AR: Welcome back to the e-commerce and marketing podcast everyone. I am your host, Arlen Robinson and today we have a very special guest with us, Brett Thoreson who is the CEO & co-founder of CartStack, a website abandonment & sales recovery solution for e-commerce businesses. Through CartStack, he and his team aim to change the way online companies recover revenue.
AR: Thanks for joining - welcome to the podcast, Brett.
BT: Yeah for sure - I really appreciate you guys having me on.
AR: Not a problem, not a problem. We’re really excited to talk to you about website abandonment - we haven’t really discussed in depth about it. I know it’s a big issue with e-commerce sites today, so I’m really excited to kind of delve into that topic. But before we get into it, why don't you tell our audience a little bit about yourself and how you got into what you're doing today?
BT: Yeah, so I started - I used to do consulting for Bestbuy.com back about 10 years ago or so. I started on the analytics team, and I moved over to the email marketing team, and from there my co-founders was actually one of the first developers of the shopping cart abandonment retargeting campaigns for Bestbuy.com, and one thing we noticed was just how well that campaign did. It was, I think to this day, effectively the most lucrative ROI email campaign that Bestbuy still runs. So we just, we notice right away from an early stage that those particular emails convert really well.
BT: We were working together there for a while. At the time, or shortly after that, I started a web development company, and I had several e-commerce websites as customers, and also a couple of things started bubbling up - several customers asked about cart abandonment. So, I decided to, at that point, instead of building out a kind of one-off custom solution for those customers, I decided I’d build a SaaS solution, knowing that that was a pretty big pain point for some of the smaller e-commerce customers that couldn’t hire a dev team to fully build out a cart abandonment retargeting email solution themselves. Whereas, here, we could build out a kind of simple solution and create it as a SaaS company and kind of go from there.
BT: So, that's how we started about six and a half years ago.
AR: That's awesome Brett. And yeah, it's really interesting what you mentioned as far as your business partner and Best Buy - I guess that's really kind of a testament to the kind of the groundwork you laid there because they're one of the few that have survived as far as having a brick-and-mortar, still having solid brick and mortar establishments across the country, as well as a solid online presence and they're hanging in there. I mean, I don't know too much about their financials, but they're still there. You know.
BT: That's right.
AR: Yeah for sure. So that's really exciting. And one of the things that I have noticed with Best Buy, and they've been pretty fairly quick to adjust with the times and the changing times, and of course, you know dealing with the elephant in the room, which is Amazon. One of the things that they do now, which they’re, I think they’re a lot more flexible about now is that (because I was recently in there) is the price matching guarantee. I think before it was a lot harder to you know, show a comparable price, especially with Amazon. These days it's really easy - it's a seamless process if you show a comparable price, you don't have to go through too many hoops - they'll match it right away. You just have to pull it up briefly, and it’s a lot smoother.
BT: Yeah, I used to work with some dynamic email templates related to some pricing, some guaranteed pricing guaranteed stuff too - that was one of the nice things about working at Best Buy - there's so much volume there. So running different split tests, optimizing campaigns you can, I mean it's just the feedback cycles so fast, so, you know, especially for a smaller company that doesn't have a ton of volume. You might spend six months running an A/B test on a subject line or something to get that volume up but with Best Buy, it was really cool to be a part of being able to kind of run some tests and optimize campaigns and see results so quickly and just learn, learn really quickly from those.
AR: Yeah, that's awesome. And I know that's a great environment, kind of a great learning environment for you guys. Now, oh really what I want to kind of talk about today, of course, is the, you know, the issue at hand is of course website abandonment. So my first question is really how big of a problem is website abandonment and really what are some of the reasons people really just leave a website before purchasing.
BT: So I think as far as how big of a problem, kind of, on the quantitative side - typically a standard e-commerce company will only convert about 2 - 2.5% of their traffic to their website. So just visitor abandonment, in general, is that you know close to 98%, so many out of a hundred visitors that come to the site end up leaving.
BT: I think why it's kind of such a big problem is, and why it's so painful, is because marketers especially are spending so much time, energy, money, resources, team member time, all that stuff in getting people to come to a website. They are spending so much energy in getting people to come to the website, more visitors, and then to have 98% of those people that are going to your site bounce and do nothing is extremely frustrating because people are pulling out their hair because of that. So a huge problem, a big pain point. Yeah, so I think just probably just because it's just so vast and the percent of people that leave the site is so high.
BT: I think it comes just, breaking down to those numbers. If you think about a visitor comes to a site, like a standard e-commerce site, on average I think the national average is about 8-10% of those users will add something to their cart, and of those users, about 75% of those users will abandon.
BT: So if we kind of think about the funnels - you have people just kind of come to the home page - they start looking at some product pages, they add some to the cart, right? So you're finally getting right on the bottom of that funnel - these people are taking action, and they start the checkout flow, and then they leave. And, at that point, you look at the bottom 5% or so. So it's like extremely frustrating when that user is so warm at that point and to have them show want of intent to get close to that purchase and then leave, it's very, it's like they're at the tip of your fingers for that sale.
AR: That is really, really frustrating and I know there's a lot of reasons for it. Is there like a general theme that you guys have seen, you know, dealing with different e-commerce businesses that causes a customer to be quick to add an item to the cart, but just you know not kind of follow through with it? Is there kind of a main thing that you've seen - a main theme?
BT: Yeah, I mean there's several things that we've seen across, just when we used to work developing e-commerce sites and into the work for CartStack customers. So, there's kind of the obvious ones like SSL certificates - like if someone doesn't feel like the site is secure obviously they're going to bounce right away when we ask for payment information. Down to like, that's kind of the obvious big one, but then there's things like shipping costs, right?
BT: I think, and different e-commerce sites show the shipping cost at different points in the checkout flow, so we have some good data around kind of when we've seen kind of the best time for showing shipping costs. That's a big one, like general technical problems with the site, lack of trust - so if sites don’t have a good kind of...they’re not building any social engagement or social trust into the site, whether it be testimonials or reviews - those types of things, we’ve seen those things cause issues.
BT: And even in kind of getting bored and a way more advanced example would be sometimes like the upsell cross-sell - seemingly a good thing to say “Hey, it looks like you had these items in your cart. You might also be interested in this stuff.” But when you're doing that you're taking them away from that, in many cases you're taking them, you're distracting them from that first initial purchase, which is the most important thing. So there’s kind of a lot of data back and forth on when to and how to use upsells and cross-sells effectively without taking them out of their flow that first purchase.
AR: Yeah, that is true. And you're right about that - a lot of sites make that mistake of that upsell cross-sell having that either too early or not in the right - they’re not timing in the process and you can kind of get people diverted and you know kind of all over the place.
AR: I was actually just thinking about that earlier this week when I was buying something on Amazon. They do a really good job of that because their kind of cross-sell or other recommended products - they make sure that it comes in afterwards, you know, when you're kind of at the thank you page and one thing that I did notice, and I think it is pretty strategic is I recently bought some - cause I go to the gym, I work out during the week - and I bought some new workout gloves and so afterward, you know, they showed some other recommended products some other gloves. But the ratings for the other ones weren't as good and there just weren't that many ratings. So I kind of felt a bit more satisfied that “okay - I think I got the right ones.”
AR: The ones I bought had, you know, like almost a thousand-and-something ratings, with the ones in their recommended had only, you know, just a few, so I think their strategic about that they intentionally put those products there. They recommend them just so you know, to put that out there just in case you want something else but I think it's more of a...to kind of put at ease your buyer's remorse.
BT: Yeah, super interesting tactic. Absolutely. I haven't noticed that before but I think you're right on it just because I think a lot of people yeah, that's one of the problems with the upsell cross-sell, especially with the, with those automated recommendation engines - they might just throw too many products in your face, so it's kind of the paralysis by analysis situation. But it's showing your product like, hey, here's some other products that we might recommend but they might not be quite as good - and yeah you feel much better with less FOMO - fear of missing out.
AR: Yeah, exactly. I think that's kind of the main reason of it is really to put at ease your buyer's remorse, and it's tough especially with the sites that have the reviews, you know, like the Amazon.
AR: Now, you know, of course you talked about, you know, some of the reasons why that this is such an issue across e-commerce sites as far as SSL certificates, not having the right messaging at the right time - so what are some of the right messages to use on a site, really, to prevent site abandonment or cart abandonment?
BT: Sure. I think one thing that I want to touch on first before diving into that is what I think is a good approach for getting some data around your current checkout flow on your current website.
BT: So obviously, you know, there's a lot of tools out there for like A/B testing and getting analytics and those types of tools. I'm sure most your customers are using those pretty effectively, but I think one thing that people don't use that often is some tools around the qualitative side. So, like survey tools - I've seen those be really helpful for a lot of customers, and we use those - I used to use those for some of the e-commerce companies that I’ve worked with, and we're doing some of that on our marketing at CartStack. Instead of simply looking at the data pop up a survey if someone's on a product page or on the card page saying “why aren’t you buying today?” or “do you have any questions about pricing?”
BT: You can do an exit intent pop up if someone's scrolling off the screen on the cart page, like “what’s stopping you from buying today?” and just have like an open field. I'm kind of hearing that stop in your target market, your target segment of customers who have gone really far out - they’ve looked at a product page, they’ve added it to the card, they’ve started the checkout process, and then they leave - that's a really high-intent customer, so you can get in their own words why they didn’t purchase, and reviewing, you know, just going through maybe a hundred of those over several weeks or something like that and reading through those - you’re really gonna start to see some things trend up.
BT: So I think the qualitative pieces is one piece I don't think enough e-commerce customers are using. Because then you're able to use that language - like your customer's language - in some of the copy on your page and the product descriptions, you can pick up testimonials that use that type of language, so you can really learn a lot from that qualitative data, I think.
AR: Right. Yeah for sure that's really interesting especially these days because there's so many tools out there that can analyze, you know, what your customers are doing live on the site. Because like you said if somebody's just - let's say at one of the checkout pages or in that process, and the cart page and they're just sitting there, you know after a certain amount of time, yeah, you could have some type of pop-up that engages if somebody's been on that page at a certain time period because you know, maybe they have second thoughts, and there's some hesitation there, you know, you don't know and the survey - this would be a great way to, you know, to try to uncover that and figure out what's going on.
AR: So, yeah, these days there are so many tools - there's really no excuse to not cash.
BT: That’s right. So I guess related to kind of right message at the right time. That's what we talk about a lot on our site, and as we're building campaigns for customers, a lot of it is based on kind of hitting customers with where they're at in the funnel.
BT: So, for instance, you typically want to have a very salesy email like, let's say someone lands at the home page and scroll off - you wouldn't want to have some type of exit intent pop-up say “Hey before you go, enter 5% to...” and you see that all the time. Of course, it’s ok to nudge people through the funnel. I think an example of that would be, so someone comes to your home page, then they browse a category page, they end up on a product page, and then they abandon - at that point having some type of retargeting message, whether it be an on-site pop-up or with our system we use what's called browse abandonment email retargeting - so we'll send someone an email that’s specific to the product they last viewed.
BT: In those instances a lot of times it's just simply re-engage that user to see if they had a question about that product. So we would send an email to say “We noticed you checking out, you know, these new workout gloves, like just reply to this email if you have any questions.” So just kind of keep that as an open way for them to reply and talk to your support team or your sales team or “go ahead and click here to go back to the site and learn a little bit more” - kind of nudge along as opposed to like “click here to add to cart right now.”
BT: So just kind of hitting them with where they're at in the funnel I think is a big is a part of that. Different messages are going to push people all in different ways depending on where they're at, and a couple of kind of common things we talk about is time sensitivity and inventory sensitivity.
BT: So times sensitivity is a simple way to nudge someone, so they remember, you know, “if you order today, there's free shipping.” For an inventory it would be “there's only five left in stock, so make sure to check out today” - those types of things.
BT: Obviously, you want to be like, it’s really important to be honest with those types of things. We tell customers not to use like generic things like “free shipping today” if you offer free shipping every day. When it comes to inventory, sometimes it takes a little extra work to make sure your messaging on your site will only pop up if you have three left in stock, whatever, but I would suggest taking the time to do some integration with some third party tools to track inventory and time sensitivity - just because that type of messaging definitely works.
BT: Nothing is too...let's say someone, they added a product to the cart and then now they're at the checkout process and maybe they're on the payment section - entering the billing stuff on the payment section - and then they abandon at that point. We’re asking them to take that final step of editing or entering their credit card information. That's the biggest step, that’s the biggest point of drop off, the biggest leak in the funnel - a great thing to offer them there is payment options.
BT: So, you know if they scroll off the page, just “hey, before you go, just know that we have an option with PayPal where you can pay later” or another tool that we partner with is called Sizzle. They give you a chance to make installments, and it's you know, four or five installment payments for buying something - just giving options, a way to choose a different payment option at the point where they're going to be paying - as doing that there, as opposed to if they were looking at a product page.
BT: So to see them at the right place with messaging.
AR: Yeah, so it definitely is clear that there is...there’s different things that you need to do to prevent the drop off, the abandonment, just at the website alone versus a cart level when somebody gets into the cart because like you said, there's a lot of companies, you know, make the mistake of putting those accidents in popups on the homepage and it’s just kind of bombarding somebody, bombarding their customers right when they get there to the site, and those are (I know) definite turn-offs, but for whatever reason a lot of companies, even the larger brands still do that. That has to be separated from the things that you do to prevent the drop off when they're going through the checkout process. So yeah, there's definitely a clear distinction there.
BT: I think one thing that’s helpful, it’s just about the funnel again. It's helpful to start with your highest intent customers. So if that... try instead of trying to throw up a pop up on the homepage and try to capture a thousand emails that you're not sure what to do with, start by focusing on those users that are the 8% that adds to the cart, and they've shown the most intent. So focus on those users.
BT: Have or create a really good exit intent strategy or good email retargeting strategy for those users first. And then once you've done that, then start moving up the funnel a little bit because it's going to get more difficult as you go up the funnel just because those users show less intent to make that purchase. So, your low hanging fruit is absolutely in those people that are warm leads, so they’ve been into the cart and the checkout process.
AT: That makes total sense, you know people that have maybe been on your site, you know, five-plus minutes versus someone who was on the site like 30 seconds. That's definitely a huge difference. Now, you know, one of the things that I always like to do and I mentioned this on several episodes, is looking at some of the larger brands and so what are some large brands that really have good messaging that small businesses can use as a model and can learn from.
BT: Recently, I saw some things that Nordstrom was doing, Nordstrom online. There is kind of some multi-channel retargeting stuff with SMS push notifications and e-mail retargeting. So kind of hitting users with multiple channels and just their messaging in general seems to be pretty on point and very personalized.
BT: So, yeah, if your users want to learn something, just got to Nortdstrom.com, add something to the cart, navigate around a little bit and just kind of take a look at what they're doing. Another one that I think recently I've seen do some interesting things is $5 Shave Club. They have some interesting creatives in their email designs for their browse retargeting campaign and abandonment retargeting campaigns.
BT: You know, one of the great things to do is, you know, like I mentioned before at Best Buy, being the fact that they had so much volume variable. The feedback loop was so quick on different tests that they would run so I would say to customers just go up to 10 to 20 sites that you know have huge volume like nike.com, Best Buy, Nordstrom and go just look at the site and start abandoning. Do a couple of different tests - abandon a product page, abandon the cart page, abandon the checkout and just kind of sit back and wait and see what kind of message do you get because you could be assured that those messages you're probably part of a test right now, but those messages are several iterations into their campaigns. They're probably going to be a really good foundational campaign to start with just, kind of, some of those guys.
AR: It's true. Those are some great suggestions for sure. What I always like to tell people is, you know, look at these big guys these large brands because they've got huge marketing teams that are you know, brainstorming and millions of millions of dollars that are going behind every single decision from the smallest things on their website to some of the larger things. And so, you know, you can definitely learn a lot and that's kind of the beauty and the power of the internet - it's really all out there and you know, you can see what they're doing, see if it would be effective to do for your site, and you know, just really learn from there. You know for sure.
BT: Another awesome resource is the Baymard Institute. They do a whole bunch of really good in-depth reports around...I think, I don't know if it’s just e-commerce... but I know the majority of the reports are on e-commerce. They have one that's basically, I mean, it's really in depth like optimizing your home page for your e-commerce site, optimizing your product pages, they have several on cart abandonment and check out pull - those types of things. You know, maybe they're a hundred bucks or something, but those are like by far the best and just most in-depth resources I've seen when it comes to really focusing in digging deep on one part of an e-commerce site. So yeah, I think that's a great resource. I have no affiliation or anything with them but I just really like their stuff.
AR: Gotcha. We have reshaped that I hadn't heard of that site. So I'm definitely checking that out and I recommend all of the listeners to do that as well. Now you know, since we talked a lot about timing and we know timing of messaging is really so important. Do you think is there really a general rule of thumb when displaying certain things to websites? Because like we mentioned earlier even some of the larger brands seem like they hit you at the wrong place or it just seems kind of awkward. So I don't know, is, what do you think? Is there some general rule of thumb as to what you should do and when and then where?
BT: Yeah, so I mean a couple things. So I’ll talk on-site first and then when it comes to retarget emails. So the on-site stuff, I think you mentioned a couple minutes ago saying a user that’s on the side for five minutes versus 20 seconds or so. I think a good start is to look at your analytics and kind of figure out where that 50% ranges like, you know 50% of people are staying on your site for maybe two minutes or so, like that kind of that middle ranch and at that point, I think it's good to start a campaign there - just as general rule of thumb.
BT: So just ignore those other 50% that aren’t on the site as long to start with and then focus on the other ones, the other 50% on there on a little bit longer. And then from there you can kind of revamp it, really get down to sending different messages to even different timing segments, but start there as a rule of thumb.
BT: I would say for the standard e-commerce website, maybe that's kind of that two-minute two to three-minute range roughly - but companies can figure that out pretty quick and go and exert whatever tools they are using. Yeah. So I think that's a good spot to start with the on-site exit intent type stuff.
BT: That's more just on the time delay. So obviously if it's exit intent then if that user is scrolling off the screen, then you just play it right away to kind of interrupt that action. But if it was simply something that would, say, the user comes to the home page, they're scrolling around looking at the categories listed - you know the spot where you might display that message around two minutes would be good and most tools allow you to display a message to a user that has been on the site for X amount of minutes - not just that particular page. So I think that's important too because two minutes on one page is a decent time, but I could probably hit people earlier if you want to do just the page, but if you’re using a tool that allows you to display a pop-up, just kind of delayed message, if you can do across pages, that's a more effective way to do it because really the time they're on the site is often tons more important than the number of pages they’re looking at.
AR: For sure. Yeah, so it really sounds like the best thing to do is kind of before really, you know, getting kind of getting too deep into coming up with different messaging and different spots of your website is to look at your analytics and really see where the drop-offs are, how long people are at on certain pages and then kind of go into the cart level and then, you know making your decisions there. So it's always best to make decisions based on data so you really have kind of...you’re going in a solid direction and you're not just kind of guessing and then doing what some of the other e-commerce companies are doing. So, yeah, that's some great advice, and I really appreciate that.
BT: On the retargeting campaigns, as far as timing there, this is something we really focus on, so we've been testing and doing a lot of stuff over the past six years or so. I think MIT did a study a few yearsago and it talked about online leads to websites and what they found is 95% of web leads to a typical e-commerce site go cold within one hour. So that's why it's extremely important to hit that user with that first retargeting email in less than an hour. We usually suggest 20 to 30 minutes for that first email - super important because then that's when that lead is pretty warm.
BT: So a typical cart abandonment sequence, for instance, would be that first email go up 20 minutes after the abandon, second one about one day and third one kind of two to seven days, depending on how aggressive you want to be. That's just kind of a standard sequence for retargeting.
BT: And browse abandonment would be very similar to that. The important thing is to get that first email out for sure.
AR: Mmm Yeah. That makes sense. I see that you have to be aggressive. You got to get them while they're hot because you know these days with so many buying options that people have you know if they bounce off to the competitor’s site, and, within the next day or even sooner than, they've forgotten about you. You really have to get in there for sure.
BT: And one thing you mentioned, we were talking earlier. You asked me why people abandoned. I didn't even mention this - one of the myths about cart abandonment is that people always abandoned for some reason that's wrong with the site, some issue on the site, like it's because shipping is too expensive, or taxes too high, the SSL cert - all the stuff we talked about through those. But the reality is in 2019, as you know, we're absolutely inundated with messages and disruptions and phone calls and stuff all day, every day, right? So, I think one of the most common to all the common myths is that if a user comes to my site, and they add something to the cart, and they start entering their email, they start entering payment information and leave it must have been because shipping is too high, right, or just making some assumption like that, or it must mean there's no way they're going to buy, the product is just too, too expensive.
BT: That's just not faced with reality. They went to answer a team member’s question, their wife popped in, or they’re ready for dinner - there’s so many different distractions, and that’s typically extremely common for someone just to get pulled away from a site. That's why cart abandonment and browse abandonment emails are so important because you're at that point they leave their office site for whatever reason, and then later you nudge them and remind them. Because often times it's just a simple reminder and that cuts if they’re distracted or if they're doing research and they're kind of comparing your product versus five competitor products - they’re doing some research, they’re comparing you, they’re taking some notes (mental notes, written notes, whatever) and then later that evening or the next day they get an email from you saying “hey, we noticed you checking out this product. Do you have a question - let us know or otherwise click here to purchase.” And they’re like “that’s great, I forgot I was looking at that. I got distracted.” And at that point, they might not even go back and go look at the competitors again because you presented them in their inbox with that link to go back and purchase, making it easy for them.
BT: So that's a big thing. It's just the fact that people are distracted. So if you can simply remind them, you're absolutely going to recover a percentage of those users by just by reminding them. That's it.
AR: Yeah, that is so true. And you're right about that. I hadn't thought about that. But there are so many distractions. It may not necessarily be an issue with the site. It's just yeah, we're in the day to day, with so much stuff and then you know, of course, you also have people that are at the site across on mobile devices. So you never know, people are in route going somewhere. They could be walking, they could be in a car, train or even a plane and so, you know, they may have just popped on your site, and the reason they left could be because you know, they're gonna pop their phone on airplane mode and they’re getting ready to take off, or you know, they’re catching a train or something like that. So you're so right about that. With that it’s like you said, the main thing is just to be able to get them, so they don't forget about you. If you're able to capture something from them, then you can hit them in a sequence of your campaigns for sure.
BT: Brett, I definitely appreciate having you on here on the e-commerce marketing podcast. I think everything you've relayed is really insightful. Like I said, I hadn't delved too deep into the website or cart abandonment issue and the strategies to combat that, but I think you've given us a lot to think about and a lot to try to implement with our e-commerce sites for sure. But yeah, what I would like to leave our audience with is something that I always ask my guests these days is what is one thing that our audience would be surprised to know about you.
BT: Is this wise? Our team is remote, we’re all separated across the country and some overseas. So the last Friday of every month, we do a Skype happy hour. So we get together on Skype, and we have a drink or cocktail and hang out and get to know each other a little bit and have some good conversation. So obviously it's a way better in person, and we try to get together once a year in person, but it's kind of a fun thing we've done, and I really look forward to it. So that's kind one thing about our team.
AR: Yeah, that's awesome
BT: On the personal side. Let's see. I don't know, I have my fifth child on the way so I’ll be busy with that - I will have a zero, two, four, six, eight-year-old so pretty busy on that side.
AR: Wow. Yeah, you have got your hands full for sure.
BT: I’m one of those users that gets distracted shopping online.
AR: Yeah, I can imagine, not only are you running the business, but you got five kids there. So yeah, I don't know how you do it, Brett. I mean I have no kids, and a business and that's almost, that's enough for me. I really
BT: I guess I have six kids with the business.
AR: Well great. Well, I appreciate you sharing - that’s some great things, and I like that virtual happy hour. I've heard of different companies do stuff like that, but I can imagine that really does help your team building and get to know your virtual employees, you know if you can't really get together on a consistent basis, so that's awesome.
AR: So, Brett, yeah, if any of our listeners want to get a hold of you and get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do it?
BT: Yeah. Sure. Anyone can email me anytime at [email protected] or just check out the site cartstack.com.
AR: Okay. Awesome. Well, thanks a lot for joining us today Brett on the e-commerce marketing podcast. It’s been a pleasure having you.
BT: Yeah, thanks a lot man, really appreciate your time.
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Podcast Guest Info
CEO & Co-founder of CartStack