How Do You Feel About These Webstore Settings?

30 December 2019 | 40 Comments

Lately I’ve been puzzling over two aspects of the Stonemaier Games webstore–things that other webstore owners may contemplate as well–so I thought I’d mention them to you in case you have a strong preference or feedback. There are two polls on this post.

Add-On Only Products

Most of the products on our webstore range from $20-$60, with a few dipping below or above that range. We use 4 different fulfillment centers around the world, but the majority of our direct orders are in the US, many of them from Stonemaier Champions (who get free US shipping; international Champions get a $10 shipping discount per order).

We currently don’t sell many promos through our webstore, mostly because we only list a small number of our total promo options there (most are sold through Meeplesource). The reason is that first-class packages cost around $3 in postage, plus another $2 for labor and materials. So if I offer a $5 set of promo cards on our website and a Champion orders them, we lose money (the cost of making the promos).

However, there is a nifty workaround that you’ve probably seen on Amazon and other stores: We could use a Shopify app to offer some items as add-on only. That way we can still sell small items and promos.

My concern is that this could be frustrating for customers. Imagine if you bought Wingspan in the spring, you’ve already purchased the European Expansion, and today you learn about the new swift-start promo pack (it’s currently a normal product, but imagine it’s an add-on only item). Would it be frustrating to be required to buy something else just to have access to that promo? Or would you just add it to your cart and return to it when there’s something else you want on our webstore?


Abandoned Cart Emails

A while ago, Shopify recommended that I activate a function called “abandoned cart emails.” You’ve probably seen this–you go to a webstore, add a few items to your cart but don’t finalize the purchase, and then you get an email from the store a few days later reminding you that you have items in your cart.

I’ve had this happen a few times, and my feelings range from appreciation (sometimes I get distracted and forget to complete a purchase) to ambivalent (I decided not to buy the items, and I delete the email and move on).

But last week I got an irate email from a customer saying that they didn’t request a reminder and were super annoyed that I would send them an email without their permission.

Now, that’s an extreme reaction to a harmless email. But when I dug through their ire, I found a nugget of truth: An abandoned cart email could come across as a nuisance, particularly since they didn’t opt into the reminder.

Shopify recommends these reminders because they increase sales–as you can see in the image here, 10% of our abandoned checkout recovery emails were successful over the last 30 days. But I really don’t want to annoy our customers, so for now I’ve deactivated that feature until I learn more from people like you. What do you think?


What do you think about these methods? Thanks for your thoughts in the comments and the polls!

Leave a Comment

40 Comments on “How Do You Feel About These Webstore Settings?

  1. Hi Jamey,

    My personal preference would be a high shipping cost for buying an individual item, and a low shipping cost if buying multiples, or as part of an addon.

    If you use weight based shipping in Shopify you can achieve this with a little bit of number tweaking.

    For example, you can set every promo as 0.01kg in weight.

    You can then setup a shipping bracket for < 0.05 kg at $15

    This means anyone buying 1 – 4 items will be paying the $15 shipping fee.

    When someone buys 5 or more, they would let fall into your existing lowest shipping tier.

    The advantage of working this way is if someone does buy a couple of promos and a game, or larger item, the 0,01kg weight of the promo doesn't impact the overall weight enough to change the shipping bracket the game falls into, basically automating the switch to free shipping as an addon.

    Hopefully that might be useful, if not, and you're interested in other solutions I'm happy to offer suggestions if you let me know the current shipping calculation method you use.

  2. I’m fine with add-on only products. But it can be frustrating if it’s literally the only way to get them. I’m happiest if there’s an option to pay additional shipping, or another place to get the items (like the BGG store).

    I don’t like cart reminders – they feel pushy and thirsty to me. I understand the reason behind it, and they don’t turn me off enough to make me not shop somewhere. But if I abandoned a cart it’s because I’m undecided, or I’ve decided not to buy. If I really want it, I’ll come back. As far as I’m concerned it’s just spam.

    1. I will say that I’d definitely appreciate an “opt-in” method for cart reminders. If Shopify added a check box in the user’s profile, or somewhere else prominent but non-intrusive, it would greatly reduce the annoyance issue.

  3. Just to give one concrete reason why I might “abandon” a shopping cart: often, websites don’t make it clear what the international shipping costs might be of a given item. (Which is fair enough because it might be much easier to calculate it once an entire shopping basket is known.) So I might line up the same order on two or three websites, and proceed through to the “calculate shipping” step on each of them, to see which has the cheapest total. Then I’ll proceed with that one and just close the tab for the other two. I occasionally get abandoned cart emails in such circumstances. I don’t mind either way – I just delete them.

    For add-on products, it’s more subtle. In general I’m fine with it, but I want it to be possible for there to be *somewhere* on the internet where I can actually just buy the item I want and get it posted (at additional cost). As long as that need is met, I’m happy for *most* stores to just offer the things as add-ons that need a larger accompanying item. So the option suggested above, “add-on OR pay full shipping”, would be great.

  4. I turned on our Abandoned Cart reminder in May 2019 and on average it’s recouped $1000~ per month in potentially lost sales.

    Data shows that our Northern American customers respond well to the nudge and the rest of the world majoritively ignores them.

  5. I really dislike abandoned cart emails that include a discount. It feels like taking advantage of honest shoppers by giving a discount to those willing to game the system. It just feels rude to make things more expensive for people who metaphorically are wasting less of your time.

  6. I agree with some of the other comments: Add-on–only products make more sense for Amazon, where the next medium-sized purchase is typically within the next month or so, and where the products sold that way could just as well be found at a typical grocery or drugstore if you needed them more urgently.

    If you play only one Stonemaier game and already have all of the game’s pre-existing context, however, your next planned purchase might be most of a year away, and being unable to buy directly something like the Swift-Start pack without buying something else would be frustrating for sure—especially since one of the nominal benefits of being a champion is easier access to Stonemaier products.

    (If bonus packs were only available as add-ons to some larger purchase, I’d guess that players would organize group buys, where a single player buys a large number of packs and then distributes them—but this process would take up a lot of player time surely better spent, well, playing.)

    Speaking as a champion, though, I wouldn’t mind paying enough shipping for Stonemaier to break even (or even for standard shipping) for a small item in order to keep the company in the black on the purchase—especially since that arrangement would mean Stonemaier would have a stronger incentive to develop and sell more bonus content for my game of choice in the first place.

    (I suppose another alternative would be to sell bonus-pack–like items as an add-on here on the Stonemaier site but have those items sold separately at, e.g., Meeplesource.)

    I am agnostic on the issue of the following up on orphaned carts with emails, as long as one can unsubscribe from them.

  7. I don’t mind a single abandoned cart email that includes a, “Don’t send me these emails anymore” link. Recently I got SIX abandoned cart emails over a two week period from the same vendor with no opt-out method and seemingly no way to clear my cart. That’s obviously a problem. I’d say even a second email for the same cart is a problem.

  8. What annoy me most about the abandoned cart emails is that they are dumb. Le me explain:
    A lot of time, I checkout a cart, and at the shipping costs, I see a price (or a shipper) that I don’t like. I then canceled the thing, and empty my cart.

    On a lot of sites, even if I remove all the items on my cart, it still send me an abandoned cart email…

    I suspect, as I encounter that often, that is is some dumb code in a cart handling service that is used by a lot of websites.

  9. I detest add-ons! It actually deters sales in my case. I don’t how many times I’ve wanted to order something and there’s literally nothing else I want/need so I cannot purchase the add-on item.

    As to abandon cart emails–not such a big deal. It might be nice to be able to opt out though for those who hate it.

  10. I dislike the cart reminder emails. I usually remove items from a cart if I find the postage cost is too high to make the actual order, so to get a reminder that my empty cart is waiting to be completed is annoying.
    Instead of add-ons only available with a larger purchase, perhaps having a minimum total purchase to get an add-on would work better. That way you could grab four or five to get to that minimum and not feel as you are missing out.

  11. Add-ons suck. They are one of the most hated features on Amazon. And yes, I get why you want to do it, but you have to do it very carefully.

    The reason is simple – you see a product is add on and you don’t have anything else to order. Now what?

    If you need it soon, then you’re forced to buy something you don’t want to get it. This can easily result in a return of the unwanted item. It certainly didn’t engender good feelings for the customer who had to buy crap to get what they wanted, and now forced to do a return.

    If they didn’t need it now and can wait, it leads to two problems. First is if they come up with something else to buy later, and they forget to add the product they wanted to add on. A disaster if the item was popular and sold out when they remember and can’t edit the order. The only way to fix this is to remind them in checkout of the add-ons they wanted but didn’t buy yet.

    Second, what happens when the add-on sells out between now they want it, and then they have an item they want and want to get the add-on since they can? Now it’s sold out and they’re angry. Again, not a good customer experience.

    The best solution is to say your club discount works when you spend $15 or more. If you want the add-on now, but don’t want to buy anything else, you just pay the shipping. If you want a bunch of add-ons at the same time, if it meets the minimum the free shipping, else same deal. If you order something else, meet the minimum then hey, free shipping. If they can wait, offer to remember the cart (save for later), but come up with a bulletproof sold out plan if the add-on sells out, and the ability to edit orders in case it’s pre-order season, I buy the product and then remember to add the product later and can’t pre-order because all the pre-order stock ran out.

    The last you can turn into an “add to existing unshipped order” function.

  12. I highly dislike unsolicited emails. One of my primary email addresses is apparently used by other people who have a similar name to register for car appointments, airline tickets, hotel reservations, and (worst of all) dating sites.

    With all that finding it’s way through my spam filters, getting emails from e-commerce shops trying to be “helpful” is frustrating and aggravating.

    If I get those, that leads me to not want to patronize those shops, especially if I can get the same or similar products elsewhere.

  13. For me, I often load a cart around Christmas and Birthdays and then send the link to my wife, as she does to me and on to our respective families. So we often have loaded and apparently abandoned carts for some time, which makes those e-mails very annoying, I’ve not abandoned it, I’ve just set it to one side for my purposes.

    I think its reasonable to respond to being sent an e-mail without requesting it with a complaint. Essentially the complaint e-mail reminding the company that some people don’t like being sent a reminder e-mail is exactly the equivalent of annoyance as the e-mail the company sent them in the first place. If you’re going to tell someone something you have to accept that they will sometimes tell you not to tell them that.

    As far as the add-ons goes, is there not a method of having minimum order on the store, with the option to pay more for cheaper items if you want them on their own badly enough? If the minimum cost of anything for Stonemaier is at a certain level, then setting the price at that level, with a clear explanation that they would be cheaper if ordered as part of a larger package, would seem reasonable.

  14. I’d rate these emails as a 4 out of 10 personally. Just below a neutral reaction. Most spam emails don’t have viruses, so most spam could also be classed as harmless emails. Does being harmless make spam a positive experience? I don’t think so.

    Lots of people do pay extra not to see ads on Youtube, BoardGameGeek, Apps, and mobile games.

    I’ve heard one video game designer say that ads steal a little bit of your time, and it adds up to a lot of time over the months and years. I can see how people paying to avoid ads and marketing would be upset with one in their inbox, especially if they are from the EU which requires op-ins legally.

    Imagine you went in to a shop, picked up a product.To get the full price this shop requires you to give your home address. The delivery is too expensive, or you change your mind about the product. You don’t want it. A few days later you get a letter delivered to your home about you leaving the shop, you forgot buy their product they say. An “abandoned cart email” is the digital equivalent.

  15. I have received several Abandoned Cart Emails from other stores and it has almost always bothered me. I take care of my inbox, I strive for Inbox Zero. I always unsubscribe from anything I am not remotely interested in and I am careful about what promotional crap I subscribe to. In some case, a web store requires me to create an account just to show me the shipping price. There is no indication that my email will be used for promotional stuff or for ACE. I see the exorbitant shipping price (I live in the EU) and I move on. In these cases, I have not subscribed to anything, and I only became a member by force so I do not appreciate these ‘reminders’.

    What would be a nice solution for Shopify is checking internally to see if this is a recent user and if the user has opted in to any marketing emails. If so, do not send an email. Else, this is a standing customer who already receives the newsletter, so one more email will not annoy them.

  16. “But last week I got an irate email from a customer saying that they didn’t request a reminder and were super annoyed that I would send them an email without their permission.”

    Customers like that aren’t worth having. If one gets annoyed by an email over which one has control (delete it, cancel the notifications, create spam filter, etc.), you need to grow up. Adults wanting to be treated like children are a plague on this world.

    1. I am sorry but I have no control over an email that I did not know I would be receiving. If this customer was rude or worse, than I would understand calling him a child but in this case, the customer is right and Jamey is correct to open this topic to discussion.

      1. You did have control. Delete the item from the cart if you decide not to buy so the distributor knows you aren’t interested in.

        1. Please read my reply again. Where does it say that I would be receiving an email if I didn’t practice shopping cart hygiene? I never gave permission for any marketing emails and the ACR is a marketing email.

    2. The attitude that small thefts from large numbers of people don’t count shocks me. If an email takes two seconds to dismiss, its sender has just stolen roughly a penny from the life of a person on minimum wage. If you prefer to think about richer people, you’re stealing more. If you prefer to think about people’s happiness, the situation may be worse.
      Now of course if you’re going to behave badly you’d prefer that people “grow up” and pretend that they don’t mind. It doesn’t make you right.

      1. I’d hate to view the world like that. You distracted me, you stole a PENNY from me! That train made me wait 5 minutes. I’ve been STOLEN from!

        Sounds like a way to spend your life stressed out.

  17. I understand the idea behind add-on only items in regards to free shipping.

    However, I don’t like when the “benefit” of free shipping prevents me from obtaining the add-on item even when I’m willing to pay for shipping that item. It’s particularly annoying on Amazon. I understand that some items are too small to justify free shipping, but I should be allowed to simply pay a shipping fee. Amazon already has items that are non-Prime with shipping costs, so it’s not much of a stretch to simply offer those items as either Prime shipping add-ons OR non-Prime items with a shipping fee. I usually don’t want to buy $25 worth of other stuff just to get a $2 roll of tape. What’s even more annoying is that in most cases, I could buy some $5 Prime item that will come in a box 10-times larger than necessary. My $2 roll of tape would fit into that box with room to spare without adding any additional overhead cost, but it won’t happen because I haven’t met the $25 minimum.

    As for abandoned cart reminders, my annoyance is not because I’ve received a single, easily-dismissed email. It’s because every business tries to send single, easily-dismissed emails. They add up. So, it wouldn’t be that your one email is the problem, but that it’s part of a bigger problem. To add to this, sometimes I have to enter personal information just to see my shipping cost, then I see they want far more than I’m willing to pay, so I “abandon” my cart only to be reminded about it because I had to give them my email just to see the shipping price. Sure, I could give them a fake email address, but then if I actually want to follow through with the purchase, I have to go back through the process.

    I understand the business concept behind the abandoned cart emails. If they get even one person to follow through and finish their purchase, then they’ve done their job. They’re low risk for a business. Yet, even though I understand them, I certainly don’t have to be okay with them. To me, they’re obnoxious. If I have a choice between two similar companies, I’m more likely to do business with the less manipulative one.

  18. I would like the option to include small items in other orders and also the option to pay a special minimum shipping amount on those small items. Options are good; Just include a note on those items that they are small and can’t be shipping for free due to the smallness of them.

    That abandoned cart email is simple: You might make more sales by annoying your customers but do you feel right being an annoying company that annoys some customers just to get others to buy more stuff? Are you a store in a mall where a sales person waits until you enter before talking to you? Or are you that booth of jerks that are constantly sticking stuff in peoples faces as they walk by even when those customers have no interest and are walking as far from your booth as possible to avoid you? I don’t want to get annoying emails.

  19. I second (or third?) the comments that say “add on to Champion order, or pay full shipping.” If I want a promo to a game I already own, I’m not about to buy another big thing (that I also probably own) just to get the promo. I’m more likely to go without, which doesn’t get you the sale, or find it somewhere else, which gets you the sale, but with much less profit. If I have to pay shipping to get it from you, and it will cost the same thing as if I got it elsewhere, I’ll get it from you and pay the shipping costs.

      1. How about two separate ‘products’? One is the add-on to a larger order, with its own price point. Then the other is a standalone with it’s own price point reflecting the greater shipping costs. Alternatively, (and more intuitively) a coupon or discount system that could discern would work better. For example, I ordered from a restaurant offering free appetizers over $35. It recognized what qualified in the cart and what did not, and then changed the pricing accordingly.

  20. As someone who deals with a lot of eCommerce businesses I find abandon cart emails work very well if there is an incentive. An extra perk or a discount. If you run abandon cart purely as a reminder email, I don’t think that’s a great look and might push those customers on the edge AGAINST buying the product.

    1. On the other hand, consider the customer psychology. Here I’ve been paying full price for things on your store. Then one day I get distracted and leave something in my cart. The next day I get an email offering me 10% off. Yes, I’ll likely take that offer. But will I ever come back to you knowing that you routinely overcharge faithful customers by 10%, and give secret discounts to flakes? If customers are disposable to you, sure, go ahead, I guess; a lot of businesses nowadays work like that, and money is more useful to you than your customers’ feelings. But would it be good for Stonemaier?
      Of course, I’m just an anecdote here. There are reasons to believe that many people don’t mind discovering that they’re being manipulated. If there are data on how customers’ long term behaviour is affected, not merely whether the emails themselves get conversions…?

  21. Another possible option would be to make the items get a discount when added on to another large item? Then you can buy them at extra cost if you must have them now, or add them on.

  22. I know that simpler is better, but would it be possible to have promo items that are “add-on to Champion orders OR pay full shipping” ? I already have all the big items in your store, so if you added a new promo that I wanted, I would be frustrated if the ONLY way to get it was by purchasing more items… but I would seriously consider waiving my Champion’s privilege to free shipping if I wanted the promo urgently and didn’t want to wait for the next big box item.

    1. I was going to suggest exactly this. Additionally, if enough promos are ordered to meet a minimum price threshold, say $20-25, they could be shipped free.

      1. Once I worked out the principal I am in the same camp as the above, would be nice to have the option to say I don’t care about the extra charge, I want them, I will pay

    2. I like this approach. I have gotten my money’s worth with Champion shipping. Having smaller ‘no profit’ items be Champion add-on seems to be a sustainable approach.

  23. As for the abandoned cart emails, sometime life is distracting, and if i ever have something in a cart somewhere, i intend to buy it somewhere. Maybe not neccessarily from x store but it will most likely be purchased within 24 hours. I think a reminder is good cause it reminds me i considered your store, and its a harmless proactive way to remind us its still there. I’ve also seen companies offer y% off abandoned cart items as further incentive, which is fantastic, but i wouldn’t do that 100% of the time or customers will manipulate the system. So yes i dont mind them :)

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