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Recover Abandoned Cart Sales - Email Customer?

 3:20 pm on May 28, 2010 (gmt 0)


Has anyone ever attempted to email customers who abandoned their shopping cart?

If so, what type of response did you receive? Did the email help convert the abandoned carts into sales?

I just added a new feature to my website that allows me to email customers who abandoned their shopping cart, but just want to get some feedback before I put this into action.

Thank you,




 3:44 pm on May 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

We've been doing this for awhile now. Here's my take -> you will increase sales slightly more than you will increase your own headaches and the frustration your incite in your customers and prospects.

Emailing abandoned carts does lead to conversions, there is no doubt about that. The questions you have to ask are:

1. How many of these customers would have come back and purchased anyway?
2. Am I going to give them an added incentive to come back and finish their order?
3. If I do give an incentive, how would a customer feel that had placed an order on their first visit and later learned that they could have gotten a better deal by not completing their checkout.

Secondly, there are a slew of ways that this can go awry. The last thing you want to do is bug a customer that has already placed an order, and depending on your business you will probably have ways that can happen without you knowing it. For instance, what if the customer calls in their order? They will have had to at least entered an email address for you to be able to contact them, but what if they come back and order under another email address? Or use an anonymous checkout? What if they've already purchased these products from another competitor?

We are still doing this, but the bloom is off the rose. We decided not to offer any incentive for abandoning a cart, so there isn't any real strong offer other than just reminding people that they had an unfinished checkout. We're still trying to build in new ways to reduce the number of false positive, but a few still slip through, and often times the customer is annoyed or even angry.

Of course, every situation is different, you may find that it doesn't create any problems with your site.


 3:52 pm on May 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

Thanks for your quick reply...

Yeah, I've been on the fence if I should offer an incentive like a discount code or not...hmmmm. I guess I can try 2 tests one email with an incentive and another without an incentive to see what type of responses I receive.

Based on your experience doing this; what percentage (%) of these emails actually turn into sales?

Thank you,



 4:04 pm on May 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

Not real keen on sharing numbers publicly, plus this rate will vary widely so its not a very useful number.

Regarding the incentive, there is one other idea we toyed with but discarded because it didn't work for our exact situation. You might make your offer based on scarcity. Have the email state something to the effect of...

"You placed 3 extra large purple widgets into your shopping cart and began the checkout process. We have removed these widgets from our general inventory and reserved them for your order. You checkout has not been completed. We want to make sure you get these widgets you need, but if you don't complete your order by such and such time and date, we'll have to return these widgets to our general inventory and won't be able to guarantee availability."

This is a strong offer that has absolutely no financial incentive, and one that would not offend other customers that stumble upon this message. However, from an ethical point of view you'd need to really allocate inventory that was part of a checkout, which is no easy task. Moreover, when there is scarcity of inventory, how long are you willing to have it sitting allocated to an unfinished order when other customers might be willing to buy it now?

See? More headaches.


 4:13 pm on May 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've toyed with this idea as well, did a small pilot run, but so far decided against. I believe people when they say that you will get additional conversions. But there are drawbacks, like arieng mentioned, and the other one that is probably dependent on your niche/market demographic -

Our customers are non-tech people. Even if they went so far as to enter their email/etc on the first screen of a checkout process, in their mind they have not 'submitted' that information until they place the order. More than one person wanted to know how I got their email address, and were suspicious that our website 'spies' on visitors (clearly visible privacy policy notwithstanding). So something to keep in mind as well, depending on who your audience is. If you only send them to people who created an account that's one thing, but if you do not require account creation to place an order (which IMHO you shouldn't) and the person chose not to create an account, then they may not be thrilled that you are emailing them.


 5:16 pm on May 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

but if you do not require account creation to place an order (which IMHO you shouldn't) and the person chose not to create an account, then they may not be thrilled that you are emailing them.

Not to forget this is illegal in many jurisdictions, too.


 6:57 pm on May 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've been doing it for a while and it's definitely picking up some customers.

In the email I offer alternative payment methods like Paypal which has been a huge boon to recovering otherwise lost sales.

Some people appear to have simply been interrupted or closed their browser and forgot to complete the transaction and were happy to be reminded, others ignore the email.

I actually send 2 emails, the first being a "Stalled Cart" email after 3-4 hours of abandonment and the second is a "Cart Expiring" email after a couple of days.

Both have actually resulted in closing sales.

In this economy, you have to do what it takes to close those orders.


 7:56 am on May 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

A site that I regularly use has an automated email that goes out telling you that your cart will expire in xx days. I am not sure if this is a ploy to remind me that there is stuff in my cart or it is a genuine warning but it does work; I always pop back to update it even if I am not yet ready to checkout...
I have been considering adding something similar to my own cart system. If I did this I would probably add a notice about this in our privacy policy with an opt-out of these notifications for customers who get peeved about it.


 12:09 pm on May 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

Wouldn't success be dependent upon market sector? For example: if the products are readily available consumables and move quickly, I'm not convinced it's worth the effort because the buyer is likely to have already completed a purchase elsewhere.


 12:41 pm on May 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

You know, this is an interesting topic and I'm glad you brought it up so I can throw in my 2 cents. For me (speaking as a customer, not a merchant) I think it would bother me if the merchant picked up the phone and called me or sent out some kind of personal e-mail. It's basically a solicitation, and I don't like to be bothered - if your shopping cart is working properly, there is a reason I didn't check out.

Now with that said, if I got as far as putting in an e-mail address then that means I WAS ready to buy from you and something changed my mind - most likely I thought your shipping prices were too high, so I found the item elsewhere. So while I still don't want you to call and bug me, I would be OK with some kind of one-time automated message that reminds me I had an item in the cart and asks me to either checkout or maybe reply and say why I didn't.

I would take the time to reply to that message, but only if it was an automated message and not a sales person trying to sell me or offer a better deal. If I wanted to talk to a sales person, I'd have called you. :)

As a merchant, I might give this a try - just a one-time daily automated email that goes and e-mails anyone who put items in the cart that day but didn't check out and see if it helps with conversions.


 12:51 pm on May 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

I like Super-Chunk's suggestion best. It doesn't have an invasion-of-privacy feel. Of course, it doesn't let you know where you may be going wrong, if applicable.

This may be obvious, but I just want to add that, based on my own online buying habits, if exact shipping fees are ONLY available at checkout, then you can safely assume many people are populating their shopping carts simply to see what shipping is going to cost. If they abandon the cart, it might be that the shipping fee is too great, or (if the fee has to be determined after packing) that the customer doesn't have the patience to wait, or that the customer wasn't ready to buy yet but just wanted to know how much the complete order would be. Emailing customers under those conditions would probably cause antagonism, because the seller obviously didn't "get" what the customer experience was.


 10:01 pm on May 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

With my shopping cart software, customers can get to the step of entering credit card info and often have their name, address, email, etc recorded.

On a few occasions I've called them and said that we had just made some changes to the shopping cart system, and I wanted to make sure they didn't encounter a problem. This at least has given me a chance to hear why they didn't complete the sale. It's also why I don't do it any more.

I have every item marked "free shipping," and indicate everywhere possible that the price posted is the price they'll pay at checkout. When I've called people, they either said that they wanted to see how much shipping would be, or they wanted to see what the total would be. [bang head]


 10:57 pm on May 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm not convinced it's worth the effort because the buyer is likely to have already completed a purchase elsewhere.

That's very defeatist assuming you already have no chance.

no extra effort = no extra sales.

It's not going to create a watershed of sales in any event, but it was worth the effort IMO to keep the mind share active while the CC was out of the wallet.


 11:47 am on May 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

If your margin permits it, call rather than email.

I have seen implemented a procedure were all abandoned carts are called in less than an hour, the conversion rates are amazing! Very very high.

In most cases the ability to hear a human voice was the only thing missing....


 4:06 pm on May 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

In most cases the ability to hear a human voice was the only thing missing....

I have had a number of sales where the customer called to verify that "we were real" and then clicked the submit button. Interesting to see the order come through when they are on the phone with you.


 5:19 pm on May 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

>>Has anyone ever attempted to email customers who abandoned their shopping cart?

in the EU i think there are privacy issues involved here, for instance it demonstrates that you are keeping and using personally identifiable data about their use of the site.


 6:52 pm on May 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

We have started using this recently and we're seeing a slight lift in conversions from it. We ship fairly heavy products and primarily use it to bring back customers who may have been surprised by getting a freight rate higher than they are used to online (we are after all shipping 1000+ lb. orders). We actually pop up a form saying that we may be able to negotiate a better price and request name, email, and phone, although only email is required for us to get back to them. If they provide the additional info it helps us to match orders started online and finished offline. We are actually testing it on only a segment of traffic where if the freight rate exceeds x% of the product and customers abandon the order they see the pop-up for better rates. Although the test is quite new, the sales team does report a substantially higher close rate, especially where we follow-up be phone. If following up by email I'd recommend the follow up be sent within an hour of the cart abandon, if possible, with a second follow up within 48 hours. We don't send unsolicited abandoned cart follow ups at this time, we are limiting it to people who explicitly give their permission.


 11:35 pm on May 31, 2010 (gmt 0)

If you collect the customer's contact details in the process of filling out the shopping cart you should do more than email them. Phone them.

And you'll be surprised on the variance of responses. They range from anything from " i couldn't find my credit card " , " i had to ask my wife first " , " i was just playing " to revelations on usability.

Some folks just appreciate the human contact and will gladly let you make the purchase for them.

With this you can start to make some calculations on how much effort you put into CRM with customers of abandoned shopping carts.


 6:05 am on Jun 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

In spain there is definately an issue with following up, and the use of the individuales data.

We use the excuse of a checking to make sure everything was working fine in the software..... and thurn that into a civilised conversation !


 7:35 am on Jun 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

We use an OSCommerce contribution called (http://www.oscommerce.com/community/contributions,1688) Recover Cart Sales which seems to be pretty effective. The email written for that contribution takes the line of asking for feedback, rather than offering incentives. It is reasonably effective in that it does seem to nudge a few more conversions, and it has also lead to some valuable feedback (a fairly serious payment processing problem in one case).

This is the text from the (GPL licensed) contribution:

define('EMAIL_TEXT_NEWCUST_INTRO', "\n\n" . 'Thank you for stopping by ' . STORE_NAME .
' and considering us for your purchase. ');

define('EMAIL_TEXT_CURCUST_INTRO', "\n\n" . 'We would like to thank you for having shopped at ' .
STORE_NAME . ' in the past. ');

'We noticed that during a visit to our store you placed ' .
'the following item(s) in your shopping cart, but did not complete ' .
'the transaction.' . "\n\n" .
'Shopping Cart Contents:' . "\n\n"

'We are always interested in knowing what happened ' .
'and if there was a reason that you decided not to purchase at ' .
'this time. If you could be so kind as to let us ' .
'know if you had any issues or concerns, we would appreciate it. ' .
'We are asking for feedback from you and others as to how we can ' .
'help make your experience at '. STORE_NAME . ' better.'."\n\n".
'PLEASE NOTE:'."\n".'If you believe you completed your purchase and are ' .
'wondering why it was not delivered, this email is an indication that ' .
'your order was NOT completed, and that you have NOT been charged! ' .
'Please return to the store in order to complete your order.'."\n\n".
'Our apologies if you already completed your purchase, ' .
'we try not to send these messages in those cases, but sometimes it is ' .
'hard for us to tell depending on individual circumstances.'."\n\n".
'Again, thank you for your time and consideration in helping us ' .
'improve the ' . STORE_NAME . " website.\n\nSincerely,\n\n"

[edited by: lorax at 11:57 am (utc) on Jun 1, 2010]
[edit reason] delinked [/edit]


 3:57 pm on Jun 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

We implemented an email 24 hours after abandon about 3 months ago. We have a 10% conversion rate for those that do click on the email. However, the number of people that actually click is extremely low. We also tried calling them but stopped that after we received too many complaints.

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