Retrieving Lost Customers From Cart Abandonment Scenarios

Online shopping cart

Online shopping – the process can sometimes be so frustrating as to send you off your trolley!

We’ve all been there, that last minute hesitation before you hit ‘Pay Now’ on checkout at Amazon, eBay or wherever. It’s difficult enough deciding to spend your money on something you can actually hold in your hands in a brick-and-mortar shop in a mall or on the high street. ‘Yeah, I really like it – but is it a bit too big for the shelf above the bedside table, the wrong color for the room, too expensive…’ or whatever.

So when you’re having these same doubts and you can’t even touch the thing you’re buying, many people avoid hitting the checkout button as those worries keep nagging away. Getting to the stage of navigating your browser away from a shopping cart containing items for checkout (and often not even bothering to empty the cart first) is known as ‘cart abandonment’.

But can this situation be rescued for the online shop owner? Is there a way to bring the customer back to where they left off and finalize their purchase? Sometimes there is, by using cart abandonment email.

How do you now you’re getting abandoned carts in the first place?

Cart abandonment is very common. Research by a conglomerate of online retailers in 2021 found that over 80% of online purchases made from a mobile device were abandoned at the checkout page. Interestingly, this dropped to just under 60% when the shopper was interacting with the online store by desktop or laptop computer.

So the chances are that your online shop is suffering a huge amount of cart abandonment. But isn’t there an accurate way of finding out how many people are abandoning their online carts, and more importantly, who are those people? Can we find their names and contact details?

Fortunately, most ecommerce platforms like WooCommerce, Shopify etc. offer comprehensive customer tracking tools, which show what the customer first searched for, how long they spent looking at each product page, what they put into their cart (and perhaps subsequently removed) before checking out or abandoning the session.

Of course, this is only possible if the visitor’s browser is set to allow cross-site tracking.

Unfortunately for many online businesses, finding out what people are seeking to buy is a big headache; not least because Apple’s Safari browser is set by default not to allow such cross-site tracking.

Furthermore, it’s only possible to find out who the shopper was if they are either logged into an existing account or have given their email as a ‘guest’ before they reached the abandonment stage. This is a difficult decision to make when constructing the user-experience (UX) flow of any online shop; most new customers just want to browse before giving any contact details and would only expect to be asked to give their email address as part of the checkout process. Asking a site visitor to give their email address before they see any product listings adds a dangerous friction point; many people will just go to another platform.

Of course, it’s also possible to use Google analytics to do this tracking if you don’t use a proprietary online shopping platform. It should all be part of your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) policy – but again, the person’s identity won’t be findable, only their IP address – and if cookies are blocked, there’s no hope of finding out what might have caused the abrupt shopping curtailment.

Sending cart abandonment emails

Let’s assume that you do manage to find the identity of some cart abandoners. In that case, what should a cart abandonment email contain in order to try to salvage the sale?

There are many reasons why someone might not complete their transaction, perhaps lack of trust in the manufacturer of the item or finding out that the shipping costs are unexpectedly high. The same research mentioned further above also suggested that up to 40% of cart abandoners did so deliberately, in the hope of receiving an email offering a discount if they completed the transaction.

So your customer interaction emails must be carefully worded. If the item in question is known, you can generate emails to send from email marketing platforms, which allow the use of short codes to assist in the composition of your message; perhaps something like:

“Dear [customer_name], we saw that you were about to purchase [item_name] but never completed the checkout process. Just to let you know that there are only two of these left in stock as of today, so if you are still interested, head on over to [item_link] right now, complete your purchase and add [%code] at checkout to receive a 5% loyalty discount with our compliments.”

Carrot and stick

The trick is to perhaps create the urgency (only x items left) and offer a small discount as an incentive. But don’t do this every time, or customers will abandon their carts as a matter of course. In fact, a mild punishment for abandoning the cart might teach the abandoner not to do so again, perhaps an email like this:

“Dear [customer_name], we saw that you were about to purchase [item_name] but never completed the checkout process. Just to let you know that these are now out of stock, but you can find a similar item here [item_link]. Unfortunately, no discounts are currently available on these products…”

There are a dozen ways to do this, either by carrot or stick; but the most important thing is using advanced analytics to try to find out why your carts are being abandoned in the first place. Perhaps a link to a survey platform to find out why the shopper abandoned their cart and offer a nominal discount for their answers could also be a way forward.

However you do it, Happy Selling!

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