Remarketing is an advertising concept to solicit consumers who have visited ecommerce sites and left without purchasing. There are different forms of remarketing. One method places a “cookie” in a consumer’s web browser when that consumer visits a site, and subsequently shows relevant display ads on other, participating websites when the consumer visits them.
A second method targets consumers who abandon ecommerce shopping carts. For this method, a merchant collects the email address from a consumer who has placed it in a shopping cart form and then abandoned the purchase. The merchant then emails the consumer in an attempt to have that consumer complete the purchase.
This form of abandoned-cart remarketing is very effective for many ecommerce merchants. One of them is Carolyn Nye, marketing manager for S&S Worldwide, a 100-year-old direct marketer of arts and crafts, sporting goods and educational supplies. She is responsible for the planning and implementation of all email marketing programs for that company. She’s also a Practical eCommerce contributor.
We asked her about S&S’s abandoned-cart remarketing efforts.
Interview with Carolyn Nye, S&S Worldwide
Practical eCommerce: S&S Worldwide sends an email to consumers who have abandoned the shopping cart without purchasing anything. Could you explain that program?
Carolyn Nye: “When customers come to our site and shop, we can capture their email addresses in a few different ways. If they have received a promotional email from us and clicked on it, we have a parameter within the URL that captures the email addresses, which is then ‘cookied’ for the next time they visit the site. We can also capture their email addresses if they are logged into their accounts.
“Presently, we capture about 50 percent of the email addresses of all cart abandoners. When the customer shops and adds items into his or her cart and then leaves the site without purchasing, this will enter them into our abandon cart stream of emails. The first email is sent within a few hours of the customer leaving the site. At any point if the customer purchases either off line or online, he or she is then removed from the stream of emails. We have follow up emails that are sent at specific intervals after the cart was abandoned.”
PEC: How long has your company been doing remarketing and roughly how many abandoned cart emails do you send out each month?
Nye: “We’ve had our abandon cart email program running for about four years. Our quantity changes drastically by month, with our busiest months seeing the most emails sent. However, we tend to average about 17,000 emails a month.”
PEC: Can you provide some rough statistics on the effectiveness?
Nye: “The abandon cart program is extremely effective for us. We typically will see about a 25 percent conversion rate on those who receive the email. Over the years, the abandon cart email series produces about one-third of all our yearly email revenue.”
PEC: One criticism of this form of remarketing is that consumers have not opted-in to the email communication, and it’s therefore a violation of their email privacy. What is your view on this?
Nye: “In the majority of our instances, a cart abandoner is also an email subscriber. There are always a few cases where a customer may have opted out of our promotional emails and still receive an abandon cart message if he or she abandons a cart. But, generally, once the first email is received, a customer can opt out of the abandon cart emails. Because of the relationship we have with the customer, and the actions taken on our site, it is perfectly acceptable and compliant with CAN-SPAM regulations to remarket to these individuals.”
PEC: Does S&S receive spam complaints, or other email complaints, from consumers who are angry about getting these email communications?
Nye: “We occasionally have negative feedback, but no more then we would typically receive from our normal promotional email subscribers who decide to opt out. If anything, we tend to hear very positive feedback from customers who actually value the service we are providing by saving their shopping cart data, and emailing them with a link to come back and complete the purchase. We also get great anecdotal feedback from customers on why they abandoned their cart in the first place. This has been instrumental in improving the cart check out process, and in better understanding our customers’ buying behavior.”
PEC: What is your advice to smaller ecommerce merchants who are contemplating abandoned-cart remarketing?
Nye: “I believe that having an abandon cart program is very vital to almost any ecommerce business. It will work better for some sites than others, but the underlying marketing concept is the same, and without an effective program, you could be leaving a lot of lost sales on the table.”
PEC: Are you familiar with companies that offer this service to smaller merchants?
Nye: “SeeWhy is a company that offers a very good cart abandonment tracker and conversion tool. Unfortunately I don’t have any other suggestions, as I am not very familiar with companies that may offer this service for smaller sites. Merchants can search on related keywords, such as ‘remarketing,’ for vendors, I would think.”
PEC: Any other thoughts for our readers on the topic of abandoned cart remarketing?
Nye: “When we first were discussing the possibility of implementing an abandon cart program, I was the biggest advocate against the program. I truly thought our customers would be very annoyed and we would lose credibility with them. What we’ve found has been the opposite. If anything, our customers love the reminders and ease of service we are offering to them. I honestly am still shocked at how many retailers, large and small, still do not have any kind of remarketing program in place. My biggest word of advice would be to try it out, and I’m sure you’ll find positive results.”