How to create high converting abandoned cart emails

Want to learn how to improve the conversion rate of your abandoned cart emails? Read on.

If you’re running an eCommerce store, you’re probably all too familiar with the scenario of the abandoned cart.

People come to your store, browse around and even go through the trouble of setting up an account and adding products to their cart. But when it finally comes to the checkout, they get cold feet and disappear.

Consequently, the sale doesn’t close.

This can be a frustrating experience for any store owner, especially if you’re spending money advertising via Facebook or Google to bring in traffic. Each click costs money and you would like a return!

The reality is, all online stores experience abandoned carts and it’s just part of the eCommerce experience. As a rule of thumb, a business should expect around 70% of people reaching the checkout stage to abandon their transaction.

Despite years of improvements in technology and our understanding of user-centric design, the average cart abandonment rate has actually risen! This is based on aggregated abandoned cart data collected by Statista.

Abandoned cart rate average by year from 2006 to 2019

There are a wide variety of factors that contribute to this eCommerce phenomenon. Examples include:

  • The checkout process is too difficult
  • Customers are put off by shipping fees and taxes
  • The visitor is comparing pricing with your competitors
  • Simply human nature to test the waters
  • The shopper was distracted or ran out of time and forgot to come back

However, it’s not all doom and gloom, and the sales cycle certainly doesn’t have to end there.

In this article, I’ll outline the importance of abandoned cart emails and how you can revive lapsed sales.

In this article

See abandoned carts as an opportunity

If you’re familiar with the concept of a sales funnel, you’ll realise that visitors that have made the effort to create an account and add products to their cart are much further along down the sales journey than a majority of web traffic you’ve generated.

Example of an ecommerce sales funnel

Therefore, people that have abandoned their carts on your store are much more better-qualified prospects than those that haven’t reached the checkout stage. From a business perspective, this should be seen as conversion rate optimisation (CRO) and customer experience opportunity.

Using email as an abandoned cart recovery tool

Utilising email is a great way to salvage abandoned carts. There are a lot of email platforms that integrate into eCommerce systems like Shopify, and let you design and manage the whole email abandon cart process.

My personal favourite for Shopify stores is, Klaviyo.

This guide, however, can be applied to any email marketing platform that can manage your store’s abandoned cart process.

Why people abandon online shopping carts

As we’ve come to understand, abandoned carts are always going to be part of the overall experience of managing an eCommerce store. However, learning why people decide to abandon their purchase will go a long way into helping develop strategies to salvage abandoned carts and create sales opportunities for your store.

An often-cited study by WorldPay delves into these reasons:

Primary reason why shoppers abandon their carts in the US

As you can see, 3 out of the top 5 reasons relate to pricing in some shape or form.

  • Expensive shipping – relating to the cost to ship goods
  • No free shipping – relating to a lack of a free shipping option
  • Unaware of shipping costs – shipping fees are not apparent

The other factors relate to the customer’s situation and why they aren’t quite ready to pull the trigger.

Calculating your cart abandonment rate

Every business should be aware of important metrics, and the cart abandonment rate is a crucial one for eCommerce stores. Knowing your cart abandonment rate will allow you to set a benchmark and then measure whether strategies to improve your sales conversions are working or not.

A common way to calculate your cart abandonment rate is to use a free tool like Google Analytics.

For those that are just starting out, creating a conversion funnel in Google Analytics will give the baseline statistics you need to establish your cart abandonment rate.

From here, you can calculate your benchmark cart abandonment rate.

Identifying a higher percentage of site visitors

In order to create an email abandoned cart series, we need to know your customer’s email address. However, only a small percentage of your customers will get to the checkout phase and only a smaller percentage will have registered an account, making identification and communication difficult.

However, there are some strategies you can implement for your ecommerce store to help you identify a higher percentage of customers before they even reach the checkout phase, thus capturing a larger number of people for our abandoned cart program to follow up with.

Triggered pop-ups

Pop-ups are a great way to build a customer database and in this case, identify site visitors. If coupled with an offer or incentive, your conversion rate of collecting a visitor’s email address can improve dramatically. This information can then be paired with your abandoned cart email program so that after a customer opts-in, their session is tagged while shopping on your site.

A great popup management tool that I use for clients is OptinMonster. It has a wide variety of triggers and conditions to control when your popup messages appear. Additionally, the ability to conduct A/B or multivariate testing will help your brand improve conversions on your popups.

Pre-submit tracking

For many eCommerce sites, a lot of time and energy can be spent on improving the checkout process.

One technique to enable a higher delivery of abandon cart emails is to collect an email address at the start of the checkout phase, preferably before the customer sees the final cost of the order (where a majority of bounces occur).

By collecting this email address at the earliest stage possible, you maximise your opportunity to deliver abandoned cart emails if the occasion arises.

Abandoned cart best practice

By delivering an abandoned cart email, you’re effectively being granted a second opportunity to convert the customer.

As we’ve discussed, these customers are further along the sales funnel process than a majority of your site traffic. They have demonstrated the highest possible purchase intent but still haven’t bought.

Use low-commitment language

No one likes being sold or told what to do. But when it comes to abandoned cart emails, I often see the exact opposite.

The tone and manner of your emails, especially your call-to-action can have a big impact on your overall engagement. Instead of using high-commitment language like, “buy now” or “shop now”, try phrases like:

  • View your cart
  • Return to your cart
  • See your favourites again
Example of low-commitment call to action

Focusing on customer service

This is where you can demonstrate great customer service to find out why and take this customer feedback to develop an action plan.

Firstly, ensure your abandoned cart emails are being sent from a live, monitored inbox. No-reply email addresses are a big no-no (hint: it doesn’t demonstrate good customer service).

Next, craft your email message in a helpful customer service tone, and encourage your customers to provide feedback. Asking simple questions such as, “Was there a problem?” or “How can we help?”

Asking these open questions will help facilitate dialogue between you and your customer and allow them to open up on the friction points that are preventing the transaction from being completed.

Example of a customer service message used in an abandoned cart email

Social proof their cart

Social proofing works. 88% of consumers state that ratings and reviews influence their buying decisions. When customers are on the fence about making a purchase, use the positive feedback you’ve acquired from customers to tip the scales in your favour.

When a sale is on the line, don’t be shy about drumming up the hype surrounding your wares. The combination of high open rates from abandoned cart emails, coupled with compelling content from your reviews means that you could increase your cart recovery rate by 36%!

Example of social proofing an abandoned cart email

Focus on a single product

The term “window shopping” also holds true in the digital realm. You’ll often find shoppers adding multiple products to their cart simply for future reference purposes. However, not all those products have equal weighting when it comes to purchase intent.

You will often find that many abandoned cart emails will simply showcase everything that was added in the cart. But imagine this was an offline engagement – try and picture having a conversation with a customer where you’re discussing, for example, the benefits of 10 or more of your products.

It doesn’t go well, and neither will your email.

Instead, your abandoned cart emails should focus on a single product and talk up the benefits, which can be exciting and inspirational, rather than reading like an itemised invoice – which is frankly, quite boring.

Example of an abandoned cart email focusing on a single product

Segmented abandoned carts

Based on the data provided by the guys at WorldPlay (see the previous section), there are a wide variety of reasons why a shopping cart gets abandoned. Therefore, it makes sense to treat different types of customers with different types of messaging.

For instance, if you offer free-shipping and their order size is slightly under the qualifying amount, you could tailor your message to indicate that an extra product will provide them with free delivery.

Another example is if their order is a high-value amount, you could offer them a discount to incentivise the sale.

When to send an abandoned cart email

The timing of your abandoned cart email plays a major role in conversions.

According to the guys at Rejoiner, the best time is an hour after your customer’s last interaction with your site, offering an average conversion rate of just under 16%.

The conversion rate of abandoned cart depending on delivery time
If you send your email too soon, you might be hitting customers that were naturally going to come back. However, if you take too long, you might lose that customer to a competitor!

Send more than one email

Although your first email in your abandoned cart series will be your best performing email, you can increase your chances of conversion by including a second and third email as well.

According to OmniSend, a single abandoned cart email netted them a 14.76% cart recovery rate. But by implementing three emails, this increased the number to 24.94%.

Ideally, you will want to spread out your consequent sends. I would recommend the second email being sent 24 hours after the customer abandoned their cart, followed up by a third email on the third day.

Having multiple emails will increase your campaign’s visibility and increase your chances of conversion.

There is however a tipping point and diminishing returns for sending
multiple abandoned cart emails. Too little and you’ll miss out on potential sales, too many and you’re just annoying the customer and will lose them forever!

Apply discounts, but within reason

Offering a coupon code or a discount can be a great way to salvage an abandoned cart sale. However, frequent or predictable discounting can be a slippery slope for any eCommerce business and careful thought should be given before implementing such a strategy. You can read up on my article regarding the impact of discounting and long-term success.

Example of a discount offer in an abandoned cart email

Email platforms such as Klaviyo can allow you to generate rules on how frequently customers can access incentives delivered through an abandoned cart series. This can prevent abuse from savvy shoppers and dissuade them from simply holding out on a sale until a discount arrives.

Another concern is that discount codes can be leaked out to the public domain and be redeemed by anyone. To overcome this, look to implement uniquely generated single-use codes for individual customers.

Apply product recommendations

Providing product recommendations is a great way to increase click-through-rate (CTR) activity, conversions and the relevancy of your abandoned email cart program.

There are many ways to cross-sell or up-sell your customers with product recommendations, but for abandoned cart emails, I would recommend sticking to products in the same product category as the one your customer abandoned.

There are a couple of reasons why product recommendations are a winning strategy.

  • If a customer abandoned their cart, it may be because they are no longer interested in the product. However, a product recommendation may showcase an alternative they might like.
  • Product recommendations can be used to pair up products that are frequently bought together. This can be a useful technique to up-sell your customers and increase your average order value and the profitability of your abandoned cart email series.

Pre-empt the abandoned cart

The abandoned cart is not the only stage where you can remind customers of your products. With the right email platform and customer tracking implemented, you can even send product reminders to customers that simply viewed your product, even though they didn’t necessarily add them to cart.

These are called abandoned page emails.

Although these customers are not quite as qualified as customers that have initiated the checkout process, they can, with the right messaging be enticed to transact.


Approximately $4 trillion dollars is left in abandoned carts globally each year. That’s a lot of money left on the table!

We already know abandoned carts are an eCommerce fact of life. Nothing we do will prevent abandoned carts from happening, but we can certainly improve our chances of salvaging lost sales.

By implementing a best practice abandoned cart series, that addresses:

  • Timing of delivery
  • Focuses on customer service
  • Delivers product recommendations
  • Creates messaging based on segmented data

You can expect to see an abandoned cart recovery rate of around 10-15%. That’s a lot of extra revenue to any business!

What ideas have you used to help recover abandoned carts? Do you have an abandoned cart series of emails put in place? Feel free to leave a comment below regarding your own abandoned cart experience.

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