By Brandon Miller and Sarah Robinson
The sirens of online stores are hard to resist on snowy days. If you want to save money on your shopping, give in – but just a little. In this case, abstinence is not your best bet.
Time wrote an article with some very interesting advice in the fall. Apparently, if you abandon an online shopping cart with a few items in it, some online stores will later send you e-mails with discounts to try to get you to buy. But you have to be signed into an account so the stores have your e-mail.
Naturally, we wanted to try it, with a Canadian and an American writer. What happened in Canada versus across the border was pretty surprising.
Pssst – here are a few other ways to snag deals:
Sarah’s experience in Canada:
I often abandon purchases because I don’t really need them. Usually, that’s a good thing. But I can get a little extreme with it, and sometimes I end up shocked and disappointed that I can’t buy the patterned sundress I saw in May when I finally decide to buy it in October after “visiting” it for months.
So the idea that my indecision could actually pay off was more tempting than an Anthropologie dress in November. But I wondered if it was just an American thing.
I “shopped” at places that were both mentioned and not mentioned in the Time article on January 17: Indigo, Gap Canada, Best Buy, Overstock.com, Allposters.ca, Williams-Sonoma and Lego. I put things I was actually hankering for in some carts, but in others, a mix of expensive and cheaper items I had no interest in.
I got “welcome” e-mails from a few places, but no cigars on the discount train. At first.
On January 19, I got a hit from Allposters.ca, offering a 20 per cent discount on my cart. Sadly, this was one of the “expensive” carts, with just one item: a “Ballooning Over Paris” framed canvas print, priced at $487. Wah wahhh. The crazy thing is, the discount made me consider it – just for a moment, but it did.
I got a few nudges from Best Buy and Overstock.com asking if I “forgot” something, while Indigo reminded me that I still had items in my cart the next time I was on the site, but no more discounts. If it were an actual hot air balloon, we may have been in business.
Brandon’s experience in the United States:
I registered accounts on a couple of websites where I’d never purchase anything as well as ones that I like. I had never even heard of Overstock.com prior to reading the Time piece, and I’d rather walk outside barefoot than be caught in a pair of Crocs, but both of these companies were said to send e-mails following the unloading of a shopping cart. And they both contacted me.
I “shopped” on seven websites on January 27: Zappos, Best Buy, Walmart, Overstock.com, Crocs, J. Crew and Banana Republic. That same day, Overstock.com sent me an e-mail entitled “Valued Customer, did you forget something in your cart?” And all I could think was, “Valued company, did you forget my 10 per cent discount?”
Best Buy contacted me to see if I needed “help” with my order, and Zappos cautioned me with a “you snooze, you lose” message. Again, I received no discounts.
I’ve received numerous e-mails from six of the seven companies since, but none with discounts personalized for me. And I have to say that it would likely be a very effective way to target me as a consumer.
I frequently browse stores online. Often, I’ll put things in my cart and then decide not to pull the trigger – mostly at 4 a.m. when I can’t sleep. But if a store I loved sent me a next-day message about a discount on a reasonably priced item I wanted to buy, I’d probably bite. Banana Republic, get on this.
I know that I’m not the only one whose purchases are swayed by the prospect of a saving a few dollars. And even if I don’t make the purchase each time the e-mail is sent, it would still be profitable for the company if I occasionally jumped on the special offer.
How often do you leave an empty cart on a company’s website? Would a 10 per cent discount convince you to revisit your abandoned purchases?