Chasing Customers Into the Virtual Parking Lot

The online shopping cart has become as much of a wish list as anything, giving consumers a place to store, compare, consider and dream about potential purchases. E-tailers, however, would like to see those potential purchases become actual ones, and they’re coming up with increasingly sophisticated ways of doing just that.

“Shopping cart abandonment is key for e-tailers because every abandoned shopping cart is a lost sale,” Josh Pierry, founder of RevenueExpect, told CRM Buyer. “If a person is interested enough to put items in the shopping cart, it is essential to understand why they didn’t complete the transaction. We look at shopping cart abandonment as a way to provide great customer service, as well as an opportunity to better monetize your website.”

RevenueExpect offers form analytics and email remarketing software to e-tailers that want to analyze and follow up with customers who abandon shopping carts. Its clients can track abandoned shopping carts, including any data entered into them, even when users don’t press the “submit” button.

Abandoned carts thus give retailers information about products not bought, and they also provide an opportunity to send event-triggered emails to those consumers with suggestions for possible purchases.

No Sale but Plenty of Insights

Abandoned shopping carts are, in fact, valuable reservoirs of information, revealing much about a customer’s needs, desires and intentions.

“It’s their truest action that shows intent,” Eric Tobias, founder and president of iGoDigital, told CRM Buyer of online consumers and their loading up of shopping carts. “It’s the retailer’s best opportunity to capture revenue that goes unfulfilled.”

iGoDigital, as a specialist in product recommendation, works with retailers to track and monitor consumer behavior on websites, including the abandonment of shopping carts. It then sends follow-up emails to those consumers with suggestions for purchases they might like to make, based on the contents of their abandoned carts.

“All retailers are looking to increase the conversion [of shopping cart items to actual sales],” explained Tobias. “This is the opportunity with the most relevance to be able to remarket.”

And does this email remarketing work? The numbers are convincing, said Tobias. The open rates for these remarketing emails are twice those of traditional marketing messages, and 20-to-50 percent of consumers who receive these messages end up making a purchase.

“If a retailer can recapture 30 percent of all abandoned purchases, that ends up being a really big number for them,” explained Tobias.

Talking the Customer Down

Another strategy for dealing with cart abandonment is to initiate a proactive chat discussion with a consumer to prevent the cart from being abandoned in the first place. Almost by definition, those who abandon shopping carts are comparison shoppers, and this is a valuable group for retailers to target with informational chat sessions.

“These comparison shoppers are 84 percent more likely to research online to ensure they get the best price,” said Jim Iyoob, VP global development at Etech. Etech offers a variety of sales products and services including chat management for e-tailers.

“More than two-thirds say they like to shop around before making a purchase,” Iyoob told CRM Buyer. “What this tells us is that visitors that abandoned shopping carts are very valuable, higher-income customers that are more tech-savvy, and use this knowledge to comparison shop and find the better deals online.”

Chatting offers e-tailers a way to talk through potential purchases with customers, answer questions, and close sales, thus preventing or limiting the prevalence of abandoned carts.

“It is our belief that if you are not assisting your customers, your competitors will,” explained Iyoob. “And when your customer leaves your site to compare, and your competitor has a live chat option, your competitor will take that sale.”

Personalized Service or Just Plain Harassment?

Customers might balk to hear that someone is reviewing, analyzing, and responding to their abandoned carts. It’s easy to forget, after all, that every step taken in online stores is monitored and analyzed, yet such are the parameters of online shopping.

Still, most companies make an effort to respect consumers’ privacy, sending out emails, for instance, only to those who have indicated that they would like to receive email notifications.

“Privacy is always a concern,” said Tobias. “We limit the emails to consumers who have opted into receiving communication from the retailer.”

The practice of email retargeting is not intrusive, but is in fact a service to customers, maintained Ido Ariel, cofounder of Barilliance, which offers a suite of personalization products including shopping cart abandonment emails, onsite behavioral targeting, and personalized product recommendations.

“We think that sending one or two personalized and relevant follow-up emails is not harassment,” Ariel told CRM Buyer. “The fact that our customers get valuable feedback and see increased sales proves this. We have predefined templates with built-in opt-out links, which our customers are required to include in the emails, so if the end-user does not want to get a follow-up email, she can easily opt out.”

In the future, it might not just be an email but a text message or app alert that follows non-buying customers. A customer who abandons items in a shopping cart and then goes to a bricks-and-mortar store to shop around, for instance, might be tracked by a mobile app in real-time and sent product suggestions via an app alert, all based on that earlier shopping cart qua wish list.

“We’re looking at social and mobile and see many opportunities to add personalization to these channels,” said Ariel.

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