How I Generated $103,271 by Sending Cart Abandonment Emails
Written by Soma Toth on 02/22/2016

Who would have thought that you could make a tonne of money from abandoned carts?

Yep that’s right. Make money from those same visitors who have already abandoned their carts, and decided not to buy from you.

The truth is that you can. Why else would huge multinational companies like Amazon, Nike and Walmart regularly send emails to their cart abandoners? They recognise the value of the post-abandonment outreach, and by the end of this article, so will you.

So, what’s the secret to recovering sales and making money from abandoned carts?

Over the past 3 years we’ve been working hard on answering precisely this question and can confidently say we have finally figured it out.

the cart abandonment flow

Believe me:

Cart abandoners only need a little push to come back and complete their purchase. I know that it sounds simple, but there is ever so slightly more to it than that which we will explain below.

How do you successfully analyze cart abandonment? How do you identify cart abandoners? What do you do once you’ve identified them? How do you convince them to come back and make a purchase? Send them emails, or drop them calls?

All will be revealed below…

This is my step-by-step guide on how to successfully recover your abandoned carts on autopilot.

I have managed to condense my 3-year cart recovery experience into the article. I’ll warn you now, it’s not going to be short – but when you reach the end you’ll be able to successfully recover sales from a large proportion of your abandoned carts and generate a huge amount of money from them.

So, let’s see how we generated $103,271 in 2015 by reducing our cart abandonment rate, and how you can do the same.

Our first e-commerce success

We had enormous success with our first e-commerce store, MagfitPRO, earning approximately $100,000 in revenue in just a few short months after launch.

Brand new product, a few Facebook ads, a good team of a few marketers, a few thousand dollars investing, and voila – $100k in revenue.

We bought some traffic from Facebook, it converted on 1-2% conversion rate, we had good ROI and everyone was happy. Sounds cool right?

Well, not exactly…

Know your cart abandonment rate

Before anything else, you need to know what a cart abandoner is:

A cart abandoner is someone who adds one or more items to their cart, but does not complete the purchase.

This is how cart abandonment rate is calculated:

cart-abadnonment

Your abandonment rate is 100 – (Completed Checkouts / Started Checkouts x 100)

On a typical day at MagfitPRO we had 90 orders and 598 people who started the checkout.

So 100 – (90/598 x 100) = 85% cart abandonment rate.

Since it’s difficult to figure out your cart abandonment rate in Google Analytics I highly recommend you use a cart abandonment tool like GhostMonitor which can calculate your Shopify/WooCommerce cart abandonment rate.

Screenshot 2016-02-15 18.36.55

Back to 2014, we dived deeper and deeper into Google Analytics – yep, we’re obsessed with analytics – and noticed that something was very wrong with our conversion rate…

As we dug deeper into the data we noticed:

A whole load of people started the checkout process, but just a few succeeded and went all the way through to make a purchase.

This was our first encounter with the infamous cart abandonment.

At that time, we didn’t really know what cart abandonment was, but we realized that we were losing a lot of money. And we were losing a lot of money because something was seriously wrong with the checkout process (or potentially something else).

Our cart abandonment rate was 85%, so we started analyzing even more deeply than before.

We learnt that most of the people who abandoned the checkout page spent the most time on it. We assumed that meant that they were having difficulties filling out the forms.

Cart abandonment is your biggest foe

A study on Business Insider stated that cart abandonment is the #1 issue amongst e-commerce entrepreneurs.

It’s like the Joker to your Batman. Megatron to Optimus Prime.

Put simply, it’s your biggest adversary when it comes to building your business.

cart abandonment Joker

If you’re really serious about maximising sales, cart abandonment is something that needs to be addressed. Immediately.

Why?

If you’re close to the average 74% cart abandonment rate, you lose a whopping $284 on every $100 of revenue…

Day after day. Month after month. Year after year.

cart abandonment

If that’s not scary enough to get your attention, you can learn more about cart abandonment facts here.

Analyze your checkout process

So we assumed our 85% cart abandonment came from troubles completing the forms on the checkout page. But there was no analytics for that, right? You cannot quickly look at a section of Google Analytics to uncover cart abandonment issues on your checkout page.

We hoped there was an app out there that did this. After some Google research we found Mousestats, and we used their Form Analytics feature to analyze the time spent on each field of the checkout page.

The results were astonishing.

Our shoppers spent an average of 48 seconds on the ‘Comment/Message’ field.

We needed to solve the problem so we called some of our buyers. We asked them why they spent almost a minute on the Comment/Message field. We learnt that they didn’t know how to message customer service.

A problem with a simple solution.

We divided the note field into 2 separated fields: Message to Customer Service and Message to Courier.

That solved the issue and we reaped the rewards with a decrease in our cart abandonment rate and an increase in sales. We seemingly solved the biggest problem on the checkout page, so we were really pleased with this new analytics software.

We were completely satisfied. Right?

Nope…

The cart abandonment war had just begun

We won the battle but we were about to lose the war.

Although we solved a big issue with the shopping cart and decreased our cart abandonment rate by a fair amount, this was just the start.

Although we had decreased our cart abandonment rate from 85% to 81% we knew that there was plenty of work still to do.

Because as Benjamin Franklin once said:

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.

Capture your cart abandoners’ email address

At that time we found an article about Facebook’s pre-submit technology. Essentially, they track everything you write before you hit the “send” or “post” button. They do it because they want to know which words you are less like to use.

So if you start writing “go to heck” and you delete those words, Facebook recognizes that you don’t like to use those words and as a result will show less “go to heck” content in your News Feed. This immediately inspired us to do the same.

The next morning we discussed this technology our developers who created the same functionality on our checkout page within a few days. Finally, we were able to record all the fields without the Submit button being hit. We recorded every character the visitor typed in real time even if they didn’t hit the submit button.

Screenshot 2016-02-15 18.46.36

This is our checkout page – I typed my data in

Screenshot 2016-02-15 18.50.12

This is what I see in our admin – real time

It may sound complicated, but implementing a solution like this is not hard anymore – we’ll talk about it later.

But now, the most important question is this:

Screenshot 2016-02-15 17.53.21

Yes, they do!

28% might not seem a lot, but here’s the math:

  • Let’s assume you have 100 orders a day.
  • Let’s also assume your cart abandonment rate is close to the average: 70%
  • So, you have 100 (30%) orders, and 233 (70%) abandoned carts.
  • Calculated with 28%, you have 65 abandoned carts with email addresses every single day.

That’s 65 hot leads, who started their checkout, entered their email address, then abandoned their cart.

We don’t think we’ve ever been more excited than when we realized that we can contact 28% of our cart abandoners.

This is the basic technique you need to apply, and it all starts with collecting your cart abandoners’ email address. It’s an absolutely essential piece of the puzzle.

Without their contact data, your chances to re-engage these cart abandoners successfully is very low.

Calling our cart abandoners

Here’s the interesting part:

We realized that we received not just email addresses, but other contact data too, like phone numbers. So we decided to call some of the cart abandoners.

As you might expect, initially we were afraid they would yell down the phone at us, something along the lines of “how the heck do you know my number??!”. It would be a pretty darned reasonable reaction as well…

However, nothing like this happened in the first few hundred calls.

Surprisingly people were happy that we called them. Most of them had a single question or a simple distraction, and that’s why they abandoned the cart. Most of them were like, ‘thank goodness you called me, otherwise I’d never have found an answer to this query.”

Is that it? Just a single question or distraction?

Yeah, that’s it.

We learned that most of the cart abandoners are pretty close to buying, but they abandon their cart because of some really small thing. As a result of this we converted almost 50% of cart abandoners.

I repeat, we converted almost 50 of the 100 cart abandoners to buyers.

Hell yeah, somebody who already left the cart. Who already decided not buy from us. Crazy.

Now that we’d learnt a lot about our cart abandoners and we’d started to make money from them, it was time to run the whole thing on autopilot. Believe me, calling up all your cart abandoners is really expensive.

We needed an affordable, scalable solution, and that’s exactly what we created next.

Emails to our cart abandoners

We started the email automation with a simple email l right after cart abandonment:

Oops… Was there a problem during checkout?“.

The email only contained a few sentences with a link directed to back the checkout. It was plain text, no fancy HTML or theme stuff. Just text.

The email became an overwhelming success. The open rate was 61%.

No, that’s not a typo. 61%.

I’ve never seen bigger open rate even in transaction emails, or opt-in emails, which usually performed at around 50% with our highest marketing efforts.

I figured out that this is simple logic:

You come to my site. You learn about the product. You decide to buy it. You fill out the checkout forms. Then you abandon your cart.

Imagine this:

Right after you abandon your cart, an email pops up in your Inbox from the same shop you’ve just abandoned. Would you open it?

Hell yeah you will open it!

This 61% made us sure that there’s a huge opportunity in the abandoned carts segment. A few weeks later, this one email was followed by 2 more in 24 and in 72 hours. The second was urging them by telling them the items whey abandoned would be out of stock soon, and the third email offered a 10% discount on the cart.

The 3-email sequence went on to become an astounding success.

Giving cart abandoners that ‘little push’ by those emails is the key. When people abandon their cart often they are just distracted or disoriented by something. Their boss comes in, their kids are doing something they shouldn’t be, the pasta needs to be taken out of the oven, or somebody just rings the doorbell: There are a seemingly endless number of scenarios that could cause someone to abandon their shopping cart.

You can’t solve them one-by-one, you need an end-to-end solution.

We earned $103,271 in 2015 with just this method.

Without further ado, here’s the exact method you need to grow your online business by cutting your cart abandonment rate:

  1. Set up a dependable cart abandonment app. (Like GhostMonitor.)
  2. Capture your cart abandoners’ email address on the checkout page. This is KEY. Without this you won’t be able to send them emails.
  3. Call them. All of them. One by one.
  4. Learn from what you hear. What are the main reasons they abandon their cart?
  5. Clarify the most frequent questions you learnt from abandoners on the phone. Put those answers in an FAQ/troubleshooting section on your site where everyone can see them, so your prospective buyers will meet the answer before they have to ask.
  6. Set up an email campaign to your abandoners. A sequence of 1 to 3 emails – pursuing them to come back and complete the purchase.

These 6 steps make more than $10,000 a month right now for us, and they can do the same for you.

The perfect formula for cart recovery emails:

Email #1 – 10 minutes or less after cart abandonment

Email #2 – 24 hours after cart abandonment

Email #3  – 72 hours after cart abandonment

After testing tens of thousands of email structures and timing, the above template was the most effective for us.

That being said, for you it might require a little tweaking. There’s nothing set in stone here.

In some cases a 10 minutes – 12 hours – 24 sequence is the best option, specially if you offer discount in your emails. The important thing is to play around, test, and find what works best for you.

“Wouldn’t sending more than 3 emails result in a higher conversion rate?” I hear you ask.

Not necessarily. Although it may seem a little counterintuitive, I suggest no more than 3-4.

I experimented with a 7 email campaign once and surprisingly it had no better conversion than the 3 email campaign. It seems that the sweet spot for a cart cycle is 3-4 emails. Any less and you might be missing out on an opportunity. Any more and you risk coming across a little needy…

Another question I often get is:

“What should I include in my recovery emails?”

This is another extremely important piece of the puzzle, so let’s dive in. Here’s my go to, tried and tested method:

Email #1

Timing:
Timing really is of the essence with this one. This email needs to be sent as soon as possible after cart abandonment – we’re talking within a 10 minute window. This is when your cart abandoner is most likely to still be in ‘buy’ mode, taken away by a minor distraction.

An important thing to keep in mind:

Many cart abandonment apps out there only allow you to set your email to be released between a 1-6 hour time interval, so be careful which app you choose. After 60 minutes, cart abandoners go kinda cold and you’ve missed your biggest opportunity to convert, so you must send it asap!

Subject:
“Oops… Was there a problem checking out?” drove me the highest average open rate (54%).

“About your order” was also successful (51%) and may work better for you.

Content:
The first email in the sequence always has the highest open rate, so choose your copy wisely.

Although it may be tempting, you’re better off not including discounts in your first email. Save them for later. Instead, the goal with this initial message is to re-grab your abandoners’ attention.

This is what worked best for me (54% open 14% click rate):

cart abandonment email #1

Email #2

Timing:
This email should follow your first email within a 12-24 hour timeframe. I usually set it to 24.

I strongly recommend you to stick between 12 and 24 hours since before 12 it’s too soon, and after 24 it’s typically too late to have an impact.

Subject:
Here I love to instill a sense of urgency in our customers. It’s one of the best marketing tactics ever.

For me “Something you like is almost sold out!” had the best open and click rate (41%, 9%).

If you usually host sales on your site, you can also try “The sale is almost over” or “Free shipping in the next 24 hours”.

Content:
Again, urgency is the key here. Even if it feels a little pushy to you at first, believe me when I say it will pay out.

Think of it this way:

You cart abandoner has gone from completely forgetting about their purchase, to being forced to make a fifty fifty decision.

You can sway the odds significantly in your favour by urging your customers. Maybe your stock is going to sell out in hours, or the price of the product will soon rise. In this second email, you could also include a discount code if you want to.

Here’s the winner copy with 36% open 11% click rate, without a discount:

cart abandonment email #2

Email #3

Timing:
This email should follow your second email in 48 hours tops. This email typically has the lowest engagement in the campaign, so you can really go for broke and fire all your remaining bullets.

Subject:

“You forgot how much you want to buy this!” is one of our most successful subjects (27%, 5%).

“Last chance to get what you want” and “Buy now or let it go forever” can also work well.

Content:
This is your final round as Rocky vs Apollo Creed. It’s the time and place to go all-in and give it everything you’ve got to make that sale.

Discounts are super effective here, but if you can’t currently offer one, I strongly recommend you still use urging copy. Something like:

“Your cart will be emptied in 48 hours and your deal will be gone forever.”

The key is to be unique and direct. Without the hard copy, your email will be powerless and your abandoner won’t come back to complete their purchase. It’s as simple as that.

Here my favorite with a 27% open and 5% click rate, without a discount:

cart abandonment email #3

We can earn a ton of $$$ by reducing cart abandonment. What now?

I assume you’re pretty interested how can you get started by now.

You’ve seen our 6 points above. Just 6 simple steps and 3 simple emails. Sounds easy, right?

Well, not necessarily…

We’ve spent more than 1000 pomodoros (about $30,000) on building this solution for only one site. That’s something that not many have the time and financial resources to do. We strongly believe you need a solution which is cheap and easy-to-use.

A short story for you:

In February, 2015 I was walking near Palo Alto. The weather was perfect, about 80, and the sun was shining. I had a meeting with a guy called Laszlo at Stanford Starbucks, so I needed to hurry not to be late. I talked with Laszlo about all the things we had going on in e-commerce.

When I was mentioning our automated cart abandonment solution, he suddenly hit the table. He said: “you have to make this stuff available for everyone!

Truth to be told, I’d never thought that before. My ideas were about some shitty startup things, not building a B2B product. On my way to our hotel in San Francisco I was thinking: “he’s pretty damned right! We need to build a product out of this!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was how GhostMonitor born.

One year on, we have an awesome piece of software helping WooCommerce and Shopify users cut cart abandonment, and grow on autopilot.

We designed GhostMonitor to earn your site as much as possible

We kept in mind the following basic principles:

  1. You need a solution which can be used by everyone. Not just companies that provide resources for copywriters and marketing strategists. Everyone. In every niche.
  2. You need a solution that dramatically cuts cart abandonment – without a ton of back end work. It’s all about automation.
  3. The solution needs to be affordable for everyone. From small business owners to big enterprises.
  4. It also needs to be super simple to install. No faffing around. Less than a minute and you’re ready to go.
  5. The solution should be super actionable. Containing all our best knowledge and top tips on reducing cart abandonment.

So here’s what we’ve reached so far in the last 12 months

  1. GhostMonitor is available for Shopify and WooCommerce.
    We need to introduce a few tweaks to make the software available for everyone. Magento, OpenCart and Prestashop users – we’ll be with you soon!
  2. GhostMonitor boosts our clients’ revenue by an average of 11%.
    That’s a dramatic change in the world of cart abandonment. It’s cool, but it’s never enough. We’re working every day to improve on that average.
  3. We offer GhostMonitor for a super cheap $10 a month, without any other fees.
    We think this is something we can all agree is affordable.
  4. Our recovery campaign can be installed under a minute.
    No messing. Easy and quick to install.
  5. We built all our best practices into GhostMonitor.
    Every new sign up is welcomed with our 3-email cart recovery autoresponder. There’s dozens of features you cannot find anywhere else. We send emails faster than anybody (under 10 minutes from cart abandonment) and we capture more abandoners than anybody else on the market.

We strongly believe this is something that thousands of online retailers will use and benefit from as we move forwards.

GhostMonitor has a tonne of useful features but they all work to serve one purpose only:

Bring back cart abandoners to finish their checkout.

We’re so proud that we could built GhostMonitor, and we’re honoured to receive so many positive messages every day from our happy clients.

Why are they so happy?

It comes down to being able to implement something so simple, yet receive such a drastic growth in their business. At the end of the day, we’ve been able to earn them more money and help them provide more value to their audience. That’s something that matters deeply to us.

I hope you can implement the strategy above and generate at least as much revenue as I could in 2015. There’s really no reason why you couldn’t do just that, starting today. 

And if you need help or have any questions don’t be shy – shoot it below and I’ll get back to you asap!

  • PimPom

    Does ghostmonitor also works in other languages? I need a Dutch and French version.

    • Hello there,

      Sorry for the late answer, I haven’t received the notification email.

      Yes, GhostMonitor works in 23 languages. 🙂

  • ven hudson

    Thank for your idea. You can also checkout Magento abandoned extension for best price.