Six ingredients of enticing browse abandonment emails


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Research suggests that 74% of retail shoppers will abandon a purchase after adding an item to their online shopping cart. 

There are multiple reasons why this can occur, ranging from a lack of delivery options to the customer deciding to buy in-store. Luckily, email can be a saviour. A tool that, when utilised correctly, can help to win back lost customers who abandon their session at the cart, or earlier when browsing.

So, what should you include in a browse abandonment email campaign? Here are six key elements, and the reasons why they’re so important.

Align with purchase intent 

Browse abandonment emails are easy to fine-tune. This is because you already have behavioural insight into the customer you’re targeting. You know that they’ve visited a website, and were interested enough to browse product or category pages.

However, it’s important to delve deeper than this when targeting shoppers, and to consider how deep the level of purchasing intent displayed. 

For example, did the customer visit multiple pages in a category, did they visit one product multiple times, and did they add anything to their cart? By looking at this data, it is possible to ensure that customers do not receive irrelevant messages, and to ensure that the tone of the email aligns with their level of investment. 

After all, merely looking at a website does not mean the customer was on the verge of buying.

One specific element to draw on is search, whereby customers display overtly active interest and arguably deeper levels of intent (in comparison to the more passive activity of clicking on category pages). 

This email from Virgin Atlantic is a good example of how to create email based on specific site behaviour. It conveniently reminds the recipient exactly what they were searching for, and prompts them to go through with the final purchase. 

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Virgin Atlantic browse abandonment email

(Via Really Good Emails)

Personalise the subject line (but don’t overstep the mark)

According to Campaign Monitor, emails with personalised subject lines (that start or finish with the recipient name) are 26% more likely to be opened. Browse abandonment emails can take this one step further and reference the person’s shopping journey. 

The word ‘reference’ is key here, as too many details can come across as creepy, making the recipient feel uncomfortable rather than interested.

So, instead of saying something like “*Item name* is still in your basket” – which could potentially put off the customer straight away –  a subject line like “Did you see something you liked?” could be more effective. This may be enough to create intrigue and subtly prompt the user to open, without appearing overly intrusive.

Show related or recommended products

Just because a shopper has looked at a specific item doesn’t mean they’re only interested in buying that one thing. If a browse abandonment email is targeting a casual buyer (i.e. someone that showed lesser purchase intent), it’s helpful to include product recommendations or alternative products to the one they looked at.

This is an effective form of personalisation, as it instils the sense that the brand knows and cares about its customer’s tastes and preferences (not just blatant data), making the message feel more relevant and timely.

Another good tactic is to include products that work well or are frequently bought together. Not only does this prompt the user to return to their original item, but also widens purchase consideration, and could potentially increase the overall order value.

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This email from luxury goods brand MCM is a fine example, detailing the browsed items and other products the recipient may also enjoy. 

MCM browse abandonment email

(Via Really Good Emails)

Provide an incentive

Even if a customer displayed high levels of purchase intent on site, it could be the case that they’ve subsequently changed their mind or found a cheaper or more desirable alternative elsewhere.

As a result, it can be effective to offer an incentive to entice them to return. This could be a perk like free shipping on an order, or a more obvious incentive like a money-off discount. Again, subject lines are important here, where including the offer is likely to increase click-through rates. 

A less obvious incentive could also come in the form of urgency, such as the message that a product might be selling out. However, this can be dangerous, as it suggests that the customer was already on the verge of buying (when they might not be). 

Urgency can be created in other ways, too, such as the aforementioned discount only lasting for a limited time, or how many other people are also viewing the product or category in question. This falls into social proof, which is also a worthwhile tactic in general, as it helps to nudge uncertain shoppers into making a positive decision.

Promote good customer service

There are many possible reasons why a customer abandons a purchase. They might have been browsing purely for research purposes, for instance, but there’s also the possibility that it was due to a perceived fault on the behalf of a retailer. This could be due to negative customer reviews, or service-based limitations like costly delivery or a lack of payment options.

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To combat this, abandonment emails should reinforce positive elements of a brand’s customer service. This could include favourable reviews, highlighted payment options (such as PayPal or Apple Pay), or clearly and concise returns and shipping information.

Meanwhile, it’s also helpful to think about customer-centric copy, which can be used to convey a helpful and caring attitude on behalf of the retailer.

This example from Emma Bridgewater does exactly this, asking ‘can we help?’ to reinforce its dedication to good customer service. 

emma bridgewater browse abandonment email

(Via Fresh Relevance)

Alternatively, it can be effective to sing the praises of the product or service itself.

This example from subscription service Whisky Loot is notable for its clever and engaging copy, which aims to win back the customer by pointing out its own value (and the strength of its brand personality). 

whiskey loot browse abandonment email

(Via Really Good Emails)

Get the timing right

So, when is the right time to send a browse abandonment email? 

According to Remarkety, waiting too long decreases the chances of conversion. It found that those sending emails two hours after the abandonment saw the most number of conversions, suggesting a range of one to 24 hours as the optimal timing. This suggests that being front-of-mind is of high importance, with large delays reducing the amount of investment or motivation to complete a purchase.

While other studies back up the notion that faster is better, it’s important to test what works. A/B testing can help determine what timing generates more results, alongside other factors like subject lines and hero images.

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