Many online shop operators analyze the user behavior of their visitors in order to be able to offer them a better offer and an optimized user experience through appropriate measures. This data provides important insights that can lead to successful shop optimization and thus to more sales. It is not uncommon for these analyzes to show that customers have placed items in their shopping cart, but then did not buy them and instead left the shop without completing the purchase. With the help of reminder e-mails, such shopping cart abandoners can possibly be brought back. However, various legal requirements must be observed.

E-mails to customers must generally comply with the law

If an online retailer wants to contact its potential or existing customers by e-mail, the law has already laid down the framework for this. It is irrelevant whether it is about service mails, newsletters or reminder mails. Data protection and competition law determine when and how such e-mails may be sent and how the collection, processing and use of personal data is to be dealt with. This means all information that can be directly assigned to an individual person, i.e. name, birthday and also the e-mail address.

Anyone who adheres to the legal requirements when sending emails not only avoids unnecessary warnings, but can also secure the trust of customers. After all, responsible handling of customer data is a sensitive topic for everyone involved these days. In order for the reminder e-mail for a shopping cart abandoner to be legally compliant, the online shop must comply with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Act against Unfair Competition (UWG).

Abandoned cart emails: This is what the GDPR stipulates

With the GDPR, the EU passed the new data protection law a few years ago. However, this regulation is not intended to replace national laws. Rather, they are complemented by it. The German Data Protection Act has already regulated the requirements for the proper use of e-mail addresses in newsletters or shopping cart abandonment e-mails.

In order to write an e-mail as a reminder to shopping cart abandoners, you need the customer's consent to be contacted at all. According to GDPR Art. 7 Para. 1, it is also necessary to be able to prove the consent at any time upon request.

“If the processing is based on consent, the controller must be able to prove that the data subject has consented to the processing of their personal data.” GDPR Art. 7 Para. 1 A special procedure for verifiability of the consent is not prescribed by the GDPR, but rather left to the technical possibilities of the respective online shop. The double opt-in procedure is a good way of obtaining customer consent and the appropriate receipt. The user agrees to receiving advertising emails in the online shop and confirms this action again in a confirmation email. This allows the shop operator to prove that the consent was actually given voluntarily and consciously. And with this procedure, the customer has the security that his e-mail address will not be registered for the newsletter by unauthorized third parties.

Shop operator in the information obligation

Anyone who sends abandoned cart emails must inform their customers about the use of data at the moment they give their consent. Here the information is decisive as to which personal data is used, i.e. names and contact details. In addition, the shop operator must state who the data protection officer of the shop is, to which supervisory authority one can complain about violations and what rights the consumer himself has to regulate the use of data.

In addition, the online shop must permanently record in the data protection declaration the purpose for which the data is collected and processed, of course stating the legal basis according to DSGVO. The information on how long the data is stored, whether profiling is carried out and who has access to the data must be permanently visible here.

Customers have the right of withdrawal

The fact that customers have the option of withdrawing their consent to receive emails at any time is nothing new in terms of German legislation. However, the GDPR has tightened this regulation for shop operators. Accordingly, the "principle of simplicity" according to Art. 7 Para. 3 now applies:

“The data subject has the right to withdraw their consent at any time. […] Withdrawing consent must be as easy as giving consent.”

This means that the revocation must be as simple as the registration for the newsletter was. Since consent is usually given via a click on the website, unsubscribing shouldn’t be any less uncomplicated. That is why there must be a link to unsubscribe in every newsletter and every shopping cart abandonment email.

Abandoned shopping cart emails: This is stipulated by the UWG

Sending e-mails to shopping cart abandoners is regulated by the GDPR beyond the data protection regulations in order to avoid unfair competition. Whether a shop operator may send said e-mails with or without the express consent of the recipient is subject to certain conditions.

If a potential customer surfs in an online shop where he is not yet registered as an existing customer, the shop needs express consent to the sending of abandoned cart emails. The shop operator is obliged to obtain permission before contact is made. Collecting e-mail addresses and using them for marketing purposes is a collection of personal data and is therefore regulated both by the GDPR (Art. 6 Para. 1) and by the UWG (Section 7 (2) No. 3). If the recipient is already an existing customer of the online shop, he is an exception at this point.

If a customer is already an existing customer in the online shop (§7 (3) UWG), i.e. has already ordered something at least once, the online shop operator may send abandoned cart e-mails to him, even without additional consent. However, there are additional regulations that should be observed:

  1. When initially registering as a regular customer, the customer must not have expressly objected to the use of his e-mail address for reminder e-mails.
  2. The shop operator must point out in every e-mail that the customer can exercise his right of withdrawal at any time. This notice and the unsubscribe link must be included in every email.
  3. Similar goods and services must be the content of the abandoned shopping cart email. The context for the shopping cart abandonment must therefore be given.

Retrieve abandoned cart successfully

We have therefore clarified the conditions under which a shopping cart abandoner may be reminded by e-mail of his incomplete purchase. But what do we do with the attractive possibility? In order for a customer to complete his purchase after all, he apparently needs a certain incentive. Here, all legal doors are largely open to lure a customer back into the shop.

Possibility to still make the purchase: - Offer free shipping - Discount on the shopping cart - Increase trust (return policy, customer service, secure payment methods) - Free gifts - Limit the offer in time

It is important that the shopping cart abandoner clicks on the call to action and gets back to exactly the point at which they exited. The bridge to the purchase should be as short as possible in order to offer the customer the best user experience. The fact that the shop operator sends a reminder email at all can be mentioned together with the reason, i.e. the shopping cart abandonment. Most customers who shop online understand the purpose of using their email address and actually find it more of a service to receive a well-crafted abandon cart email. If the customer does not respond to the e-mail for various reasons, it is not wrong to send him a second or even a third reminder. A multi-stage program enables the shop operator to build up a dramaturgy that provides more incentives to complete the purchase each time. However, it is best not to overdo it with the volume and frequency of emails.

If the legal requirements for shopping cart abandonment emails are met, the shop operator has other options for bringing his customers back in the best possible way. Once completed, the saved purchase can also be the beginning of a long and satisfying customer relationship.