Moving Upstream on Cart Abandonment

After speaking at a conference on the topic of email automation for your online store, I was approached by more than a dozen people with the same question: “If someone abandons their cart, how can the store stay in touch with the shopper?” It’s impossible to contact anonymous visitors—their anonymity means you’ve not yet collected their email addresses and thus you have no way to reach them

After speaking at the WooCommerce Conference on the topic of email automation for your online store, I was approached by more than a dozen people with the same question: If someone abandons their cart, how can the store stay in touch with the shopper?

It’s impossible to contact anonymous visitors—their anonymity means you’ve not yet collected their email addresses and thus you have no way to reach them. Perhaps they were just price shopping or researching. Perhaps they were distracted before completing their purchase. Perhaps they didn’t like your site’s shopping cart experience. Whatever the reason, they’ve slipped away, and you’ve been left with the promise of a sale that’s not yet complete.

According to Business Insider, this is the case with 68 percent of shoppers—those who leave their carts before checking out—and about $4 billion in abandoned carts the world over. The good news is they also estimate up to 62 percent or $2.52 billion is recoverable with automated marketing. Does that mean you simply need to give up hope of reaching those wallets and focus on the known visitors? Well, no. It simply means you need to develop a strategy for teasing away those email addresses. It means you need to move your request upstream.

There are myriad possible tactics of this strategy, but the path you choose depends upon your business, your product and the tools you have for implementing your ideas. No matter which path you choose, be prepared to A/B test like a madwoman until you’ve found the top three triggers and use all three. Don’t settle for just one approach. Meet your potential customers with the sign-up tool of choice—which means giving them options. Let’s look at some ideas. I’m going to call these interrupters, but I’m pretty sure I’ve borrowed the phrase from someone brilliant:

Interrupters can be any sort of dialogue, window, link or button interrupting the user’s shopping excursion and redirecting them to a simple (usually pop-up) form collecting only their email addresses, for instance:

  • Interrupt the product-browsing session with a tool enabling them to upload a photo of a room they are decorating in which they can drag and drop their selected item into place. It doesn’t have to be a perfect UX, just provide them with a rough idea of how the Egyptian vase they added to their cart might look next to their lime-green sofa.
  • After the first product has been added to the cart, interrupt with a message such as, “Wow! That’s a great find! We can save it in your cart for as long as you like. Let’s give your cart a name. Please type your email address.” You could extend this process with a dialogue after each product, displaying different messaging or, go for funny, and provide humorous commentary. Be sure to also provide a checkbox for prevent the message from displaying again.
  • Provide an online calculator allowing them to figure out how much of a product to buy. Let them use the calculator and then offer to save their work using just their email address. You could also offer to email their calculations or illustrations to the address they provide. We used this approach on our personal profiler – they can use the profiler online all day long, but if they would like to print their profiles, we will send the PDFs to their inbox.
  • Offer to send them links to download the installation instructions, case study, or watch a video.
  • Offer to save their cart when they click the browser’s close button.

Be sure you are interrupting your shopper with something of value. Popping up a subscriber window might be a bit annoying on its own, but a subscriber window with an offer of free shipping on the order they are building is going to win some favor.

According to a CouponCabin.com survey, 73 percent of U.S. adults are more likely to shop online where free shipping is offered, and, further, 93 percent of online shoppers said they would spend more if free shipping were offered.

Resist the temptation to interrupt visitors with a long form, or even your regular check out form, or you risk adding to your abandonment rate. Also, be sure to pass the information you collect directly into their account page—don’t make them provide you with their email address again if they continue the checkout process.

Interrupters can easily become annoying, so go slowly and don’t get greedy. You want to be able to capture as many anonymous visitors as possible, but there’s also great potential to drive shoppers away at the same time. It’s a delicate balance, but well worth the effort. Remember, there’s $4 billion dollars out there, and some of that can be yours.

Abandonment Issues

Throughout my 10-plus years covering online marketing and commerce, one nagging issue that’s remained top-of-mind for all in the space has been shopping cart abandonment and how to stop it from happening.

In fact, a survey released by PayPal on June 23 showed that 45 percent of online shoppers abandoned their carts multiple times in the three weeks prior to the survey, which was conducted May 12 to May 15 by comScore. It polled 553 active shoppers who recently had abandoned shopping carts.

Throughout my 10-plus years covering online marketing and commerce, one nagging issue that’s remained top-of-mind for all in the space has been shopping cart abandonment and how to stop it from happening.

In fact, a survey released by PayPal on June 23 showed that 45 percent of online shoppers abandoned their carts multiple times in the three weeks prior to the survey, which was conducted May 12 to May 15 by comScore. It polled 553 active shoppers who recently had abandoned shopping carts.

Another finding: The average value of goods in abandoned shopping carts in the U.S. is $109.

High shipping costs, security concerns and lack of convenience were cited as the main reasons survey respondents abandoned their carts.

Although high shipping costs was cited as the No. 1 reason for cart abandonment, 40 percent of respondents said if they’d known shipping costs up front they might have completed their purchases.

Thirty-seven percent of survey respondents abandoned their carts because they wanted to comparison shop. Another 36 percent didn’t have enough money after shipping and handling charges were added to totals. Twenty-seven percent of respondents who abandoned their carts did so to search for coupons, although a third of those shoppers later returned to the same site to buy. An additional 20 percent purchased the items at brick-and-mortar stores or competitors’ Web sites.

Other reasons shoppers abandon their carts include the following:

  • 26 percent wanted to shop offline;
  • 24 percent couldn’t find preferred pay options;
  • 23 percent said the item was unavailable at checkout;
  • 22 percent couldn’t find customer support; and
  • 21 percent were concerned about the security of credit card data.

While this information may not solve your abandoned shopping cart problems, maybe it will give you some ideas as to how to improve them. If you make customer service easy to find on your site, for example, your abandonment rates may go down.

This is an excellent topic for an open dialogue. Have any of you seen improved shopping cart abandonment rates based on a strategy or technique you’ve implemented? If so, let us know by leaving a comment here. We’d love to hear from you!