Targeting the shopping journey

Companies look for ways to concoct online revenue’s secret sauce 

Susan Wall, vice-president of marketing for Oracle + Bronto, says personalization will be the key to securing the spending of online customers long into the future

In physical stores it probably never happens, but online it’s rampant. A customer heads to a website looking to buy products and even puts some items into a digital shopping cart. But somewhere along the line, before he or she finalizes the purchase, the shopper abandons the cart and no sale takes place. One can only imagine someone filling up a grocery cart but leaving it at the checkout or trying on clothes in a store only to drop the items at the door on the way out.

Susan Wall, vice-president of marketing for Oracle + Bronto, has an answer for this online conundrum: personalized email campaigns. Or as Wall calls it: “online revenue’s secret sauce.”

“Last year was a watershed year for cart abandonment emails,” said Wall, noting companies have spent a lot of money on retargeting ads with little success. “Most of our customers found their recovery emails, as we call them, to be their most lucrative communications. They stopped spending money trying to avoid cart abandonment, instead treating an abandoned cart as a stage of a selling cycle.”

Bronto’s own market research found that 73% of customers regularly add an item to their shopping cart with the intent of buying it later. Thus these abandoned purchases are a gold mine of data for consumer trends, habits and preferences.

According to Wall, Oracle + Bronto customers have had success using its cart recovery solution. When Canadian denim giant Silver Jeans added an abandoned-cart campaign to its marketing strategy, it saw a 16% conversion rate. Because of this success, Silver Jeans is planning to turn the abandoned-cart message into a series.

Wall said the next step for retailers is augmenting cart recovery efforts with browser abandonment approaches.

“By focusing on the point that the customer abandons browsing, retailers shift the focus earlier in the purchasing cycle,” she said. “The philosophy is similar to cart recovery – treat an abandoned shopping session as the first step in a sales opportunity. After a customer finishes browsing without buying or even adding to the cart, the retailer will send a reminder email. This might include an incentive, but should be tested to determine the most effective approach based on the shopper and the product.”

To be effective, Wall said, browser recovery must consider many more variables than just the pages a customer views; it needs to automatically recognize each shopper and understand his or her deeper intentions. That means drawing on data from multiple shopping sessions, purchase history, ratings, location and other personal attributes. As an example, if a customer typically buys approximately $150 worth of products, a retailer can now send emails hitting his or her sweet spot or entice the shopper with rebates or sales if he or she spends more than $150.

What’s next? According to Wall, when retailers have an understanding of who the customer is, the next steps of hyper-personalization include newer geo-targeting options and product recommendations. She said geo-targeting is all about recognizing where a consumer is located and acting accordingly.

“It could be as simple as publishing local store hours in an email or as sophisticated as sending a real-time SMS coupon as the customer nears the store,” she said.

Wall added that the final step in personalization is recommending the right products at the right time – taking into account a variety of factors, including shopping preferences, purchase history and the date, time and physical location of the buy.

“Product recommendations do not happen in a vacuum,” said Wall. “Today stores need more than the conventional ‘people who bought product X will like product Y.’ We have seen many times that sending targeted personalized emails after abandonment, whether cart or browser, works quite well.”

To find out more about how to turn abandonment into effective and repeatable sales, visit