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Recovered Cart Sales Guide

Taken from the module found at osCommerce - all credit to original author Lane Roathe - http://addons.oscommerce.com/info/1688


This contribution consists of three parts:

  1. The tool to locate, select and send out customers for sending emails to. The ideas is to select customers who abandoned carts and just need to be reminded to complete the cart and/or to find out why the customer didn't complete the order. (ie, problem with credit card acceptance, problem with store, etc.)
  2. The report which shows approximately how many orders were recovered by sending the customer an email to remind them about their purchase. This is approximate because of many factors, including that some customers will have come back and completed their order with the reminder or who started and completed a new order (ie, abandoned one cart for some reason, then created a new one and completed that purchase).
  3. On the customer's side they receive an email with information about what they had in their cart, plus a general request for feedback to help the store owner (that's you) improve their store. You can also put in a message at the bottom of the email with each batch of emails sent out. For instance you could include a discount code, etc. These emails will be sent as plain text, but if you have the email configuration option for MIME HTML emails turned on then the email will be modified to include HTML click links for the customer login and product links.
The report will not show any recovered carts until after you have used the tool to send emails to customers who abandoned carts!

What Recover Cart Sales does

Recover Cart Sales is a very simple tool which looks at shopping carts left on your site that were abandoned by customers/visitors. The only carts it works with are those where the person visiting your site actually put something in their shopping cart, either already had or created a customer account on the system, and didn't complete the purchase of the cart contents.

We only deal with this smaller subset of abandonded carts for a couple reasons, but the largest is that anyone who puts items into their cart and then abandons it but does not create a customer account can not easily be contacted as we have no email address. And, of course, an empty cart is a good indication that nothing caught the customer's interest enough to start a purchase.

So, what exactly does RCS do to determine what carts to show you?

  1. Do a query on the customer carts DB table, looking for carts that are both within our day range and which are attached to a customer entry. If you have turned on the configuration option, the query will also ignore any carts that are currently “active” (ie, have an open session). It should be noted that once a customer completes an order their shopping cart is emptied, so there will be no entry in the customer carts DB.
  2. Next RCS loops through each customer found, and creates the HTML to display the customer's information, changing the display color of the customer line based on whether the cart has a matching entry in the scart table or a matching order is found (by default these are blue, red, orange). It then loops through the cart and creates the HTML to display the cart items, including any attributes if that configuration option has been set.

That's it, from there it's simply a matter of handling the created page actions (send email, view customer/order info, delete cart, etc.) and doing the actual mailing where it updates the scart for each cart an email is sent to.

You can follow-up with discussion in the OSC forums.


How to Use Recover Cart Sales

Acutally using RCS is, at it's basics, a very simple four step process that goes like this:

  1. Run the Tool, which if installed via the directions in this document, will be located under the Tools tab of your admin area and be called “Recover Cart Sales”
  2. In the list of abandoned carts that are displayed, select which customers you wish to contact
  3. Click on the “Send E-mail” button at the bottom of the page to send your emails
  4. Run the Report, which if installed via the directions in this document, will be located under the Reports tab of your admin area and be called “Recover Sales Results”

You can do a variety of things to effect how abandoned carts are selected, what types of abandoned carts are automatically selected for email contact, the email that is sent and a variety of other options to make actually using the tool more efficient for your particular store and operation. The Report is pretty static at this point, and simply shows the results of your efforts in terms of sales generated by sending out emails via the RCS tool. The report is not 100% acurate due to not always being able to match orders to abandoned carts (or even identifying abandoned carts in the first place) since people order under different names, create a new account instead of finishing an order under an existing account, etc.

With regards to technique, no one can really tell you how to use this but we can tell you how it was designed to be used and why. First, note the purpose of RCS: to entice people who started to make a purchase to come back and finish that purchase. We are not trying to contact people who just visited, that would just make them angry; we are reaching out to customers who nearly finished an order, getting at least far enough to create a customer account and put items into their shopping cart.

Next, look at the e-mail that is sent. This e-mail is sent as a query to get feedback, and also acts as a reminder as to the fact that they left a cart, and what is in the cart that they left. The goal here is not to say “Hi. Please come back and buy from me!”, but rather to say “Hi. We care about you and want to make sure that you are satisfied.” The difference is one is a “sales push” and the other is “outstanding customer service”. We do not want to be pushy; thus we really only remind them that they did not finish and ask them to let us know why they didn't complete the order. We hope they actually come back and finish the order, but even if they do not their feedback often proves very valuable. (I've had responses that let me know my credit card processor was having trouble, etc.)

Consider how you would feel if you were to get a call in which someone asked if everything was all right, verse one where they ask for you to buy. In one case you are happy to be cooperative, in the other you get annoyed. Althought you can change the email text to anything you wish, we highly recommend the first method (which is in the e-mail text) rather than the second.

Additionally, you will notice when you have run this that people contacted already are indicated by the selection area being red and having the date that you contacted them in the area. This was done so that you didn't bash the same people over the head with multiple e-mails (a bad thing customer service wise). Again, you can ignore these if you so choose, but I don't recommend that.

The PS: message area permits you to send additional text. So, you can make a run in which you send a base message to all carts between X-Y dollars, and then come back and make another run where the dollar values are between Y-Z in which you add a PS and offer them a coupon for their cart (or an 800 number to call if they need more help… or anything you want). This message will be attached to your e-mail AFTER the signature line, so it's nice to start it with “PS: …”. The system *WILL NOT* add the “PS:” for you.

Finally, we have the report to determine how successful you have been at conversion. This report is very basic. It lists the number of people that you have contacted, and then the number of conversions. Finally it lists the actual customers names with links back to their customer records. This is a very basic report, but one we feel will help you fine tune how you are doing.

Determining Matching & Completed Orders Before v2.0 RCS did not correctly identify abandoned carts where the customer had come back at a later time and purchased before you ran the RCS tool. Starting with v2.0 the first pass at dealing with this issue has taken place. The basic approach was to expand the match between abandoned carts and customer orders, then use the results to improve either the selection or presentation of that information to the store owner.

The definition of a matching order used to be an order in which the the customer id of an abandoned cart matched the customer id in an order (of any status). The problem was that customers repeat shop (hopefully!) which led to false positives and that they also abandon carts and then immediately order again, even going so far as to create a new user account, which left orphaned carts.

The new definition of a matching order is one where the order contains an item in the abandoned cart and the order's information matches either the cart's customer name, email addres or database ID and the order was placed after the abandoned cart and the order status is greater than the pending status as configured for RCS. We do not count “pending” orders because payment has not been completed, for instance a customer selected paypal as their payment option but then never completed the payment on the paypal site. While not fullproof this method gives much better results and leads a near zero rate of contact with people who have already completed their purchase.

If you want RCS to ignore carts with a matching order (ie, most likely the customer completed this purchase with a different cart or on a different visit) set the RCS configuration value Skip Matching Orders to true. This option is handy for two things; the first is that you can simply “know” that all the uncontacted carts do not have matching orders. I used to manually check this, but no more! This is good because looks unprofessional to send a “please complete your purchase” email to someone who has completed their purchase. The second is that you limit your view to just those carts that you need to contact or that have been contacted but not yet completed their cart (ie, only light blue and light red highlighted entries). The resulting effect is very similar to what previous versions of RCS tried to do and is the default configuration in the new release.

Setting the value to false will cause entries w/matching orders to show, along with the order's status. These orders display with a light green highlight and something like '[Shipped]' after their name, which will be the status of the order RCS matched against the abandoned cart. I did this… well, just because I guess. It helped me while debugging the new operations and it does give, to some degree, an indication of how customers are able to use your site's checkout process. This also lets you find and delete these extranious entries which will in turn lead to a more accurate report on how well your emails do at actually recovering sales. (ie, if you have an abandonded cart where the user has already gone in and made an order, it doesn't make much sense to count that as a successful sale or failed recovery due to use of RCS).

Sometimes you will get entries that are highlighted in green even if you have Skip Carts w/Matched Orders set to true. These entries will have a pending status after their name, typically [Pending], the exact wording is taken from your cart configuration. This is because those abandonded carts have a later order which got even further (ie, for instance to the paypal payment page) but did not take the truly final step and become a full purchase. These are typically paypal related, as many people get to paypal and for what ever reason stop. However, some of these may be from other payment types where an error occured or whatever. It's usually OK, and in fact a good idea, to contact these customers as they often think they have paid and are awaiting arrival of their purchase.

The Recovered Carts report has also been updated to search for matching orders by either the customer id, customer name or customer email address (it used to only go by id). The report already limited matches to orders whose date came after the carts, and had gone through the totalling process. I also orderd the display so it sorted by date from newest to oldest.

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v2.5/rcs_guide.txt · Last modified: 2012/01/09 03:42 by pgmarshall
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