The Art of Cart Recovery

Hi Retention Wizards,

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25 consecutive weeks of doing this thing?!

Feels wild. Appreciate every one of you reading, sharing, and vibing with me week after week.

One quick thing:

Cody and I are releasing the first episode of Down To Chat within the next few hours, and we are beyond stoked about it!

To celebrate this, we are doing a little giveaway. Leave a review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify and share a screenshot with either of us via dm to be entered into a giveaway for a free hour of consulting with Cody and me to talk growth, landing pages, retention, CX, etc!

As you head into BFCM, I’ve got a quick question for you. How are you handling abandoned carts?

I know how 99% of y’all do it. 😏

It goes something like this:

Eli adds a vegan better-for-you snack to his cart. 🛒

He realizes it costs $39.99 for 3 servings.

He then realizes he’s no millionaire (yet).

Leaves product in the cart.

Like organic blackberries, some things are amazing but not completely in my current tax bracket.

Email #1: “We saved your cart for you!” (buy our shit)

Email #2: “Are you sure you don’t want it? How about 25% off?” (buy our shit)

Email #3: “YOUR DISCOUNT IS EXPIRING!” (buy our shit)

Best case, these folks end up buying the product once and are bought in at a discount, never willing to pay for it at full price. Worst case, they feel like your brand is annoying, spammy, and needy.

What if, and bear with me, we could find a way to address real customer objections, and not just spam folks into submission?

Is there a better way of doing this?

Grab a snack or a PSL. Sit down. I’ve got ideas and some examples. Let’s chat.

  1. The History of Abandoned Cart Messages 101

  2. Rethinking The Subtle Art Of Cart Recovery

  3. Enough Lecturing, Here’s How We Do It

Before we dive in, a huge shout to Gorgias, our sponsor for this week’s newsie.

Gorgias is my CX helpdesk of choice and what I’ve used at both OLIPOP and JRB. If you have been here for a bit, you know how much I love Gorgias and why I think it’s an absolute must-have for any Shopify business. More on my fav Gorgias use cases here.

It’s our one-stop-shop for all things customer. If you have any questions about how we use Gorgias or why we chose Gorgias, feel free to email me anytime.

Okay, let’s do it.

1. History of Abandoned Cart Messages 101: 

Before “the art of bEsT pRaCtiCeS” was a thing, most brands put much more thought into what works.

Some fascinating history about Abandoned Carts, from a Jilt blog post:

Online shopping in the late 1990s and early 2000s was very different from what it is today. Amazon had only been around for a few years and much of those early years were spent as an online bookstore. At one point, Beanie Babies accounted for ten percent of eBay’s sales (yes, you read that right). To say that online shopping was still a niche market would be an understatement.

But even in this primordial eCommerce market, cart abandonment was a significant issue. A 2002 survey found that abandonment rates could be as high as 67 percent, which is right in line with expected rates today. When eCommerce retailers realized how much of an impact this had on their revenue, they decided to find a way to win back these lost customers. These first attempts came in the form of a cart abandonment survey, which was triggered in the browser whenever a customer tried to navigate away from their cart before finishing the purchase.

Long story short, 2002 came around, and e-commerce brands wanted to take these learnings around abandoned cart reasoning and turn it into a much more automated email approach. Some tech-savvy marketers banged out some code and turned it into an automated “cart abandonment email”.

The types of emails being sent at this time ranged from simple reminders to discount offers meant to entice customers to check out their cart.

According to Experian, the most common practice was to send a single email within the first 24 hours of a cart being abandoned, but potentially waiting two to three days could also be effective.

With time, this became more and more automated, and the rest? Recent history.

2. Rethinking The Art Of Cart Recovery: 

Okay, but what’s wrong with all of this, Eli?

If my customers want a discount and they get one and purchase, doesn’t that sound like a win-win?

A few things most “best practices” marketers are not accounting for.

  1. LTV of the folks that come in on a discount for customers that don’t

  2. Is the discount necessary, or are you providing a discount for folks that would be buying anyway and just needed time to decide?

  3. Is price concern always the prime suspect?

  4. Is the answer to a price concern discounting the product?

As you start navigating these conversations, understand that a lot of this can be very brand dependent.

As always, the idea of this newsie is not to say what’s right or wrong, but rather to provoke deeper thought.

When re-thinking abandoned carts, there is one pivotal question to be asking:

What customer objections do we need to be resolving to get these folks to purchase?

I know I am a broken record on this point, but talking to customers always helps brands to get thinking. Matt (Pela, Lomi) uses his post-purchase survey to ask customers “what is the one thing that made you almost not purchase?”

At OLIPOP, we leveraged customer insights (surveys, etc) to learn that price was a big concern. After all, $34.99 + tax and shipping for a 12-pack of soda is nothing to sneeze at. Instead of lowering the price to further dilute our tiny DTC margins, we instead focused on instilling value by focusing on why OLIPOP is actually good for you (fiber, diverse microbiome, etc). The key to recovering abandoned carts is twofold.

Firstly, understanding that not every cart is recoverable. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve added the Cloud Couch to my cart. NOTHING will push me over the hurdle there, I simply can not afford it. 🤣

Two recent-ish tweets I liked about this:

Second, there generally isn’t just one objection you are answering and it’s hard to answer all of them in one series of messages, but attempting to answer the price one with a fat discount is the most expensive and shortest-lasting solution.

Understanding this, here is the goal: Do your best to understand what potential objections the customer would be facing based on where they are in their journey, and address that concern head-on.

Bonus points if you can segment abandoned carts based on product type, etc. More on that shortly.

3. Enough Lecturing, Here’s How We Do It:

Before even getting into this, I’d be remiss not to give the largest shoutout ever to Joanne Coffey at JRB, the queen behind all of this.

Joanne is an absolute LEGEND when it comes to email, SMS, quiz building, and just general retention marketing. She is the brains behind so much of the magic here.

Some core principles:

  1. Use any context you have:

    1. Customer hit free shipping threshold? Flag that in your message.

    2. You know their ideal shade for product they left in their cart? Mention it.

  2. Show, don’t tell:

    1. Cody pushes this at JRB so often. Instead of saying “we are the best, buy our shit”, show them social proof via customer quotes, press etc. instead.

    2. Create FOMO by highlighting the top reasons people buy your product instead of saying “your cart is expiring, buy our stuff rn”.

  3. Go deeper than surface level:

    1. Understanding customer objections is core to this. It helps you address the real reasons they are not purchasing.

    2. I.e. instead of “here’s a discount”, highlight you vs your competitors to highlight the value. Increasing value > reducing price.

Some examples from JRB.

Abandoned cart with “What the Foundation” and $85+ cart value that qualifies for free shipping:

We highlight the free shipping, talk about core values of the brand and the brand origins, and highlight our largest objection: “what shade am I?”

Abandoned cart with Miracle Balm and above $85 in cart value (2nd email):

We highlight the most commonly asked questions (read: objections) folks might have with Miracle Balm, offer an even more concierge shade-matching alternative with our makeup artist team, highlight our easy return policy, and again highlight free shipping!

Abandoned cart (not Miracle Balm or WTF) and above $85 in cart value:

Again, a large focus on our brand mission, but this time highlighting some social proof from customers. We also have a B test running that highlights social proof from the press.

Final abandoned cart message in the flow:

This is my favorite message in our flow, and drives a massive amount of responses and revenue.

There’s nothing like a personal message from someone on our CX team to walk you through the shopping experience, like a personal concierge.

At some point, we might move this further up in the flow, but for now, it’s hard to keep up with all the shade-match demand this one drives. 😅

Our abandoned cart flow has close to 30 variations in it, but no customer will get more than four messages in total.

The goal is to use our zero-party quiz data along with their shopping cart content to get the closest we can to answering objections and bring the customer over the finish line.

Whether you do this on a budget, with a full internal squad, or an agency, my message is simple:

Focus less on the art and design, and more on answering questions your potential customers are asking.

What I’ve been reading: The Minimum Viable Project

You can have all the great CX ideas in the world, but ideas are worthless without implementation.

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For this week’s CX chronicles, I’m chatting with Breanna Moreno, VP of CX at True Classic. True Classic makes everyday essentials for every type of person. Premium high-quality basics with no gimmicks.

True Classic has had exponential growth, growing by 6500% in 2020, profitably increasing to $150m in revenue with more than 1m customers in the US shopping True Classic. Truly wild growth. Thanks for joining, Breanna!

What is your CX Philosophy?

My CX philosophy is simple: Do what is right. That can be broken down into many variables, but essentially we have the opportunity to make something right when we (as a brand) make a mistake, improve an experience when we fall short of a customer's expectations, educate a customer in an effort to help them understand and even leverage our knowledge to help convert customers to purchase or even mitigate issues.

On top of all that, I strive to do right by my team; by providing them the resources and tools needed to execute their jobs efficiently and effectively, a culture that is supportive, challenging, and rewarding. A safe place that allows our team to give their best, which in turn allows them to give their best to our customers.

Your favorite True Classic CX story?

Gosh, this is a hard question since 1)There are so many stories and 2) My memory is currently filled with peak season. However, I think for me the instances where we add value to a customer's experience probably resonate most. Whether it is that we send them flowers after the loss of a loved one or donate to a cause that is close to them on top of helping them with some sort of brand support, I think this really allows us to connect with people outside of just fixing their problem and that always has the most impact.

I’ve done this across all the brands I’ve worked with and not only does it impact the customer's experience and blow expectations but it also resonates with our employees.

Another thing is when customers leave reviews on 3rd party sites or strive to blast us on social media accounts all before even giving our support team a chance and at the end of the day, getting their apology, (as they right their wrong), is so impactful.

Being a real person, empathizing, and relating to our customers is valuable beyond measure.

It’s not always about money but more so about connecting, and most of the time that pays dividends in the end.

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