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Cart Abandonment Emails: 12 Best Practice Tips


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Cart abandonment emails are a valuable tactic for online retailers, helping them to recover sales from the 79% of visitors who leave without completing a purchase.

In this article, we’ll look at how retailers can use cart abandonment emails, tips to make them more compelling, and some great examples of email design.

What Are Cart Abandonment Emails?

Cart abandonment emails (also known as cart recovery or remarketing emails) are automated messages sent when a shopper adds items to their shopping cart but abandons before completing a purchase.

They remind shoppers of the items they left behind, and offer them a way to return quickly to complete the purchase.

Cart abandonment email MCM and Moschino

Cart Recovery Email Stats

According to our most recent cart abandonment stats, the average abandonment rate is 79.17%, though this varies between sectors.

cart abandonment rates 2018

These are shoppers who have browsed your site and added items to carts, an by doing so, they’ve signalled a clear interest in your products and a possible intent to purchase.

In many cases, a timely prompt through a cart abandonment email can be what’s needed to persuade them to return to the site and complete a purchase.

Due to their relevance and the interest already shown in the product, cart recovery emails have some of the best open and conversion rates of any marketing email.

The average open rate is 43%, but some sectors enjoy higher rates. Travel booking abandonment emails open rates averaged 49.3% in 2018.

Cart abandonment email open rates by sector

Cart abandonment emails perform strongly, with an average conversion rate of 2.9%.

cart abandonment email conversion rates

Best Practices for Abandoned Cart Emails

It’s not enough just to fire off emails once customers abandon a purchase. The best performing examples contain a combination of great design, smart use of data, and persuasive copy.

Let’s look at some of the key success factors for abandonment emails.

  1. Provide a Clear Summary of Cart Contents
  2. Clear Calls to Action
  3. Don’t Overdo Discounts
  4. When to Send Cart Abandonment Emails
  5. Use Dynamic Content
  6. Segment and Personalize Emails
  7. Send Emails in Cycles
  8. Use Customer Reviews
  9. Use Urgency
  10. Test and Improve
  11. Reinforce Key Selling Points
  12. Use of Images

1. Provide a Clear Summary of Cart Contents

The key aim is to remind people of what they were about to buy, so the products should be front and centre in emails.

Show shoppers the products they were thinking about buying, and be sure to include the key information they need, such as price and details like size or delivery cost.

Images are important to provide a quick reminder for shoppers. People may have abandoned several other baskets, so it’s important to provide a strong visual cue.

Jimmy Choo Cart abandonment email

It’s also important to consider how products are displayed. For example, some retailers may prefer to prioritise higher value items, or those which the shopper is more likely to buy.

In some cases, shoppers may add multiple items to shopping carts. To display every single one would create problems with length of emails and too much choice.

Instead, cart limiting can automatically restrict the number of items displayed to avoid overloading the customer with too many options.

cart limiting in emails

2. Clear Calls to Action

A second key element is the calls to action on cart recovery emails. It’s about making the action you want users to take as clear as possible.

As a general rule, CTAs in emails should be:

  • Placed as high up as possible.
  • Be large and easy to pick up – contrasting colors can work well.
  • Repeated throughout the email.
email CTAs

3. Don’t Overdo Discounts

It may be tempting to offer discounts in cart abandonment emails to tempt people back to the checkout, but it’s important to think carefully about using this tactic.

Discounting too much and too often can affect profit margins, and could ‘train’ shoppers to abandon in the expectation of discounts.

Besides, the simple act of reminding shoppers about their purchase is often all that’s required to persuade them to return to their shopping cart.

Instead, it’s best to use discounting tactically. If you have an offer on anyway, it’s worth highlighting this in emails, but otherwise selective discounts in second or third cycle emails, perhaps around customer acquisition targets can be a better strategy.

promo codes in Cart abandonment email

4. When to Send Abandoned Cart Emails

Timing of emails can play a big part in their performance. There’s no right or wrong answer, but your email should be arriving in the shopper’s inbox while they’re still considering a purchase.

There’s also the question of whether they still need the product, and this can vary according to the type of purchase.

The results from our client data suggests that abandonment emails are most effective when sent within or just around an hour after abandonment.

when to send cart recovery emails

However, this is just an indication, and the same may not hold true across different industries or price levels. For example, some higher value purchases may require more consideration by shoppers, and sending within an hour may be too soon.

The only reliable answer is to test different send times to find the one which performs best for your target customers.

5. Use Dynamic Content

The use of dynamic content in remarketing emails can ensure that copy and visuals are up to date and optimized for the individual user.

Dynamic content allows you to:

  • Use context and data to show your customers live information such as pricing.
  • Adjust the visuals and information based on where in the world the shopper is, or the products they’re considering.
  • Update the information and design of emails for the device they are using.
  • Use real time results to make sure you are using the highest converting images.
  • Display up-to-date trends information such as product popularity or stock levels.
dynamic content in emails

6. Segment and Personalize

A high-performing email should be relevant to recipients and the use segmentation and personalization can help to achieve this.

First, let’s explain the difference between segmentation and personalization:

  • Segmentation can be used to divide (potential) customers into distinct groups in order to target them with specific content or products. This can include age, gender, geo-location, propensity to purchase and more.
  • Personalization aims to provide relevance at the individual customer level, using customer data to target them more effectively. This data can be used to recommend relevant cross-selling options based on a customer’s purchase and browsing history.
cross selling in emails

7. Send in Cycles

A key tactic is to send more than one automated reminder to visitors who abandon.

Consumers’ inboxes are busy places, so the first emails may be missed, or may arrive when customers aren’t ready to purchase.

Sending emails in cycles can achieve the best results, though it is important to adapt the messaging for each cycle:

  • First cycle emails should focus on reminding shoppers of the items they abandoned.
  • Second cycle emails can be used to add some more urgency and detail like reviews to persuade shoppers.
  • Third cycle emails are an opportunity to try something different, perhaps by focusing on reviews, or by changing tack and gathering useful feedback via abandonment surveys.
abandonment survey email

8. Use Customer Reviews

According to research from Bright Local, 84% of people trust online reviews from other consumers as much as a personal recommendations.

They offer reassurance for customers that the product they’re thinking about buying is a good one.

reviews in cart abandonment emails

They’re perfect in recovery emails, where many recipients may still be in research mode. In this context, reviews can tip the balance and persuade people to buy.

9. Use Urgency

In cases where prices or extras like shipping offers are time-limited, it can pay to make this clear to customers.

It can help to speed up a purchase decision. For example, if they know prices may rise soon, or they need to order in time for an occasion, then reminders can do the trick.

countdown timer in email

10. Test and Improve

There’s no such thing as a perfect email, it’s all about testing and refining to find the best-performing emails.

Using techniques like A/B testing, there’s a lot of elements to test within cart abandonment emails. These areas include:

  • Subject lines. These are a big factor in whether people choose to open emails in the first place. Testing things like personalized subject lines or reminding people of promotions can make a difference.
  • Calls to action. Placement, size and copy used on calls to actions can improve click through rates.
  • Timing. How long should you wait before sending emails?
  • Copy. Email copy can be the difference between recipients clicking through or ignoring emails. Copy style, length and tone can all be tested.

11. Reinforce Key Selling Points

Key factors like delivery timings and costs, as well as returns can make a difference to the purchase decision.

For this reason, it can pay to highlight them in cart abandonment emails, as an extra incentive to purchase.

Here Fat Face reminds shoppers of its free and next day delivery options, along with its hassle-free returns policy.

USPs in email

12. Use of Images

Images can make a difference, and good imagery can highlight products more effectively.

It can show products in a good light, or remind people of some of the sights they may be missing out on in booking abandonment emails.

imagery in Cart abandonment email

There are a lot of design considerations when using images in emails. For example, it’s important to consider how file size affects email load time, as well as how images render across different email clients.

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is Editor in Chief at SaleCycle. He's been covering ecommerce and digital marketing for more than a decade, having previously written reports and articles for Econsultancy. ClickZ, Search Engine Watch and more.