Overlooked e-mail metrics that move the needle: Cart abandonment rate

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An abandoned shopping cart was almost a purchase conversion, but the customer left after placing an item in their shopping cart -- abandoning it before checking out. According to MarketingSherpa, online retailers report that 20-60% of carts are abandoned. Clearly, revenue gets a big jolt if you can remove whatever is standing between interest and purchase for these customers. 

The procedure outlined below will measure cart abandonment; identify two kinds of cart abandoners; and how to follow up with targeted e-mail outreach that will encourage conversion.

Step 1: Measure

Cart abandonment happens at two points: When the visitor adds a product to their cart and then leaves the site or when the visitor starts the checkout process but doesn't complete it. Measure the cart abandonment rate at these two exit points with your Web analytics tool to determine where to focus your attention in remarketing.  

In order to send targeted e-mail after cart abandonment, you'll need to capture the e-mail address of the site visitor. Site visitors can be identified in several ways. Pass their identification from the click in e-mail to the landing page URL using your e-mail service provider's custom URL generation capability. Require the visitor to log in to your site before they add an item to their cart. And the most common approach is using a preexisting cookie that was placed on their computer during a prior visit. 

Step 2:  Segment

Each day, build a list of e-mail addresses for both kinds of cart abandoners. If you use a Web analytics tool like Omniture Genesis, this is done for you. This capability may also be built into your e-commerce platform, or your ESP can generate lists using data sent by a Web beacon placed in your shopping cart's HTML code.

Step 3:  Remarket

Each day, have your ESP mail to one or both of the cart abandoner lists from a few days earlier. Visitors who left before starting checkout could get an e-mail reminder of cart contents, an expiration notice, and an incentive. Don't offer time-limited discounts or other conversion incentives, because your customers will quickly figure out they can get a discount by abandoning their cart and waiting. Instead, you could offer incentives for adding related products to the cart and checking out.

Visitors who started checkout and then left may have been stopped by something they saw (or didn't see) in your checkout process. Your remarketing e-mail for this segment could include shipping alternatives, icons of third party shopping security organizations, and product return assurances.

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