Targeting Cart Abandonment by Email

A while ago I read an article called Four Ways to Improve Marketing ROI Through E-mail by John Rizzi, CEO of e-dialog. This is a good article for those who are trying to determine how to collect email, learn from email marking and email effectively. In his last point he says “Use Behavioral Targeting” to convert abandoned carts. He suggests using incentives to bring customers back to complete the cart they had abandoned. This is a great idea but I want you to be aware of following two issues before you jump into it.

  1. Lack of Email Address: If you don’t have an upfront email collection process it is very likely that visitors (customers) will leave even before they give you their email address. If that’s the case then you won’t have any email to target (You can still deploy anonymous on-site behavioral targeting. Check out my article on behavioral targeting).
    If you decide to put email collection up front it might cause cart abandonment rate to go up. You have to provide a very good reason to your customers on why they should provide you email even before they started buying anything or checking out. Like any other change on the site, I suggest conducting A/B testing before you start collecting email addresses for all your customers. If the tests do not show desired result you might be better off with on-site anonymous behavioral targeting.
  2. Backfiring of incentives: Let’s assume you have the email address and are ready to send an email incentive. As you already know the word spreads very fast these days. Most of your customers (visitors) will find out about your offers which could ultimately result in two outcomes:
    • If the incentive is not too enticing (such as free shipping) your customers (even regular customers) might find out about it and start abandoning the cart in anticipation of receiving that offer or they might just use the coupon or offer code given to them by somebody on the internet.
    • If the incentive is too good (such as $10 free for any purchase over $5.00, not sure why would you do that but I have seen companies giving free money just to get users to signup), the word will spread sending new customers to your site. So be prepared to handle the amount of traffic this viral marketing will generate and a possible bankruptcy.
      Appendix A shows what happened to Starbucks when they sent out an e-coupon to limited number of employees (or that’s what Starbucks thought).

So should you provide incentives to bring back customers who have abandoned carts? Yes I think so but think about all the pros and cons before you jump into it. Below are some of the steps that you should include into your process for using email incentives

  1. Select a sample (say 20%) of visitors, who abandoned the shopping cart, who will receive any offer (I am assuming you have already created and tested a process for upfront email collection).
  2. Test different offers within this selected group. Testing will show you which offer works and which ones don’t.
  3. You can use more behavioral data (and I encourage you to do so) to determine what offer will make sense to which visitor segments (create few manageable segments so that you can stay focused). E.g. A customer who abandoned at shipping step might be more interested in free shipping than a user who added products to the cart but then left without clicking on the final checkout button (provided the customer has given you the email address), a 10% off coupon might be a better offer for this customer.
  4. Unless you purposely want to engage in viral marketing, make sure coupons and codes can only be used by those for whom they were intended for and for specific period only. Also don’t forget to configure your web analytics tools properly so that you can measure effectiveness of these offers.

Note: If you provide users the same kind of incentives 2-3 times to a customer then he/she (most of them) expects it every time.

Appendix A: Starbucks Lawsuit
“Starbucks e-mailed the grande iced beverage freebie to a limited number of employees in the Southeast on Aug. 23, with instructions to pass it on to friends and family.
The forwarding turned into a frenzy as the coupon landed in thousands of inboxes and on Internet message boards – forcing the chain to reject scores of coupon-touting java lovers pouring into stores for the perk.” Source:

Originally Posted at : Targeting Cart Abandonment by Email – Web Analytics, Behavioral Targeting and Optimization by Anil Batra

What is Behavioral Targeting?

Behavioral Targeting (BT) is the ability to target users based on their behavior on the internet. Most commonly it used to target online ads but the technique can be very well used to target products and content.

Behavioral (Ad) Targeting promises to precisely target the audience that matter most. Hit the users with the right message, a message that they care about. It is all about audience.

How Behavioral Targeting work?

Users are segmented based on the content they view or actions they take on a site(s) and then are targeted with a message (ad) relevant to that segment.

There are two ways behavioral targeting has been deployed

  1. On-Site Targeting
  2. Network Targeting

On-Site Targeting:

The user are segmented based on content views or actions on one site and then are targeted on the site itself.
For example: Users who view 5 or more pages related to auto and view online interest rates page they can be classified as “In Market Auto Buyer”**. Once classified these users can be then targeted with messages from those advertisers who want to reach “In Market Auto Buyers”.

Network Targeting:

The user are segmented based on content views or actions on one site (usually advertisers) and then are targeted where ever they go on sites participating in the behavioral ad network.
For Example: A user views pages 5 or more related to Alaska tours on a travel site, this and then leaves the site without buying. This user is segmented as “Alaska Tour Buyer”**. A very valuable segment for the travel site. This travel site can then tap into the network and share their segment (based on cookie – more on this later) with others in the network and then target them with relevant message to bring them back to the site and convert the sale.

**(How users are segment and what they are called is totally dependent on how marketer wants to define their segment. There is no industry standard, however every now and then I have seen push for creating industry standard way of creating these segment. In my opinion it is too hard to create standards for creating segment as it totally depends on each individual business).

Originally posted at : Behavioral Targeting 101 – Web Analytics, Behavioral Targeting and Optimization by Anil Batra

Who moved my traffic?

Your site traffic is down, you are running up and down the hallway freaking out.  Wait before you get all anxious about the traffic, downturn in your traffic might not be something to freak out.
Below are some of the things to look at to find out why your traffic is down. Some reasons are within you control (stop freaking start working) some out of your control. Some might be very obvious and some might not.

  •  Seasonal Impact – Do year over year comparison and see how the traffic pattern was last year.
  • May be overall traffic is down even for your competitors (do comparison at )
  • Has a new competitor entered the space? How is their traffic?
  • Traffic drivers – How was the traffic from these sources?
    • Campaigns (Banners, Search, Emails) – Has anything changed.
    • Email – Did anything change there? Did you send out your regular emails, newsletters?
    • Search – Did you change anything here, have search engines changed their algorithm.
    • Search – Did you change your site? Meta Tags? Content?
    • Affiliates – Has any affiliates changed their site.
  • Environmental Factors – How is the weather in the geographical region where you have most visitors from? Nice weather can keep people outdoors, resulting in lower traffic.
  • Was there any site outage
  • Have you made change to your web analytics tool configuration? If yes, investigate what those were? Problems in filter could be filtering out a lot of traffic.

This was originally written in 2006 at – Web Analytics, Behavioral Targeting and Optimization by Anil Batra

Online KPIs – Back to Basics

Those who have been doing web analytics for a while know how important it is to define proper online Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). But believe me, there are a lot of marketers who are confused about online KPIs, difference between KPIs and metrics and how to define them. So I am going back to basics with this post.

What are KPIs

Web analytics tools collect a lot of data and provide a lot of metrics and reports. In fact most of the web analytics tool vendors proudly talk about number of reports that can be created in their tool. These reports, metrics and data might look interesting but we all know interesting is not necessarily important. KPIs, on the other hand, are the important metrics; the metrics that provide a view into the health of the business and are tied to the business goals. They allow business owners to focus on the things that are important to drive their business. Key Performance Indicators tell a business owner whether he or she is meeting their business goals or not. Good KPIs provide context and hence are usually represented as ratio, percentage, indexes etc and not as raw numbers. KPIs drive actions within an organization.

KPIs are specific to a business role. So, not all people in the organization have the same KPIs though all the KPIs should ultimately be tied to overall business goals. The CEO has a set of KPIs, a merchandising manager has a set of KPIs and a marketing manager has yet another set of KPIs. However, all of the respective executives (departments) need to be defined keeping overall business goals and CEO’s KPIs in mind.

Another way to understand KPIs is that they are the metrics that make people freak out when they go in the reverse direction from the expected and call for immediate actions.

Since so much is riding on the KPIs, it is very critical that you pay due attention in defining your KPIs. Understand what business goals are and then think about what activities and/or user behaviors relate to your business goals. Put together a list of all the metrics that will measure those activities and/or user behaviors. Weed out the unimportant metrics, figure out what are important metrics and what are critical few (and hence KPIs) that have an impact on the business goals. Note: For your analysis you will need to look at more than your KPIs to provide you a bigger picture. Remember, all KPIs are metrics but not all metrics are KPIs

Characteristics of KPIs

Dennis Dennis R. Mortensen lists following 7 KPI characteristics on his blog “Visual Revenue”

    1. a KPI echoes organizational goals
    1. a KPI is decided by management
    1. a KPI provides context
    1. KPI creates meaning on all organizational levels
    1. a KPI is based on legitimate data6. a KPI is easy to understand
    1. a KPI leads to action!

Those are all great characteristics of KPIs. I however differ a little on point number 2. In my opinion great KPIs are those that are agreed upon by those it directly impact and will be taking actions so they are not just handed down by the upper management. And as I said above they should all be tied to overall business goals.

How many KPIs should you have?

I don’t think there is any rule but in my experience you should limit it to no more than 6.

Reporting on KPIs

KPIs should be presented in an easy to consume dashboard. Web Analytics tools have built in dashboards but most of them are limited in terms of the functionality and flexibility. My recommendation is to present KPIs in a separate dashboard that not only shows KPIs but also trending and brief analysis. Without trending and analysis the KPIs might not provide a complete picture. Excel, PowerPoint or third party dashboard tools work the best for reporting the KPIs. Since they are outside the web analytics tool they also allow you to integrate other data sources, as needed.

Books on Web KPIs

Eric Peterson has a great book on the subject, called The Big Book of KPIs

Originally Posted on Web Analytics, Behavioral Targeting and Optimization by Anil Batra

Individual Visitors Tracking or Aggregate Data – Which One Is The Right Method?

Should web analytics tool track visitors as unique individuals or at the aggregate level? John Squire, Chief Strategy Office of Coremetrics says that tracking at Individual level is the way to go and this is how his company is differentiating itself (from Google analytics). Brian Clifton, former heard of Google Analytics in EMEA, responded by saying that aggregation is the way to go.

In my opinion both of them are right. Which route to go really depends on what you want from the web analytics tool?

Aggregate Data

If you are new to web analytics or you just want to track and analyze the overall health of your website, aggregated data will work for you. If you want to know how your marketing efforts are performing in terms of driving traffic or online conversions than aggregate data will just work fine for you. If you want to know which pages of your site are bleeding and then conduct A/B testing or Multivariate testing to improve them then aggregate data will work for you.
Individual Visitor Tracking

However as companies mature in their use of web analytics data they will need individual level tracking.

A company which is ready to do personalization will need to understand each individual browsing/purchase behavior to put the right offers/products in front of her. That is not possible with aggregated data.

It sounds perfectly ok to know that 75% of visitors abandoned the shopping cart but won’t it be nice to know who those 75% are or a way to convert at least some of those 75%? This is where individual tracking will come in handy. If visitors, who abandoned the shopping cart, leave an email during the process then you can send them a targeted email based on how far along they were in the shopping process, what products they had looked at, what product they had in shopping cart, etc. You don’t need to analyze every single data point but you can have business rules that can trigger those emails. However, to do so you will need to track at individual level. Even if you don’t want to send an email if you know the cookie id of the visitors you can put a personalized offer in front of them when they return back to your site and this will require tracking at individual level.

Individual tracking also comes in handy when the sales people call the lead that they just got from the website. Knowing what the person, who filled the contact us form, did on the website could provide a lot of information to sales person who can then tailor their conversation based on this information.

There are several more scenarios where aggregate data just won’t work. You will need individual level tracking.

I agree that tracking individual has privacy implication that need be properly addressed before tracking each person. However privacy issues also exist when you anonymously track visitors at aggregate level and those need to be addressed too.

So should you choose a tool that aggregates the visitor data or the one that tracks them individually? It all depends on what you want to do with that data. If you need help in figuring out what tool will work best for you feel free to email me at batraonline at


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Originally Posted at : Individual Visitors Tracking v/s Aggregate Data – Web Analytics, Behavioral Targeting and Optimization by Anil Batra