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How to design successful shopping cart abandonment emails

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8th Aug 2014
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If you could permanently increase sales, just by designing one email, you'd do it - right? You can, by 8% on average: that's the business case for sending cart abandonment emails.

On the High Street, everyone does "cart abandonment". My partner runs a nail salon and she told me how, last week, a woman brought in her teenage daughter to get her nails done for the school prom. The member of staff who should have helped was busy, so the couple wandered around, were unable to decide on a nail colour, and headed for the door. Quick as a flash, my partner was at their side, helping them and saving the sale.

On the internet, "cart abandonment emails" do the same job. They are straightforward, focused, real-time emails to call shoppers back and help complete their order. They are different from newsletters, and marketing brochures, and advertising.

So how do you design one? Here's a guide and some examples to help you

A good cart abandonment email (or form abandonment email, which is basically the same thing) has the following design features...

  1. Easily recognisable in the in-box, so recipients will open it - i.e. from the sender, subject and pre-header. These must identify the brand, the purpose of the email (e.g. Did you forget to purchase? or Your shopping basket is waiting) and possibly include one of the abandoned products.
  2. Content must be Clear and simple. The reader must "get it" in two seconds.
  3. Follows your website branding and tone of voice
  4. Shows exactly what's been abandoned - using content from the abandonment system
  5. Includes related product suggestions- using content from the abandonment system
  6. Has a strong, clear call-to-action that links to your checkout process, so it's easy for shoppers to click, return and buy.
  7. May have basic personalisation, e.g. "Dear Jane Smith". This is controversial. Some marketers strongly recommend it; some think it's been over-used by spammers. Make up your own mind.
  8. May have a navigation bar. This is also controversial. Some marketers recommend it, as it allows shoppers to return to their favourite part of your site; we've seen better results by dropping it and keeping the email simple. Again, make up your own mind.
  9. May have an unsubscribe link. Most abandonment emails don't have them, because it's not usually a legal requirement for transactional emails (this is just a blog post, not legal advice). We recommend that you do have an unsubscribe link at the bottom, because it's polite and it avoids people using the spam button to unsubscribe. But basically you decide.

And a good real-time messaging/cart abandonment system has the following technical features...

  1. High identification rate to maximise the proportion of customers addressed: e.g. recognising visitors using any registration or logon form, or when they return (using first-party cookies), or when they click-through from marketing emails, or if they use a standard pop-up identification form.
  2. Comprehensive data collection, because more data means better targeting and personalisation: storing browse events as well as shopping events, handling sessions where shoppers use multiple devices, and storing anonymous events until the visitor is identified. Also support for data standards, such as the W3C DDL.
  3. Real-time emails: sent 20-30 minutes after the shopper stopped using the website (90% of cart abandonment leads go cold within 1 hour - Forrester - and every extra minute reduces your conversion rate).
  4. A sequence of emails can be sent, with configurable delays and formatting, and this sequence gets automatically cancelled if the visitor returns.
  5. Handles many other types of triggered emails, such as browse abandonment and purchase complete.
  6. Different emails can be sent for different types of shopper or product (e.g. a beach holiday vs a city break).
  7. Sophisticated formatting for cart contents (see the examples below).
  8. Sophisticated selection and formatting of real-time product suggestions and countdown timers, etc: in case the shopper didn't like exact products they chose, but might prefer something similar (see the examples below).

Here are some great examples:

A classic, minimalist example from an art gallery. It explains why the email has been sent, reminds the shopper of what they nearly bought, provides a clear link to return, and summarises contact details.

Another clean email, from a holiday company. It explains why the email has been sent, reminds the shopper of what they nearly bought, provides a clear link to return, and summarises contact details. The branding matches the website. The way it's personalised is interesting - there's no mail-merged "friendly greeting", but the product information is hyper-personalised with the details of the holiday that was almost booked. If you click the "complete" link you return to exactly that holiday.

Pretty and uncluttered email from a fashion company, with a strong tone of voice. It explains why the email has been sent, reminds the shopper of what they nearly bought, provides a clear link to return, and summarises contact details. The branding matches the website. It repeats the three most important requirements of any online fashion site across the top: free click & collect, free delivery, and free returns.

Highly-branded email from a different holiday company. You can't tell just by looking at this one example, but different emails are sent for different types of holiday, with matching styling and images. The content explains why the email has been sent, reminds the shopper of what they nearly bought, provides a clear link to return, and summarises contact details. The product information is hyper-personalised with the details of the holiday that was almost booked: if you click the "complete" link you return to exactly that holiday.

From a mobile phone retailer. This explains why the email has been sent, reminds the shopper of what they nearly bought, provides a clear link to return, and summarises contact details. The product information is hyper-personalised with the details of the phone plan that was almost bought: if you click the "complete" link you return to exactly that phone plan. Then it includes alternative product suggestions, based on shopping activity, to give an extra chance to attract the shopper back if they didn't find their ideal phone before abandoning.

A high-end coffee retailer. This has more design elements, including a themed model picture alongside the shopping cart. There's no mail-merged "friendly greeting", but it's fully personalised based on behaviour and includes alternative product suggestions. A lot of prominence is given to a free shipping offer, but note that it only applies above $75 which means it functions as an upsell offer for shoppers who only intended to buy one pack of coffee, and it avoids the risk of encouraging people to abandon to get the offer.

Very strong branding from a holiday company, making great use of their lovely locations. Again, It explains why the email has been sent, reminds the shopper of what they nearly bought, provides a clear link to return, and summarises contact details. There's no mail-merged "friendly greeting", but the product information is hyper-personalised with the details of the holiday that was almost booked. If you click the "complete my booking" link you return to exactly that holiday.

Another mobile phone retailer. This explains why the email has been sent, reminds the shopper of what they nearly bought, provides a clear link to return, and summarises contact details. The product information is hyper-personalised with the details of the phone plan that was almost bought: if you click the "complete" link you return to exactly that phone plan. Then it includes alternative product suggestions, based on shopping activity, to give an extra chance to attract the shopper back if they didn't find their ideal phone before abandoning.

Finally, a pretty and uncluttered email from a children's fashion company, that proves you don't have to personalise much. This doesn't include the shopper's name, or show the products in their basket, presumably because children are involved. The only personalisation is details of current offers such as a mid-season sale. It provides a button to continue shopping.

Pete Austin is chief technology officer at Triggered Messaging.

Replies (1)

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By LinkedIn Group Member
12th Aug 2014 11:00

Comment on this post in the MyCustomer LinkedIn group.

I think there may be a lot associated with sites that don't reveal prices till you add the product to your cart, so the customer gets their price and abandons the cart.

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