November 8, 2011, 11:03 AM

Few e-retailers pursue shoppers who abandon shopping carts

Less than 15% of Top 1000 web retailers send follow-up e-mails.

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Merchants ranked in the Internet Retailer Top 500 and Second 500 Guides have a long way to go if they are to collectively limit shopping cart abandonment, says a new study by e-mail marketing firm Listrak.

Only 14.6% of the Top 1000 web retailers use e-mail campaigns as a way to retarget shoppers that have added items to their carts and then left, the study says. Among Top 500 retailers, 18.7% retarget shoppers with e-mail, a 42% jump since January.  10.7% of Second 500 retailers do so.

The Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide ranks the top online retailers in North America by online sales; the Second 500 Guide ranks the retailers between 501 and 1000.

Listrak shopped all Top 1000 retailer sites, added items to a shopping cart, began the checkout process by adding first name, last email, e-mail address and phone number, and then abandoned the carts before completing a purchase. The firm then tracked whether retailers responded with e-mails and analyzed the contents of any follow-up e-mails retailers sent.

Of the 14.6% of merchants that sent Listrak’s researchers a follow-up e-mail, 77.5% sent one e-mail message, 15.8% sent two and 6.7% sent three. Listrak recommends sending three e-mails. “One e-mail is not enough,” says CEO Ross Kramer. “About 50% of the revenue from these e-mail programs comes in the second or third messages.”

Timing is also important, Kramer says, and there was a stark difference between the large and small e-retailers in the timing of their campaigns. In the study, Listrak found that 51.1% of Top 500 and 73.1% of Second 500 merchants sent their first remarketing e-mails within 24 hours of the cart abandonment. 40.4% of Second 500 retailers sent a message within one hour, compared with only 14.4% of the Top 500.

As for content, 46% of the retailers that pursued shoppers offered a discount in the first message, including 41% from the Top 500 and 56% from the Second 500. In order to best entice shoppers to return to retailers’ sites while limiting the discounts offered, Listak recommends that retailers implement a ladder of markdowns.

“There should be no discount in the first message, about 5% off in the second and 10% in the third,” Kramer says. “That way they are not giving up much margin.”

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