We’ve all done it. We spend half an hour browsing an ecommerce site, adding various items to our cart, only to change our minds at the final moment. It’s a common practice that happens for a number of reasons, and understandably infuriates retailers. In fact, $4 trillion (around £2.73 trillion) of merchandise will be abandoned in shopping carts this year according to BI Intelligence.

Yes, cart abandonment is an unavoidable annoyance, but there is some good news. An estimated 63 per cent of that £2.73 trillion is recoverable, so long as the retailer is willing to put in some effort. This is because 75 per cent of shoppers who have left items in their baskets actually plan to return to the site at some point, notes research from SeeWhy. If you don’t give them a gentle nudge though, they might well forget about their planned purchase.

Email is arguably the best and easiest way to win customers back. Here’s how you can use it to recover some of that lost revenue.

Why do customers abandon their carts?

You should never, ever assume that a customer has failed to complete a purchase simply because they decided they didn’t want the product any more. In fact, there are a variety of reasons why cart abandonment occurs. The most common of these, according to Worldpay, is that the buyer was met with unexpected costs when they reached the checkout stage, most typically postage. Here are some more reasons why they may have decided against making a purchase on this particular visit:

  • Found the product cheaper elsewhere
  • Problems with the website
  • Customer was just browsing and wanted to save the items for later
  • Got distracted – may have had to switch tasks unexpectedly

Don’t fret – all these issues can be solved and addressed by a well-designed email remarketing campaign. You won’t win every customer back, of course, but even enticing just a small percentage of the wayward shoppers to return is better than nothing. Plus, with experience, you’ll be able to refine your tactics to boost that percentage even higher.

Personalisation is essential

No one wants to be seen as ‘just another customer’ – they all want to be appreciated and made to feel special, otherwise they may as well go and spend their money elsewhere. Therefore, you should never send out emails beginning ‘Dear customer’; if you have their name, then use it!

Ideally, you should include the person’s name, as well as the item left behind in the email’s subject line. For example: “Hey Hannah, you left your iPad Mini cover in our basket…” Without even opening the email, the customer is reminded of their intended purchase and feels as if the retailer really cares about their custom. The use of ‘your’ instead of ‘an’ makes it seem like the product is rightfully theirs too! A good subject line is key if you want the receiver to open your email, instead of just deleting it or sending it to spam.

Time it right

More than half of customers (54 per cent) are won back from a remarketing email they received in the first few hours of them abandoning their cart. In contrast, an email sent 48 hours later only tempts back ten per cent of customers, research from SeeWhy shows. Therefore, acting fast is vital.

However, if a customer has abandoned a cart at midnight, it’s probably not a great idea to send an email at 2am. Instead, wait until the next morning. Do your research to find out which times garner the highest open rates.

Create urgency

If your customer really wants that product, an email telling them it might sell out or the sale it’s in is ending soon is sure to persuade them to make a purchase. You might even choose to ‘expire’ their cart after a set number of days – tell your customers this so they can reinstate it and checkout before it’s too late! In your email copy, use words and phrases like ‘quick’, ‘hurry’, ‘time is running out’ and ‘sale ends soon’ to create this sense of urgency, but be careful not to be too pushy. Your customers will certainly not like that.

Make it easy

Some retailers get it so, so wrong by not including a link to the product left behind, or even the shopping cart itself. People are lazy and won’t want to return to their cart if it means leaving their emails and manually typing in your website’s address. Always include a link to their shopping cart, along with images and prices of the items they left behind. You may even want to recommend similar or alternative products, just in case the reason they left was because they decided that product wasn’t particularly right for their needs.

Reassure them

Consumers are a nervous bunch, especially when it comes to online purchases. What if that dress doesn’t fit? Is that book really any good? Why should I buy from this business and not its competitor? To calm these fears, include customer reviews in your remarketing emails. They’ll show that the product is of a good quality and is definitely what they want, as well as the fact that the people who do business with you are happy customers.

Confidence is key, and 70 per cent of customers trust recommendations from other users, according to Econsultancy. As mentioned earlier, some visitors choose to leave their carts behind because they found a better price elsewhere. If you show them your customer satisfaction ratings, offer a special loyalty scheme and attempt to win them back rather than forget about them, they may decide to buy with you after all.

Offer a discount

Many retailers now attempt to push customers to finish the checkout process by offering them money off everything sat in their cart. It’s becoming such a common practice, in fact, that some savvy shoppers now abandon their baskets on purpose, just to see if they get a ‘ten per cent off’ email five minutes later. You may not want to offer a discount straight away – you could stick with just a reminder email first. However, a discount is a good follow-up idea if the first email doesn’t reel them in.

Don’t want to offer money off? How about free shipping? Almost two thirds of customers (61 per cent) are likely to abandon their carts if the retailer doesn’t offer free shipping, research from ComScore reveals. If you already provide this, try offering free next day delivery or an extra small item with their purchase if they spend over a certain amount. They might buy from you and spend more than they were originally planning to. A win-win.

Offer them help

People could be leaving their carts behind because of technical reasons unbeknownst to you. If a customer can’t checkout, eventually they’ll be forced to give up and go somewhere else. For this reason, it’s important to include the number of your customer services helpline or a link to your live web chat, if you have one, in your follow-up email. Not only will you be able to help them complete their purchase, you’ll also learn of any technical problems with your website, which you can then fix. This will help reduce cart abandonment in the future and show customers you’re willing to go the extra mile.

Ask them why

Not enough retailers quiz customers why they decided not to make a purchase that day, yet it is incredibly easy to create a short, simple survey that gathers data about cart abandonment. Even if you don’t win that customer back, you’ll learn some valuable lessons and can use this information to improve your services. What have you got to lose?

It may seem like a lot of work, but if you really care about those lost customers, you won’t want them to stay lost. Cart abandonment is a common problem that all retailers have to face, but many (even the big ones!) aren’t attempting to solve it. Get ahead of your competition and start winning those customers back today.