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Cart Abandonment Emails: 12 Best Practice Tips

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 Abandonment Email Conversion Rate & Open Rate Statistics

According to our most recent cart abandonment stats, the average abandonment rate is 81.08%, though this varies between sectors.

Cart Abandonment Rates by Sector in 2020

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 in 2020 was 38.5% whereas in 2019 the average cart abandonment email open rate was 42.17%, but some sectors see different rates. Travel booking abandonment emails open rates averaged 49.3% in 2018, 46.48% in 2019 and 46.94% in 2020.

Email Open Rates by Sector 2019 compared to 2020

Cart abandonment emails perform strongly, with the fashion sector being the front-runner in 2019 and in 2020. Due to the pandemic the travel industry has seen a decline in conversion rate from shopping cart abandonment emails.


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 or promo codes 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 conversion rate 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. Understanding the peak times for online shopping can also be great insight that can help you decide when to send your cart abandonment emails.

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, products with a higher average order value 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. This is part of your social proof strategy because reviews show your customers you are trusted and used. Customer reviews are highly effective to aid conversion.

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 ecommerce 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.

Abandoned Cart Email FAQs

How many abandoned cart emails should I send?

It’s a good idea to send more than one cart abandonment email to visitors who abandon. Most retailers send abandoned cart emails so there is plenty of competition in every inbox. Your first email can be missed or ignored due to the user not being ready to purchase, so sending emails in cycles can be an effective tactic to maximise engagement. 

A 3-cycle cart abandonment email sequence would be a nice way to start. Email one provides the reminder, email two should convey urgency and social proof like reviews. The third email should be the hard sell by adding more urgency, perhaps more reviews or a discount code. 

How to write abandoned cart emails?

In terms of how to write cart abandonment emails, they should contain a selection of key features. Some of the elements that should be included are the abandoned contents, clear call to action buttons to encourage clicks, dynamic content like images and video to increase engagement and try to personalise the email. You should also add some social proof to the emails by including reviews of the products. 

It’s a good idea to create templates for your emails that include each element including the subject line, email text, and cart contents. From here you can then add the conversion rate features like reviews, dynamic content and others.

Are abandoned cart emails transactional?

In 2021 cart abandonment emails are still ‘transactional’ because in order to send a cart abandonment email a transaction has been initiated with an item added to the cart. By doing this the customer has shown intent to purchase.

How do abandoned cart emails work?

It is the follow up email sent to the customer when they have added an item to their virtual cart and then left the site before purchasing at the checkout. Abandoned cart emails remind the customer of what they have left behind. The emails also utilise tactics like a/b testing send times, multicycle emails and further optimisations.  

When to send abandoned cart emails?

You can boost the performance of your cart abandonment emails by implementing email cycles. Sending abandonment emails in 3-cycles such as 1 hour, 24 hours, and 72 hours after an abandonment can improve campaign performance by up to 30%.

Are abandoned cart emails for first time buyers only?

No. You can send cart abandonment emails to every customer who enters your site and adds an item to their cart and then does not purchase. Cart abandonment emails increase conversions by recovering online sales.  

Reviewed by Brad Ward
Written by Graham Charlton
— Updated on 17/05/2021

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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.