Email marketing

7 best practices for nailing your abandoned cart emails

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Picture this. You want to lure back shoppers who populate their online carts but don’t buy. So you create a workflow—leaning on some abandoned cart best practices—with a couple of emails and a sprinkling of SMS. Later, you get fancy by turning extra attention to those contemplating a top seller.

After eight months, you’ve got an abandoned cart email automation that’s bringing in 27.67% of your email-generated revenue.

The astonishing part: the messages don’t even total 1% of your email marketing sends. Just 0.54%, to be precise.

This is the real story of Island Olive Oil and its handful of employees. They recognized the huge opportunity in retargeting cart abandoners ( the average abandonment rate is 70% ) and made it a priority.

“Cart abandon is such an easy way to take advantage of that low-hanging fruit of someone who’s already interested,” says Sara Florin, senior director of branding and marketing at Kerrits .

They’ve already been to the site, they already have a product in mind. They’re about to pull the trigger.”

Sara Florin, Kerrits senior director of branding and marketing

We won’t get into the reasons why people add items to the cart but don’t check out . Instead, let’s focus on the best practices for abandoned cart emails.

Get up to speed with abandoned cart emails with these quick, three-minute videos:

Our tips will help automation newbies start recovering sales on autopilot. They’re great, too, for marketers who want to enhance their game.

7 abandoned cart email best practices

In the first half of 2021, just about 40% of people who clicked on an abandoned cart email completed their order. That’s a 483% lift in conversions over promotional marketing campaigns. Such stats qualify abandoned cart as one of the best-performing email automations around.

Cart abandonment has become one of these essential messages for ecommerce brands everywhere. First, it recaptures a significant portion of sales. But secondly, consumers increasingly expect to receive them.”

Greg Zakowicz, Omnisend senior ecommerce expert

Adhere to the following best practices for abandoned cart emails to get great results.

1. Create a series

Sending one email upon cart abandonment is better than sending nothing at all. Two messages, and you’re heading in the right direction. But our rule of thumb is three.

Omnisend merchants with a three-message cart abandonment have the best order rates. They see 69% more orders on average than those sending only one.

We recommend a sequence that follows roughly the same pattern as below, based on the abandoned cart best practices that tend to deliver good results:

  1. Remind the customer about their cart. It’s a slight poke to ask, “Did you forget something?” Show them the product (more on this later). It’s a non-intrusive nudge with the power to convert.
  2. Suggest they finish their purchase. Here we’re saying, “You liked this product, now let’s get it in your home!” Infuse a little urgency with this reminder. Limited stock, perhaps? Or maybe there’s another type of time element to help your cause, like, “You don’t want to be caught gloveless when the first major snowfall hits, do you?”
  3. Provide an incentive. It’s time to communicate, “It’s almost gone. Here’s something to sweeten the deal.” Suggest the items will be snatched up by someone else and offer an incentive . That doesn’t necessarily mean a price discount. Free shipping with a certain spending threshold or free returns within 30 days can be just as enticing.

Don’t be afraid to deviate from the above formula. To’ak Chocolate , for example, includes a variety of topics in its series. They cover shipping, insurance, customer ratings, and how to pair their gourmet chocolate.

The tactic drives a 44% conversion rate, and nets a revenue-per-email (RPE) that’s 2,195% greater than that of the brand’s typical promotional campaigns.

2. Time it right

When is the best time to send your abandoned cart emails?

As a baseline, we recommend delivering the first message one hour after abandonment. Strike while the iron is hot. If you wait too long, you’ll lose the shopping urge that prompted the person to add the item to their cart in the first place.

Thereafter, it’s still about keeping the timeline condensed without being overly pushy:

  • Send the second message 12 hours later
  • Send the third message 24 hours later

3. Use high-converting subject lines

A sleek subject line can grab your shopper’s attention and lead to better open rates.

We examined the subject lines of nearly 100,000 abandoned cart emails. There’s one consistency that aligns with best practices for abandoned cart emails: they’re short and to the point. (Aside: we saw this same trend within the email copy text as well.)

The subject line from Piper Lou is concise and direct

Based on historical open rate data, here are the top five keywords used in abandoned cart subject lines:

  1. 15% off purchase
  2. Cart left
  3. $20 off cart
  4. Items left
  5. Still shopping?

The findings above don’t indicate it, but subject lines that align with your branding can be very effective, too. Florin says Kerrits uses “horse language” to capture their equestrian-loving audience’s attention.

The subject line for its first message in the abandoned cart flow—and the most successful—is “Ride on back and complete your purchase.” It’s part of a series that produces an RPE of $6.64 and is responsible for 29% of all automated email revenue.

4. Feature the abandoned product

If your prospect has recently gone on a “window shopping” spree across different sites, they might have trouble recalling which of your products they’ve abandoned. So including a high-quality product image is a must.

Make it large if possible (hint: this is pretty easy to do with Omnisend’s drag-and-drop newsletter builder ). You can also try a specific HTML email template builder and import templates into your email marketing software.

Perigold’s cart, in the example below, is a good illustration. We also like the inclusion of other product recommendations . Perhaps the original pick wasn’t exactly what the shopper wanted. Or it might tempt them to buy an accompanying item along with their first choice.

B-Wear Sportswear’s marketing team knows the impact of displaying a photo of the product, versus not. The brand uses BigCommerce as its ecommerce platform, but found that its abandoned cart tool lacks the ability to display the product.

Omnisend is the only email marketing platform that can access BigCommerce’s shopping carts across any device. After making the switch, the brand has experienced a 15% increase in the recovered revenue rate for abandoned carts. Almost half of all people who click on one of the messages in the workflow make a purchase.

Personalization goes a long way. We can dynamically show abandoned products, add recommendations, and better target with workflow splits.”

Shane Biles, B-Wear Sportswear director of marketing

5. Add an easy-to-find CTA button

Bold and attractive calls to action (CTAs) are designed to grab the attention of the shopper and push them toward an action you want them to take. With cart abandonment emails, the action is pretty clear: finish buying the product.

Therefore, make it easy for them to do. Near the product image, add a bold and easy-to-see CTA. The button text should be something like “Continue shopping” or “Buy it now.”

6. Provide customer support

Including a way to reach customer support is one of the often-overlooked abandoned cart best practices.

Make sure that your customer support options are spelled out, such as an email address, phone number, live chat option, and any other contact means.

It’s possible the shopper couldn’t complete the checkout process because of a technical issue. Or, they potentially have questions about the product—shipping times or refunds, for instance— that are best answered by a person. That goes even for small, low-priced items.

In fact, your third message in the series may be the prime time to insert a bit of proactive customer support. Use it as an opportunity to extrapolate what hurdles are blocking the sale from happening. Ask the shopper, “What can we do to make your buying experience better?”

Omnisend’s Zakowicz recounts a conversation with an owner of a high-end product business that does just that. Shoppers respond, and a lot of times the feedback is about shipping fees. Sometimes they have some wiggle room to lower the shipping cost. Other times, the only response is replying with an explanation and a “thanks for the feedback.”

“But,” Zackowicz adds, “he said the relationship has always benefited from a simple message like that.”

7. Add multiple channels

The customer shopping journey is no longer relegated to a single channel. So your abandoned cart flows shouldn’t, either.

We will never downplay the importance of email in recapturing customers. They should be the heart of your abandoned cart strategy. But don’t be afraid to experiment by adding SMS marketing into the process or web push notifications .

Because these are opt-in channels, you know you’re communicating with shoppers via the method of their choosing. For example, sales from web push notifications occupy a small part of Divatress’ overall abandoned cart capture. But nearly everyone who clicks on it (98%!) makes a purchase.

Work in the other channels as you’re able. There’s no need to do it all at once, as the equestrian brand Kerrits demonstrates.

“I started with just an abandoned cart email,” Florin explains. “Three months later, I said, ‘Let’s try the SMS.’ Two months after that, I said, ‘Let’s try adding a follow-up abandoned cart, 24 hours later.’ So this program didn’t all launch at once. It started in pieces as I could manage them.”

Your next step for abandoned cart

If you haven’t gotten your first abandoned cart email flow off the ground, now’s the time to get going. Check out the short video below for a broad look at the mechanics behind setting one up in Omnisend.

More specifics for building your abandoned cart automation in Omnisend can be found in our knowledge base . We also have some guides specific to different ecommerce platforms:

And if you’ve already implemented a workflow and want to make it better—no matter what your marketing platform—you’ve come to the right place for that as well. Check out some of these resources to advance the way you’re harnessing abandoned cart email best practices:

Omnisend Customer Success Manager Sadie Arnold has some advice for anyone wanting to elevate their abandoned cart email series. It starts with knowing your customer journey and then identifying where, within it, customers have questions or don’t have a good understanding of the product.

“So it’s trying to take those questions, and those issues that they’re having within your journey, and adding some value to the abandoned cart messages to try to eliminate any of those hesitations that they might have,” Arnold explains. “That’s really where we start first.”

Jump into cart abandonment emails, and all other automations that Omnisend has to offer, by starting for free . We make it easy to get started with pre-built workflows, too.

Abandoned cart: the big picture [infographic]

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