51 practical keys to an effective abandoned cart series for Magento
When a potential customer visits your store, adds items to their cart, and begins to checkout, but doesn’t finish – that’s called an abandoned cart.
Abandoned carts are a pretty big problem for most merchants – and one of the most effective ways to recover them is with a series of emails triggered to the potential customer after they abandon.
Here at MageMail we’ve been working hard on fine-tuning the abandoned cart series, which is one of our many email triggers designed exclusively for Magento.
Here are 51 keys that we’ve discovered:
1. Send the first email within an hour
Timing is key – usually the reason the customer abandons is that they’re either having some last minute doubts about the purchase or begin to do some comparison shopping.
In both cases, you want to reach out to them as quickly as possible to encourage them to finish the purchase.
Many times customers will get fatigued from comparison shopping after an hour or so, and while your store is no longer top of mind for them, a timely reminder can be just what’s needed to bring them back to seal the deal.
2. Check for the existence of an order by email address
The simplest way to detect an abandoned cart in Magento is by looking at the orders table and seeing whether there is an order associated to a given cart record.
But that won’t catch certain scenarios, like when a customer who abandoned a cart calls in and places an order over the phone.
For that case, what you want to do is check for the existence of an order with the same email address as the customer and if there is one, you want to stop the abandoned cart series.
Otherwise, they’re going to receive emails that aren’t relevant to them at all. And even worse, if there are incentives included in certain emails, they’ll get upset that they didn’t receive them when they placed their order.
3. Only include items that are still in stock
Check the inventory levels of the items that are being included in the abandoned cart emails. Obviously sending an abandoned cart email when the products are now out of stock creates a pretty bad customer experience.
4. Include an alert if the item is low in stock.
Earlier we mentioned excluding items that are out of stock from your abandoned cart email – but what about items that are low in stock?
In this case, you actually have scarcity working in your advantage, so go ahead and include a badge or some kind of indicator on the product image that it’s low in stock.
5. Use a transactional email service to improve deliverability
If you’re using an email platform to actually deliver the email, then you’re probably fine. But if you’re building something custom for Magento, you want to avoid using the web server’s built-in email capabilities.
There’s just too much that can go wrong between the email being sent and actually landing in an inbox. I tend to recommend Mandrill, which is free for up to 12k emails / month. But there are others like mailgun, sendgrid, and Amazon SES.
6. Exclude customer groups that are frequent buyers like wholesalers
You may have certain types of customers that it doesn’t make sense to send abandoned cart emails to. If you have wholesale customers that are very frequent buyers, sending them multiple abandoned cart emails per week could become annoying.
And because they’re such regular customers, they likely know exactly what they want and what they don’t want – so if they abandon a cart it’s probably for a specific reason.
7. Exclude countries that you don’t ship to
If there are any countries that you don’t ship to, it’s important to exclude those countries from receiving the email. They most likely abandoned the cart specifically because after entering their address they got an error message about no shipping rates being available for them.
So sending them an abandoned cart email is going to just add insult to injury. If you ship everywhere or have a negligible amount of traffic outside your target countries, then this won’t really be an issue.
8. Trigger based on the update timestamp of the cart, not the creation timestamp
This is more of a technical note, but when you’re looking at the timestamp of the shopping cart table in the Magento database, you want to make sure that you’re looking at the date the quote was last updated, not the date that it was created.
This way, if a customer begins to checkout and spends an hour on the site perhaps adding other items to their cart or changing options in their cart, they won’t receive the email while they’re still actually checking out.
9. Send the email from an individual
People are more likely to open emails that come from a person, rather than from a company. Have the sender of the email be a specific person on your support team ideally.
10. Include first name or product name in the subject line
Personalize the email by including the customer’s first name or the item name in the subject line.
But, and this is important, make sure your subject line templating logic is flexible enough so that if they don’t provide their first name (and many times they won’t in an abandoned cart scenario), that the subject line doesn’t have an awkward hanging comma or some placeholder like “Friend” or “Guest”.
Keep it classy, people.
11. If more than one item, include the name of first in subject line.
If you have a single item in the email, personalizing the subject line isn’t that complicated – just use that one item name. But what do you do when you have a cart with multiple items in it?
You may be tempted to do something like “2 items”, but I’d actually suggest that you include the name of one of the two products (probably just the first one in the cart). The name of the product that they just added to their cart is a lot more relevant than the number of items in the cart.
12. Gmail Quick Actions
You’ve probably seen Gmail quick actions before, if you use Gmail. Sometimes when you look at an email in your inbox view, there is a button to the right of the subject line that allows you to click-through to the website sending the email without you even having to open the email.
This can be an effective way to decrease friction in getting customers back to their cart to complete checkout. Try using a quick action such as “Continue Checking Out”.
13. Don’t forget the pre-header
Having a short bit of pre-header text at the top of the email, such as the “Get 5% off for the next 48 hours” as in the screenshot above, will show up as a preview next to the subject line in a variety of email clients, including iOS Mail and Gmail.
They’re a great little piece of real estate to help convince the customer to open up the email in the first place.
14. Include images of the products
This one is kind of a no-brainer. You want to include images of the products in question. Just keep in mind that, since your’e using a responsive email template, you want those images to look great on every device from a basic smart phone, to a large retina screen.
So make sure that you’re working with high enough resolution images.
15. Use smaller thumbnails when there are a lot of items in the cart
A lot of times you’ll design your email template with only one or two product images in mind. Then when you begin to get into real world scenarios, you see carts with 12 product images in them and your template begins to look like a bit of a mess.
What you can do is based upon the number of items in the cart you scale down the size of the thumbnails to conserve real estate. You may even want to cap the number of items that you show in a single email to keep things tidy.
16. Watch out for Magento image caching issues
Since you’re going to want these emails being triggered automatically, you’re going to need to figure out where to pull the product images from. Keep in mind that the default image URL you’re going to get for a product in Magento is going to be a cached image URL.
This is a version of the product image that’s resized down to a specific size and cached in order to make subsequent page loads on your website faster.
The problem with this is that once that the HTML in the email, unlike the HTML on your website, isn’t going to dynamically point to a new version of that image URL when the image cache is refreshed. It will just be a broken image.
So you should figure out a way to work around that issue. At MageMail, we’ve created a smart image caching system for this purpose.
17. Link product images to product detail pages
Another no-brainer here: you’re going to want to link the product images to their product detail pages on your site. One nugget of widsom I can give you that is specific to Magento though is that you’re going to want to be careful with products that might not be individually visible. You may need to find the parent product and link to it, or in some cases not link the product at all.
18. Use a responsive email template
A responsive email template is one that will look good across devices. People are increasingly reading their email on their mobile devices, so having an email template that will be clear and beautiful wherever they read it is important.
19. Include the first name in the salutation
It always helps to start the email out with a nice, friendly salutation that includes the customers first name. However, and this is important, if you don’t have their first name, avoid having awkward hanging commas or, worse yet, the dreaded “Hi Guest” or “Hi Friend”.
No one emails their friend saying “Hi Friend”. It’s ridiculous.
20. Include a phone number
Include a phone number right in the body of the email. It will make it easier for your customer to get ahold of you if they had any questions or doubts about the purchase. And even if they don’t, just knowing that you’re making it easy for them to contact you will give them more confidence in buying with you.
21. Have a single, primary call to action
When it comes to email design, many times people are used to designing email newsletters, which by their nature are long with a lot of different content.
I don’t think that’s the best way to do triggered email. Because the trigger is around a very specific action your customer has taken as well as a very specific action that you want them to take after receiving the email – keep the content of the email simple, friendly, and to the point.
And have a single, primary call to action for them to complete their checkout. Make it obvious what button in the email to click on to do so.
22. Photo of sender in the signature
This goes hand in hand with #8 – having a small thumbnail in the email signature will help to add a nice, personal touch to the email. If there’s a single person whose name and thumbnail you can include, that would be great. You can also randomly rotate between various members of your support team.
23. Social networking icons in the footer
Have links to your social network profiles in the footer of your email. You don’t want these to be too prominent because, again, you want to focus on that single call to action. I usually recommend that you use the same color for all of them (using different colors for each social network tends to make them all look really noisy).
This way, if a potential customer happens to be a big user of one of those networks (like I am of Twitter), the icon will easily catch their eye and give them some added confidence in buying with you. Everyone loves to know that they can nag you on social if they really need to!
24. Unsubscribe and physical address
This should probably be obvious but you need to have an unsubscribe link in the footer as well as a physical address for CAN-SPAM compliance. Obviously I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice, but you can read up on it further if you’d like.
25. Explain why the email is sent in the footer.
This one isn’t quite a legal requirement (at least I don’t think it is) but it’s definitely a best practice – telling the customer why they’re receiving the email. Usually this will say something like “You’re receiving this email because you opted in at mysite.com”.
In the case of an abandoned cart email, it may be more appropriate to say something like “You’re receiving this email because you began to checkout at mysite.com”.
26. Sync unsubscribes with newsletter system.
You may be using different tools to handle different types of emails. Perhaps you’re using Mailchimp or Constant Contact for your newsletters, maybe MageMail or another module for abandoned carts, or something custom-built.
It’s probably a good idea to sync any unsubscribes that happen in your newsletter system into your abandoned carts, so that they don’t feel like they’re receiving automated email that they already opted out of.
27. Email capture lightbox
An email capture lightbox is a lightbox that pops up on your website at some point (sometimes immediately upon page load, sometimes 10 seconds later, sometimes when the visitor begins to exit your website) and prompts them with an offer of some kind – sign up for the newsletter, get 20% off your first purchase, etc.
This can be integrated with your abandoned cart by saving the email address that’s provided onto the quote in Magento. By doing so, you can trigger an abandoned cart email even without them having begun the checkout process, which is usually where they will enter their email address and have it associated with their cart.
28. Capture email in checkout immediately
One thing that you may not have noticed with various Magento checkouts (One Step Checkout, Magento’s core checkout, etc.) is that the email address isn’t always saved to the cart right away. In fact, many times it’s not saved until they select a shipping method. I know, seems odd.
29. Capture Guests as well as registered customers
Your checkout process likely has support for guest checkout in addition to checkout for registered customers (if it doesn’t, you should probably look into enabling it, because it tends to improve conversion rates). Many abandoned cart systems only target carts from registered customers, but it’s important to target guest checkouts as well.
30. Send a second email 2 days out
In addition to the first email that goes out an hour after they abandon, you should continue to follow up with them to try and close the sale. They’ve already demonstrated a very strong interest in your products by visiting the site, adding the products to their cart, and giving your their contact information – so don’t just stop after one attempt.
31. Sending window for second and third emails.
A sending window is a period of time during the day that your emails will be sent out. For example, a good sending window is usually 10am to 11am. By that time, people have already cleared all of their email out of their inbox from the previous night and will probably be more likely to pay attention to incoming email.
The first abandoned cart email you don’t want to use a sending window, because if they happen to checkout at 10pm at night, you want that email going out one hour afterwards, regardless of what time it is. But for all follow-up emails, it’s good to use a sending window.
32. Consider including an incentive
I mentioned in #13 that including an incentive in the first email is probably a bad idea, because it comes so quickly and you’re likely to train customers to use that to get a discount even if they are planning on making a purchase straight away.
But the second abandoned cart email is a good time to consider including some kind of incentive. Maybe it’s 5% off, maybe it’s a bonus product, or free shipping (if you’re not already offering that to everyone). There are a lot of different options you can play with.
33. Careful not to over-discount
I usually recommend that you don’t include any discount or incentive in the first abandoned cart email that goes out. Especially because this one goes out so quickly after they hit your site, you risk making it easy for people to game the system just to squeeze out a discount, if they know they can wait for an hour to get one.
Using incentives further down the funnel usually tend to work out better.
34. Target coupons at new customers
Another tactic you can use to avoid over-discounting is to limit coupons only to brand new customers that have not purchased with you before. You can also simply offer new customers deeper discounts than what you offer to existing customers.
35. Include coupon code in a format they’ll recognize
Visually it’s always nice to include the coupon code in a format that they will immediately recognize. A box with a dotted line around it with the coupon code inside of it can be a great visual style to go with.
36. Segment the discount based on order size
Speaking of discounts, another tactic that you may want to consider is to segment the discount based on the size of the order. Perhaps you only give a discount for carts over $100, or you give a larger discount to orders over $200.
If you want to get really fancy, you can segment on customer lifetime values or lifetime order count.
37. Do A/B Testing
In order to fine tune your abandoned cart series, test out different elements against eachother. MageMail’s A/B testing support is quite flexible – not only can you test things like subject lines and email body content against eachother – but you can test basically any aspect of an email trigger – timing, discount amount, sender, etc.
How about testing your abandoned cart sending at 1 hour vs. 2 hours to see which is most effective? Or testing plain text content against rich email content? 5% discount vs. 10% discount? The possibilities here are endless.
38. Auto coupon code generation
It’s important than when you’re offering discounts you’re not using a single coupon code. Auto coupon code generation is a feature of Magento that allows you to generate random single-use coupon codes.
This way, you won’t have a coupon code get leaked onto some coupon code site and get taken advantage of.
39. Auto expire coupon codes
Auto-expiring coupon codes hits two birds with one stone. It creates urgency and also mitigates the risk of having thousands of unused coupon codes out in the wild.
What I mean by auto-expiring is that the coupon code expires after a certain period of time after the email is sent. That may be 48 hours in the case of the 2nd abandoned cart email. Maybe it’s a week. It gives your customers a reasonable period of time to use the coupon, but they can’t just sit on it for a year until they were planning to make their next purchase and use it at that time.
Magento isn’t going to allow you to do this out of the box though – you can set an expiration date for the shopping cart price rule as a whole but not for individual auto generated coupon codes.
I’ve heard tell of an amazing triggered email app for Magento that may do this for you.
40. Restore items in cart upon click-through
This one is probably a no-brainer – restore the customer’s cart when they click-through on the email, so that if their session is no longer active, they can easily begin to checkout without having to go back and add a bunch of items into their cart.
41. Auto-login if they are a registered customer
If they happen to already be a registered customer, even better than restoring their cart is to automatically log them in. This way they don’t have to fuss with a forgot password form or enter all their shipping information all over again.
Security is, of course, an important concern if you’re going to enable this type of feature. Email is inherently insecure and having a link in an email that will automatically log anyone into that customer’s account can get you into trouble quickly.
An added layer of security would be to validate against a known IP address for the customer. Lucky for you, Magento stores the IP address on the order and cart objects.
42. Persistent call to action after clicking through
After the customer has clicked through from the email, and especially if you are providing an incentive for them to checkout, keep that incentive top of mind with a persistent banner across the top of the site reminding them of the discount and prompting them to checkout.
43. Auto-apply the coupon upon click-through
Another thing you can do to help the customer get the coupon applied easily is to automatically apply it to the cart when they click-through on the email.
The thing that’s a little bit tricky about doing this in Magento is that you can’t always apply the coupon before they have items in their cart. So you need to make sure that the coupon is applied after items have been added or restored to the cart.
44. Leverage those loyalty points
If you’re one of the many Magento sites using Sweet Tooth’s loyalty program, you’re going to want integrate loyalty points into your abandoned cart emails. Instead of offering coupons to customers who already have loyalty point balances, how about reminding them about their balances and prompting them to use those loyalty points to get discounts against that abandoned cart?
45. Send a 3rd email, 7 days out
Again, there’s no need to stop after one, or even two, emails! Send a third email perhaps 7 days out. At this time, you can step up the discount further if you want to be more on the aggressive side. But even if you don’t, another reminder at this time may come at just the right moment for them to complete their purchase.
46. Discrepancy in the updated_at field in the database
This is a very technical detail, but if you’re looking at the
updated_atfield in the cart table in the database, you need to be careful that you don’t just compare it against the current timestamp in MySQL. Depending upon the time zone settings in your database, it may be several hours off from the current time.
What this can do is cause your abandoned cart emails to go out to people who haven’t actually abandoned their cart yet!
47. Switch things up with a plain text email
While the rich content emails with photos and nice layouts can grab attention affectively, it’s sometimes a good idea to switch things up with a plain text email. Plain text emails are particularly effective because they feel like they’re coming from an individual. Most consumers are savvy enough these days to recognize what type of email is generated from email marketing software versus email that’s sent from an individual, and they tend to pay more attention to email sent from individuals.
Including a plain text email coming from a customer service rep (or better yet, directly from the CEO!) can be a great way to reach out in a personal and direct manner. Make sure that when you do this, the email doesn’t come from a no-reply email address, but actually comes from the individual listed as the sender, so that customers can simply reply back to the email as they would with a normal personal email.
48. Handling phone orders placed in the backend
When a customer calls in to place an order, you probably have a customer service rep helping them to place that order via the Magento backend. There are a few ways to handle this scenario.
In some cases, it may make sense to trigger abandoned cart emails even for these orders. For example, maybe the customer decided they wanted to do some further price comparison and canceled the order. In that case, hitting them up with an abandoned cart email might be a great way to bring them back. You’ll just need to make sure that your customer service staff is trained to know when to cancel the order, so that customers who obviously are no longer interested do not receive further email.
In other cases, you may want to simply exclude emails from being sent at all for carts created on the backend. In order to do this in Magento, you can filter out carts that do not have any IP address saved in them.
49. Exclude marketplace email addresses (amazon, ebay).
If you are integrated with any online marketplaces such as Amazon or eBay, you probably have a lot of orders and carts imported into Magento using anonymized marketplace email addresses, such as email@example.com. Many times emails sent to those addresses won’t actually be received, so you’re better off just filtering out any email addresses that match that pattern.
50. Unpaid Orders
If you rely heavily on 3rd party payment methods (which is more common in Europe than in the U.S.), you may have carts that don’t look like they’re abandoned, but they actually are. Here’s why – your 3rd party payment solution may be creating an order in a Pending Payment status, even if the customer abandons the payment form and never actually completes the purchase.
You should be sure to target these abandoning customers to try and finalize the payment on that order. You can do so by targeting orders with a Pending Payment status.
51. Google Analytics Integration – click and open tracking
It’s safe to assume that you’re using Google Analytics on your store, so make sure to integrate your abandoned cart email activity with your GA profile. Click-through’s can be tracked by adding UTM codes to all of the links in your emails.
But in addition to clicks, opens can be tracked using GA’s open tracking beacon image as well!
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