A Home-Grown Approach to Creating an Abandonment-Free Website

               

The key to converting online visitors who abandon their shopping carts: Make marketing messages more direct—without making them too direct, notes Cultures for Health (CFH) Cofounder and Administrator Julie Feickert.

Striking this balance has been valuable for CFH. The company is a fast-growing online retailer of “Real Food” products such as starter cultures (for yogurt, sourdough, soy, and more), cheese-making ingredients, and sprouting seeds, as well as related supplies. Feickert credits Listrak shopping cart abandonment solution with helping her company reconnect with 40% of the more than 55% of online shoppers who abandon their cart prior to a purchase. This follow-up generated an estimated 10% of the retailer’s email-driven revenue, Feickert reports.

This success motivated CFH to expand the program to address a related but more difficult challenge: site visitors who leave the site before making a purchase (or putting any items in the cart). Visitors who abandon online shopping carts have exhibited a real intent to purchase, even if they did not follow through; browsers who leave before placing any items in the cart obviously are a tougher sell. To this group of browse-and-bailers, CFH sends emails personalized with product suggestions based on browsing history, but Feickert emphasizes that the messages are designed to inform and build confidence rather than pitch the products. “Our primary focus is to try to find ways to educate [site visitors],” she says. “The purpose of this education is to help them feel confident in their decision, and, ultimately, empowered.”

Mitigating the risks of irrelevance

The balance CFH seeks to strike is unique to its customer base, but also widely applicable to online retailers across most, if not all, product categories.

“The opportunity that retailers have is to deliver highly relevant content that accomplishes a specific goal; mainly, to convert recent site visitors with personalized content and product recommendations,” explains Listrak ­Chief Brand Strategist Ryan Hofmann. “Retailers that deliver irrelevant, even potentially conflicting content, by batching and blasting promotional campaigns while also delivering highly relevant, targeted content risk alienating and confusing their customers.”

In other words, the successful abandonment email campaigns often hinge on both addition (new, more personalized messaging based on behaviors) and subtraction (the limiting or removal of indirect email blasts).

The rest of the process is relatively straightforward, CFH’s Feickert notes. “It wasn’t really too much work [to launch the campaign],” she says. “It was a matter of sitting down, hashing out the different directions we could go with our email messages and subject lines, and then identifying which messages would be most relevant to customers trying to live a healthier life.”

Three emails, two nurtures, no discount offers

That said, CFH customers have unique qualities that the browse-and-abandon nurture campaign needed to address. Those customers include people committed to becoming more self-sufficient (including those who live primarily off the grid), survivalists, and parents committed to providing their children with healthier diets. Most of these individuals seek out the CFH site to educate themselves on what it takes to make their own food through starter cultures. “Our customers are focused on taking a more holistic approach to their lives,” Feickert says, adding that traditional “consumer” pitches do not resonate with these consumers.

For that reason, none of the three emails sent to browsers (again, those who did not place items in a cart during their site visit) offered a promotion or discount to get them to convert. Instead, the emails feature educational information or product recommendations based on each recipient’s unique browse and purchase history on the site.

CFH sends the first email (subject line: Get started making healthy cultured foods today!) 12 hours after site abandonment. It delivers the second email (subject line: Start Culturing Today) four days after abandonment; and the third message—with a subject line of “Are you still interested in making cultured foods?”—goes out eight days after abandonment. Additionally, CFH sends two complementary “nurture” emails during the eight-day campaign; both of these messages contain personalized product recommendations based on products that the recipient has browsed.

Feickert emphasizes that these “nurture” emails are sent in place of broadcast campaigns taking place at the same time, so that the targets of the campaign only receive relevant product and education suggestions based on their browsing behaviors. She also reports that the first six weeks of this browse-and-abandon initiative produced more than 54% of the additional revenue that the previous shopping-cart abandonment program drove—a figure she’s thrilled with given that the purchasing intent of browse-and-bailers is significantly weaker than that of shopping-cart abandoners.

Those results are what CFH intended to accomplish when it implemented the campaign to identify and harness its shoppers’ intent. This approach, Listrak’s Hoffman says, helps retailers walk prospective customers “all the way through the process, from consideration, to selection, to conversion.”

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