The secret to a successful abandonment strategy

Stuart Russell
17 July, 23

According to recent research, UK consumers are spending more time browsing products before deciding what to buy. What’s interesting is that this extra time leading up to the point of purchase is not translating into a greater volume of sales.

In other words, consumers are considering their purchases more deeply and taking more time to decide what is right for them. And, if a product doesn’t fit the bill, they will simply abandon their basket or session. The retail market continues to be incredibly volatile and trading conditions are still challenging for most businesses, but one thing is for sure: consumers’ discretionary spending is being held for products they know they really need and want.

It’s therefore never been more important to track, and then seek, to convert customer intent whenever abandonment happens. So, here’s how you can take your abandonment (and entire customer marketing) strategy to the next level.

Working harder to convert intent

It’s important to recognise there are several steps to purchase abandonment. The abandoned browsing stage happens when a potential customer visits your online store, views at least one specific item page, and then leaves without adding anything to their basket or proceeding to checkout. The other is the added-to-basket stage, where a potential customer adds one item (or more) to their cart but then doesn’t complete the purchase. 

Some retailers struggle to react to these behaviours. At Planning-inc, we looked into 40 retailers’ abandonment strategies (criteria = £50m+ turnover), from the perspective of a prospective customer, and found that (still) only 62% were sending abandoned basket emails, and just 31% were sharing abandoned browse emails.

For other retailers, a traditional response to this pattern has been sending a generic follow up email regarding that abandoned basket or browse session. Communications like these have been around for a long time. But, even five years ago, the effectiveness of these types of communications varied. And, in today’s economy, both responses (or lack of response), need turbocharging.

We’ve established that customers are willing to spend more time considering a purchase to ensure what they buy is right for them. If a customer abandons their basket or browse session, it suggests that the products they are looking at aren’t quite right. As such, uncovering the potential customer’s intent is crucial.

If the user was searching for a tent, for example, but then abandons their journey – the search intent is clear. Marketers can then spring into action, communicating personalised, alternative tent recommendations with the user. Moreover, if delivered as alternatives in similar price brackets and styles, and produced through analysing historical browse and purchase patterns in the data, these recommendations can aid their purchasing decisions, as well as help bolster relationships.

Marketers must also optimise these communications. Timing is critical when it comes to customer communications. Trend data uncovers the optimum time to send these communications after a customer abandons their basket or browse. This will vary depending on the business and, possibly, product category. Individual customer data can go one step further, giving marketers insight into when a specific customer opens or clicks communications most frequently – enabling them to optimise accordingly.

But, it’s not just the timing that can be optimised. It’s also important to ensure the customer is being reached across channels and not just via email – from paid social through to onsite messaging. And, if the customer hasn’t converted within a few days, making sure personalised follow up communications are being inserted and distributed in business-as-usual communications.

Optimising abandoned baskets in practice

Naturally, to make personalised, optimised, omnichannel recommendations a reality, retailers need to leverage customer data. It’s fundamental.

The good news is that, more likely than not, retail brands already have the data to drive these personalised communications. As customers spend more time browsing (or interacting with the brand across different channels), they’re not just leaving a full basket behind. They are also leaving behind an abundance of valuable data and actionable insights for marketers to act upon.

When combined with historical data, marketing teams can really start to bolster their communications with customers. Previous transaction history data, for example, offers insight into your customers’ preferences around price range, product category, and timings – helping personalise communications. But, this data also offers insight into the value of that customer historically, which is important when it comes to devising both short and long term customer strategies from a promotion and incentive perspective.

In order to access this trove of data, marketers must have the right tools in place to collect and analyse these insights, and then activate personalised customer communications across channels. They also need the right people with the correct technical skills, to ensure data can be transformed into actionable insights.

A long-term strategy

Once retail marketers have the capabilities to share communications that are personalised, with effective recommendations and at optimal times, this ability then becomes the foundation for a longer term optimisation play. Access to digital transactional and behavioural insights, when combined with onboarding offline data, such as e-receipts or loyalty card usage, connects digital and offline data, paving the way for richer recommendations.

By accessing real-time, unified data from both online and offline sources, marketers can turbocharge their journey towards developing a comprehensive, real-time, Single Customer View (SCV)- or, in other words, a holistic representation of a customer’s data that is easily accessible.

Once a SCV has been established, alongside optimised communication timings and the use of cross channel communications, marketers can address other blindspots within the customer marketing strategy. When combined with predictive analytics – marketing teams can transform the effectiveness of their entire strategy, accurately predicting which messages are most likely to resonate with each customer, helping encourage purchasing decisions.

Ultimately, this approach to abandoned baskets can ultimately help CRM strategies to be more effective and become the bedrock of digital transformation across the business.

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