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Moving Upstream

After speaking at the WooCommerce Conference on the topic of email automation for your online store, I was approached by more than a dozen people with the same question: if someone abandons their cart, how can the store stay in touch with the shopper?  

It’s impossible to contact an anonymous visitor — their anonymity means you’ve not yet collected their email address and thus have left you with no way to reach them. Perhaps they were just price shopping or researching; perhaps they were distracted before completing their purchase; perhaps they didn’t like your site’s shopping cart experience — whatever the reason, they’ve slipped away and you’ve been left with the promise of a sale that’s not yet complete.

According to Business Insider, this is the case with 68% of shoppers — those who leave their cart before checking out — and about $4 billion in abandoned carts the world over. The good news is they also estimate up to 62% or $2.52 billion is recoverable with automated marketing. Does that mean you simply need to give up hope of reaching those wallets and focus on the known visitors? Well, no. It simply means you need to develop a strategy for teasing away those email addresses. It means you need to move your request upstream.

There are myriad possible tactics of this strategy, but the path you choose depends upon your business, your product, and the tools you have for implementing your ideas. No matter which path you choose, be prepared to A/B test like a madwoman until you’ve found the top three triggers and use all three. Don’t settle for just one approach. Meet your potential customers with the sign-up tool of choice and this means giving them options. Let’s look at some ideas. I’m going to call these interrupters, but I’m pretty sure I’ve borrowed the phrase from someone brilliant:

Interrupters can be any sort of dialogue, window, link, or button interrupting the user’s shopping excursion and redirecting them to a simple (usually pop-up) form collecting only their email address, for instance:

  • Interrupt the product-browsing session with a tool enabling them to upload a photo of a room they are decorating in which they can drag and drop their selected item into place. It doesn’t have to be a perfect UX, just provide them with a rough idea of how the Egyptian vase they added to their cart might look next to their lime-green sofa.
  • After the first product has been added to the cart, interrupt with a message such as, “Wow! That’s a great find! We can save it in your cart for as long as you like. Let’s give your cart a name. Please type your email address.” You could extend this process with a dialogue after each product, displaying different messaging or, go for funny, and provide humorous commentary. Be sure to also provide a checkbox for prevent the message from displaying again.
  • Provide an online calculator allowing them to figure out how much of a product to buy. Let them use the calculator and then offer to save their work using just their email address. You could also offer to email their calculations or illustrations to the address they provide. We used this approach on our personal profiler — they can use the profiler online all day long, but if they would like to print their profiles, we will send the PDFs to their inbox.
  • Offer to send them links to download the installation instructions, case study, or watch a video.
  • Offer to save their cart when they click the browser’s close button.

Be sure you are interrupting your shopper with something of value. Popping up a subscriber window might be a bit annoying on its own, but a subscriber window with an offer of free shipping on the order they are building, is going to win some favor.

According to a CouponCabin.com survey, 73% of U.S. adults are more likely to shop online where free shipping is offered and further, 93% of online shoppers said they would spend more if free shipping were offered.

Resist the temptation to interrupt the visitor with a long form or even your regular check out form or you risk adding to your abandonment rate. Also, be sure to pass the information you collect directly into their account page — don’t make them provide you with their email address again if they continue the checkout process.

Interrupters can easily become annoying, so go slowly and don’t get greedy. You want to be able to capture as many anonymous visitors as possible, but there’s the great potential to drive shoppers away at the same time. It’s a delicate balance, but well worth the effort. Remember, there’s $4 billion dollars out there and some of that can be yours.

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