EF Staff

March 10, 2016

For the uninitiated, cart abandonment might be a new concept. Let’s imagine you’re at at your computer, shopping for a new iPad case. You find one you like, add it to your cart, and proceed to checkout. Just as you’re about to hand over your credit card information or log in to your PayPal account:

  • The doorbell rings and a delivery arrives
  • You realise you’ll have to pay $48 in shipping…no thanks!
  • You notice a coupon entry form and leave to look for one
  • You change your mind…maybe it’s a luxury you don’t need right now

Would-be customers do this to ecommerce store owners all the time and it costs the store dearly. The irony is, practically none of them do anything about it!

If abandoned carts are such a big issue, why do ecommerce store owners ignore them?

Most store owners know that cart abandonment exists but practically none of my clients know how much they’re losing in potential sales not going through. These incomplete sales don’t show up on a balance sheet so, assuming your store is profitable, it’s easy to forget that they exist.

It’s a crying shame, as abandoned carts are often an untapped gold mine, right under the store owner’s nose.

What Are The Benefits Of Reducing Cart Abandonment?

If you reduce your cart abandonment, you’ll sell more. Selling more usually means making more money. (Which is why you’re here, learning from Empire Flippers!)

How much more exactly?

Cart abandonment on a global level was estimated at a loss of around $4 trillion annually in 2014 and as ecommerce grows annually by around 16%, the amount of value being lost to abandoned checkouts will continue to rise.

If abandoned carts were an economy, you’d be looking at the fourth largest in the world, and it would be growing by around 16% annually.

Sure, ecommerce will slow as the market matures but there are no national economies of this size growing at this rate. Yes, your store might only form a small part of the potential value but why not run the numbers to see how much you could potentially recover?

A 3-email system, can typically recover around 30% of your lost sales

Assuming you’re an average site losing 69% of sales to abandoned carts, recovering 30% of those lost sales would equate to a 64% increase in revenues.

Lost Sales

If your store is selling $250,000/year at a gross profit of 20%, that’s an extra $32,000 in profit every year.

What would that extra cash mean to you and your business?

Reducing your cart abandonment rate actually carries over a wide range of secondary benefits for you and your customers:

  • Increased value of your site when you come to sell it
  • Decreased customer acquisition costs
  • Improved user-experience for your visitors
    • Opportunity for them to complete their purchase via live chat, telephone or email
    • Feedback loop for you to improve your store (e.g. ‘I couldn’t complete the sale on my iPhone’, so you know to work on the mobile checkout.)
    • Increased trust in you and your brand; shopper feels more confident handing over their information and doesn’t feel the need to shop around on competing sites.

Of the 6 types of website buyers only Newbie Norm slips through the cracks on this one. Not because he doesn’t want what I’ve outlined above, but because it’s unlikely he’s bought an ecommerce store or even a drop shipping site before.

For the rest of the buyer profiles, the benefits are clear:

  • DIY David — A cart recovery system is pretty easy to set up, can be tinkered with endlessly and offers a great ROI for your time.
  • Portfolio Paul, Lifestyle Larry, Flipper Fred — Increases the value of any ecommerce/dropshipping stores within his portfolio.
  • Strategic Sally — Improves customer experience and offers a clear differentiator to her competitors that she actually cares about her customers.

Why Do Customers Abandon The Checkout Process?

Many ecommerce store owners think their cart abandonment rates are due to time-wasting customers who change their minds. The reality is a little different.

A WorldPay study back in 2012 looked at the main reasons customers chose to abandon the checkout process:

Yes, some shoppers do change their mind, but this study suggests it’s not even close to being the main reason for cart abandonment.

The 5 top reasons for cart abandonment can be grouped into one of two underlying reasons:

  1. The customer was not ready to purchase
  2. The customer was uncomfortable with your prices

As such, when it comes to our cart abandonment email sequence, we should approach it from the viewpoint that the customer wasn’t quite ready to purchase from you or wasn’t happy with the price you were asking them to pay. In the next section, I’ll explain how you can go so far as to encourage your customers to provide you with feedback that you can plug directly into your site and not only recover your lost sales but reduce the number of sales you lose going forward.

It’s worth mentioning that unexpectedly high shipping costs are the largest cause of lost sales. Your cart abandonment emails probably won’t help here, so what can you do about it?

There are some fascinating studies on reducing cart abandonment by offering free shipping and how it affects your store’s conversion rates. Being able to offer free shipping without going broke is a massive win for your store and honestly, one of the best things you can do off-the-bat to reduce cart abandonment. Once you’ve tackled free shipping and figured out a way of making it work profitably for you, your next biggest win will be sending 3 simple emails.

Most Online Stores Are Terrible At Recovering Carts

I know, I know…ecommerce store owners are a busy bunch of people.

Often, though, they’re busy because they’re scrambling to make more money. They don’t even realise that there’s often an enormous gold mine right under their noses!

When I talk to most ecommerce store owners (even those doing very nicely in their online retailing) they:

  1. Won’t know the average rate of cart abandonment is around 69%.
  2. Won’t have much of an idea of their own cart abandonment rate.

The stores that do know they have a problem are typically awful at recovering their lost sales.

Remember, these individuals are adding your products to their cart and then leaving for some reason. That’s a pretty strong indicator that they want to buy your products. Despite this clear signal of customer interest, Optilead discovered in 2015 that 7 out of 8 retailers don’t follow up at all!

Think Your Store Is Immune To Cart Abandonment?

If abandonment rates on your store are low, congratulations! You are in a tiny minority of online stores.

Many of my clients are running sites turning over multiple millions each year, but in many instances have cart abandonment rates in excess of 85%.

One client actually has 2 of these sites with abandonment rates of 95% and 96% respectively.

Think about what a cart abandonment rate of 95% means for a site doing $2 million in sales.

Those missed sales amount to a loss of $38 million.

He’s missing out on $38 million in sales.

Every single year.

Now before you call bullshit on me, I’ll mention that of course not all of those prospective purchases are going to result in a sale. Cart abandonment is going to happen at some percentage for stores of all shapes and sizes.

However, the percentage sales that fail to complete doesn’t have to be so high!

In the case of my client’s $2 million site, many of us would look at the $2 million we were selling, congratulate ourselves on a job well done, and move on to something else. But that would be a huge shame.

Decreasing abandoned carts by just 2.5% would bring in an additional $1 million annually:

Decrease Abandoned Carts

The income your store produces increases so dramatically because you’re simplifying things for your customer in the crucial moments before they get their wallets out.

As a business owner, your time and money are limited. Reducing your cart abandonment offers truly massive upside for your time and financial investment.

How To Setup 3 Emails You Should Send To Boost Sales By 67%

Setting up a cart recovery system can be incredibly difficult and time-consuming, but platforms like Klaviyo have made it much more straightforward, particularly if you’re using a well-known platform like Magento, Shopify, BigCommerce, or WooCommerce.

The setup process — although technical — is reasonably straightforward for anyone with some email marketing chops. With that in mind, instead of focusing on a step by step implementation, I want to give you some examples of cart abandonment emails and actually explain the content that you should feature in each of your 3 emails.

The most important thing here is to connect with your potential customers quickly, and to offer them the emotional and practical support they need to complete the purchase.

Email #1: Offer Customer Support Within 15 Minutes

Most ecommerce stores fall down at the first hurdle and don’t follow up at all. The customer abandons their cart and never hears from the store again.

For those stores that do reach out, the first email typically tells the customer to “come back and buy”. They might even offer a coupon.

That’s a big mistake.

It doesn’t solve the major problems that make customers abandon their carts (not being ready to purchase and being uncomfortable with your process).

If the checkout process is broken or confusing, a coupon is not going to fix it.

Equally, if the customer feels that your shipping costs were too high and presented to them too late in the checkout process, telling them to ‘come back and buy!’ just seems pushy.

This first email can increase sales dramatically, if you use it to figure out what’s going through the head of the abandoning customer.

  • Did they decide your shipping costs were too high?
  • Did they leave to look for a coupon because your checkout has an entry field for one?
  • Did the telephone ring just as they were about to complete?
  • Did their connection timeout?

Whatever the reason, this first email should do a couple of things:

  1. Ask the customer if they had a problem at checkout
  2. Tell the customer you’d love to have their business and that they can complete their order by:
    1. Returning to the store (e.g. by clicking this big attractive call-to-action button)
    2. Calling your customer support team on 555-555-5555
    3. Speaking directly to your live chat agents by clicking here
    4. Contacting your customer support team using email by replying to the message you’ve sent to them
  3. Make clear to the customer that their checkout will be saved for at least a week (ideally a lot longer), and that they can return to complete their checkout anytime.

You should also aim to send this email within 15 minutes of the cart being abandoned. You are 3 times more likely to close the sale by doing so than waiting until an hour has passed.

Email #2: Remind And Reassure The Customer 24 Hours Later

The goal of the first email was to assist users who were struggling to checkout or changed their mind after reaching the checkout and finding unexpectedly high shipping costs.

The next email aims to convert those users who are still shopping around.

The goal of this email is to remind would-be customers why they should buy from you.

Do you offer…

  • Free shipping?
  • Hassle-free returns?
  • Extended guarantees?

Don’t assume that your product alone is enough to distinguish you from your competition.

You have to drive home all the reasons that a customer should buy from you, especially if you’re charging more than your competitors.

Obviously, this email should also include a link to the customer’s checkout and encourage them to return to complete their purchase. Explain that you’d love to do business with them and that you’ll save their items for them to come back to anytime.

Email #3: Final Recovery Attempt 1 Week Later

A full week has gone by since the customer abandoned the checkout process. Your first email offered assistance if they were struggling to checkout. The second email offered a list of reasons they should buy from you over the competition.

So what do you write in your third cart abandonment email?

The main focus of this email should be that the customer’s cart won’t be saved indefinitely or that you might run out of stock. Don’t make it totally over the top–just be honest with them.

The goal is to give them an incentive to take action today. If you really want to use a coupon, this is the email where you should offer it.

Again, offer all the support channels you did in email #1 and all the reassurances (easy returns, fast/free shipping, positive testimonials, etc.) and all the reasons you and your product offer the best option like you did in email #2.

Don’t be alarmed if the conversion rates from this email aren’t great. By this stage, the customer has ‘cooled off’, but hopefully the feedback you got earlier in the process will help you improve your checkout. By doing so, you’ll need to spend less time and energy on recovering sales and have more visitors complete their purchase in the first place.

By paying attention to the customer feedback collected through the responses you receive, you’ll be able to save yourself the time and energy spent on cart recovery while streamlining your customer’s purchase experience.

How To Start Reducing Your Cart Abandonment

Here are some action steps that you can take away and get to work on today.

Identify The Size Of Your Cart Abandonment Issue

Before you decide to work on solving this problem, you have to determine the size of your problem. Don’t take this the wrong way, but my guess is that your abandonment rate will be at least as much as the 69% average we discussed earlier, if not more.

Either way, you need to attribute a financial value to your lost checkouts.

Start by setting up Google Analytics for cart abandonment and establishing the actual dollar value you’re losing each month.

Set Up Your Cart Recovery Email Campaign

You could cobble an email campaign together using something really basic like Mailchimp, but my personal preference, irrespective of store size is Klaviyo. There are a few things I really like about the platform:

  • It’s free for basic users, that is, up to a certain number of email addresses and emails sent each month.
  • The pricing is reasonable and scales up as your recovery campaign scales up.
  • Setup is quick, it takes about 5 minutes to hook up Shopify or BigCommerce.
  • It works with a wide range of ecommerce platforms.
  • It has an API if you need to build a custom integration for your platform.
  • Their support team is excellent and seems to genuinely want your business.

Another nice thing is that the platform comes with some basic email ‘flows’ already set up and preconfigured for you.

By the time you’ve worked your way through the setup wizard, you’ll have a cart recovery email campaign in place and potentially some other lifecycle email systems, too.

Craft Your 3 Cart Recovery Emails

Follow the guidelines above to write the most effective 3-email sequence:

  • Email #1 (Sent within 15 minutes): Offer customer support and the opportunity to complete their checkout.
  • Email #2 (Sent 24 hours later): Remind them of your store’s unique selling proposition, testimonials and reassurances.
  • Email #3 (Sent 1 week later): Remind the customer that they can still purchase from you but that their products won’t wait forever.

You can see examples of some great abandoned cart recovery emails here.

Test, Tune, Refine, and Optimize Your Cart Recovery Emails (and Checkout)

A/B split testing is arguably one of the most valuable uses of your time when it comes to running an online store. A/B split testing for your email marketing provides an incredibly valuable intersection of 2 very useful tools in your arsenal.

Once your cart recovery campaign is set up and running, you should revisit it regularly to test new email copy, subject lines, timing, and frequency.

I’ve provided you with a great starting point but it’s not exhaustive, and it might not be the best strategy for your niche. You must test everything you hear and make sure you’ve tweaked the strategy to suit your particular business.

Keep testing until you feel like you’ve got it really dialed in. Most importantly, don’t let your cart recovery emails be the end of your efforts.

Use them as a tool to get feedback from customers and would-be customers to make the checkout process more pleasant and frictionless.

Time To Get Started!

Developing your cart recovery strategy means you’ll be able to sell more, bring in more customers, and expand your business. Not only will you increase your revenue and market position, but you’ll be able to serve your customers better, by helping them make the right purchases at the right time.

You’ll become a trusted brand that people feel comfortable returning to, because they’ll know you’re a reliable business who takes care of their customers and makes life easier for them.

All you need to do now is make a start: write up your 3 cart recovery emails–preferably today–and set them up to start sending to customers right away. Make it a priority for your business and watch as the extra revenue starts to roll in.

I’m looking forward to helping you see just how this strategy will work for your specific situation, so you can start making more money and getting greater control of your business.

Not sure if this will work in your business, or have a question about something you’ve read here? Leave a comment below, and I’ll get back to you right away. 

This is a guest post from cart abandonment pro John Peden. Many ecommerce owners lie awake at night, worrying about their revenue and whether they can keep up in a highly competitive market. John, the Cart Recovery Guy, helps them to boost sales and profits by recovering their abandoned carts (otherwise incomplete online purchases). As a special gift to Empire Flippers readers, John is offering you his twenty-page Cart Recover Manifesto and a free 30-minute Skype consultation to help you find the profits you’ve been missing out on in your own store. Check out his site via this special link.


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