Online shopping is big business, representing around one in five retail purchases in the U.S. and totaling over $204 billion in Q3 2021 alone. While ecommerce continues to grow, abandoned carts present a significant challenge for businesses.
According to a meta-analysis by Baymard Institute, the average online shopping cart abandonment rate is around 70%. In other words, someone who is shopping and adding items to their cart on your site is far more likely to leave than complete the purchase.
The good news is that even if someone leaves your online store during the checkout process, you can still re-engage them with an abandoned cart email campaign.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the reasons people abandon their online shopping cart, abandoned cart email best practices and some templates you can use in your next campaign.
Table of contents
What is an abandoned cart email?
Abandoned cart emails are sent to potential customers when they leave the website with items still in their shopping cart. It aims to encourage the visitor to return and complete their purchase.
Before sending an abandonment email, you must be able to identify who that shopper is and link their identity with their email address. This is straightforward if they’re already a registered customer and logged in when adding items to their basket.
Some companies require customers to submit their email address as the first step in the checkout process. However, this step may add friction and lower your conversion rate, inadvertently leading to more abandoned shopping carts (as we’ll see later).
In many cases, an ideal solution is to offer customers the option of creating an account (informing them of all the benefits that go along with it) or using a guest checkout.
Without a customer’s email address, you cannot send an abandoned shopping cart email. While you could use retargeting ads to remind potential customers about the items, an email can create a strong impact that’s hard to ignore (and with the rise in ad-blockers, email may be more likely to reach your customer).
Scoop up potential customers when they abandon carts, emailing them to remind them you’re still there or entice them with an offer.
Why do shoppers abandon their cart?
Before you can create an effective abandoned cart email strategy, you need to know why the customer abandoned their purchase in the first place. This lets you offer them a compelling reason to head back in and complete the sale.
There are plenty of potential reasons why a customer may back out of a purchase at the last moment, but some are more common than others.
In 2021, extra costs (such as shipping and taxes) being too high was the biggest reason for abandoning a cart, responsible for almost half of all abandoned carts in the United States.
Other common reasons include:
Being required to create an account (24%)
Slow delivery times (19%)
Long/complicated checkout processes (18%)
Not trusting the site with credit card information (17%)
Inability to see/calculate total order cost up-front (17%)
Ultimately, these lost sales come down to friction. If the customer perceives too much risk or it takes too much effort, prospects won’t continue with the purchase. By dealing with these issues proactively, you won’t need to send as many cart abandonment emails in the first place.
For example, being transparent on the product page about delivery times and shipping costs (or offering free shipping) means shoppers won’t be surprised when they get to the checkout. Offering the ability to continue with a guest account (as seen above) and streamlining the checkout experience makes it easier for people to complete their purchases.
Reassuring customers that their payment details are secure with “trust badges”, HTTPS locks that signal connection encryption or allowing them to checkout using a trusted third party (such as PayPal or Amazon Pay) means shoppers will feel more comfortable making a purchase.
We also need to take into account online shopping behaviors. People who are physically present in a store are more likely to be focused exclusively on the shopping experience, but that’s not always the case with online shoppers.
Mobile devices now account for 54% of all web traffic. The people visiting your ecommerce business may at the same time be cooking, watching TV, chatting with friends or dealing with other distractions that could lure them away from the checkout.
While doing your best to improve the shopping experience can help keep your visitors’ attention, abandoned cart emails are your opportunity to re-engage those customers who have been distracted.
Setting up your abandoned cart emails
While you theoretically could send abandoned cart emails manually, it’s much easier to automate the emails, either directly through your ecommerce platform or your marketing automation platform (MAP).
For example, if you’re using Shopify, head to your Shopify Admin dashboard, open the “Orders” page, then click “Abandoned Checkouts”. You’ll then be able to view payment events, manually send customers a link to their abandoned basket, set up automatic emails and view reports on the effectiveness of those emails.
If you’re using WooCommerce, then you’ll need to use the “Follow-Ups premium extension”. Once you’ve used that to create a new email, you can then set it to send when a customer has added an item to the cart but not completed the purchase.
Alternatively, you can use email marketing software. First, you’ll need to connect your store to your email platform so they can share information. This typically requires an API key or some other kind of integration. For example, with Mailigen’s ecommerce API, you can connect to your store and automate an abandoned cart email sequence. You could also use a third-party integration solution such as Zapier to connect the two.
Once you’ve sorted out the technical side of how you’re going to send those emails, here are some of the additional details you’ll need to consider.
How long should you wait before sending your email?
Too soon and prospects could find themselves overwhelmed when shopping on your website. In addition, you may be emailing people who were going to return and complete the purchase anyway, making a cart abandonment email pointless and confusing.
However, if you wait too long, then your email may no longer be relevant. The customer may have completely forgotten about the item, leaving them wondering why they’re getting emails about a product that they’re no longer interested in. Alternatively, they may have already found a similar product elsewhere.
According to one study, the best time to send an abandoned cart email is one hour after abandonment. Sending it any sooner wasn’t as effective, while results dropped sharply after 24 hours. To find out the best time for your business, we recommend A/B testing (more on that later).
How many emails should you send? Is one enough, or should you create an abandoned cart email sequence?
As with most sales emails, following up multiple times produces the best results. While one email can easily be lost in a crowded inbox, multiple emails increase the chance that your message will be seen.
Sending more than one email also allows you to try out different approaches. You might send a three-email sequence using a mix of tactics like:
Email 1. Asking if there were any issues completing the sale.
Email 2. Let them know if a sale is ending soon, there is limited stock of the item, etc.
Email 3. Offer an incentive like free shipping or a discount code.
This doesn’t mean you should continue sending emails until the customer makes a purchase. Too many emails and you can easily cross the line from helpful reminders to an annoyance, potentially damaging the customer relationship along with chances of them purchasing ever again.
For this reason, many sites with an abandoned cart sequence keep it at around two to four emails.
The first time a customer leaves products in their cart isn’t the only way to trigger an abandoned shopping cart email. For example, you might choose to only email first-time customers who’ve visited your site repeatedly before abandoning their cart.
You might also decide to only send messages for particular categories or high-value items (or at least use a different sequence depending on product category or value).
Whatever aspect of cart recovery emails you’re working on, it’s important to remember there are no concrete answers. Your business and your customers are unique, so you’re unlikely to discover a one-size-fits-all abandoned cart email sequence.
When Pro:Direct Soccer US carried out A/B testing on their email timing, they found that those who received their emails after just 30 minutes saw a 19% uplift in conversions (compared to 45 minutes or 1 hour and 30 minutes).
Rather than relying solely on others’ experiences, plan to test and optimize every aspect of the email, including the messaging.
Specific messaging strategies, examples and templates
One of the most important components of any email is the content itself. What should you say in an abandoned cart email? Is it better to simply list what’s been left in the customer’s cart? Is a more personalized email appropriate?
As you plan out your abandoned cart email sequence, consider implementing the following tips. For each strategy, we’ve included some of the best abandoned cart email examples, as well as an abandoned cart email template based on their email.
Grab attention with your subject line
The subject line is a key part of any sales email, helping your message stand out in a crowded inbox. One way to increase your open rate is to use a subject line that raises their curiosity. For example, this abandoned cart email from Adidas uses the subject line “Sorry to hear about your wi-fi”.
An intriguing subject line like this can work well depending on your brand’s tone of voice. In many cases, it’s best to go for clarity, especially if it’s the first email in the sequence.
You don’t want the subject line to confuse the recipient, or make them feel like they’ve been tricked into opening the email. A simple subject line such as “You left this in your basket” can also be effective.
If possible, try personalizing the abandoned cart email subject line with the customer’s name and the product they were looking at, such as: “Daniel, that new surfboard is still in your basket.”
Template 1 (ideal for highly visual products with good reviews)
Subject: Everything cool, [first name]?
You OK there, [first name]?
It’s just that you were looking at [product], even added it to your basket, then all of a sudden you disappeared in a puff of smoke! Maybe your internet is acting up?
Anyway, I wanted to let you know that [product] is still in your basket (phew)!
Still thinking it over? Here’s what some of our other customers had to say about [product].
[Product image 1] [Review 1]
[Product image 2] [Review 2]
[Product image 3] [Review 3]
[Check out now]
While you can keep your abandoned email strictly to the facts, a conversational approach makes it more likely that recipients will engage with the email.
How conversational you are will depend on your brand. While hip and trendy companies may send chatty emails filled with humor and pop culture references, those same emails would sound strange if sent by a more traditional brand. However, regardless of what you’re selling, your abandoned cart emails should be helpful and compelling.
For example, this email from Headspace uses a conversational tone, acknowledges that the recipient may have got distracted in a humorous way, and lets them know where they can get further help if they need it.
Template 2 (ideal for SaaS and other subscription services)
Subject: Questions about [service]?
Hey [first name],
I noticed you didn’t finish signing up for your [service]. If you changed your mind, no problem (happens to me all the time).
Still thinking about signing up but not sure if [service] is right for you? I’m happy to personally answer any questions you have. Just reply to this email and I’ll get straight back to you.
[Continue to checkout]
Learn more about [service]
When you get the balance right, this will result in emails that sound more human.
Rather than telling the customer that they left something behind in your first email, acknowledge that they could simply have changed their minds. Let them know that it’s totally fine if that’s the case and that they can opt out of any further emails if they wish.
Then, assuming they haven’t opted out, start a conversation to find out why they abandoned their cart and what you can do to help. This helps to weed out those who genuinely aren’t interested while building a relationship with those who are.
Address any potential concerns
Remember, there are lots of reasons customers may have abandoned their cart. Reminding them about the items without addressing the reasons they abandoned the cart in the first place might not result in a completed purchase.
Instead, use your email to directly address the most common concerns and reassure them that they can proceed with confidence. Nomad does a great job of this with their email, with their “Afraid to Make the Leap?” section highlighting their returns policy and two-year warranty.
Template 3 (ideal where prospects may have concerns about purchasing)
Subject: [Product] is selling out quickHey [first name], you’re one step away from being the proud owner of your very own [product]?
We saved your basket, so all you have to do is hit the checkout button
Having second thoughts?
Rest assured all [company] products are covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’re not completely overjoyed with [product] for any reason whatsoever, just let us know and we’ll arrange a full refund, no questions asked. You also get a 12-month warranty as standard, so if anything goes wrong in the first year we’ll replace your [product] within 48 hours.
[Take me to the checkout]
Similarly, you can use social proof in the form of reviews, awards and testimonials to reassure prospective customers that they’re in good hands. This is also a good opportunity to highlight what makes you different from your competitors.
Many abandoned cart emails, such as this one from Alex Mill, offer shoppers some kind of incentive to complete the purchase.
Template 4 (ideal for offering a discount)Subject: Get [product] with 10% off
What do you want first, [first name], the good news or the better news?
We saved the items in your cart, including [product].
[Main product image]
The better news is we’re also throwing in an exclusive 10% discount, just for you!
But hurry! The code is only valid for 24 hours, then it’s gone for good.
[Buy now with 10% off]
Offering some kind of discount is a popular choice. You could also offer a coupon for free shipping, especially if unexpected shipping costs may have caused the shopper to abandon their cart in the first place.
If you’re too liberal with your discounts, you may be inadvertently incentivizing customers to abandon their carts. If customers discover that they get a nice discount every time they leave items in their shopping cart, then they may do so every time to trigger the abandonment cart email. In this case, using LNER’s approach may work best, where they remind the reader of three reasons they should continue with their purchase.
Template 5 (ideal for reassuring customers)
Subject: [First name], you’re going to love [product]
Still thinking about [product]?
We’ve saved your basket for you, but we can’t guarantee how long we’ll be able to hold that price. [Product] is one of our more popular items and is selling out fast, so now’s the best time to go ahead and treat yourself.
[Buy product now]
3 reasons to buy now:
[Reason 1] [Find out more]
[Reason 2] [Find out more]
[Reason 3] [Find out more]
If there’s no sense of urgency, it becomes easy to put off making a purchase. Use your email to appeal to their fear of missing out (FOMO). Act in your customers’ best interests by reminding them that these items won’t be available forever and it’s better to buy now, rather than risk the items running out or going up in price.
Your email could let customers know when promotions are available on products they’ve previously added to their cart or otherwise shown an interest in. Columbia does this well, highlighting limited time offers (while also engaging the reader’s curiosity by hiding the new price).
Template 6 (ideal for promotions on abandoned products)
Subject: Price drop on [product]
The [company] sale is now on, which means you can now pick up that [product] you were looking at for even less.
[Product name and description]
[Old price][New price]
This is the lowest price you’ll see [product] for this year, guaranteed. The sale ends next week. Buy now while stocks last.
[See the deals]
Optimize for mobile
As more people use their phones for both shopping and checking their email, it’s imperative that any abandoned cart email looks great on mobile devices. Small steps, such as keeping the copy brief, optimizing images and using clear buttons for your call to action (CTA) can make a big difference in how mobile users respond to your email.
This example from Cole Haan keeps the text to the bare minimum, creating a message that’s easy to scroll through on your phone.
Template 7 (ideal for mobile)
Subject: Oooh, good choice!
Still interested in [product]?
Snap it up while you can
Alternatively, you may decide to skip the email entirely and instead send an abandoned cart text. While you might not be able to use striking product images or fancy formatting, this can still be an effective way of grabbing attention through a less crowded channel.
While online retailers grow in popularity, cart abandonment is a significant problem for ecommerce stores, leading to missed opportunities and lost sales. By using abandoned cart reminders, you can increase the chances that the shopper will come back and complete their purchase.
An abandoned cart email sequence takes careful planning. Along with the technical details (such as email timing, frequency and triggers), the email copy must be motivating, either by providing incentives or removing potential obstacles. When your email sequence grabs the customers’ attention, takes into account their shopping habits and is focused on meeting their needs, then you’ll be more likely to draw them back and close the sale.