Online Shoppers Can Save Money by Playing Hard to Get

Online Shoppers Can Save Money by Playing Hard to Get
Online Shoppers Can Save Money by Playing Hard to Get

If you shop online, chances are you've left a few full shopping carts at the checkout altar.

Researchers estimate that about 70% of e-commerce shopping carts are abandoned, resulting in as much as $18 billion in lost sales.

Some get left in limbo because customers can't find the products or information that they want, or they're unable to successfully navigate a site. But the main reason shoppers shy away from going through with the electronic purchase is that they start checking out prices elsewhere. Some come back later to complete their purchase. Many don't.

Trying to Revive the Relationship

There is a surprisingly easy way to lure shoppers back: Send a reminder email.

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A recent report from Listrak found that emails sent about three hours after abandonment had the highest average order values. According to the report, it also paid off to follow up with a second email about one to two days later, and a third two to three days after that. That's three emails within a week -- but they help prevent customers from buying elsewhere.

Surprisingly, relatively few retailers try to reignite sales this way. And many simply empty your cart after you've left it idle for a while.

According to Listrak, only about 19% of the top 500 online retailers send follow-up emails to abandoners (that's 42% more than did back in January), and the vast majority of them only send one.

Hold Out for Something Better

A simple reminder about what you left behind isn't as effective as sweetening the deal. Of the emails sent containing special offers, nearly half offered a certain percentage off, such as 5% or 10%. About a quarter offered free shipping.

These kinds of offers can be effective, but they're not without some problems. For one thing, many retailers already offer free shipping. But if you can hold out even longer, you may get a note offering to knock down the price -- or an alert that the item you wanted went on sale.

As retailers get more savvy about running their electronic storefronts, indecisive shoppers are likely to hear back from them more often with follow-up emails (and even some phone calls) with attractive offers.

So next time you fill your virtual shopping cart, if you're not in a rush, consider abandoning it for a few days to see what happens. But take note of what you've picked out, just in case the retailer decides to empty your cart instead of enticing you back to finish the sale.