Drop-Basket eMails and Conversion

If there is one thing next to Win-Back campaigns that has proven itself to be great for conversion, it must be Drop-Basket eMails. The most excellent thing with Drop-Basket eMails are they are a product of a well implemented analysis and CRM system. This means, you’ll have to do all your homework before you get the Drop-Basket eMails to really do the trick for you.

What is a Drop-Basket eMail?

A Drop-Basket e-mail is an e-mail that is sent to a user if they have put stuff in their shopping cart in your online store, but haven’t checked them out or payed for them.

With their actions they have told you that they are ready to buy the products that you are offering, but for some reason they didn’t complete their purchase. Why is that? Well, if this is a first time customer, you simply don’t know. However, what you do know is that this customer is willing to buy these products under some circumstance.

Your main purpose becomes to find out why they didn’t buy. Then send them a Drop-Basket eMail that has rid that specific hurdle.

What many of you IDIOTS don’t do, that you should do

There is one important step that some of you reading this post are thinking about right now and that is “but but but… to be able to send them an e-mail we need to have collected their e-mail before they put stuff in their shopping cart”. Well, no, and yes!! Not necessarily before.

Now some of you are thinking that this pulls down the conversion rate, but I would argue that it doesn’t. What most of you do is that you start reloading pages, putting millions of forms on the screen when you collect any information.

I say, if you collect information where it makes sense to collect it, there will be no unnecessary drop of in your conversion rate.

To exemplify this I would like to give you two examples of how to collect the e-mail address.

Example 1

When the user clicks the add to basket button next to your product a field folds out under the button asking the user to “Save time and your basket by submitting your e-mail.” If the user fills in the details then you’re set to go. If they don’t, then repeat for each item until they do. At some point they will feel the need to store what they have put in their basket in some way.

Example 2

The user has added a million things to their basket but for some reason they try to leave the website without making the purchase. Once they try to leave send a pop-up or a layover to them with the text “Do you want us to send you an e-mail with a link to your shopping chart? This way you will save time when returning” or this text could say “Do you need help completing your purchase. Enter your e-mail and one of our customer support agents will contact you within 1 business day”.

Both of the examples above can be put into practice easily and they both work miracles in collecting e-mail addresses as well as hand you a tool to counter your poorly optimized check out processes.

How to implement an effective Drop-Basket process

As I said above, you have to collect information about your purchasers when it makes sense. The “registration page” is soooo 1998 but so many vendors still stick to it. With Facebook Connect, Open-Id or any other such service you can get the most important contact information to a person.

Make it easy to become a member of your website. If you don’t have membership available then use a member session to store the necessary data. I usually talk about my Value Ladder for Conversion. I don’t do this because it is funny, but because it is logical and because it works. Enough whining from me. Let’s get into the how to.

1. Collect info on what they are looking for

Do not request any membership or registration before you have been able to see what they are interested in. As soon as the user has added a product to the shopping cart they feel as though they have performed a task. They have created something. You can use this believed work effort when making your value proposition to get them to leave their e-mail address.

2. Collect an identifier

As soon as you know what they are looking for you aim to collect the identifier which enables you to separate them from other users. In many countries it is illegal to store IP-address without consent. The IP address is also very bad to collect as it tends to change from work to home and on dynamic networks it changes all the time. Thus the e-mail, a facebook connect or open-id login is the best way to get them to identify themselves.

Using one of the value propositions above with “save time” or “do you need help” are amongst the best to increase the probability of having people leave their e-mail address.

3. Analyze your data

Some of you out there have some nasty piece of information that you really need to collect in order for you customers to complete their purchase. For most of you that information is either some kind of credit card information, postal code or other type of ID-nr that the person might not have accessible where they are there an then.

They might thus be very willing to buy at the price you’re offering, but they might not be able to buy your stuff right there and then cause…. the co-workers might be looking and it doesn’t look that good to rip up the credit card when you should be working towards a deadline.

If you notice that most people drop of on a specific page, then try to measure what fields they filled in, or started to fill in before dropping off. For some of you this will mean you’ll have to look at removing fields that are “nice to have” but that are not “need to have” for the completion of the purpose. But once you’ve rid your check out process of those fields then you should have a look at the Drop-Basket process.

4. Drop-Basket Process

The first Drop-Basket e-mail should always contain the same offer as the complete basket the person had added to his or her shopping chart. If it makes sense to your business model, you can add some related products or maybe give some kind of delivery discount at this time. But you shouldn’t look at discounts just yet. Perhaps there was kind of obstacle information that the person didn’t have at hand when trying to complete their purchase. If you shoot to lower the price of the offer right away you will miss out on some lovely revenue.

You should also always add some kind of time limit to your first e-mail. This time limit should be set to expire within some period of time that makes sense for your product. I can’t tell you the best time, but you’ll have to test and see what works with your customers. Secondly, your e-mail should be sent at a time a day that makes sense. If the person wasn’t able to complete their purchase at noon the first day they probably won’t be able to do it the next day at noon.

Thus you should look at sending the e-mail some 4-6 hours after the first contact was made. Once the person opens the e-mail you know you have a good time to contact the person. Even better is if they complete the purchase at this time. Then you have a preferred time of purchase for this individual. Many e-mail systems such as EmailVision and SilverPOP have the ability to save and use this kind of data for the future. They are both also very easy to integrate with SiteCatalyst and SalesForce which means that you rich bastards out there are really in for a treat. 🙂

5. Changing your offer

If you don’t get a purchase on your first contact then you should store your Drop-Basket information and future information associated with this e-mail address. Now you can start offering the customer some discounts to get them to convert. However, you can’t just do this without a reason as the user will look through this system and then not convert naturally.

You have a couple of opportunities per year to change your offer price without reason. Holidays, birthdays and if the product is about to expire. Be smart. If you have a sufficient group of people who have dropped out but have selected a product that you have a stock on… then why don’t you just try to get rid of your stock by creating some kind of offer. The more obscure the holiday or reason to celebrate, the more attention you will grab in the e-mail subject :).


By now you should have an initial build of frames in your head about what a Drop-Basket e-mail campaign is all about. The art is probably one of the most sophisticated in the industry and I suggest you get started right away. If you need any help or have any questions, comments or if you feel angry cause I called you an idiot, then you can ask or bash in the comment field of this blog. I am really quite kind, but when behind my keyboard and a screen I turn into a bully mixed with a HeMan :).

2 thoughts on “Drop-Basket eMails and Conversion”

  1. Ok, the article it self is good, I like the concept. Two things bother me, though.

    1) I often window shop in different stores. Maybe I’ll go to a game store site and put all the games I’d like in the basket to see how much they would be or whatever. Most of the times I do this, I do it with no intention of buying the items *at that time*. I don’t think that this is an unusual behaviour any more than doing the same thing in a physical store. The claim that “they are ready to buy the products” is somewhat misleading.

    2) If I ever visited a site that prompted me for my email address everytime I added an item to my basket, the odds for me to buy the item from that site would be similar to the odds for me buying anything from a store with a salesman that followed me around, wanting to see an id card for every item I looked at. Not likely going to happen.

    I’ve been to sites that saved my “unpurchased basket” from my previous visit, I’d guess using cookies, as well as opening a popup windows with a suggestion for a better price if I shop now, and any of these options seem fair.

    But like I stated above, I like the article as an idea. To help a customer close the deal. Just don’t push them into a corner.

  2. Hey Micke,

    What you are talking about in point 1 is exactly why drop-basket e-mails are great. There is a huge amount of people out there who do exactly what you describe. By doing so they are signaling an intention to buy. You desire the products that you assemble, otherwise you wouldn’t assemble them, right? Then it is up to you as a vendor to use this opportunity/knowledge to find an offer that suits you that is profitable.

    As for your second question it is all about execution. For some products you can be more aggressive than for other. Depending upon what kind of site visitors you have.

    A prompt to enter an e-mail address should never be an obstacle however. There should be no window that you have to close in order to continue browsing. Naturally, if you do a bad implementation, blinking like a christmas tree, requiring you to register to be able to add more products… well… I guess we both agree on where that will take us..

    Cookies are good and to use them in combination with e-mails work really well. However, a cookie can never replace your ability to take the initiative in the sales process as an e-mail can.

    Thus, even though you might only like this article as an idea I strongly recommend you to implement parts of it, or at least try it out on some pages. I’m sure you’ll find it rewarding.


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