Why You Shouldn’t Abandon Browse Abandonment

Whilst cart abandonment strategies have become commonplace for online retailers looking to recoup otherwise lost sales, the adoption of a similar browse abandonment strategy has been significantly slower until recently. Increasingly retailers are eager to find ways of engaging with those customers that have shown buying signals but have not carted items. However, there is one question that we have been asked many times in recent weeks: “Can I send browse abandonment emails and be GDPR compliant?”

The answer is not only that you can, but also that it is even more important that you do. The GDPR repeatedly requires transparent processing (making things clear and easy to understand) and keeping shoppers informed is a big part of this. Exactly what transactional emails do.

Under the GDPR, you can send cart and browse abandonment emails as ‘Legitimate Interest’. Trust us, we have read the text of the General Data Protection Regulation many times and gone through the ICO guidelines word-by-word, ensuring our own processes and procedures fall in line with the new law. Here’s the short version…

Before any browse abandon email can be sent, the website must know the shopper’s email address. They entered this when creating an account or starting to buy at the checkout (which count as ‘starting negotiations for a sale’). At that point, the shopper was provided with a statement that their data could be used for personalization and for transactional emails such as cart and browse abandon. This is enough to satisfy ICO guidance. (BTW if you want to go further, e.g. send bulk marketing emails, you need to get consent using a checkbox or equivalent). Some time later, the shopper browses one-or-more products, leaves, and if nothing else happens for 30 minutes they get a browse abandon email to keep them informed.

Rather than thinking about it as a retailer, think about it as a shopper. There are many reasons we abandon a website without making a purchase. Sometimes it will be because we can’t find what we need, the price isn’t right, the item is out-of-stock, or we are simply window shopping. However, at other times the phone or doorbell rings, someone asks a question, if you’re like me you maybe get distracted by one of the many other browser tabs you have open at any one time, or you simply run out of time. In these instances, a well-timed and personalized message (ideally around 30 minutes after leaving the website) showing me the product/s I was looking at, as well as other items that may be of interest based on my browsing behavior, would be warmly welcomed.

We consistently see cart abandonment emails returning a sales uplift in the region of 8% and those who also send browse abandonment emails will see an increase of a further 3%. That is an overall uplift of 11%. We will leave you to do the maths on your own sales figures. What’s more, once you have set up your abandonment email strategy it is very light-touch, with automation meaning very little ongoing involvement or intervention being required.

There has been so much scaremongering and misinformation surrounding GDPR, the Data Protection Bill and the forthcoming ePrivacy Directive, but it is important to remember that these landmark reforms have been introduced to protect EU citizens, not to trap honest organizations that play by the rules. And with the ICO’s own DPO, Louise Byers, recently stating that just one in five UK citizens trust organizations with their personal data, it is long overdue.

An abandonment programme that is personalized, timely and abides by personal data preferences should be part of every online retailer’s compliance-led activities. It is a powerful way to build trusted and profitable relationships, and that is great for all concerned.