Cart Abandonment Flow: Recover Sales with Abandoned Cart Emails
November 1, 2021
The Bolt Team
A cart abandonment flow is the entire process of email recovery efforts that are kicked off when a shopper abandons a cart. It begins when an item is added to a cart and ends when a customer has returned to make a purchase. A cart abandonment flow diagram can help you envision each step in the process.
While the tool you use to measure these metrics may vary, this is a general guide for creating a cart abandonment flow diagram and using it to improve your abandoned cart recovery success. This is just one of many tactics to reduce checkout abandonment on your ecommerce store. To help you outline and optimize your own cart abandonment flow, we will cover:
- Default abandoned cart flow
- Use dynamic content to connect customers to items
- How to perfect abandoned cart email timing
- A/B test to perfect timing of recovery emails
- Measure the performance of abandoned cart recovery emails
- Optimize abandoned cart flow using analytics
- Segmenting customers to customize the abandoned cart flow
To start, let’s look at a standard abandoned cart flow, and then examine ways to optimize the process.
Default abandoned cart flow
Many checkout analytics systems let you track cart abandonment metrics. Whether the tool you use has a built-in abandoned cart flow, you can design one yourself using the basic layout provided here.
To start, a default abandoned cart flow will begin when an item is added to a shopping cart (at which time checkout has been initiated). At this point, the user enters the flow. Your flow must include a wait time to allow the user to complete the purchase before triggering an email to them. This is typically between 1 – 3 hours.
It is important that in between each abandoned cart email, you detect if the customer has returned to complete a purchase. If they have, you need to make sure that these customers exit the abandoned cart flow. Customers that have returned to make a purchase that get another recovery email could think you are being pushy, scamming them, or otherwise negatively impact your reputation.
PRO TIP: Initiating the process after customers add an item also leaves the possibility that customers may still be researching the product before an abandoned cart email is sent. If not timed properly, the customer could receive a recovery email while still shopping.
To summarize, all customers that initiate a checkout by adding an item to cart that fail to complete an order (within a specific period of time) will be added to your abandoned cart flow. If at any point they return to complete a purchase, they will be removed from the flow.
Use dynamic content to connect customers to items
To automate the content of your abandoned cart emails, you will need dynamic content within the email. The item and product, including images, product details, and pricing need to be populated uniquely for each customer. To do this, your system will need to track the items in the customer’s shopping cart so that their email contains the items they were seeking to buy.
The call to action (CTA) that returns customers to their shopping cart also needs to be a unique link that brings customers back to the shopping cart they previously abandoned on the ecommerce store. This can be achieved by saving carts for users.
How to perfect abandoned cart email timing
There is no gold standard for when to send abandoned cart emails. Choosing the right time to send your shopping cart recovery emails will depend on your ecommerce service, product, and customers.
It is recommended that you send the first email within 1 – 3 hours after a checkout is initiated, send a second email 1 – 2 days later, and then send a third email after one week. Tweak the performance by running A/B tests and campaigns that measure different timing. Consistently adjust and refine your process to perfect timing based on what the analytics show.
Depending on how much research and consideration a product needs, you should give customers a longer delay before the first email is sent. Furniture, electronics, and other larger purchases will require more time and should likely have a longer time delay before the first abandoned cart email is sent.
A/B test to perfect timing of recovery emails
To perfect the timing of your abandoned cart emails, you will need to test the performance of different time delays. Use averages as a baseline to begin, and continuously run A/B testing to determine which time yields the best results. Then use whichever timer shows the highest conversion rate.
To achieve this, split customers into sample sizes, allowing you to measure the performance of different layouts, content, and designs. At the beginning of the abandoned cart flow, after customers have added an item to the cart, divide customers according to sample size. This will split a percentage of your customers into a separate flow, allowing you to compare the impact of each side-by-side.
As you can see, there is room for creating a multitude of unique abandoned cart flows, as you can adjust any step in the process — from the delay on the first email sent to the contents of the first email — and any of the subsequent emails along the chain.
PRO TIP: It is extremely important that each alternative abandoned cart flow you run differs by only one variable. This will allow you to accurately identify and isolate the best ways to improve the abandoned cart email recovery flow.
Minimize the risk of testing by using a small sample size. Rather than splitting your customers in half, have 5 – 10% test the alternative abandoned cart email flow, while the rest use your traditional flow. This will let you test your new email on a small segment of your users. If the results are very poor, you minimize the impact. If the results are positive, you can roll this out as your new standard process.
Measure the performance of abandoned cart recovery emails
Using a conversion funnel allows you to identify each and every step in the process, as envisioned through the customer journey. By breaking down each step along the recovery flow, you can measure the success of your abandoned cart recovery email efforts.
There are a few main metrics that you must measure to do this effectively:
- Open rate: The number of abandoned cart emails that are opened by the recipient.
- Click rate: The number of opened abandoned cart emails that result in a click that returns the customer to their shopping cart on your store.
- Conversion rate: The percentage of customers that complete their sale after returning to their shopping cart by clicking on an abandoned cart email.
- Revenue per recipient (average recovered value): The average order value from customers that return to complete a sale after clicking on an abandoned cart email.
All of these give you metrics that offer insights into the behavior of customers that abandoned their shopping carts on your platform. By isolating where customers return, you can find your strengths and weaknesses. Compare this with benchmarks to get an idea of how well you are doing at each stage.
A low open rate indicates an underperforming subject line. A low click rate indicates an underperforming recovery email design, whether it’s due to the content, layout, design, or style. A low conversion rate can indicate technical problems with your email recovery system, shopping cart design, and checkout experience.
Optimize abandoned cart flow using analytics
Use the analytics you’ve collected to draw conclusions about customer behavior along your abandoned cart flow. Test new subject lines, different content, and more unique ideas to gain greater traction and improve conversions from your abandoned cart emails.
We recommend testing the following elements of your abandoned cart email flow, and identify at which step this element applies most clearly:
The timing and subject lines of your emails are most directly related to the open rate. These are the two things that most impact whether customers open the abandoned cart emails they get. Test different levels of urgency, phrasing, and the use of emojis in subject lines to get more customers to open the emails you send.
The email contents are responsible for your click rate, as the contents of your email are what convinces customers to return. Be creative and test the use of plain text and graphic rich content, a prominent call to action (CTA) location, and an overall optimized email layout. Experiment with the contents of the email to see what works best at bringing customers back.
Conversion Rate or Revenue Per Recipient
Measure the success of your abandoned cart email efforts by tracking the conversion rate and/or the revenue per recipient. Track the number of customers that return to complete a purchase and the average value from returning purchasers to identify how successful your abandoned cart email flow is.
Segmenting customers to customize the abandoned cart flow
There are many ways to use your abandoned cart flow to improve your emails over time. Experiment with creating different abandoned cart flows based on different customer segmentation. Below are a few ways to optimize your recovery efforts. Begin with these and develop your own strategies based on the way your customers behave.
Existing and new customers
It’s advised that you message customers that have completed a purchase differently than those that have never finished a sale. This is especially true if you are offering an incentive for customers that have never purchased before. Be sure to add a filter in your funnel that determines if customers have made a purchase before, offering the discount only to first-time buyers.
Make it clear that these offers are only for the first purchase in your wording, so customers don’t expect a discount when returning. You should also use unique discount codes that cannot be easily shared on the internet.
Domestic and international shopping experiences
There are a few reasons why you may want to segment by domestic and international shoppers. This helps you restrict offerings to those customers. For example, you can limit free shipping to domestic customers, allowing you to better manage customer expectations.
It can often be hard to find the right number of abandoned cart emails to include in your series. Test a few different sequences, adding or removing emails in the sequence depending on the open rate, click rate, and conversion rate you are seeing on each email in the series. If you are using a third email that is getting a poor open and click-through rate, then it may be doing more harm than good.
Sort products by type, collection, and more
This is likely only necessary if you have a large product offering. Segmenting by product category and collection types will help you create targeted content (including images and text). You can split your abandoned cart flow according to the product category or the collection that the customer was interested in. This can be used to effectively pull relevant products for upselling purposes.
Average recovered order value
The abandoned shopping cart value may impact the email you send to the customer. If a customer is under the average order value, you don’t want to offer them a discount or promotion to complete the purchase, as it isn’t in your interest. However, if a customer abandoned a cart worth double the average order value, you may benefit from offering them a small discount to complete the purchase.
Number of items in cart
You can also segment your customers based on the size of their shopping cart. This is an easy way to integrate BOGO offers, as you can ensure that only carts with a specific number of items will qualify. This helps you protect yourself against the promotions you run by limiting how they are applied based on the order value or the number of items in the cart.
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