Remarketing – scary or good customer service?

 handRemarketing, the online equivalent of running after a customer who has walked away from a shopping cart, was covered by the New York Times yesterday.

I must admit it’s the first time I’ve heard the term, but back in the late 90s I wrote something like this for the online store of a company where I was marketing manager (and web developer). We tracked what products registered website users had looked at or downloaded demo versions of. Being a FileMaker driven site, this data was instantly available to my colleagues in sales – they used it to go fishing for hot leads – if necessary they would research the products first so they might be able to answer any simple questions straight away. As to the marketing application of this data, I used it to build up an idea of what areas of the creative industry a customer was into so we could target direct mailings and emails to them more effectively.

All of this was permission based – we wouldn’t phone someone who would prefer not to take sales calls and we wouldn’t mail or email someone who had opted out. I don’t see any mention of permission or opt-in in the NYT article. That SeeWhy’s founder, Charles Nicholls, ‘says he advises Web sites to have visitors “put their e-mail address in at the first step,” to increase the likelihood that it will be captured’ shows just how little he understands about usability or permission marketing – nobody puts their email address into an online store before they start shopping!

In the last five years I implemented something similar for some client online stores and for my previous company’s own store. The difference to the Abandonment Tracker Pro methodology is in how the follow-up is performed and the conditions under which this is done. Only logged-in customers, who abandoned the shopping cart in the checkout process, rather than just left the cart ‘in the aisle’ are contacted and the contact is always made by telephone. Additionally abandoned carts are separated into two groups – abandoned at checkout and abandoned after an unsuccessful payment attempt. The unsuccessful payment attempt ones being the most urgent – the customer was trying to pay and couldn’t.

In my experience with these various sites where this has been implemented, the ‘rescue-rate’ of the orders where payment was attempted is around 70%. For the carts just abandoned at checkout, somewhere around 30%. The reaction from the customers is also different – the customers that have attempted payment are not at all surprised that we’re phoning them up, usually they’re pleased. In the UK the Verified by Visa and MasterCard SecureCode schemes can be confusing or off-putting for some people.

Amongst the cases of abandonment before payment attempt customer reaction is a little more mixed, usually they were just comparison shopping and had been conditioned through the poor usability of other sites into registering to check there are no shipping charge surprises, and simply wanted to be able to compare like for like. Even so, a 30% conversion rate on these carts is worth the trouble of making a call.

It all comes down to how you identify an abandoned cart and how you contact the customer – it’s either great customer care or it’s intrusive snooping.

Photo credit: Jack.ed