Abandoned Order Recovery

How Our Test Site Leveraged the Power of Email to Save 4000 Orders


Mention the phrase “Email Marketing” and you typically elicit two concepts: (a) bulk list purchases/rentals, or (b) ezine publishing. But so often, the marketer overlooks where he can achieve the most LUCRATIVE, immediate results.

KEY POINT: This is because Marketing is too often associated with intense persuasion, instead of intense service. If we focus on how to better serve our customers with the emails we are already sending, we can often find significant benefits.

The Company ‘X’ Story

In Q1 of this year, we were approached by company that was already quite effective in its marketing.

  1. Their websites were optimized.
  2. Their pay-per-click campaigns were high-yield.
  3. Their email marketing was both extensive and effective.

They had mastered nearly every channel on the Internet. Still, they were looking for ways to increase revenue. “Could we conduct any research that would help them meet their new revenue goals?”

Analysts at MEC considered the site’s enormous success and wondered how to help. We conducted a preliminary analysis, and then formed a six-month research partnership. Here is what we discovered:

Note: To find our more about our Research Partnerships, click on the following link.


Background Facts

  1. The company is built on a recurring-subscription model.
  2. They offered a free 30-day trial to encourage sign-ups.
  3. Many people would “back out” when they realized a credit card number was required for the free trial.
  4. We suggested a carefully crafted email campaign to re-capture lost sales
  5. For six months, we tested a sequence of three automated emails sent to these prospects over a period of 4-7 days.


Here are our results after six months of testing:

Test Site Order Recovery Campaign

Campaign Details

Email 1

Email 2

Email 3

Email Messages Sent












Click-Through Rate




Click-to-Sale Rate




Email-to-Sale Rate




What You Need To UNDERSTAND: Over six months, our test site generated an additional 4000+ sales.

It would be a mistake to scan too quickly through the above chart, as it yields critical insights:

  1. The overall click-throughs went down after the first email, but the click-to-sale conversion ratio increased with each of the three emails. The third email had a conversion ratio of 6.8 percent. This is quite high.
  2. In the end, the third email resulted in the most sales.
  3. Other than the cost of the email, these 4000 orders were obtained without any new front-end marketing. This dramatically increases yield-per-visit and return-on-investment. It also lowers cost-per-acquisition
  4. KEY POINT: The most important metric above is the email-to-sale rate. While click-through data can help you refine your messaging, the real indicator of success is actual sales. A high conversion rate is not the ultimate goal, although it is a metrics tool that helps you reach your goal.

The point of this Brief is larger in scope than shopping cart abandonment. It is about recognizing that some of your most productive email marketing opportunities are in your customer service communication.

But be careful — It is important not to regard your customer service emails as just another opportunity to bombard people with a hype-laden sales message.

Brian Alt, an email analyst who works on our staff, has outlined 14 key points that we learned from this experiment. Here are the first three:

  1. Focus on service. Many abandoned carts are caused by problems or frustrations with the order process. Your potential customers will be much more likely to respond if they know that you are interested in helping them. Let them feel your authentic concern.

    Consider using text similar to: “We noticed that you did not complete your order and we wanted to do everything we can to help. We are concerned that you may have encountered an error while completing your order. How can we assist you?”

  2. Respond immediately. It is important that you respond as soon as possible after the carts are abandoned. The more time that passes, the more likely customers will forget about your offering. If possible, automate your first message so that it will be sent out within minutes of the abandoned order.
  3. For subsequent messages, we have found that scheduling the second 24 hours after the first and the third 72 hours after that to be quite effective. However, you shouldn’t take our word for it. Experiment with different sending schedules to see which one produces the best results for your unique offering.

There are 11 other key points, and several important questions that need to be answered, including these:

  1. How did we word our email messages?
  2. How did we decide how many letters to send, and how did we decide the frequency?
  3. How did we collect essential data in order to contact abandoned orders?
  4. How did we automate the scheduling of multiple-message follow-ups?
  5. How did we track the response of our email messages?
  6. How do we make sense of our metrics? What can we learn from them?
  7. How did we improve our messages using the data we collected?

It does not seem possible to communicate all of this effectively in a single report. So to help you create your own effective email messaging, we have developed a new INTERACTIVE CLINIC.

It is designed to help you collaborate with MEC Researchers to review our actual experiments and develop your own customized messaging and recovery strategy. This is not just a lecture; it is a series of interactive learning and planning sessions.

Here are six elements that make this event unique:

  • Interactive Format with an Instructor-Student Ratio of 1 to 7 – The groups are kept very small so that you receive personal, tutorial-style attention.
  • Participation in Actual Real-Time Experiments – In the clinic, we will conduct real-time experiments and/or review past experiments. You will be able to track results and learn how to apply our findings.
  • Specific Help with Your Own Marketing Program – This is more than a course, it is a clinic. You will be able to ask questions and apply the lessons from our experiments to your own marketing needs.
  • Official Certification – If you successfully complete the program, you will be presented with official certification from MEC Labs.
  • Full-Flex Study Times – Each class is recorded; if you are unable to attend, you can still have full access to the session and the notes.
  • Optimized Reference Materials – You will receive live recordings, online data sets, and comprehensive notes, so you can build a strong reference library.


Editor – Flint McGlaughlin

HTML Designer – Cliff Rainer

Contributor – Brian Alt

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