Solving Cart Abandonment on Mobile

Another fun night browsing on my smartphone...

20% off lava lamps, ooh (Click item)

Looks great, will go so well with my cobra carving (Click purchase)

What’s my name again? And what’s my address? (Fills in information…)

MESSAGE FROM MOTHER - “Ur dinner is going cold, I’ve been shouting u...” (Close app, run down stairs)

For better or worse (probably better), I never did get that lava lamp. Dinner was cold too.

This is the curse of our ever decreasing attention spans, or perhaps more accurately, this is what the ‘always on’ smartphone can do to us. Just as I’m getting into reading an article on my phone, or writing an email, a push notification will spring out at me, and more often than not I don’t have the discipline to wait until I have finished what I am doing before moving on to the next thing. Mobile is a medium of distraction.

I worked in a very small, very dusty second hand record shop a few years back. There was nothing more deflating than watching someone pick out a record, carry it around the shop for an hour while they continue to dig deep into the be-bop bargains section, and then abandon it (in the wrong section, grr) when their long-suffering other half finally snaps and reminds them how much extra they’ll have to pay on the car park if they don’t leave now. I often daydreamed about running after them in the street with the record and trying one last attempt at a sale. That might have been a bit weird though, I suppose.

Fortunately, on mobile you CAN do certain things to get that person to finally complete their interrupted purchase… if you have the right systems in place.

The Solution

There’s nothing particularly complex about minimizing the cart abandonment problem. In general terms, the right approach is to let the user be interrupted, but bring them back when the time is right to complete the transaction. That can be via push notification, email, or in-app message when they are next in your app. But for maximum success, it’s worth remembering a few key principles.

Most importantly, learn what the optimal time to contact a specific user is. You don’t want to try to bring them back when they are in an important meeting or driving home from work - that’s just annoying. Instead, track when each user typically uses your app, and implement this to your advantage when messaging them. Attempt to bring them back when you know they are more likely to be thinking of you in the first place.

Along the same lines, remember that personalizing these messages can pay big dividends. You have information about your users, for instance their name and interests - make the most of it! A push notification like: “Hey Ross! Your lava lamp is still 20% off…”, with a name and context is a lot more powerful than a cold, generic ‘come back’ push that you know everyone else has received. We all want to feel understood, individual and special (no push notification has judged me yet on my terrible taste anyway).

As noted above, the next time the user with the abandoned cart opens the app is the perfect time to remind them of what could have been. And what better way than with a good-looking, full screen in-app message with a link to the check-out? Find out what kind of image and text works best as well by A/B testing multiple versions of this kind of message. Once you have optimized a campaign like this - it will be like taking candy from a baby.  

Think Multi-Channel

Retail is a multi-headed beast, like Cerberus on steroids. Or put another way, it is a truly multi-channel industry. That in turn means that there’s a huge amount of information about your customers: from multiple devices, sites, different apps and in-store too. Getting this data to work together is a daunting challenge, but being able to use data from one channel to target a user in a different channel is incredibly powerful.

Users see you as a brand, not a collection of unconnected channels. That diamond encrusted, solid gold iPhone case from your website that is sitting in the cart - no problem, send a push notification about it. Or if they didn’t engage with your push notification, make sure your system knows this so that it can send an email reminding them of it. Marvelous!

These are relatively simple fixes to a problem that is costing you huge amounts in lost revenue. What are you waiting for? Go! Run after them! It’s not weird to do that anymore!