Three Promotion Pitfalls to Avoid When Remarketing to Abandoned Shopping Carts

We all know that promotions can have a dramatic impact on the revenue that can be recovered with triggered shopping cart abandonment emails. Here, lets take a look at the potential pitfalls of using promotions in shopping cart recovery campaigns and the different strategies you can use to avoid these issues.

We’ll take a look at the three broad types of problems you’ll encounter in turn:

Getting out of step with the customer
Viral spread of promo codes
Training the customer

1. Getting out of step with the customer

Problem: You set up a trigger-based campaign that sends follow-up emails to customers who abandon their shopping carts. You include a promotion to encourage customers to buy. Within a couple of days of going live, the head of the customer service team is in your office berating you about the angry customers they’ve had on the phone and the rebates given to customers. What went wrong?

Your campaign got out of step with what customers were doing. This has happened to some of the largest U.S. retailers and has caused some significant red faces.

The problem here is due to a delay between the customer abandoning their shopping cart and the email going out. A small percentage of customers will come back and buy before your remarketing email goes out; so when you make a promotional offer, you are bound to upset some customers.

Batch data transfer mechanisms, where data is sent say every 24 hours, all suffer to some degree from this problem. If you are stuck with one of these, then you are effectively restricted to only sending a single remarketing email without a promotional offer. These types of campaigns typically deliver less than a quarter of the return that you should get from a multi-stage campaign with all the bells and whistles. For many ecommerce sites, that difference can be measured in millions of dollars of revenue—just because of out-of-date data.

Solution: The solution is to avoid batch data transfer mechanisms and ensure that your email campaigns are 100% synchronised with customers’ onsite activity. This means putting in place a continuous process for tracking customers’ actions on your ecommerce site and triggering real-time emails. Emails sent in real time are never out of step with customers and perform significantly better than emails sent only a few hours later.

2. Viral spread of promo codes

Problem: The promotional offer code used in your remarketing email spreads like wildfire on the web. It has appeared on promotion code websites and is all over Facebook and Twitter.

Solutions: There are two potential solutions to this problem. The obvious route is to use one-time promo codes (each promo code can only be used once) in your remarketing emails. Many e-commerce platforms support one-time promo codes, so if you can use these in your remarketing campaign, job done.

The other potential solution is to do nothing. Many marketers struggle to get their promotions to go viral, and maybe you should look on this as a happy accident. Some ecommerce teams, when faced with their promotions spreading unexpectedly, rationalise it simply: Getting a new visitor to this part of the funnel would cost significantly more in marketing costs than the cost of the promotion discount given.

3. Training the customer

The final problem has traditionally been the most difficult to address.

Abandoners spot the pattern and realise that all they have to do to get a better deal is to abandon their shopping cart. Next time, the customer abandons their shopping cart in anticipation of a promotional offer, driving up your shopping cart abandonment rate. This is obviously a particular problem where you have repeat buying patterns.

One solution is to do nothing but rationalise the cost of the promotion compared with sourcing new traffic. But for many ecommerce teams this is not sufficient. Here are three potential solutions you can use:

One of the simplest solutions is to move the offer to the last of your sequence of remarketing emails so that customers effectively have to wait for, say, seven days before receiving the offer. This is well-established best practice and ensures that customers that were going to convert without an offer do so, maximising margins.

You can also link the promotional offer to a minimum order. This can be in the form of free shipping or as a potential savings, with a minimum purchase. It has a nice side benefit in that implementing an offer such as ‘Free shipping on all orders over $50’ will often increase the overall average order value. For your remarketing campaign, this means capturing the cart value and using this dynamically to trigger a different campaign for those that qualify. So, for example, Sue, who abandons her shopping cart with $40 in her cart, gets a regular campaign which reminds her that all orders over $50 qualify for free shipping. When Mary Jane abandons with $50 in her cart, she qualifies for free shipping, so she gets a campaign trumpeting free shipping. This is Simple, but very effective.

You can also use predictive scoring, which calculates whether an abandoner will buy when remarketed to. This enables you to focus your promotional offers on abandoners who are unlikely to buy without a promotion. Abandoners predicted to purchase can be sent a straightforward remarketing campaign without an offer. This is a simple but incredibly effective way of maximising margin and conversions at the same time. It also eliminates any risk of training customers to expect a promotional offer. It’s just too hard for them to figure out when they will get a promotional offer; the predictive score is way too complicated and relies on not only their behavior but also the data of millions of other shopping cart abandoners to determine who should get offers.

Republished with writer’s permission from original post by Charles Nicholls.

One thought on “Three Promotion Pitfalls to Avoid When Remarketing to Abandoned Shopping Carts

  1. Great article and I especially like the solution to the problem of training the customer to go for a knee-jerk discount email upon abandonment. Very clever!

    It would be fascinating to know in a future article:
    a) the times people are most likely to abandon ie 1pm when they’re eating lunch at their desks or 8pm when dinner, homework and kids enter the mix
    b) if one of the reasons people abandon carts because they fear the item won’t arrive in time for a particular gift occasion – and if a pop-up delivery schedule could solve the issue
    c) if a live chat option could save the sale to help overcome their fears etc
    d) if a series of differentiated products – rather than promotions – saved the sale. For example, a new customer may baulk at the upper-end items but be willing to try the mid-priced or entry-level products if sent those instead in a cart abandonment email.


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