How to Set Up Effective Abandoned Cart Workflows

Ron Dodby Ron Dod

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Roughly 70 percent of shopping carts get abandoned, per Baymard Institute’s cart abandonment rate research. Given that fewer orders get placed than ditched, retailers must establish tactics for regaining those customers and bringing them back to the site to complete their order.

One of the most effective of those strategies is the deployment of abandoned cart emails.

The fact is that abandoned cart emails are an extremely effective tactic. As Barilliance email marketing stats show, abandoned cart emails tout an average conversion rate of roughly 18.6 percent. For reference, the average email conversion rate for 2020 is approximately 15.1 percent.

Spanx Abandoned Cart

However, merely sending out such a message once often isn’t enough to re-engage shoppers and get them to convert. Therefore, establishing abandoned cart workflows that cover various scenarios is critical to boosting sales with this email marketing tactic.

By setting up abandoned cart workflows in which retailers send out more than one reminder or message, merchants can increase their conversion rate by a considerable amount and significantly enhance their brand’s bottom line.

Part of the reason for this is that it is easy for consumers to miss a merchant’s email if they only send out one. Depending on the day of the week and how busy that person’s inbox normally is, a single abandoned cart email can quickly get buried under a plethora of other messages.

To help ensure that customers are receiving and acting upon a retailer’s reminders, today, we will cover how to set up effective abandoned cart workflows.

However, since each eCommerce email marketing automation platform is different and the details of implementing abandoned cart workflows will vary with each system, to benefit the most sellers possible, we will lay out the general concept of building abandoned cart workflows instead of going into the details of different tools.

But, before diving into that, let’s explore why people abandon their carts in the first place.

The Psychology of Cart Abandonment

People process a limited amount of information on a conscious level. The world is such a complex and complicated place that we have to filter out tons of data to be capable of operating on a day-to-day basis.

Think of this idea like riding a bicycle. When a person hops on a bike, they don’t consciously think about pushing off, putting their foot on the pedal, moving their legs in a circular motion while also managing the handlebars to move in the desired direction.

None of that happens on a conscious level. Instead, they hop on and start riding.

The same sort of thing happens when a person goes shopping–online or in-person. However, when barriers that hinder conversions begin to arise, a person’s subconscious mind will start to weigh the effort of obtaining the item versus the reward of gaining what they want. As a result of this behind-the-scenes process, questions will begin forming in the person’s mind, such as:

  • Do I really need this item?
  • How much does the shipping cost? Am I willing to pay that much?
  • How long will I have to wait to receive the product?
  • What is the store’s return policy?

All of these questions have the potential to enable the shopper to talk themselves out of their purchase and abandon their cart.

Understanding that, it is critical for retailers to know what the most potent arguments for abandoning one’s cart are, according to shoppers themselves.

Why Shopping Carts Are Abandoned

There are a variety of reasons as to why consumers abandon their purchases. Going back to the Baymard Institute’s research mentioned earlier, the most frequently cited reasons for cart abandonment include:

Why Shopping Carts Are Abandoned

  • Extra costs too high
  • Forced account creation
  • Too long or complicated checkout process
  • Couldn’t calculate costs upfront
  • Slow delivery speed
  • Didn’t trust the site
  • Website errors
  • Unsatisfactory return policy

Knowing this information, sellers can take steps to minimize cart abandonment rates by optimizing their site’s checkout flow, enabling guest checkout, providing shipping estimates prior to the purchase pages and the like.

However, even with this knowledge and a fully optimized site, shoppers will inevitably abandon their carts. After all, as Baymard acknowledges in its research:

“Our latest quantitative study of reasons for abandonment found that 58.6 percent of US online shoppers have abandoned a cart within the last three months because ‘I was just browsing / not ready to buy’.”

Therefore, establishing effective abandoned cart workflows is a critical task for capturing those who left for practical reasons, as well as those who were just browsing, as these messages could be the factor that pushes them over the edge and convinces them to buy.

With that said, let’s take a look at how merchants can set up their abandoned cart workflows.

A Three-Email Abandoned Cart Workflow for Customer Recovery

The fact is that building abandoned cart workflows that contain multiple emails gives merchants numerous opportunities to win back customers.

J Crew Abandoned Cart

Additionally, such a structure also means that retailers can experiment with different strategies to enhance cart recovery, including:

  • Email timing
  • Usage of social proof
  • Different message tones (fun/quirky, urgent, etc.)
  • Various offers (related products, coupons, free shipping, etc.)

The reason that sellers will want to A/B test their emails is that not all customers will respond to the same type of messaging or offers. Therefore, to optimize campaign performance, it is necessary to split test such elements to see which components drive action from the majority of folks.

That said, abandoned cart workflows should be structured as follows:

Abandoned Cart Email #1: One Hour Later

To begin, it is best just to assume that the shopper did want to complete their order, but got distracted or had to step away for some reason. But, no matter the actual reason for the abandonment, the faster a merchant can get a consumer to recover, the more likely they are to buy.

Therefore, it is best to send out the first email in the abandoned cart workflow within one hour of the shopper leaving.

In the first email, retailers should merely provide consumers with a reminder that their order was not completed and include images of the product, as well as a call-to-action to finish checking out.

Wayfair Abandoned Cart

While it might be tempting to entice customers with all sorts of related products, coupons and the like, it is best to save those tactics for later, should the reminder email fail to convert.

If sellers do want to spice the email up a bit, they might consider including a list of the product’s benefits or user-generated content (UGC) as a form of social proof to show them how much others love the item.

Suppose this email succeeds in reengaging the customers and gets them to come back to complete their purchase. Fantastic! Mission accomplished!

At this point, sellers should set their abandoned cart workflows to cease reaching out to these folks about their cart.

However, for those who do not convert, another email is in order.

Abandoned Cart Email #2: 24 Hours Later

Here is where a merchant’s abandoned cart workflow begins to get a bit interesting.

The next email will be sent out 24 hours after the first one. However, there are two different variations on this message.

For those who did not even open the first email, retailers can try sending the same email again with a different headline. By altering the headline to, say, convey a sense of urgency, sellers can potentially get them to open the email and convert.

Alternatively, for those who did open the first email but failed to act, merchants will need to try a different approach. For this group, sellers can take a few different approaches.

Firstly, if they did not include product benefits and user-generated content in their first email, now it should be highlighted. By adding these elements, retailers can effectively remind consumers what enticed them about a product in the first place and get them to convert.

At the same time, it is wise to highlight the site’s return policy (assuming it is generous) as a means to let shoppers know that their purchase is relatively risk-free.

Secondly, if UGC was used in the first email, merchants might try highlighting other relevant products to the buyer. These could be related items to the one(s) left in the cart, additional products they viewed during their visit or best-selling merchandise the store carries.

The fact is that when shoppers are browsing a site, they sometimes throw items into the cart that are acceptable, but aren’t really what they are seeking. By highlighting other products, retailers might spark a shopper’s interest again and bring a product to their attention they weren’t aware the store carried.

Again, if the second email in a merchant’s abandoned cart workflow successfully gets a customer to come back and buy, make sure the shopper stops receiving emails from the series.

However, if recipients still don’t bite, it is on to email number three.

Abandoned Cart Email #3: Three to Five Days Later

At this point in a retailer’s abandoned cart workflow, it is time to turn things up a notch. Shoppers who have received and opened the first two emails clearly are looking for more of an incentive to complete their purchase.

This email is the seller’s last-ditch effort in earning a sale before closing out the abandoned cart workflow, so the offer needs to be compelling. If consumers fail to convert after this, there is no point in continuing to pursue them.

In fact, doing so could be to the seller’s detriment as it could turn the person off to the brand permanently. If a shopper has received all three emails and has acted on none of them, it means they have made a conscious decision not to buy the items left in their basket.

That said, the third email for abandoned cart workflows should go out three to five days after the second email and should contain a mighty tempting offer.

At this point, sellers can go ahead and offer shoppers a dollar or percent off coupon to use on their order, or they can propose free express shipping on the order.

Pottery Barn Abandoned Cart

As far as the coupon is concerned, 10-15 percent off is enough to pull a shopper back onto the site without cutting into the seller’s profits too much.

However, the real key to this email is to introduce a sense of urgency by making the offer time-sensitive. By putting a time limit on the offer, retailers are more likely to push some customers over the edge and get them to come back and buy.

At this point, either retailers will earn a conversion, or they will just have to let go of the potential sale.

This wraps up the abandoned cart workflow.

However, there is one other thing that sellers must keep in mind during this process.

A/B Test Everything

While the main structure of the abandoned cart workflow has been established, the optimization process is just getting started.

Using the best email marketing platform for the brand, sellers should conduct split testing experiments on each of the emails in the abandoned cart workflow to determine which elements, messaging, offers and the like work best to convert consumers.

When it comes to A/B testing email campaigns, there are a lot of different components that merchants can analyze. Some of the factors that should be studied for optimal performance include:

  • Subject lines
  • Preheaders
  • Images
  • Copy/email tone
  • Colors
  • CTAs
  • Time delays
  • Offers

However, it is essential to remember that A/B testing requires enough data to make informed decisions. Therefore, it is crucial for retailers to allow campaigns to run long enough to determine which elements work better and only to test one or two components at a time.

Start by testing out subject lines. Wait until there is a conclusive winner and then move on to preheaders. Do this over and over with each element until abandoned cart workflows are producing a significant amount of conversions.

Once that point is reached, keep testing!

Final Thoughts

Establishing effective abandoned cart workflows is an essential component to building a profitable email marketing strategy that boosts sales. Given just how many hoppers abandon their carts and how high the conversion rate is for this type of email, this is one task that merchants cannot afford to overlook.

However, between crafting the emails, setting up the abandoned cart workflow and testing the various elements for each message, getting this right can be a time-consuming process.

If merchants want to ensure that their abandoned cart workflows are converting the most customers possible, reach out to Visiture’s email marketing experts.

We can work with your company to make sure that it recaptures more sales than it loses.

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