can follow up with, and the more revenue your cart abandonment campaign can generate.
Here are four ways our customers capture more email addresses in the checkout process:
- They use a multi-step checkout that asks for an email address up-front.
- They place the email field at the top of the checkout flow so people put their email address in first, and then with the help of ‘pre-submit tracking’ we’ll have a record of the email address they’ve entered if they decide to abandon the checkout flow (even if they didn’t click submit or move to the next stage). In this case study, Liftopia, a ski lift ticket platform were able to identify 24% more cart abandoners with pre-submit tracking, which allowed them to follow up with an additional 8000 potential customers.
- Some of our customers use WisePops exit intent popups on the checkout page to trigger a popup that offers a discount if a person is about to exit the checkout page. These people will have to enter their email address to get the discount, and if they decide not to convert right away, we can follow them up via email when they leave the site.
- They track subscribers who click over from other email marketing campaigns.
Our Testing Process To Maximize Revenue Generated By a Cart Abandonment Campaign: ‘Adopt a Mentality of Ongoing Optimization’
We routinely hear vendors refer to abandoned cart email campaigns as set it and forget it, as if that was a benefit. This mentality leaves an enormous amount of revenue on the table.
If an eCommerce company is generating $25,000 per month ($300,000 per year) from their cart abandonment campaign, to take it to $50,000 per month ($600,000 per year) you must adopt a mentality of ongoing optimization.
A better approach is to think about your abandoned cart email program as a constant work in progress.
You need a structured process, not just a bunch of tactics.
“Amateurs focus on tactics while the pros follow processes.” – Peep Laja
Now we’re going to show you our step by step process for optimizing a cart abandonment campaign.
Segment Abandons Into High, Medium and Low Value
Segmenting your cart abandoners into high, medium (average order value) and low value allows you to do two things:
- You can make (and test) different offers (free shipping, $ off, % off) to find the best converting one for each segment
- You can follow up differently with each segment
Lets dive deeper into point one.
What Is The Best Converting Offer For Each Segment?
There’s a lot of talk about ‘free shipping’ being the ultimate eCommerce offer, and there’s a lot of content supporting this.
My question is – To which segment and type of industry are we talking about?
Say if Bob was looking to buy $4000 worth of car performance parts from Autoplicity.com.
Do you think Bob cares more about free shipping or getting the price down?
I can make an assumption here, but I don’t know the answer, I’d have to test it.
Testing 5% off (a $200 saving) vs free shipping (of equal value) for heavy/large cart parts could be a valuable test for this high value segment.
But maybe Bob doesn’t need a special offer and what he actually needs is to talk with a car performance expert over the phone before he can move forward and purchase. There may be a number of questions on his mind about shipping heavy products or what happens if something is damaged during shipping.
This leads us into point two.
How To Follow Up With High vs Low Value Segments
I am going to go into more detail about timing and frequency of cart abandonment campaigns below.
For now I just want you to think how someone on Autoplicity.com abandoning a $40 order is a lot different to someone abandoning a $4000 order.
While both may receive 3 abandoned cart emails, you’ll want to invest more time and resources into your follow up with your high value abandoners.
How? By adding in a phone call.
Using Zapier you can do many things, including:
- Trigger an alert in your CRM to call this person and speak with them about their needs
- Have a text message sent to your customer support team to alert them of a high value abandon and get someone to reach out to them
Making a phone call to a $4000 abandoner makes sense from a time to ROI perspective.
A phone call to a $40 order… Not so much.
High, medium and low value segments are going to be different for every industry. Try to understand what your average order value is and look through your purchase dataset to come up with your high and low value segments, and then come up with a strategy for your market and customer type.
Personalization of Emails To Increase Conversions
If you sell a lot of products or have a lot of SKU’s, dynamically inserting products into your cart abandonment campaigns will help you save time, increase click-through rate and help you generate higher conversions.
For one of our customers – Protalus.com, an eCommerce company selling arch mobility products, we dynamically insert the shoe inserts an abandoner leaves behind into their abandoned cart emails, creating context for the reader.
The amount of revenue they recover has steadily increased from $2174 in November to $14,178 in July.
Test Different Product Image Variations To Increase CTR
If you’re dynamically employing product imagery in your abandoned cart campaigns, you should consider testing how these products are laid out within the template. We’ve found that inserting a larger image of one item in the cart can perform better than a table of all items with smaller thumbnails.
If you have great product photography, consider showcasing it with larger images in your emails instead of smaller thumbnails.
Abandoned Cart Email Timing & Length
“How many abandoned cart emails should we send and when should you send them?”
This is the one of the most common questions we’re asked and here’s what timing we start most campaigns off with: First email sent at 30 minutes post abandonment.
RFM tells us that customers who purchased recently are more likely to buy again versus customers who have not purchased in a while. We’ve found a similar pattern with cart abandoners. Customers who had abandoned recently are more likely to come back and purchase once they receive that first email (with the first abandoned cart email generating 50-60% of the revenue out of the 3 emails).
Sending at 30 minutes post abandon also leaves enough time for someone to come back and buy on their own before that first email gets sent.
- Second email sent 24 hours post abandonment
- Third email sent 3 days post abandonment
We generally set up campaigns with 3 emails, as the third email still generates great returns (with no offers provided in any of the emails).
Abandoned Cart Email Timing Results
Here are revenue numbers from four of our customers that show what amount of revenue each email generates.
THMotorsports uses four emails in their cart abandonment campaign. The first email delivered at 10 minutes post abandoned recovers a good portion of revenue.
Legion Athletics send three emails and the conversion rate improves as more emails are sent. Why? They offer no discount in the first email and offer ‘10% off’ in emails two and three. Another reason to keep testing different offers.
Peak Design sends two emails.
Email 1 takes a customer service approach asking if they had any issues with checking out.
Email 2 makes an offer: 5% off + free shipping. As you can see this offer is enough to increase CTR back to the store and helps drive more conversions.
Autoplicity sends our recommended three part abandonment sequence and achieves the following results.
Subject Line Optimization: Does Increasing Your Open Rate Really Increase Revenue?
Some articles say that best way to optimize an email campaigns is to get more people opening it.
- Increase your open rate
- Increase the amount of people reading your emails
- And therefore increase your sales
It makes sense logically, but we’ve found this isn’t always the case. You need to be careful with your tests to ensure that revenue per email is increasing as well as the open rate.
Keep my previous statements in mind as you plan to improve your open rates.
With that said, here are…
6 ways to increase the email open rate of your cart abandonment campaigns (plus 17 ‘emotional’ triggers you can test today)
1. Ask a Question
- Was there a problem?
- Can we help you?
- Did you forget something?
- Forgot something?
- Can I answer any questions?
- Are you still interested?
As I go through a number of Rejoiner customer cart abandonment campaigns, I see short, simple questions performing very well in terms of open rate and conversion rate.
Below you can see a test we ran for Legion Athletics:
The control (a short simple question) had a 17.70% higher open rate than the variant.
There have been times when we tested a longer, benefit driven statement against a simple ‘question’ and saw open rate and conversions drop for the longer benefit driven statement.
Ask your prospects short, simple questions in order to grab their attention and to get them to open your cart abandonment emails.
2. Use A Person’s First Name
Dale Carnegie, author of How To Win Friends and Influence People, says that “using someone’s name is incredibly important” and that “a person’s name is the sweetest sound in any language for that person.”
If you’re capturing name and email in your checkout process, you can use this data in your subject lines to capture attention.
Note: We only use this tactic in one cart abandonment email (never all of them as it can lose its effect).
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University conducted a study to find out why people open certain messages but not others. Here’s what they found about people and curiosity:
“Participants wanted to open messages when they had moderate levels of uncertainty about the contents. They were “curious” what the messages were about. This occurred when they knew who the email was from but were not sure of its content.”
This points to “the information gap” theory of curiosity which was first developed by George Loewenstein of Carnegie-Mellon in the early 90s. Loewenstein states that “the desire for new information is generated in response to a difference between what one knows and what one wants to know”. When people become aware of a gap in their knowledge, they are driven to fill this gap.
Action item: Test subject lines that make abandoners compelled to fill their ‘knowledge gap’.
4. Use Humor
According to Helpguide, humor and playful communication strengthen our relationships by triggering positive feelings and fostering an emotional connection. When we laugh with one another, a positive bond is created. It’s also believed to be an effective tool for keeping relationships fresh and exciting. Which is what a lot of email subject lines aren’t, exciting.
Here are two examples of subject lines that use humour:
These Tees Will Scare Small Children + Weekly Shirt Giveaways!
Modcloth is another example of a company using humour and quirkiness to grab their customers attention and stand out. Here’s an example:
5. Use Urgency
According to behavioral psychologists, urgent situations (both positive and negative) cause us to suspend deliberate thought and to act quickly.
Why does this matter? People don’t convert in cart abandonment campaigns because they don’t act fast enough. The goal of urgency is to make them act now.
To create urgency we use: scarcity, time limited offers and time-related words in subject lines:
- Low levels in stock
- Limited edition
- Only 1 left
- Last chance to get this deal
- Limited Time Offers
- Last chance to get 10% off
- Last chance for free shipping
6. Joe Sugarman’s 17 Emotional Triggers That You Can Test Today
If I ever want to test new subject lines, I take out my copywriting SOP that I put together after reading Joe Sugarman’s book, Triggers.
Here are 17 different triggers (his book has 30) that you can use to come up with new testing ideas:
- Desire to be recognised
- Desire to help others
- Desire to be loved
- Desire for self-improvement
- Desire to win
- Desire for comfort
- Quest for a great experience
- Desire for relationships
- Desire to make a difference
- Desire for meaning in life
- Desire for power
- Necessity of life
Marketing Results tested various emotional triggers for a new client landing page and found that the ‘desire to help others’ as the trigger most impactful to their market.
What you need to do is test and find out what your market will react to.
6 ‘Not So Obvious’ Variables To Test (And Their Surprising Results)
>1. The “From Name”
The From Name will likely be the first element of your email campaign that a customer interacts with. It’s your first opportunity to build trust, so don’t let it go to waste. We’ve had success testing From Names that include company name, customer name, job titles, and company departments. Whatever you do, please don’t send from No-Reply.
Here are some examples:
- Company – Acme Widgets
- Company newsletter – Acme Blog
- Company department – Acme Support
- Team member name – Suzanne Reynolds
- Team member name and title – Suzanne Reynolds, CEO
- Team member name and company – Suzanne Reynolds (Acme)
- Team member first name only – Suzanne
- Team member first name and company – Suzanne from Acme
HubSpot saw a significant increase in open rates when a team member’s name was used as the from name—”Maggie Georgieva, HubSpot”—versus their company name.
“Our conclusion after conducting this A/B test was that emails sent by a real person are more likely to be clicked on than emails sent from a company name.” – Maggie, Hubspot.
2. The From Email
The secondary actor to the From Name is the From Email, or the customer facing email address from which your campaign originates.
Here are some examples:
- Department – [email protected]
- Team member first name- [email protected]
- Team member first / last name – [email protected]
- Friendly generic – [email protected]
Avoid [email protected] emails addresses.
3. Email Preheaders
Email preheaders provide an opportunity to communicate a secondary supporting benefit/message in the email preview pane. Think of preheaders as an extension of your subject line.
Client Data: A/B Testing Preheaders vs. No Preheaders
We wanted to see if we could increase the open rate for one of our clients (Autoplicity.com) and their cart abandonment campaign. We tested improving the preheader with more benefit driven copy. We left the control sample nude and sans preheaders.
For the 1st email, the open rate for the variant creative with improved preheaders saw a 7.96% lift in open rate at over 95% confidence compared to the control.
Action item – Test benefit driven preheader text that supports your subject line to see if you can increase open rates and revenue per email.
4. Email Style
The styling of an email greatly impacts how customers perceive the message. Try testing a simple, plain-text variation of your abandoned cart campaign against a heavily designed HTML email. You might find that customers respond favorably to the creative that doesn’t appear as “produced.”
5. Call To Action (CTA) Copy
Try testing the copy of your call to action buttons. It’s best to test one call to action change per test, but this test will answer the question, “Does “View Cart” or “Complete Your Order” drive more clicks?
We ran this on behalf of Rejoiner client, Bully Max, which shows that the call to action copy “View My Cart” outperformed “Complete My Order” by 33.01% at a 99.36% confidence.
6. Can Recommendations Help You Increase Revenue Per Email?
One of our customers, Footjoy, have been testing our recommendations engine for their cart abandonment campaign.
Our hypothesis was that recommendations (items frequently purchased together) added to the bottom of a cart abandonment campaign would help increase revenue per email by offering additional products a consumer may be interested in.
So far the variant (which uses recommendations) is providing a 6.23% lift to revenue per email. However it’s still too early to know if this test is will be a winner in the long run.
The goal with recommendations is to get people back into shopping mode by helping them find something else they may be interested in.
Conclusion: Taking an 80/20 Approach To Abandoned Cart Email Optimization
There are a number of things to test when looking to improve a cart abandonment campaigns performance.
If you want to take an 80/20 approach to optimizing your cart abandonment campaign, we recommend you should:
- Take a customer service approach with your first email. Make sure your email looks like it’s coming from a real person, asking if they had any issues with checking out and if there is anything you can do to help.
- Use mobile responsive email design (because there’s a good chance that’s where your email will be read)
- Make sure your email marketing provider provides session regeneration as a feature (as we’ve seen this provide a 33.96% lift in conversions for one of our customers)
- Test different offers ($ off vs % off vs free shipping) in the second and third emails to find the best offer for carts of different values (high, medium and low)
- Put the email field at the top of the checkout process (and use pre-submit tracking) or use a multi step checkout flow that asks for an email address up front so you can get more prospects into your abandoned cart email series
Once you’ve implemented these 5 steps, you can come back to this article and start improving your campaign results by experimenting with the other points we mentioned.
If you have any questions, leave a comment below.
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Add your comment
Mind blowing post. By reading this post and I just got big idea, how I can use cart abandonment strategy with third party ticketing system and status messages.
When I’m lost. Always here can find my way out.
How are going to use the strategy specifically?
Nice one Tom!
What an awesome post. It’s great to see an industry leader sharing so much detail – and great to know we’re on the right track too!
Let me know if you have any follow up questions.
Feeling really sad about that abandoned “cat” hope it found a home. ;-)
“…of people who don’t receive an abandoned cat email campaign, will come back and…”
Your favorite editor,
Nice catch – just fixed it :)
Interesting post! Thank you. Just wandering how do you go around a government spam act that clearly states: “All commercial electronic messages sent to you must be sent with your consent”. It prohibits sending emails without users opt in / subscribe action.
Thanks for the question.
We recommend you only send cart abandonment emails to customers who are part of your in-house opt-in list to avoid any legal issues.
Tom, thanks for the answer with legal issues, but in the list of “How To Capture More Emails In The Checkout Flow ” first two techniques recommend using pre-submit tracking? Do you recommend checking all captured emails against customer database? This ligal thing is a big issue for us and it basically narrows 10 times the email list, and you didn’t mention about it at all.
Yes we recommend checking all captured emails against your customer database.
Our software (Rejoiner) automatically does this for you. It captures the data and then segments against your in-house list prior to sending anything (helping avoid any legal issues).
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