Why are you giving away free money?

by Dany Willis

“Buy it, use it, break it, fix it, Trash it, change it, mail – upgrade it,” – “Technologic” Daft Punk 2005.

Welcome to my world. The world of email marketing.

As far as technological inventions go I’d rank Email right up there, right next to The Wheel, Penicillin and 3D Printing, and when you mix this little guy in with a hidden superpower that’s called automation, well welcome to the miracle-drug of marketing. Here I’ll be explaining why retailers need to embrace automation and specifically the need for a solid abandoned cart recovery program.

But we live in a world author Robert Hassan called the “Age of Distraction”. And email marketers like myself are feeling this more than ever. Even right now, you’re probably thinking “Why am I reading this?” and honestly I wouldn’t be offended. There is a lot more out there you could be surfing, scrolling and clicking on. But you see thanks to automation and just like Arnie ‘I’ll be back’.

Automation for the People

To explain where the secret power of automation fits in just picture this: two runners at different stores are shopping for new shoes. But when they reach the checkout they both realize that they’re not actually sure if these specific shoes are suitable for that trail running competition they’ve both signed up for. Is the fabric breathable? Will this tread work for the route I’m running?

So, they tell the in-store sales person they’ll actually need a little more time to think about it, investigate a little further, perhaps read some reviews, speak to some friends etc., before committing to the purchase. Coincidently both runners leave their email address for updates.

The first runner receives an email from the store explaining they did a little research too and just why these shoes would actually be a perfect fit for that trail running competition they’re entering plus good news they’ve also just got in some lightweight running jackets which will also be on sale.

The second shopper gets an email explaining how their shoes would be perfect for a day out at the beach with the family and that they’ve just got some great looking parasols in.

A disconnect like this is something a retailer should clearly be avoiding and yet it happens more often in the online world than you’d think. The basic rule of marketing: You need to know your customers.

There’s an old saying about how hard it is gain a customer after you’ve lost them. I’d say don’t give up so easily. As this is where a well thought out abandoned cart email would have saved the day. A successful cart recovery strategy always puts the customer first.

As marketing analyst Greg Zakowicz notes that more often than not online shoppers “are so far down the purchase…that the message can often overcome the reasons they didn’t buy the first time around.”

No Second Chances? Think Again…

As I said I’ll be back, and all thanks to automation. There’s no doubt about it, automation in email marketing works. As a clear-cut example of this, here at River we recently introduced an abandoned cart emails series for one of our clients.  The customer would be sent a ‘friendly-reminder-email’ in order to encourage them to finish their transaction. A mere week after launching we saw transactions increase for the client by well over 40%. That’s a lot of additional revenue or ‘free-money’ as I like to call it potentially gained back for very little work. So, taking a step back, let’s ask the million-dollar question:

Why do people abandon their carts?

Well, it can be for the most ordinary of reasons: Perhaps dinner is ready, your stop on the subway came quicker than you thought, or a phone call interrupted your consumer journey. As a marketer, I don’t even worry about it. You see I’ll get that second chance.

Other shoppers may wish to actually complete their transaction ‘in-store’ a phenomenon called ‘webrooming’, or perhaps they just wish to read a few more reviews. Whilst at the totally opposite end of this spectrum some shoppers actually have zero intentions of ever finishing their order and are simply using their cart as a kind of online temporary shopping list.

So, whatever the reason it’s little wonder that according to Forrester Research close to 90% of all consumers abandon their baskets and hence losing “$18 Billion in yearly sales revenue”. I take those numbers with a ‘pinch-of-salt’ of course as it’s extremely challenging to get fully accurate numbers but the bottom line is there are lots of opportunities out there, so I’ll repeat my question:

Why are you giving away free money?

Bronto a leading ‘commerce marketing automation platform’ provider recently asked its customers which email tactic they found the most effective. Unsurprisingly Cart Abandonment ranked high, second place high, right after “Exclusive-Offer” emails. The good news is that with abandon cart emails you can set them up, let them work in the background and enjoy a higher rate of ROI than probably anywhere else in your marketing plan. They’ll give you that second, third and fourth chance in your marketing campaign life.

Not all cart recovery programs are created equal; neither should your messages.

So how does a cart recovery program really become effective? Well, the bottom line is the ability to test. You need to test, test, test and test some more. A/B the heck out of your emails. Find out what really works and test again. Deep dive into your automation process and start to filter as well, be it by product type, cart totals, user behaviors, just start somewhere and get personal. As Dale Carnegie once said:

“Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language”

Segmentation is really your secret weapon here. Returning to our example of the running shoes if we’d chosen to filter by a specific product we could have led the customer down a more relevant cart recovery path. We could have marketed a very different story to a specific segment, as Seth Godin says, “Marketing is about the stories you tell”

Don’t forget there’s a clear difference between an email which is relevant and one which is helpful. An email simply about shoes because I happened to look at a pair of shoes is relevant but perhaps not helpful. Whereas one which addressed the obstacles which caused the initial abandonment is helpful. The seller could promote their knowledge on the specific subject, help with recommendations, point towards any additional resources, such as guides or trusted third party product reviews. On the other hand, a generic email, not only wastes a great opportunity but could make your potential customer feel unimportant, losing sight of their needs.

And Remember to Just Keep Learning

You need to remember to continually develop and optimize. Discover why your buyers drop off and abandon a potential sale at a certain point. By beginning to understand your customers you can understand why they choose to shop with you in the first place and then begin to create more relevant material, copy, and imagery that fits the target personas. Work on their schedule, not yours, so remember to time messages appropriately in order to get shoppers to buy back from you again and again.

Truth be told abandoned cart emails can be some of the most profitable emails that retailers can send. If you just show your customers that you care, understand their needs and make it easy for them to close the deal then you’ll never go chasing for new leads again.

Dany Willis
Digital Strategist