In the offline world, have you ever been chased by retail staff because you opted not to buy something at their store?
You mean no one has ever blocked the exit and said something like, “Hey, I saw you put that bottle of wine in your cart, why didn’t you buy it?”
It sounds funny until you realize that most online remarketing services offer to do exactly that to your website visitors. They’ll pester them with e-mails, pop-ups, and phone calls should they have the bad fortune of visiting your site, adding something to your shopping cart, and then not buying it.
Why would otherwise sane e-tailers revert to such uncivil, gorilla-like tactics? Really bad assumptions about both human nature and the nature of online shopping. They simply haven’t compared what they’re doing to that kind of offline analogy. So here are the bad assumptions, along with a few suggestions on how to correct them and what to do instead:
Assumption #1: Everyone is a late stage buyer
Related assumptions: Everyone who puts something in your shopping cart has a full-blown intent to purchase that item, and it was just chance or a shopping cart flaw that caused them to “abandon” your cart. Cart abandonment is caused within the cart itself.
- Lots of people research and comparison-shop before they buy.
- Adding an item to cart is often a means of comparison shopping
- Adding an item to cart is often the only way to get important information for making the buying decision – stuff like shipping costs, whether express delivery is available, gift options etc.
- Most lost sales are caused by a lack of information and persuasion on the product page and the rest of the website – not by the cart itself.
Assumption #2: Long-term effects will parallel short-term gain
Related assumptions: sales that you recover from abusive or annoying tactics are easily tied to increased revenue and therefore are more important than the much-harder-to-measure ill will and annoyance created by those same techniques. That the successes are as cumulative as the ill will generated.
- “He who would run his business with visible figures alone will soon have neither business nor visible figures to work with.” - W. Edwards Deming
- Don’t mistake a lack of hate e-mail or complaints as a lack of passionate response. Or at the least, find out a way to measure the offense or annoyance you’re causing amongst the visitors who you don’t convert through your remarketing efforts. If more people are converted than are pissed off, and the converted become repeat buyers, then keep doing what you’re doing. But have the discipline to find out for sure.
- Pissed off people are a lot more likely to share their experiences than a visitor converted through remarketing tactics. And even the converted visitor will be less likely to do ANY further early stage shopping from you now that they know what to expect from putting an item in your cart or visiting your checkout page.
- Ask any remarketing service what the longer-term trends for their customers have been. If they can’t tell you overall impact on their clients conversion rates for periods of at least 1-2 years, you should be very, very suspicious.
Assumption #3: It never hurts to ask.
Related assumptions: that the mere form of a question /offer renders it impossible to offend visitors’ sensibilities or violate their sense of privacy and online safety.
- Read this Seth Godin post
- Imagine that you had only started to fill out a check-out form, had not ever hit any kind of “submit” or “enter” button before closing out, but now have that website e-mailing and calling you because they pulled the info off of their server in real-time, as you typed it into the form. How do you feel about that? Think this thing doesn’t happen? It does.
- A website forces you to create an account in order to checkout. You create one. Then you see that they gouge their customers on shipping charges. You close out of the process and now you’re receiving spam from that company/website. Are you EVER likely to do business with them in this or any other lifetime?
So are all automated responses and attempts to “save the sale” a bad idea?
Absolutely not. Just let your offline sense of what’s appropriate guide you in your applications of this online technology. Pushy sales clerks can kill brick and mortar sales just as easily as over-aggressive re-marketing techniques for the simple reason that human nature doesn’t change just because a person goes online. In fact, I frequently recommend Why We Buy to Web optimization specialists and online copywriters for exactly this reason.
So to use that offline analogy, let’s say you are looking at a more expensive bottle of wine and that the store owner sees you put it back on the shelf to grab a few other cheaper bottles.
Would it be ok for the clerk to approach you, mention that the bottle you were looking at is one of the best buys he has in the store, guarantee you’ll love it, and offer to give you a discount to get you to try a bottle? Or for him to show you similar bottles closer to your price range?
As long as the clerk was respectful and took “no” for an answer, there’s no problem with that at all, right? So how could you do it online?
- You could show special offers on previously-deleted-from-the-cart merchandise during the checkout process
- You could have a button on your product page that says “alert me to any specials or discounts on this product,” and then follow-up with a special e-mail offer AFTER the visitor has given you permission to contact them.
- For completed sales – and completed sales ONLY! – you could send a follow-up e-mail with special deals on previously-deleted-from-the-cart merchandise
- And a few other techniques that I’m sure you’ll come up with yourself if you spend some time thinking about it. I don’t want to give away all my secrets without exacting any mental work from my readers
All of these things work just as well online as their offline counterparts, which is far more than can be said for most “gorilla” (re)marketing tactics.
P.S. Before going through all this trouble to remarket, why not make sure you’ve fully optimized your checkout process to begin with? Bryan Eisenberg’s initial and follow-up blog posts on this are a great place to start.
In Accountable Marketing
, Buying Process
, Checkout Process
, Customer Experience
, Customer Focus
, Email Marketing
, Improving Conversion
, Marketing Rants
, Online Persuasion
, Optimization Tactics