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The Green Sheet Online Edition

January 23, 2017 • Issue 17:01:02

One merchant's brilliant solution for shopping cart abandonment

By Chris O'Donnell
Instabill Corp.

Joe Bowab has been shipping live and frozen lobster online from his website, LobsterAnywhere.com, for nearly 17 years. He ships lobster and more than 20 different seafood dinners overnight anywhere in the continental United States. For folks across the country who long for Maine lobster and traditional New England seafood dishes, he's their man.

As someone who has a master's degree in education from Harvard and is midway through his doctoral degree, online seafood delivery isn't how Bowab envisioned making his living. But LobsterAnywhere is hugely successful. His chargebacks are less than one per year (every one of which he resolves). Reviews websites are overwhelmingly positive.

A common business challenge

In the month of December 2016, LobsterAnywhere.com drew tens of thousands of visitors. Business was very good this holiday season. That's not to say Bowab doesn't have challenges. Like many ecommerce merchants, one of his challenges is shopping cart abandonment – when a consumer begins the checkout process but abandons the purchase for any number of reasons.

Among the most common causes of shopping cart abandonment are:

  • Shipping costs were too expensive.
  • The checkout process was arduous and complicated.
  • The checkout process lacked important details.
  • The consumer felt the checkout site lacked proper security.
  • The consumer was forced to create an account.

According to the Baymard Institute, an independent web usability research firm based in Copenhagen, the average e-commerce checkout abandonment rate was around 75 percent for 2016.

Shopping cart abandonment wasn't terribly hurting Bowab's business, but it irked him. "Our sales tend to peak near any gifting holiday: Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's Day, Mother's and Father's Day, even the summer holidays," Bowab said. During those times, his cart abandonment rate hovers around 48 percent, well below the average. "During non-holiday periods, it creeps up to about 60 percent," he noted.

An uncommon solution

Even though LobsterAnywhere's abandonment rate was below Baymard's average finding, curiosity got the better of Bowab. He wondered what he could do to get customers who had left in the middle of the sale to return and finish the checkout process. "You never let a customer off the hook," he said. "Customer acquisition isn't cheap. They came to the website for a reason, so you want them to buy."

Bowab wanted a strategy that would gently remind customers who abandoned checkout, not a strategy that might pester them. So he devised a solution: two email reminders, one in two hours, another in two days. When a visitor abandons an order on LobsterAnywhere.com, the automated email sent two hours later states, "You've left something in your lobster trap!" Bowab noted his first email results in a 54 percent open rate.

If the consumer hasn't responded, the individual receives a second – and final – email reading, "Woo-hoo! You landed the big one!" If his second email draws no response, Bowab leaves it alone. "I think three or more emails is too much," he said. "People can get annoyed with too many e-mails. I try to make mine funny and off the cuff."

With the second e-mail, however, he'll offer a $15 coupon for orders over $100 or more, just for coming back. "You can incentivize the customer with the second email," he said. Since implementing his cart abandonment solution in late September 2016, Bowab has brought back 10 percent of the 48 percent of consumers who have left his checkout process. He is hopeful that figure will grow.

"I just felt that my [abandonment] rate was kind of high," he said. "I believe that when you have that customer come to your website, you can't lose them." end of article

Chris O'Donnell is a Senior Copywriter for the Instabill Corp. in Portsmouth, N.H. Instabill is a full service provider of merchant accounts to e-commerce, MO/TO and POS businesses. A resident of coastal New England, O'Donnell is also a contributor to The Daily News (Newburyport, Mass.) and Newburyport magazine.

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