E-Commerce Email: Converting the Customer

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Cart abandonment is among the most frustrating problems that e-commerce merchants face, and unfortunately, it happens way too often.

In fact, 80 percent of online shoppers have placed an item in a shopping cart and left the site without making a purchase, according to comScore’s Online Shopping Customer Experience Study. These abandoned items represent lost opportunities and leave merchants wondering why a purchase was not completed. 

That being said, perhaps the best way for merchants to fight against cart abandonment is with a strong email retargeting strategy. By retargeting customers through email, merchants have the ability to reach the specific visitors who abandon their carts. Not only can a retargeting message remind someone about the products they left behind, but merchants can also offer some type of incentive in order to close the sale, such as free shipping or a discount code.

In the first installment of “E-Commerce Email: Welcoming the Customer,” Website Magazine looked at the welcome messages of 10 online shoe retailers. However, Part 2 is looking at the retargeting strategies of the same retailers. The examples below can be used to provide e-commerce merchants, regardless of industry, with insights into how some companies are guiding consumers through the purchase cycle via email.


This retargeting message offers a friendly reminder about the items I left in my cart during my last visit to DSW.com. While the content of the message is pretty generic and doesn’t display the specific products left in my cart, it does relay a sense of urgency by stating that items sell out fast. Additionally, the email tries to encourage me to make a purchase with the mention of free shipping at the very top of the message.


Not only does Zappos send a reminder about the products I left in my shopping cart, but the company also displays the exact items I abandoned within this retargeting message. Furthermore, Zappos uses a mixture of quirky editorial text and bright call-to-action buttons to persuade me to complete the purchase. It is also important to note that Zappos creates a sense of urgency by letting me know that there is limited availability for one of the items in my cart.


Macy’s was among the first brands to send a welcome email to me after I became a member on the site. However, after abandoning a couple of shoes in my cart on Macys.com last week, I still have not received a retargeting message or any other type of email from the company.


I never received a retargeting message from Skechers in regards to the items I abandoned in my shopping cart last week; however, I did receive a different message from the company, which was promoting one of their products.


TOMS does a good job at disguising its retargeting message. This is because the company features a pair of shoes that I had abandoned in my cart, while also providing a large call-to-action button that encourages me to shop for new arrivals. Moreover, the email’s message tells customers that it is okay to be “picky” when it comes to making a purchase, and even further reassures customers by outlining the TOMS return policy and mentioning free shipping within the email’s subject line.


ShoeDazzle implements an aggressive retargeting strategy, because I received not only one message encouraging me to come back to my cart, but two. The first message, which was sent out the same day that I abandoned my ShoeDazzle cart, captures attention with its catchy heading – “Your Cart Has Abandonment Issues.” Additionally, the subject line and content of this email is customized to remind me about the exact type of shoe I left behind. Conversely, the second message (sent the day after I abandoned the cart), relays a sense of urgency with the use of phrases like “don’t miss out.” It is also important to note that both messages try to entice consumers to make a purchase by offering free shipping and free return shipping.


After abandoning some shoes in my JCPenney shopping cart a week ago, I still have not received a retargeting email from the company. In fact, the only message I received from JCPenney (aside from the initial welcome email) was one asking me to sign up for text alerts.

Steve Madden

This friendly reminder from Steve Madden not only displays the exact products that I abandoned in my cart last week, but also offers a limited time incentive for free shipping. While this incentive is pointless for my order (since the site already offers free shipping on orders over $75), it would definitely be a good incentive for consumers who don't qualify for free shipping. Furthermore, Steve Madden asks consumers to provide feedback if they decide not to complete their order. This provides the company with insights that can help improve the customer experience.


Although Overstock did things a little backward by sending a retargeting message before sending me a welcome message last week, it is safe to say that this company has a robust email strategy. While I eventually received a welcome message from the company (along with a variety of other promotional messages), I also received two retargeting emails within the last week. The first message arrived promptly after I abandoned my cart and displayed Overstock’s checkout page with the exact products I left behind, complete with the purchase total and multiple call-to-action buttons encouraging me to finish the transaction. The second message was sent two days after I abandoned my cart. It featured the products I left behind next to bright call-to-action buttons, as well as contained a section of additional recommended products at the bottom of the message.


While I didn’t initially receive a welcome email from JustFab at the time of last week’s Part 1 writing, it is important to note that I eventually received a welcome message from the company along with a variety of other promotional emails. Among those messages, was a retargeting email encouraging me to complete my purchase. While the message isn’t very personalized, it does include bright call-to-action buttons and prominently displays other information persuading consumers to complete their purchase, such as the "free shipping" and "easy exchange" text at the top.

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ErkelM 01-28-2013 4:11 PM

great ideas...

RizalN 01-28-2013 6:49 PM

thank you for the information. nice thought..

RogerW 01-28-2013 11:56 PM

this is a pretty good article which features some well thought out research about what the retailer does if i abandon cart ... yet the research does not address the real problem which is why i abandoned cart ... the real deal for me is not that my retailer is suffering from abandonment issues -- for me the real deal is that often the only way to see the cost of an item is to draw out the purchase process up to the point of commitment or abandonment ... like apple does with their configure your dream machine option -  i have spent hours playing with different "cart full of computer" and i did not abandon- i simply purchased when ready a- after i saw what fit together well and after i discussed with my tech guy about what was what in the configuration i had dreamed up ... and at Powell's Books they have a wish list option so i never approach the cart til ready and often i wait until i am in the bricks and mortar store - wish list in hand - fill cart for real and check out for real -- maybe in the carts in this article ... the shoes did not fit the wardrobe ... online shopping pages need a dream section ... a place to actually window shop and share with friends what your dreams are ... i could go on for hours but it is your article so i will abandon cart now :)  

regards  -- roger) no space (whitt1 @ the 7th letter mail dot com

AnnS 01-29-2013 9:15 PM

Really enjoyed this post as it's a good piece of research and helpful with the screen captures and different ideas about what could work as far as retargeting cart abandons. Hope the shoes were just what if's, wild and wacky rather than things you'd actually buy and wear, Allison--some look a little dangerous for their height! :)

As someone always interested in marketing strategies and of course also an ecommerce consumer myself, it's good to see what works and what options might be, as well as how to always keep on the good side of serving up information that is helpful and not intrusive. I'm always curious when I find retargeting emails that offer for additional discount, which seem to encourage shopping cart abandonment.

Etailers should look for ways to include free shipping, as it's a great cause of abandonment right before final point of purchase.

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