- Focus on “outside the envelope” There’s a reason this is first. If your email isn’t opened, it’s not going to convert and it can’t get opened if it’s not delivered. Outside of the envelope things that make a difference: the “to” address, the “from” address, the subject line (you have 24-35 characters for traditional, 12-16 for mobile) and the format..
- Use a series of emails, not just one. There’s not a day that goes by that someone doesn’t tell me that they have an abandoned cart program, when they only have ONE email. One email does NOT make a program. Many consultants think three emails works best. I’ve found that most of the “3 is the magic number” take a cut/percentage of the profits so basically they’ve found 3 is the best way to cherry pick the good names. Personally, I’ve found that more works better. I like to start programs with a series of 5 and I prefer that the first two (sometimes three) go out without a discount. (Sure, you can offer 10% off or free shipping right off but why give away the margin if you don’t need to?) The goal of your series should be to work your user through an appeal-type process (much like a church would do.) For example: #1: Did you forget something? #2 Your cart will be emptied soon. #3 Here’s a special offer. #4 Here’s an extension of that special offer just for you. #5. Last chance. You can also intersperse your series with low stock notices and/or holiday deadline notices. (These can be very effective if used appropriately.)
- Employ a sense of urgency. Deadlines create urgency and they cause people to focus. Even if you don’t use an offer, you should have a deadline on your abandoned cart emails. “Only 24 hours left!” “Offer expires 9/14 at noon.” “We need to put this item back in inventory at 11:30 am tomorrow.”
- Personalize the email. Far too many companies are still using “Dear Valued Customer.” If that’s the ONLY thing you can use, it IS better than nothing, but first name typically doubles (or more) your clickthrough rate.
- Be sure not to bounce. Personalization is important but you don’t want to scare your customers away. “Bouncing” (which is admittedly a poor word for it) is when you freak your customers out by using too much information. For example, “Dear Debra, we noticed that you tried to use your VISA at 4:32 this morning and got stuck on the CID field.” That’s bouncing and unlike Tigger, it’s neither cute nor friendly to your users.
- Work your timing. Timing is one of the most important elements in any trigger email program. Figuring out when you should mail is key. The “secret sauce” is different for every company so I recommend you test different intervals thoroughly. Don’t know where to start? Send out the first email two hours after your open window. Then 1 day, 2 days, 3 days, and 5 days respectively.
- You’ll also want to test sending at different times of day – and be sure to keep your triggers at least two hours away (either side) from your thrusts, at least at the beginning.
- Individual emails work better than batched emails. This tip is similar to #4, if you can’t send out triggers individually, batching them is better than nothing. However, they will work better (the timing and the deliverability improve) if you send them out on a person-by-person basis.
- Test your offer(s). A lot of folks default to FREE Shipping or 10% off because they’re both best practice-type offers. So, start with those if you wish but then test against them. You don’t always need to give away money/discounts to get people to purchase. A large specialty food company gives away a PDF booklet of free recipes as it works better for them than a discount or free shipping. A drugstore chain gives away access to a 90-minute webinar by two famous weight loss consultants. You won’t know what works best for you till you try it. (Companies who can’t/won’t give offers, should play around with the timing of their deployment and inventory or shipping deadlines.)
- Limit the number of links. The goal of an abandoned cart email is to get a user to place the order so the big focus should be on the RETURN TO CART NOW BUTTONS. From a deliverability perspective, the fewer the links (under 5) the better.
- Put the phone number all over the place. Every time I see an abandoned cart email without a phone number, I want to punch someone in the face. (My yoga breathing techniques aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.) Who should get the smack? The dumber-than-a-box-of-rocks-consultants who tell people that folks primarily abandon because they want a discount. Most customers abandon because they’re either not ready to make a purchase OR they get stuck in the purchasing process. (Stuck could mean an issue on your end or on theirs.) MOST customers are not marketers and they don’t even know you’ll offer them a deal. For the users in the stuck group, it’s not going to help them to go back to the place they were when they first abandoned so pushing them to the phone (or live or v-chat) may be your best solution. Put a special 1-800# in your abandoned cart emails – it will help you better track the orders and it will allow you to develop a special troubleshooting script, if necessary.
- Test taking the user directly to the cart. This may or may not work for you but if it does work, chances are it will work like gangbusters. If nothing else, make sure that it’s clear how the user gets back into their cart and that the item(s) that they abandoned are still there. (Carts should NEVER be cleared. NEVER as in not in a million years. If you’re out of the inventory, offer a substitute.)
- Work the preview panel. It’s appalling how few companies work the first two inches of their email. (This applies to thrusts/blasts and triggers.) Remember, half your users will stop reading after the first two lines of your email so make them count. Chances are, you’ll also want a big phone number and an action button in the first view.
- Show thumbnails of the item(s) the user has abandoned. Showing picture(s) of what the user abandoned will increase your clickthrough and more than likely your overall conversion. It also typically allows you to mail your series for longer periods of time. (For example, if your close date is normally six months, you’ll probably be able to mail 10-12 months with pictures.) Don’t have the ability to add thumbnails? Send out your emails anyway. It’s better to do something than nothing.
- Use larger-than-life action directives. Big, bold RETURN TO CART NOW buttons. Use ‘em.
- Sign the letter from a “real” person and use a P.S. Trigger emails don’t need to be fancy. In fact, the more one-to-one they look, the better they usually work. The P.S. should remind the user of the offer (if you have one) and the deadline. If you aren’t using an offer, you still want to use a deadline (“we can only reserve the inventory for one more day”.) Deadlines create urgency and they cause people to focus.
- Develop a separate program for your mobile users. Customers who abandoned their mobile carts often need a separate program. Most important, they need to know that their cart is shadowed on your traditional site. And, in most cases, your timing (schedule) should be different as well.
Have any other tips you’d like to add? Please jot them in the comments below or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that abandoned cart email programs ONLY work if you have the user’s email address. Ask for the email address as many places as you possibly can (perpetual cart, abandoned cart pop-ups, lefthand column, top action bar, righthand column, bottom footer, rotation in carousel, and so on.) After you have the address, you can use that space for something else. Till then though, ask and ask AGGRESSIVELY.
Image blatantly stolen from Larry Davis, one of the most brilliant marketing minds on the planet.