8 of the Best Abandoned Cart Subject Lines (+Free Swipe File)
Updated: Oct 13, 2020
As an eCommerce store owner, you know how annoying abandoned carts can be.
At the same time, you also know that a well-crafted abandoned cart email is a great way to re-capture lost revenue.
But here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter how awesome your emails are; if your abandoned cart subject lines stink, your potential customer won’t open them.
This post will run through 8 of the most effective abandonment email subject lines and study how big brands are using them to recapture lost revenue.
By the end, you’ll have the inspiration and know-how needed to boost your open rates, drive customers back to your store, and beef up your bottom line.
Plus, you'll also get a free swipe file with 50+ proven subject lines to steal for your next campaign.
Sounds good? Let’s jump in!
4 Quick Rules for Fool-Proof Abandoned Cart Subject Lines
Before we go full-speed into the examples, let's lay a few basic ground rules that apply no matter what type of you're writing.
1. Keep your subject lines below 80 characters
Marketo conducted a study and found that the email subject lines with the highest open rates were composed of 7 words or less. Shorter messages work better because, on many devices, the number of characters displayed is limited. A good rule of thumb is to keep your subject line below 80 characters. Use a tool like TestSubject to preview how your subject lines will appear on different devices.
2. Read like a spam bot
Loading subject lines with CAPS, dollar signs, and exclamation marks is a one-way ticket to spam-folder city. So, ensure you deploy just one exclamation mark or question mark, and never use both in the same subject line. For optimal deliverability, edit out anything that sounds shady, sleazy, or overly-manipulative.
3. Include just one message per subject line
Attempting to cram too much into a subject line will confuse readers and dilute your pitch. It's better to focus on the most compelling part of your offer and build your subject line around that alone.
4. Test, Test, Test
Without opens, the rest of your campaign is useless. Don't make assumptions about what works and what doesn’t. Instead, put your browse abandonment subject lines to the test and let the numbers do the talking. Try experimenting with like:
Longer vs. shorter subject lines
Exclamations vs questions
Using emojis vs no emojis 😇
Offering a discount vs communicating urgency
Changing up the word order
Clear messaging vs using intrigue
8 Best Abandoned Cart Subject Lines to Try
With the ground rules in place, let's dive into the good stuff. Here are the 8 best abandoned cart email subject lines you can use to recapture buckets of revenue.
1. The Direct Subject Line
You can go crazy trying to craft the perfect abandoned cart subject line. But the thing is, the most effective subject lines are often the simplest.
When your message is easy to understand and quick to read, people will be less likely to skip over it. The best way to create a direct headline is by using either :
A statement (e.g. You forgot this!)
A question (e.g. Did something go wrong?)
For example, check out how Nemo Equipment’s abandoned cart email uses this simple headline to lure prospective customers back to their store:
Notice how it abides by all ground rules; it doesn't try to oversell; it’s not aggressive or shouty; it's not overly long.
Remember, you’ll have plenty of space to expand on your copy in your abandoned cart email’s body. So save your more sales-focused copy for there.
More direct subject line examples:
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.
2. The Scarcity Subject Line
As Robert Cialdini points out in his book Influence, we’re more worried about missing out than we are excited about gaining something new.
For example, in 2003 when British Airways announced that they were rolling back the twice-daily London to New York Concorde flight because it was no longer profitable, sales rocketed the very next day.
Why? People didn't want to miss the chance to fly at supersonic speeds.
In the same way, using scarcity in your subject lines can be a powerful motivator to click. You can make your recipient feel like they're about to miss an opportunity with phrases like:
About to expire!
Don’t miss out!
Selling out fast!
For example, check out how fashion retailer Esther & Co use urgency in their abandoned cart subject line:
The strategic use of the alarm clock emoji drives home the point. Plus, it adds visual interest which differentiates the email from others in the inbox.
The body copy then adds to the scarcity with the phrase 'buy it before someone else does...'
The key takeaway? Often it's not enough to tell people what they'll gain by claiming their cart. You also need to point out what they stand to lose by not taking action.
More scarcity-driven subject lines:
Huckberry: Just a couple left
MAC Cosmetics: View your cart now before it expires
Rhone: Last chance to recover your cart
Rudy’s: Don’t let free shipping go to waste
Gingham & Heels: Hurry! Don't miss out! Take 10% off...
3. The 'Sunk Cost' Subject Line
To go back to the Concorde project - we already mentioned that it was economically unviable.
But the strange thing was the French and British governments continued to fund the program for many years.
Why? Because they'd spent so much money on the project that they found it nearly impossible to quit. Giving up would have been an admission of failure.
Similarly, when customers have put time and energy into browsing, adding items to their cart, and entering details at checkout, there's a psychological investment that makes it hard to just let go.
Doing so means the work they've put in amounts to nothing.
You can tap into this 'sunk cost' fallacy when writing your subject line. One excellent example comes from running gear supplier Tracksmith:
Similar to the scarcity examples above, Tracksmith's email subject line hints that recipients are about to lose something. Opening the email readers are met with the headline 'Don't DNF' - an acronym in competitive running that means 'Did Not Finish' - something none of their customers want to do.
So, by reminding your customers how far they've come, you can create a sense that their efforts are going to waste. The result? They'll be less likely to give up and more likely to complete their purchase.
More 'sunk cost' email subject lines:
Abercrombie & Fitch: You're *SO* close
Untuckit: Your Order is Packed & Ready for shipment!
Tattly: Don't give up now
3. The Personalized Subject Line
Dale Carnegie, author of How To Win Friends and Influence People, said that “a person’s name is the sweetest sound in any language for that person.”
And according to Campaign monitor, the idea holds true for email inboxes too - personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened.
Here’s an excellent personalization example from kids clothing retailer Rockets of Awesome:
Notice how they lead with the name of the recipient first, to make sure that it grabs their attention, no matter how crowded their inbox is.
The great thing about personalizing emails is that you can combine with just about any other subject line on this list to add more power to it.
For example, by combining scarcity + personalization, you can come up with lines like
[Name], the items in your cart are selling fast.
[Name], choose or lose - your cart is about to disappear.
[Name], you’ve got 3 hours left to claim your cart.
More personalized email subject lines:
Rebecca Atwood: Hey [Name], you left something over at Rebecca Atwood!
Solid & Striped: Hi [Name], it looks like you left something in your cart.
Chubbies: Howdy [Name].
4. The Incentivized Subject Line
Sometimes people need a reason to return to their cart. Offering an incentive can be an excellent strategy to convince them it’s worthwhile.
However, you have to be careful using an incentive. For example, offering too big of a discount, or offering one too early in abandoned cart email flow can result in you giving away an unnecessarily large chunk of your revenue.
It’s about finding that sweet spot between offering a discount that’s enticing enough while still earning you good money.
Blenders Eyewear makes their offer clear in their abandoned cart email subject line:
The headline speaks directly to the reader, while the preview text is heavily laced with scarcity and urgency to drive the reader to take action now or risk missing out.
You can offer readers a percentage discount like Blenders, or a straight cash discount - e.g., $30 Off.
If you don’t fancy offering readers a discount on product price, you can think about offering them free shipping or a bonus gift instead.
Whatever you choose, offering some sort of incentive is a time-tested tactic worth experimenting with, particularly when deployed in your 2nd or 3rd recovery email.
More incentive focused cart subject lines:
Marysia: Your vacation look - 10% off.
Mishka NYC: Last chance to get 15% off your entire order!
Old Navy: The item(s) in your cart just went on sale!
Framebridge: Don’t miss 10% off your entire cart.
Mollusk: Can We Sweeten the Deal?
5. The Flattering Subject Line
Everyone loves a good compliment. Sure they’re better from people we care about, but it’s still nice to get a confidence boost from any source - even your email inbox.
To paraphrase psychologist Robert Cialdini again, we are phenomenal suckers for flattery - so much so that we've got a part of our brain tends to believe praise - even when it’s blatantly false.
Now, we’re not suggesting you lie to your audience and shower them in endless compliments. But you can strategically use flattery to entice your audience to open your emails (and hopefully check out too).
Fashion Retailer MM La Fleur uses a smart abandoned cart email that appeals to their female audience.
It’s not an over the top-compliment, but it’s charming enough to convince many of their browsers to open their email to reconsider their purchase.
The flattery continues in the email - “We knew you had great taste.” Then, they cleverly address concerns the reader may have around the fit of the clothes by saying, “Shipping is free both ways - why not give the pieces a try?”.
Overcoming objections like this is a classy tactic that you can work into your abandoned cart emails too.
More flattery focused subject lines:
Herman Miller: You’ve Got an Eye for Design
Aurate: [First Name], That Was a Really Cool Piece
Out of Print: Your cart MADE us send this reminder :)
Dish: We Like Your Style
Arnhem: You’ve Got Great Taste!
6. The Funny Subject Line
Many companies are using humor in their marketing messages these days, and with good reason: it works.
Funny ideas are scientifically proven to be easier to remember. Plus, just like personalization, a giggle-inducing subject line can help you stand out from other branded emails in your subscriber’s inbox.
For example, check out how fishing and tackle supplier AFTCO deploy this subject-line pun any dad-joke enthusiast would be proud of:
The key here is to use humor that aligns with your brand’s image. A creative short pun related to your product can be an endearing nudge that encourages readers to click.
Humour isn’t for every brand, though. It needs to fit with the overall vibe of your store’s personality. However, when used at the right time, for the right audience, it can undoubtedly get more people opening your emails.
More Humour Based Subject Lines:
Timberland: Owner of a Lonely Cart
Whiskey Loot: Your Cart is Sobering up
Hollister: You’ve got this one in the bag (literally)
Rumple (Blankets): Cold feet? We've got just the thing
Paravel (Travel bags): Don’t leave your baggage unattended
7. The Tease Subject Line
You only need to hang around with a five-year-old for a few minutes to realize that humans are intensely curious creatures.
If you can create subject lines that entice readers with a hint but don’t give away the whole story, your subscribers will find it hard not to click.
Premium luggage supplier Zero Halliburton leads with the line ‘Your Mission Awaits.’
The line is unlike 99% of other abandonment subject lines that people are used to - and that’s precisely why it works so well. The reader is immediately intrigued.
They're thinking: "A mission? For me? I wonder what I have to do!"
When they click the subject line, they’re assigned their mission - "don’t leave your cart behind..."
The email achieves its goal by piquing the recipient's interest and then functioning as a simple reminder to finish what they started. We say it’s mission complete!
More Great Curiosity Based Subject Lines:
AYR: Just looking out for you :)
MVMT: Still thinking it over?
Undies: You dropped these…
Bobbi Brown: You know you want these
Bliss: Liked It? (We Had A Hunch)
Pinrose (perfume): I noticed you noticing me…
Go Forth & Recover Carts!
Writing abandoned cart subject lines can be tricky.
But with a little creativity and effort, there’s no reason you can’t craft subject lines that’ll stand head and shoulders above the rest.
Hopefully, the tips and examples shared here have made the process a little easier.
If you're still struggling to come up with a killer subject line, don't worry. Because in truth, there's no such thing as a perfect subject line anyway.
So, just pick a subject line you like, customize it to your audience, test it, and then tweak it until you get the results you're looking for.
Need More Inspiration? Get Your Free Swipe File Here! 👇
Save this handy Google doc for the next time you need some subject-line inspiration. Just open it, click make a copy and it’s yours!
And that's a wrap! Seen any great subject lines lately? Or were there any tips we forgot to mention? Leave them in the comments below. We'd love to hear from you!