What Do Abandoned Shopping Carts Tell Online Retailers?

Once a cart is abandoned, the key is to follow up and guide the customer back to the purchase, without falling into the trap of offering too many discounts.

E-commerce continues to revolutionize the retail industry. However, abandoned carts is one problem that could be costing online retailers more business than it should. Responding to customers who have abandoned carts has the potential to lock in the sale, but many companies are sending out weak follow ups, according to a study from TargetingMantra.

Paras Arora, head of product marketing at TargetingMantra, compared empty cart follow up emails from 15 different online retailers including Overstock.com, Bloomingdale’s, Amazon, and eBay. He used six parameters to generate scores.

These parameters questioned if the follow up included:

  1. The abandoned product
  2. A call to action
  3. Relevant product recommendations
  4. Responsive design
  5. Discount offers
  6. Short email length

Apparel retailer Oakley scored the highest, as their follow-up did everything possible to ensure that a customer would reconsider their purchases. Best Buy also scored well, but their response was ruled too lengthy. Bloomingdale’s and Nine West failed to follow up within 48 hours and received no score.

Almost all the companies investigated failed to include relevant product recommendations. Offering a recommendation could be one of the simplest ways to secure a purchase, since a motivating factor for abandoning a cart could be that the product wasn’t quite right.

Overall the data indicated that follow-up, when present, was inconsistent. Some companies offered a discount, which could push customers to make a purchase, while others didn’t.

Arora advises against responding to every empty cart with an email offering a discount; this practice could condition customers to abandon carts more frequently for the purpose of receiving a discount when they were going to make a purchase anyway. This creates an interesting tension between conversion and profit, which your company should consider in depth.

Sephora, ThinkGeek, and eBay all neglected to include a call to action, which leaves the customer with no direct way back to the abandoned cart, and makes returning more difficult. Other companies didn’t include the abandoned product in the follow up email, also adding difficulty.

Overall, Arora’s parameters can do a lot to inform follow up email design. Getting customers to return is obviously the biggest goal, but overwhelming customers with unnecessary recommendations, or training them to abandon carts are easy mistakes to make.

Readers: What do you do when a shopping cart is abandoned on your site?

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.