April 10, 2012, 4:23 PM

Fewer big e-retailers send e-mail reminders about items left in shopping carts

But a study finds that more of these messages contain relevant images.

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Fewer e-retailers sent reminder e-mails to consumers who abandoned shopping carts in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared with the same period last year, according to new data from the E-tailing Group Inc. The research and consulting firm says 20% of major e-retailers sent such e-mail marketing messages in the fourth quarter of 2011, down from 23% in 2010.

The E-tailing Group arrived at its findings by signing into the e-commerce sites of 100 larger retailers, adding an items that cost at least $99 into a site’s shopping cart, going through the checkout process and then leaving the site just before paying. The group then tracked any e-mail messages sent about the abandoned items. The research is part of the group’s annual Mystery Shopping Study, which it conducts during the holiday season.

Like the previous study, from 2010, five of the merchants that sent a reminder about the abandoned items also sent a second reminder. But there were 14 merchants that sent reminders in 2010 that did not do so in 2011, the E-tailing Group says. Another change for the new study: More retailers selling food, gifts and home and garden supplies focused on reminder e-mails than was the case last year, though the research firm did not provide specific figures.

The report also found that online shoppers late last year were waiting longer for those first reminder e-mails—an average of 5.65 days after items were abandoned in shopping carts, compared with 4.96 days in the fourth quarter of 2010. Second reminders, though, came more quickly than in 2010—on average, those follow-up messages hit inboxes five days after the first e-mails, compared with 8.4 days last year.

More retailers also are spicing up their reminders with images of the items left in shopping carts, the E-tailing Group found. Those images appeared in 50% of reminder e-mails, compared with 35% in 2010. “This is probably the result of greater HTML sophistication and [retailers] understanding the importance of visual reminders,” the group says.

Lauren Freedman, president of consulting firm the E-tailing Group Inc. will speak during a session entitled “What shoppers want: Listening in on the consumer voice” at the 2012 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago in June.

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