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Are Abandoned Basket Emails Helpful or Harassment?

Are Abandoned Basket Emails Helpful or Harassment?

Posted 12/06/2009 by Gareth Cutter

Whether to re-market to visitors who have abandoned shopping baskets on your web site is a sensitive issue. As this recent article in the New York Times pointed out, a shop assistant wouldn't follow you out onto the street asking, "Are you sure you don't want to buy that jumper you picked up then put back on the rail?"

Are basket abandonment emails the online equivalent of this behaviour? Where should online retailers draw the line?

Merchants have a great opportunity to increase sales conversions by sending auto-responders with offers tailored to people's basket history. The problem is some subscribers can feel as though they are being 'monitored' and understandably, that makes them uneasy. What you need to do is establish trust in your subscriber base: trust that all you're trying to do is provide them with the best offers and information possible.

Instead of going in for the hard sell, help subscribers make an informed decision about the items they placed in their baskets. Links to similar items, product descriptions and customer reviews can all be used to build a clearer picture in subscribers' minds about the products you're offering and a greater sense of trust.

As for your messaging, there are two approaches you could take depending on how you view your brand and the kind of relationship you have with your subscribers:

  • Formal - the sales assistant i.e. "Was there a problem with the transaction - how can we help?"
  • Informal - the friend i.e. "Here's the latest info and offers about product XYZ - enjoy!"

Adopting either of these approaches is preferable to sending generic emails with subject lines like, "Your Abandoned Basket #2452" (which is about as impersonal and 'Big Brother'-ish as you can get).

Your role as online retailer is to help the customer but the product they're happy with, not to harass them once they've left the site. Keep your strategy relevant and friendly and subscribers will be more likely to appreciate and act upon your efforts.

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