Analysis: Three Promotion Pitfalls to Avoid When Remarketing to Abandoned Shopping Carts


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In Part 1, we looked at how promotions can have a dramatic impact on the revenue that can be recovered with triggered shopping cart abandonment emails. In this blog, we 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:

  1. Getting out of step with the customer
  2. Viral spread of promo codes
  3. 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 For many ecommerce sites, that difference can be measured in millions of dollars of revenue—just because of out-of-date data.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% synchronized 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 ecommerce 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, rationalize 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.

Problem: Abandoners spot the pattern and realize 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 rationalize 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:

  • Solution: Offer timing – 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, maximizing margins. [As we reported in an earlier blog, the time to conversion following remarketing is very short. Almost two-thirds will buy within 48 hours, rising to 82% within 7 days.]
  • Solution: 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. Simple, but very effective.
  • Solution: Use predictive scoring – A score 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 maximizing 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 author's permission from original post.

Charles Nicholls
Charles Nicholls is a social commerce expert and board advisor to several e-commerce startups. He founded SeeWhy, a real-time personalization and machine learning platform, which was sold to SAP. Serving as SVP of product, he built SAP Upscale Commerce, an e-commerce platform for direct-to-consumer brands and the mid-market. Today, Charles serves as chief strategy officer for SimplicityDX, a commerce experience company. He has worked on strategy and projects for leading ecommerce companies worldwide, including Amazon, eBay, Google and many others.


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