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For online retailers, customer encouragement involves incrementally building on the relationship through highly personalised, targeted and relevant communication at key points in the sales cycle to encourage customers to further engage with the brand. Engaged customers routinely demonstrate their brand engagement - by signing up for email newsletters, for example - so when their basket is abandoned it's not down to disinterest in the brand, according to Katharine Hulls, vice president of marketing for Celebrus Technologies, who here highlights a significant sales opportunity. This article is copyright 2014 The Best Customer Guide.

There is a clear opportunity for retailers to build on this customer interest to foster a stronger relationship. However, retailers are failing to grasp the value of this customer commitment to brand engagement. Celebrus' recent research among the top 120 UK retailers (by web sales revenue) showed that, while the majority (86.7%) of retailers surveyed has a sign up email newsletter option, only 57.5% actually sent out a welcome email to customers when they sign up. That percentage dropped to just 48.9% for web only retailers for whom this is a superb opportunity to deepen engagement with new customers at a key stage in their lifecycle. Moreover, the vast majority of retailers sent only one welcome email, not the well-crafted multi-stage welcome programmes that email service providers have been recommending for years.

Retailers are therefore missing out on the opportunity to convey very positive messages such as their customer satisfaction rates, the strength of their online purchasing security software, the ease of their returns policy from online purchases and more.

Most retailers are also failing to take any proactive approach to addressing abandoned baskets despite the fact that well over half (58%) of visitors still abandon baskets according the latest IMRG figures and retargeting customers who have abandoned baskets is proven to boost sales.

The study indicated that the majority of the UK's largest online retailers do not currently take any proactive approach to addressing abandoned baskets; only 3 of the 120 sent a basket abandonment email. This represents a huge missed sales opportunity for most retailers who will, most likely, already have the information required to re-target and encourage that individual to complete the purchase.

There are decisions to be made about how overt the email should be, whether the specific abandoned products are shown, whether to include an offer, how soon after abandonment to send etc. However all of those decisions can be made based on the brand personality, customer profiles and a lot of testing. The main issue is the fact that so few retailers are using this marketing technique which is so well proven and not very hard to execute.

The process of encouraging potential online customers involves an understanding of the factors involved in the purchasing decision making process, and the way technology can be applied to best address and harness these within an online format. Interacting with potential customers at crucial stages of the purchasing process, such as with abandoned basket or welcome emails are just two key encouragement opportunities. Crucially, these methods of encouragement should be a natural addition to the much wider arena of enhancing the online customer experience and overall ecommerce functionality.