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Browse, cart, and checkout abandonment – do you know the difference?

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Abandonment messages are triggered, targeted, marketing communications that are generated when a user exhibits a behavior or takes an action, but does not reach the desired conclusion. The conclusion is usually a purchase, but could be any number of things depending on your business or industry. The messages are specifically designed to remind the user that they did not complete their action, and prompts them to do so, sometimes using an incentive such as a coupon or time-based promotion. 

Most marketers are familiar with the typical cart abandonment message but there are two other types of abandonment messages that play equally important roles in the buyer’s journey. They are checkout abandonment and browse abandonment, and each serves a specific purpose. When implemented correctly, they can make the difference between a lost sale and a conversion. Many marketing technology companies gloss over the differences between these messages because, in most cases they only offer one out of the three. In this post, I’ll explain the differences between the three types, so you have a better understanding of where each fits within your marketing mix.

Why are abandonment messages important?

Before we dive in, let’s refresh on why abandonment messages are important. Unlike scheduled batch messages, abandonment messages are generated for a specific user on a 1:1 basis. This in itself is a huge step up from the traditional marketing campaign. Instead of communicating with a user who may or may not be interested in your products or services, you are communicating with a single person who has already expressed interest. 

Effective abandonment messages are also often personalized with information collected during the user’s session, such as cart items, or other products or categories that were clicked. Messages are also typically generated seconds or minutes after abandonment so they reach the user while they are still engaged. Because of this, abandonment messages have a much higher open and click through rate than traditional batch marketing campaigns. Because the messages are automated, they also require a much lower level of effort to create and deploy. 

Many businesses are now shifting larger portions of their marketing resources away from scheduled batch communications in favor of an automated approach. Revolve, one of the fastest growing online fashion retailers, now generates more than 20% of their TOTAL revenue solely from abandonment campaigns. Now that we’re all on the same page, we can get back to the purpose of this post, which is dissecting the differences between these useful marketing tools.

3 main types of abandonment campaigns

Don’t let your marketing vendor tell you that all abandonment campaigns are created equal, because they aren’t. They each serve a specific purpose, and when deployed correctly can completely revolutionize the way you market to your customers. 

1. Cart abandonment campaigns

Cart abandonment messages are by far the most well-known in the marketing community. That’s because cart abandonment is a huge problem for retailers. According to Statista, so far in 2019 nearly 70% of all online shopping carts have been abandoned resulting in billions of dollars in lost revenue. Cart abandonment messages aim to solve this problem and are generated when a user adds an item to their online shopping cart but leaves the site before making a purchase. 

Since their debut a few short years ago they have been almost universally adopted and are now essentially ubiquitous amongst online retailers. The reason being, they work…really well. BigCommerce reports that an effective cart abandonment campaign can recover upwards of 36% of lost sales. That’s a huge increase in revenue, from one campaign. The reason they work so well is because they are deployed in the middle of the purchase funnel, when a user has already expressed interest in a product or service. All it takes (in most cases) is a little push to get them into the checkout process.

Cart abandonment messages are also relatively easy to deploy, because they are generated by a singular, easily trackable event, a click on a button “add to cart.” In other words, Cart abandonment messages are low effort, high impact. For the best results, you should personalize the abandonment message using products and content collected during the user’s session. This makes message creation a bit more complicated, unless of course you are using a drag-and-drop editor like Sculpt.

2. Browse abandonment campaigns

Browse abandonment messages are similar to cart abandonment messages but differ in one very important way. Cart abandonment messages are only generated when an item is added to the cart, whereas browse abandonment message can be generated based on any number of events. Because they can be generated from just about any event or behavior, they are an extremely powerful tool to advance a user through the purchase funnel. 

Imagine a scenario where a user comes to your site, clicks into a product category, clicks on 3 different products and then leaves. A traditional cart abandonment campaign would completely miss this interaction because nothing was added to the cart. No “add to cart” button was clicked, therefore nothing was tracked. A browse abandonment campaign however, can take all of this useful user-generated information (clicks, categories, scroll depth, time on page) and use it to generate a message that entices the user to come back for a second look.

While a cart abandonment message is pretty cut and dry (message = what the user put in their cart). Browse abandonment messages can be much more nuanced. Your message could include the three products the user clicked on, but also complementary products from the broader category they were browsing. If they were browsing mens shirts for example, you could suggest men’s shorts as well, and provide a 10% off coupon for their next purchase. 

Browsing behavior also often belies what a user is actually interested in. Take this scenario:

I’m sure this has happened to you. It’s certainly happened to me. I go to a website and purchase a gift for someone else, let’s say a soccer ball. Then I start getting messages from that company that are all about soccer, soccer cleats, soccer shorts, shin pads etc. The problem is, I hate soccer, I only bought the ball because my friend likes it. This is a classic problem for marketers. Let’s say I come back to that site a week later and browse running shoes and running shorts (because I love running) but don’t add anything to my cart or make a purchase. If there is no browse abandon campaign in place, I will continue to get messages about soccer, because that’s the only information the company has about me. If there is however, I will begin to get messages containing products I’m actually interested in. This is a HUGE win for a business, and guess what, it’s ALL automated. That is the power of browse abandonment campaigns. Our friends over at SKLZ actually had this same problem. 

Browse abandon messages are a bit more complicated to implement because they require a platform that can collect real-time customer behavioral data, but they are a key part of the purchase funnel and should definitely be on your wish list for your next mar-tech platform. 

3. Checkout abandonment campaigns

The final type of abandonment campaign is checkout abandonment. Checkout abandonment is again, similar to cart abandonment, but the message is sent when a user abandons the shopping experience during checkout (instead of in the cart). Users abandon checkout for many reasons, such as unexpected shipping costs or complicated inputs, but if they made it all the way to the checkout experience, there is a high likelihood that they are very interested in the items in their cart. 

The goal of the checkout abandonment message is to get them back to the checkout experience to complete their purchase. This willingness to move past the cart into checkout makes checkout abandonment a bottom of funnel message and bottom of funnel messages should be highly personalized and contextual. You have had the opportunity to learn a lot about the user during their shopping experience, where they came from, what they clicked on, what size they are, what colors they like, maybe even where they live. All of this information should be present in your checkout abandonment message. This is an opportunity to be very personal, at a time when it isn’t creepy. The user has willingly given you information, don’t blow it by sending them a stock “Forget something?” message.

Usually all the user needs to get over the hump is a little push. Offering a free shipping credit, expedited shipping, or a final discount incentive could be the little extra they need to finally make the purchase. 

Using abandonment campaigns all in practice

As you can hopefully now see, cart, browse, and checkout abandonment messages, while similar on the surface all serve very different purposes. Think of browse abandon and top of funnel, cart abandon as middle of funnel, and checkout abandon as bottom of funnel. Each message type plays its part to advance the user to the next stage. Personalizing the message experience using real-time customer event and behavioral data will only improve your chances of recapturing the sale. 

The problem that most marketers face is that their marketing platform cannot generate all of these messages. Most platforms can only handle one, or two at the most, which leaves the rest of the funnel unprotected. Furthermore, the common misconception that these three abandonment messages are being sent leads marketers to believe that their entire funnel is protected, when in fact, their platform only supports checkout abandonment.

When marketers discover the gap in messaging coverage, the gut reaction is usually to purchase a point solution that solves for that specific need. A typical example is a company purchasing a trigger point solution that specializes in cart abandonment campaigns to augment a batch and blast messaging platform. The problem that most discover only after the ink has dried on the contract is that when you use multiple platforms, messaging becomes disjointed. Most point solutions lock up customer data in yet another silo, causing friction and frustration in both internal execution and customer experience. 

There is upside to adopting a platform that can protect the entire funnel. Cordial can send all three message types from one platform and connect them from a single, intuitive user interface. If you would like to learn more please contact us for a brief demo.