10 best cart abandonment email tactics and why they work

August 17, 2023
9 minutes
10 best cart abandonment email tactics and why they work

Cart abandonment benchmarks show that about 70% of online carts get abandoned. This happens during the critical last moments of the purchasing journey, when the customers that you have invested in turn and navigate away from your website, leaving their figurative baskets unceremoniously ditched at checkout, never to be picked up again. Or at least, that would be the case if you fail to initiate an abandoned cart recovery strategy.

The truth is, the revenue left on the table when visitors abandon their carts can be recovered — by re-engaging those same shoppers and incentivising them back to resume their purchasing journey.

But how is it done?

One of the most productive tactics for recovering abandoned carts is to send an abandoned cart email. But what exactly are they, and what do the best abandoned cart emails have in common? This guide will answer your questions and reveal ten of the best practices for converting cart abandoners into loyal customers.

Online shopping cart

What is an abandoned cart email?

An abandoned cart email is a simple follow-up email to remind a customer who has added to their cart but failed to complete the purchase about the goods sitting in their basket. It encourages them to return to finish the transaction where they left off.

Cart abandonment happens for a wide range of reasons, such as a complicated checkout or surprise costs, but thankfully, there is usually some degree of purchase intent which can be recaptured with a follow-up email, bringing shoppers back into the sales funnel.

Abandoned cart recovery is more necessary than ever for e-commerce brands, as abandoned carts cost an estimated $18 billion in lost sales per year. One recent report from Klaviyo has found cart recovery emails can help to earn back between 3% and 14% of these lost sales, offering an average revenue per recipient of $5.81. This figure represents a massive potential for savings when you consider the ease and accessibility of email automations, even for SMEs.

How do abandoned cart emails work?

Naturally, the first requirement to send an abandoned cart email is to have your target shopper’s email address. This usually happens one of two ways. In the first instance, you might have asked the user to give you their info at some point during their purchasing journey, or, the user may have already registered on your site and logged in when they were browsing.

Once you have the email address, you can set an automated rule to contact them when cart abandonment takes place. This can typically be done within your e-commerce shopping platform or through any email automation tool that you are using — we’ll talk about a couple later — allowing you to send a trigger when your user fails to complete a purchase.

This trigger will send an automated email gently reminding shoppers about their cart. The abandoned cart email usually contains information about the items customers left behind and a clickable call to action to route them straight back to the checkout page. Once they click on this link, users can retrieve their original cart without having to re-add each product individually all over again — saving them any hassle involved in resuming their purchase.

Is it legal to send abandoned cart emails?

Yes, it’s entirely legal to send abandoned cart emails, permitting that you comply with relevant data protection and electronic marketing laws. Generally speaking, abandoned cart emails are GDPR-compliant, so long as you have a legitimate legal basis for sending the email — i.e. that your users have expressed a transactional interest in your company by adding to their cart.

Abandoned cart email example

The best cart abandonment emails adhere to a number of best practices. So what should you write in an abandoned cart email?

The example you see below is particularly effective — it starts with the bold heading “Heads Up!” to grab the attention of customers sifting through their inboxes. Next, it’s accompanied by a subheading to subtly inform shoppers that they didn’t complete their purchase — and that they can do so easily as their items are still saved in their cart. It also reassures them that shipping and returns are free, one of the biggest reasons why shoppers don’t complete their purchases.

As part of the abandoned cart email, the actual items in the cart are shown, along with images to reinforce the message visually. Also, a clear call to action invites the shopper back to the website to view their cart and complete their purchase.

Kate Spade Saturday ecommerce site

10 abandoned cart email best practices

As with most forms of targeted marketing, there’s an art to crafting the perfect abandoned cart email. Here are some best practices for creating abandoned cart emails that will win you back prospective shoppers and recover lost revenue.

1. Send the first email after one hour

There is a sweet spot for timing the perfect abandoned cart email to ensure maximum efficacy. Essentially, you don’t want to send it too early or too late — or you risk losing your lead forever.

If you send the email too soon after cart abandonment, the recipient could still be in the process of completing the sale, and if anything, that might put them off finishing the transaction.

Likewise, if you leave it too late, you will probably see a drop in open rates. At later stages, people might have shopped elsewhere, forgotten your brand name and wonder why they are getting the email, or otherwise changed their mind about the purchase.

For most e-commerce businesses, the sweet spot for sending the initial reminder is one hour after the cart is abandoned. At this point, studies show that shoppers are most receptive to abandoned cart notifications and likely to follow your call to action.

Bar graph showing conversion rates by time after abandonment

2. Schedule an email sequence

While you don’t want to inundate your shopper’s inbox with emails, a sequenced approach may earn higher conversion rates than just one abandoned cart email.

This involves creating a set of automated emails to send to customers who haven't yet completed the checkout process. The ideal number of abandoned cart emails is usually three, although this will vary slightly with your industry and product.

Usually, savvy businesses will send the first email an hour after the abandonment, a follow-up one day later, and a third a couple of days after if their users did not convert. Tests can also be run to figure out the optimal timing for later emails, as well as any promotions that could be added.

Abandoned cart email sequences will help you scoop up more potential customers because they act as a reminder in the customer’s inbox. We’ve all been there, when we’re too busy or distracted to immediately action an email we receive, and a later reminder might serve as the helpful prompt to return to the purchase at a more convenient time. Plus, frequent communications keep your brand name in the back of your customer’s mind, as their first port of call once they’re ready to make the purchase.

Tip: make sure to put a stop in place to end the sequence once the customer has completed their purchase, or else you may frustrate them and damage their perception of your brand.

Email chain

3. Run split tests

Much like with standard email marketing campaigns, split tests can be useful for determining what your users respond best to — not all cart abandonment email strategies will yield identical results for every audience. Split or ‘A/B’ testing involves taking a small section of your audience and sending half of them one campaign idea and the other half an alternative idea to identify the most effective tactics for your customer base.

Split testing allows you to experiment with various components and combinations in the content of your email. You may choose to vary components such as:

  • Subject line
  • Tone of voice
  • Personalisation
  • CTA buttons
  • Promotional offers

By monitoring the open rate, click-through rate, and sales conversion rate, you can determine which components to use for certain audience segments for a positive impact on your sales figures.

A B testsing

4. Offer a discount

The first purchase is usually the hardest to secure, but it’s the all-important hurdle to earning a long-term customer.​ One effective way to entice customers back to make their purchase is to send a discount code directly to their email address, accompanied by a countdown timer to show that the promotion is only available for a limited time.

This creates a sense of urgency to encourage action and helps you to capitalise on impulse buys. For example, after you’ve sent one reminder email and the customer has failed to act, you might offer 10% off the products in their cart in your next email, valid for just a couple of hours.

Alternatively, you may provide a special delivery promotion if you don’t already offer fast and free shipping. As one of the largest causes of cart abandonment, this can help your segment of customers that back out due to shipping costs to finish their purchase.

​Tip: do not offer this discount from your very first abandoned cart email.

Kate Space ecommerce site

5. Provide social proof directly

Online shoppers have reservations about ordering from unfamiliar vendors, mostly because they can’t see or experience their products before they’ve purchased them. Instead, they rely on other buyers’ opinions.

Reports have shown that up to 99% of online shoppers read reviews before they purchase a product online, so if you’re looking to push users over the finish line to conversion, it makes sense to deliver them positive social proof first-hand. This is especially true if the wares you’re selling are particularly unusual or expensive.

You can use the real estate provided by your abandoned cart emails to showcase happy reviews from other customers, either for the specific products in their basket or for your brand as a whole.

This will help secure more sales from shoppers sitting on the fence, particularly those who have exited your webpage to source a more familiar seller that they perceive as reliable. You may see the best results if you add a video testimonial to your email, as videos have a higher conversion rate.

Additionally, consider positioning trust seals on the page and any links to your social media channels to further demonstrate your legitimacy as a brand.

Email example with discount

6. Suggest an alternative

Sometimes, shoppers abandon their carts because they aren't sure if they've found the perfect item. This often happens when an online merchant sells luxury products like designer clothes, bags, and jewellery.

And if your customers aren’t entirely sure what they want, it’s your mission as a merchant to find it for them. In this situation, you should send an abandoned cart email with some related product recommendations in the body of the email. Phrase the email with a subject heading like this: "we think you might love these".

People love getting personalised recommendations. In fact, data from Accenture shows that 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that “recognise, remember, and provide them with relevant offers and recommendations” during selling. These might be items in the same category or products purchased by other customers with similar preferences.

It's a great way to boost your sales, and the customer may even spend more money than they would have on their original abandoned cart.

7. Personalise your email copy

To get your abandoned cart emails opened, you need highly relevant, irresistible subject lines, and to drive action, you’ll need to follow these up with compelling main text sales copy.

Your subject line can be "complete your purchase." However, it's dry, cold, and unlikely to entice customers to open the email. So you should play around with different subject headings to see what works with the different segments of your audience. Ultimately, not all types of shoppers have the same needs, so they won’t respond identically to your email.

To address visitors more specifically, you should then orient the copy in your emails based on which customer segment they’re going out to. This can be achieved through list segmentation. You might choose to divide up your audience according to:

  • Shopping history
  • Order value
  • Product type
  • Location
  • Repeat or first-time customers

This way, you can target your subject lines and body text to the kind of reader you’re addressing and find which work best. Some emails do well with the "oops, you didn't complete your purchase" subject line, while others thrive with the more direct: "did you forget something?"

You can also personalise the text by using the customer’s name. For example, you might write a subject line like “[Customer name], your [product name] is waiting for you”. Personalisation in the subject line and body of the email will help your conversion rates improve.

8. Showcase your helpful policies

When we’ve previously discussed some of the leading causes of cart abandonment, we’ve spoken about the importance of good shipping and returns policies. According to data from Oberlo, free delivery is the top reason that individuals cite for shopping online. So, if you offer favourable shipping terms straight out of the gate, your cart abandonment email is a prime spot to advertise this.

Similarly, you should also look to promote your returns policy, particularly if you’re operating in a market like fashion where straightforward returns are expected of the shopping experience. Proudly displaying helpful terms such as a money-back guarantee or a 30-day returns window can encourage cart abandoners to return to your site and complete their purchase.

This is especially effective if customers weren’t privy to your policies beforehand or have gone to shop elsewhere and seen less appealing offers — so many need the reminder that your store boasts superior service in comparison to its competitors.

Signpost your policies with simple CTAs like “buy today and get free shipping” to instil confidence in your customers.

9. Optimise for mobile viewing

With a high proportion of online shoppers accessing their inboxes via mobile devices, it’s crucial that any abandoned cart emails you send out are viewable and well-optimised for mobile interaction. Today, data suggests that up to 81% of users prefer to open emails on their smartphones than their desktop computers.

A responsive, mobile-friendly design ensures that all text, imagery and CTA buttons display correctly and provide a seamless user experience. Think about it: you’ve already lost the customer’s engagement with your store, so the last thing you want to do is lose it from your follow-up cart abandonment emails.

Optimising for smaller screens will help you to retain customer attention and minimise the chances of customers abandoning the email due to difficulties in reading or interacting with the content. Ideally, you’ll want to keep long blocks of text to a minimum and create a dynamic visual hierarchy that breaks the content of your email into digestible chunks, fit for on-the-go consumption.

This way, you can ensure that there’s just as much chance of a mobile user actioning your cart abandonment email as there is a desktop user.

10. Use Simpler one-click checkout to convert more

Despite your best attempts to entice customers back to their abandoned carts, they are unlikely to complete their purchase if the checkout process is lengthy and complicated.

To make the most of your abandoned cart emails, you need to ensure that the people who come back to your website have a frictionless checkout experience. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing them again after putting all the time, effort and resources into recovering their abandoned carts.

Simpler one-click checkout cuts the checkout journey by almost 90%, taking shoppers from intent to purchase in one single click. The service removes redundant form fields and eliminates the need to remember usernames and passwords — it makes checkout 50% faster for first-time users and completes the process for returning customers in just one click.

For example, this is what the checkout journey looks like for a first-time customer:

First timer screens

And this is what it looks like for a returning customer:

Returning customers screen

Not only does the conversion rate optimisation tool help you simplify the checkout process for your customers and reduce cart abandonment, but it also helps you achieve up to a 30% higher e-commerce conversion rate than an average checkout does.

Simpler can be installed on your website within minutes and supports all major e-commerce platforms. The best part? You don't have to replace your current payment processor at all.

Stop leaving money on the table — get in touch with us and learn more about how Simpler can help your business grow.

Tools to automate your abandoned cart emails

As a business owner, it’s vital that you conserve your time and resources. Instead of sending out abandoned cart emails or responding to customer service questions, you want to focus on growing your business. Fortunately, you can save time and money with email automation. Using email marketing tools, you can create rules to trigger emails based on customer actions and personalize them accordingly.

You can automate the process of sending abandoned cart emails and personalise each email based on where the customer left off on the website. For example, in the event they leave before adding their credit card information, an automated email can be sent offering a discount to them, or if they leave after adding products to their cart, an email reminding them that they still have items in their shopping cart can be sent.

But abandoned cart emails aren’t the only automations that can provide a personalised customer experience. For example, an automated email welcoming the customer after they sign up on your website or a confirmation email after customers have completed their purchase may help to build trust in your brand. You can also send out regular newsletters to keep your shoppers engaged.

All this is possible with emails marketing tools such as:

  • Mailchimp
  • Sendinblue
  • Hubspot
  • Zoho Campaigns
  • Moosend​

Most of these are free to use, but you can choose to upgrade if it works for you and if you need additional features and functionalities.

Now that you understand how abandoned cart emails work and the best tools to get started, you can begin applying these tips on your e-commerce site. You’ll find that using several of these best practices together will significantly impact your conversion rate.

Of course, one step that will help you make an instant improvement to your abandonment rates is to start using Simpler Checkout.

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