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GUEST COMMENT Why are retailers neglecting the browser?

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A recent survey discovered that only 41% of UK retailers send basket reminder messages to consumers who put products in their online shopping cart cart and abandoned it without purchasing. An even smaller number of retailers (7%) currently have a product page remarketing strategy in place to target those shoppers who browse the website and leave without adding items to their basket. Both strategies offer highly effective opportunities to re-engage consumers and recover sales that otherwise might be lost. So why are many retailers still foregoing these opportunities?

But times are beginning to change. Today, more B2C marketers are adopting the successful processes more commonly associated with B2B commerce marketing. Consumer-focused marketers increasingly examine the big picture, recognising the conversion funnel as part of the customer lifecycle and adopting tactics that are widely used in B2B marketing to develop long-term relationships.

If we look at the shopping basket as part of the entire conversion process, it is the last step before the actual purchase, so it’s an easy point to convert shoppers to customers. By putting items in the cart, shoppers signal which products they are most interested in. Consumers often use online baskets as wish lists or as a useful place to store items while they work out if the total basket value is within their budget. Also, 85% of consumers find shopping basket reminders useful, and 61% say that a reminder message would make them return to the abandoned items, according to research from Forrester. When retailers begin shopping basket remarketing programmes, they usually see an immediate sales lift, with many brands seeing a 53x return on investment.

Shoppers who browse products online but take no further action leave the conversion funnel at an earlier stage and are more difficult to pin down. These consumers could be accessing the websites of retailers and their competitors to check prices for products they are considering buying, or they could be idly browsing products they never intend to buy. Traditionally, browse abandonment strategies have relied on targeted online advertising, which only offers the consumers images of what they have recently browsed on a retailer’s website. This doesn’t give the shoppers much context or a reason to return and purchase. The targeted ads simply remind them that they can find the product at the website.

By comparison, email is an effective channel because it gives you the opportunity to leverage more browsing data to make a useful suggestion. But many retailers have been hesitant to implement a remarketing email programme for abandoned product pages. The shopper’s behaviour seemed too difficult to reliably use, and brands often feared that customers might find reminder emails too aggressive. But today, commerce marketers have access to the depth of data necessary to make browse abandonment messages relevant, rather than intrusive, to the consumer.

While basket messages bring shoppers back to the specific items they abandoned, it is important to remember that consumers who were researching products don’t necessarily know the exact item they are after. Sending these shoppers a reminder of the broader product category related to their browsing is more effective than limiting it to one item. You can also use product page abandonment messages to showcase products from a particular brand or offers related to specific product segments. For example, if a consumer was browsing for trainers, a browse abandonment message could suggest either further trainers on offer, or it could recommend shoes from the same designer. This benefits consumers because it expands their search, offering products which they may not have seen before.

However, every shopper has a limit for the volume of messages they are willing to engage with from any one source. Receiving a product page abandonment message after every look at a retailer’s website is going to reduce the effectiveness of the practice. And think twice if you want to send a reminder for products outside of usual search parameters, such as gifts. If a consumer has a history of searching for men’s clothing and starts to browse for lingerie, there is a higher chance that the consumer would not welcome a browse abandonment message, even if it was relevant and timely.

The key is to make the most of the data you are able to attach to your customers. Create messages that are useful and gently aide the purchasing process rather than prescriptively trying to push consumers towards a single product they viewed online. When done correctly, product page abandonment programmes are highly effective strategies for engaging consumers at a very early stage in the conversion funnel and generating more revenue.

Saima Alibhai is practice manager, professional services at Bronto Software

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