How To Write Super-Effective Abandoned Cart Emails
Updated: Oct 13
As an eCommerce entrepreneur, abandoned carts can be a real thorn in your side.
The latest data shows around 70-80% of shoppers abandon their carts before completing their purchase.
And while many shoppers won’t ever return, a well-crafted abandoned cart email has the power to drive up to 10% of customers back to make a purchase.
That makes cart abandonment emails one of the most effective eCommerce emails you can send.
In this post, we’ll cover ten actionable steps that’ll super-charge your abandoned cart email efforts.
Ready to get started? Let’s get to it.
10 Steps to Brilliant Abandoned Cart Emails🛒
1. Craft An Irresistible Subject Line
If you have an email address, you know how many promotional emails barge their way into your inbox each day. And most of them? They’re about as welcome as a skunk at a garden party.
But with 46% of people opening emails based on the subject line alone, crafting one that grabs attention is still uber important.
Many new eCommerce folks go wrong by approaching subject lines with all-guns-blazing, MEGA discounts, FREE Everything, and more exclamation marks than a safety demonstration at a nuclear reactor.
But the thing is, emails with those kinds of subject lines don’t get opened. Instead, they end up serving a life sentence in your recipient’s spam folder.
The solution? Keep things simple. Direct abandoned cart subject lines outperform their more elaborate counterparts almost every time.
For example, look at women’s fashion retailer Leota uses a simple ‘Your cart is waiting for you’ to drive shoppers back to checkout.
Leota is following a couple of hard and fast rules here that make their subject line so useful:
It’s below 80 characters for maximum readability across all devices.
It’s not shouty, shady, aggressive, or pushy (like many promo emails)
It includes just one marketing message (a reminder, not multiple offers)
It’s an incredibly simple
Of course, it’s ok to jazz up your subject lines more than Leota. Emojis, a splash of humor and a dash of intrigue, flattery, or urgency, can work well too when they’re on-brand.
But if in doubt, err on the side of simplicity for maximum open rates.
Need some inspo? Here’s a few direct subject lines we've seen from big brands:
J.Crew: Ooops, you forgot something.
BlueMercury: Missing Something?
The Boeing Store: You left something behind…
Jack Irwin: Hey. You left without your shoes…
Alternative: Your cart is calling.
The Home T: Did you forget this?
Crate & Barrel: We saved this for you.
👉 Suggested Reading: 8 of the Best Abandoned Cart Subject Lines (+Free Swipe File)
2. Add a Low-Friction CTA
A call-to-action (CTA) is a button or link designed to prompt a response from your reader. You’ve probably seen CTAs like:
But using such CTAs in your abandoned cart emails might harm your click through rates.
Why? Because they’re asking for a lot upfront. If your customers aren’t ready to buy, using such strong language creates a psychological hurdle that may put them off.
To illustrate, consider Jonothan Freedman and Scott Fraser, two researchers who conducted an experiment to figure out ways to influence people to do things they wouldn’t normally do.
Going door to door in small neighborhoods, the scientists asked people to put large signs outside their homes that said ‘Drive Carefully.’
Needless to say, only 20% of people agreed to the researcher’s requests. But when Freedman and Fraser asked residents to put up a smaller three-inch sign, a whopping 76% of residents said they’d comply.
Why does this matter? Well, the same principle of a low-friction request applies in your emails. For example, look at the following email from Mollusk and notice the small commitment they ask for:
Doesn’t the gentleness of ‘View Cart’ sound a lot less intimidating than ‘Buy Now’?
So, instead of using CTAs with commitment-heavy words like ‘Shop’ and ‘Buy’ opt for less demanding requests such as:
Return to Your Cart
You’ll find that just like Freedman and Fraser’s signs, more people will comply with your small request. And when they do that, they’ll be more likely to say yes to the big request too.
3. Leverage Social Proof
Have you ever asked your friend’s opinion when looking for a new restaurant to try, a movie to watch, or a place to go on vacation?
As humans, we place an immense amount of value in other’s opinions. Oddly enough, 78% of us trust online reviews from total strangers as much as personal recommendations.
That means you can use social validation to influence your customer’s purchasing decisions. For example, check out how Luna Sandals put their customer reviews at the heart of their abandoned cart email.
The reviews are from real customers, the ‘I have been waiting to pull the trigger’ line instantly resonates with cart abandoners.
But the best thing is that the reviews also subtly address the shopper’s reservations about purchasing - after reading, readers know the sandals feel excellent, ship fast, and can take their running to the next level.
Using reviews that are relatable and informative is a great way to major profound psychological influence that’ll nudge readers to return to their carts.
4. Get Personal
According to Instapage, personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates than generic emails.
An abandoned cart email is already a kind of personalized email.
But there’s nothing to stop you from stepping it up by including your customer’s name and the items they abandoned.
For example, look at how furniture retailer Brentwood Home does this:
To implement this tactic, use merge tags to add personalized elements to the subject line and throughout the body copy of your email.
Keeping with the personal theme, remember the copy in your email should also be casual. For example, auto parts retailer FCP Euro send an email with copy that feels like you’re chatting to a friend:
The takeaway? Your customers are more likely to open and click on personalized emails. Include their name, the items they were looking at, and casual copy to stand out from other sales-based emails in their inbox.
5. Include Product Images
Sending a relevant product image in your email reminds customers what they’re missing.
After all, if customers are busy they may simply forget what they abandoned. Images make their cart instantly recognizable.
If possible, try to make your image large and attractive.
Remember, you’ve already seduced your readers enough to make them add your product to their cart.
That means there’s a high chance a second look will convince them to trust their initial instincts.
6. Entice With Additional Products
Have you ever gone to the grocery store to pick up milk and bread only to come out with $45 in items you didn’t think you needed?
The same idea applies to your abandoned cart emails. Your recipients are highly qualified shoppers. Meaning they’ve shown enough interest in your products to almost complete a purchase.
Offering them additional related products is a great way to help return a missed sales opportunity and pump-up your average order value.
For example, indoor plant store 'The Sill' cleverly adds similar products to their abandoned cart email.
The placement here is important - adding related products further down in your email means you won’t steal attention away from the item your customer abandoned.
To implement this in your emails, here’s four approaches to experiment with:
Offer the same product but a different variant (patterns, colors, etc.)
Upsell more expensive products related to their abandoned product
Cross-sell products that compliment the original product (like plants for a planter)
Downsell a cheaper alternative to bring back price-sensitive shoppers
👉Suggested Reading: The Complete Guide for Upselling on Your eCommerce Store
7. Give Customers Support Options
There are buckets of reasons why customers don’t checkout.
And unless you’ve got piles money to carry out serious research, it’s hard to address all your customer objections.
But what you can do instead is include customer support options so that readers can get help with concerns that are getting in the way of their purchase.
Maybe they’re not sure if their order will arrive on time. Perhaps they want to know if they can pause their subscription. Whatever is on their mind, giving them a direct line via phone, live chat, or live email inbox will help put their worries to bed.
Brooklinen incorporates several customer service options at the end of their email (check out the super social proof too!)
Customer service options aside, brooklinen’s abandoned cart email is a lesson in simplicity. They use a clean design, a large product image, direct copy, a low-commitment CTA, social proof and another super-charged trick we’ll talk about now: an incentive.
Certainly one for your swipe file.
8. Offer an Enticing Incentive (at the right time)
Customers abandon their shopping carts for all sorts of reasons. But chief among them is getting slapped with unexpected costs.
It could be shipping fees or taxes that brought their total too high, or perhaps they didn’t expect your products to be as expensive as they are.
But when they proceeded to payment and glanced at the total, they remembered that rent is due next month and swiftly closed their laptop.
That’s where offering an incentive comes in. A percentage off, cash discount, or free shipping can help win-back customers who didn’t fancy dropping the full amount.
For example, check out how kids clothing company 'tea' offers a 10% discount to lure customers back to checkout:
But while incentives are powerful, you also need to be careful using them. There are two main risks associated with them:
When overused, incentives can devalue your product and cheapen your brand.
When deployed too early, they cost revenue that you may have otherwise captured.
To make sure that you get the most from your incentives here’s three best practices to follow:
Try other psychological triggers first: showcase great reviews, emphasize product benefits, communicate your money-back guarantees, and highlight your easy returns.
Start small: Not everyone needs 40% to convince them to buy. Test a conservative incentive first to avoid giving away too much of your revenue. If nobody is biting, you can always beef it up later.
Keep discounts in the chamber: If you’re sending more than one abandoned cart email (more on that in a minute), send incentives in the last email in the sequence. That way, you avoid handing them to customers who’d buy without them.
9. Use Scarcity & Urgency
Side story alert: In 1975 researcher Stephen Worchel offered subjects two separate jars of cookies to taste. One jar had ten cookies, and the other had just two.
Which did subjects prefer? Despite both jars containing identical cookies, the jar with only two cookies tasted better nearly every time.
Worchel’s study illustrates the powerful psychological effect that scarcity has on us. We’re drawn to rare things, and we hate missing out on them.
Leverage this quirk in your abandoned cart emails by alerting potential customers that they may lose something if they don’t take action now (There’s only two cookies left in your jar).
Here’s an excellent example of a brand doing just that - clothing store 525 America:
They let their customers know that they’re taking a risk by not completing their purchase. Then, emphasize that customers might miss out on the items they’ve added to cart because they’re flying out the door.
You can create a similar sense of urgency by reminding customers that:
Their items are selling out fast
Their free shipping or discount is about to expire
Their item won’t be restocked
Many other people are interested in their order
Their cart will only be held for a little while longer
But there’s one caveat: for scarcity to work: it needs to be true.
You might get away lying to your customers for a little while, but sooner or later, they’ll figure out that you’re trying to trick them and take their custom elsewhere.
10. Optimize For Mobile Devices
Nowadays, about 60% of all emails are opened on a mobile device. So if your cart recovery email isn’t smartphone friendly, it’s going to end up in your recipient’s trash folder.
Here’s some general tips for creating mobile optimized emails:
Keep copy short: Dense passages of copy aren’t easy on the eye for mobile users. Write brief sentences and leave plenty of breathing room between paragraphs.
Think about images: Not all mobile devices will show images by default; make sure your email makes sense in their absence.
Use preheader text: Preheader text gets overlooked. It’s the first line of text that’ll be visible in your recipient’s inbox. Write it to support your compelling subject line.
Leave room to click: Things on mobile can get crowded, especially if you’ve got big hands. Make it easy for your readers to tap your CTA by leaving plenty of space around it.
Here’s an excellent mobile-friendly abandoned cart email from Dollar Shave Club:
Brief copy? Check. Breathing room? Check. Makes sense without images? Check. Space to click? Check.
One last tip: before setting up your abandoned cart automation, make sure you test it across multiple devices - your mobile phone, your tablet, and your desktop to ensure it looks great no matter where your customers open it.
Putting it Together With an Abandoned Cart Email Sequence
So far we’ve covered a lot. You’re probably wondering: ‘how on earth am I going to fit all this into a single abandoned cart email?’
Well, fear not. That’s where an abandoned cart email sequence comes in.
Using a three email abandoned cart sequence gives you more space to address several customer objections while also creating the room to implement the previous ten tactics.
All in all sending three emails will give you a better shot at winning more customers back.
Here’s a simple three email flow you can use to recapture maximum revenue:
Email #1 - 60 minutes after cart abandonment
The goal of this email is to act as a simple reminder for customers.
There’s no need to include any offers or discounts; we’ll have time for that later. For now, just pair things back with:
A simple reminder (Hey, you left some items in your cart)
An image of the abandoned product
One low-commitment call-to-action (Take me back to my cart)
Contact details for customer support (in case anything went wrong)
HydroFlask ticks all the boxes when it comes to how to create a fantastic intial recovery email:
Email #2 - 24 hours after cart abandonment
A full day after abandoning a cart, our red hot prospective customers start to cool off a little.
That’s where email two comes in. In this email, we want to include some subtle sales triggers to reignite our shoppers’ interest and remove any reservations they may have.
In this email, you could include customer testimonials, add social proof, and emphasize any benefits you offer, such as express shipping, money-back guarantees, or easy returns.
Here’s a perfect example of a second abandoned cart email from supplement company PowerOn PowerOff:
The powerful customer testimonials, a free downloadable resource, plus a 90-day risk-free guarantee nearly make it much hard for customers not to finish their purchase.
Email #3 - 3 to 4 days after abandonment
If your customer has managed to resist your mighty powers of persuasion until now, it’s time to kick things up a notch.
Now's the time to fire those last two bullets from the chamber: scarcity and tempting discounts.
For the people who haven’t yet converted, a time-limited 15% discount might just be enough to send them over the edge.
Here’s a superb example of a final email from Brooklinen reminding customers their discount is about to vanish.
You could try sending a fourth email, but chances are if customers haven’t converted after three emails, your future attempts will only annoy them.
Instead, add them to your regular email list. There you can send periodic updates from your blog, newsletters, and promos about upcoming sales
(Pssst...You can do this in our app Carti without the need for additional software 🛒🔥)
There’s quite a bit that goes into a quality abandoned cart email. Getting the right blend of elements is a challenge every eCommerce store owner needs to meet.
Many eCommerce sites are leaving money on the table because they don’t give their abandoned cart emails the attention they deserve.
Hopefully, the practices and examples outlined here bring you closer to creating and sending cart abandonment emails that generate serious revenue for your business.
Go forth and recapture carts as if your business depends on it!
Does your business send cart abandonment emails? What’s been your experience with them? Do you have any tips to share? We'd love to hear from you in the comments below.