April 11, 2014, 11:07 AM

E-mail remarketing: three best practices to achieve maximum revenue lift

Consumers who make it to the shopping cart are interested in buying. The chief strategy officer of SeeWhy, which specializes in retargeting these shoppers, outlines steps that effectively persuade many of them to return and buy.

In 2013, only 2.6% of visitors to ecommerce sites made a purchase on average, based on data from 4,000 e-commerce sites that SeeWhy works with. That means 97.4% left without buying. While this is a widely understood aspect of e-commerce, it doesn’t mean that you should just accept the status quo.

While some of the arriving traffic will simply bounce off the site, this still leaves a majority of visitors clicking onto a second page, and then leaving without purchasing.  A study of more than 60,000 U.S. consumers conducted by SeeWhy’s Conversion Academy, our research arm, found that when visitors browse but don’t buy, their No. 1 reason is that they are not ready.  Yet there is buying intent for the majority, with 52% considering a potential future purchase. 

So how can you capitalize on that intent and propel those purchases? 

Additional research we conducted shows that if you can get first-time visitors back to your site, they are nine times more likely to buy. And any shopper you get as far as the shopping cart, even if they don’t purchase, is 72 times more likely to purchase compared with the typical first-time visitor. It’s simple math: the more you can get visitors back to a site, and the deeper into the sales funnel, the more likely they are to buy.

Remarketing plays a critical emotional role in keeping the idea of a purchase alive with visitors and nudges them back to your site, deep into the product pages or straight back to their shopping cart, helping to drive conversions.  For medium-sized and larger e-commerce businesses, for example, effective remarketing can produce tens of millions of dollars of incremental revenue that would otherwise not be generated.

So how can e-commerce marketers be most successful with remarketing?  Our study showed that up to 10% more revenue could be generated simply by emailing when a visitor abandons their online shopping cart. Not all sites achieve this; as the chart on the right shows, it all depends on how you remarket. Here are three best practices proven to drive the highest ROI to achieve 10% incremental revenue:

1. Timing is Everything

When you trigger remarketing campaigns is critical.  Real time, 1-to-1 campaigns work 3-5 times better than batch campaigns sent more than 24 hours or later.

If no remarketing campaign is triggered within minutes after a shopper abandons, the probability of securing a conversion drops exponentially.  When you leverage real-time remarketing, three-quarters of recoveries will happen before the end of the first day.

However, it’s key to send a sequence of e-mails that are optimized by send time:

  • Step 1 e-mail: Real time
  • Step 2 e-mail: Real-time e-mail triggered 23 hours after the individual abandoned
  • Step 3 e-mail: Real-time email triggered 6 days and 23 hours after the individual abandoned.

These timings are based on the study of millions of consumers and tap into human behavior. While these may be a good place to start, you should still test alternate send times to see what works best for you, especially if you sell to business buyers or atypical consumers.

2. Stay in Step

A major component of real-time, 1-to-1 marketing is staying in step with your customers. This is especially critical for remarketing because some customers will return to purchase if you do nothing. This has very significant implications for remarketing if you are not monitoring customers returning to purchase in real time.

For example, if you set up a batch transfer to move data from your e-commerce system each night into your e-mail engine, some of your abandoners will return to purchase before your e-mail gets sent. But you wouldn’t know that has happened.

Getting out of step with customers has profound implications on customer trust.  If you send out-of-step messages, you risk irritating customers to the point of unsubscribing. Even worse, if you put a promotional offer in the e-mail, then you risk sending promotions to customers who have already purchased, provoking complaints and refunds.  As a consequence, if you are not able to monitor customer activity in real time but are relying on batch feeds, then you should not personalize the e-mail, avoid promotions and only send a single e-mail. This will severely limit the ROI of your program, but will minimize the risk of your program backfiring.

3. Extend your Brand with Personalized Service

Remarketing can be creepy to customers if done poorly or too aggressively. 

When done well, remarketing delivers great service, providing potential customers with a direct link back to their cart and an easy way to again find the products they are most interested in.  Think about your e-mail remarketing campaign as a sequence of gentle nudges that extend your brand’s values. Avoid aggressive “buy now” messaging, to reinforce the perception that the e-mail is personal to the recipient.  It’s also wise to avoid including prices in the e-mail, as it can remind visitors why they abandoned in the first place.

You should also make the abandoned product the “hero” of a remarketing e-mail, featuring the product image prominently, together with a simple and clear call to action. In design terms, these e-mails are closer to landing pages than a typical promotional e-mail. This shifts the tone towards service and away from sales. The shopper is already interested in the product, and aggressive tactics can cause a negative reaction. The more value you can provide to the shopper the better: use product details, such as a short product description, social proof, and/or a testimonial to deliver relevant content that personalizes the email and delivers value to the recipient.

When done right, remarketing can deliver significant incremental revenue. If you implement the best practices noted above, and test and refine them to determine what specifically works best for your audience and objectives, you are on the right track to 10% incremental revenue. 

SeeWhy specializes in helping retailers market to consumers who have abandoned online shopping carts.

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