The Anatomy of a Perfect Cart Abandonment Email



There’s a world of difference between someone placing something in their shopping cart and actually purchasing that item. Whether in a brick-and-mortar store, or an eCommerce platform, the cart is only step one. Getting their hard-earned dollars is the (much harder) step two.

The global average cart abandonment rate was 77.24% in 2016, up from 71.39% in 2015 (source).

The abandonment rate was a below-average 73.07% for desktop computers, 80.74% for tablets, and a sky-high 85.65% for mobile devices. The smaller the screen, the higher the shopping cart abandonment. What’s the takeaway from that? Make sure your eCommerce platform – and especially your checkout page – is mobile-friendly and functions amazingly well no matter the screen size.



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Listrak put the 2016 average at an even 78% (source). Adobe? 75.5% (source). No matter the source, you’re looking at roughly three-quarters. Three out of every four people who click that magical “Add to Cart” button will leave your site without buying.

The Baymard Institute examined over three dozen studies to find an overall average of “only” 69.23% (source). Better, but still not good.

Can you afford to let that stand? Of course not. You need a fix and you need it quick. Otherwise, you’re missing out on thousands, tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even if your average order value is only $15, that adds up when 65-80% of visitors aren’t initially converting. Go after them. Earn that sale.

Estimates put the lost revenue for items abandoned in carts at $4.9 trillion globally.

The solution is the modest cart abandonment email. 


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A cart recovery email campaign can get those sales back on track with timely, relevant, and ultra-personalized messages sent after someone has shown interest in you, your brand, and your products.

99.75% of customers will not buy on their first visit to your site. You read that right. A paltry 0.25% pull the trigger without any additional marketing or wooing from you (source). Are you happy with less than half a percent of visitors converting? Of course not.

As a savvy eCommerce merchant, you work hard to attract and keep customers with general marketing, retargeting, win-back campaigns, re-engagement emails, welcome series, and more.

But the cart abandonment email is some of the lowest hanging fruit. They’ve already visited. They’ve already selected one, two, or more items that they want and placed them in their cart. Then, for one of a myriad of reasons, they stopped short.

Some use the cart as a wish list. You can eliminate that by including an “add to wish list” or “save for later” feature to your product pages.

Others have reservations. Remove friction with transparent pricing, upfront shipping costs, no hidden fees, and various trust signals at multiple stages of the checkout process.

Still others may get frustrated if your website loads too slowly, doesn’t work well on their mobile phone, has a checkout process that takes too long, or their preferred payment option isn’t available.

Low cost or free shipping, trust indicators, mobile-friendly, blazingly fast, multiple payment options, and a streamlined checkout process would obviously go a long way to lowering your abandonment rate. A/B test everything to optimize and tweak over time.



All of these potential stumbling blocks can be dealt with beforehand. But no matter how much time and effort you put into reducing shopping cart abandonment, it’s going to happen. It’s inevitable.

And when it does, that’s when you need your abandoned cart email strategy to automatically kick into gear.

Business Insider found that an abandoned cart email sent within three hours averages a 40% open rate with a 20% click-through rate (CTR) (source).

Cart Abandonment Email Best Practices

A cart recovery email is personalized by default – it’s a list of items they chose to add to their basket – but you can still segment for more effective targeting. You might segment by lifecycle stage, cart value, or past buyer behavior. As with all email marketing, segmentation is key.  

Other best practices to remember include:

  • A straightforward CTA button – take me to my basket, let’s go shopping, complete my order, claim my items, etc. – so they see exactly what it’s all about and how to do it.
  • Cross-sell and upsell as appropriate. Recommendations in a recovery email can increase conversions by 2-5% (source).
  • Include reviews and testimonials. People trust and rely on them when making a purchase decision.
  • Include HD images of the items in their cart. We’re visual creatures.
  • Anticipate reasons why they might have abandoned and address those concerns/issues in the email.
  • Include a 1-click opt-out. Simple, easy to find, no tricks.
  • Limit your campaigns with frequency filters. No one should receive more than one cart recovery email campaign in a 60 day period.



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A typical cart recovery email campaign might include an initial message sent within 1-3 hours of the customer leaving their cart with a reminder of the items sitting in it, a second email sent roughly a day later offering to help with any lingering issues, and a final message sent 72 hours after abandonment with an incentive (free shipping, coupon, discount) to complete the purchase.

Which brings us to the most important part of any email message: the subject line.New call-to-action

When to Send Cart Abandonment Email Campaigns

It’s recommended to send the first cart abandonment email to shoppers within the first hour of abandonment. But don’t send them out too quickly or you can cause confusion if a shopper comes back on their own. 45 minutes post abandonment seems to be the sweet spot for the first email in your cart abandonment email campaign.

You can send follow up emails 1 day later and following thereafter. Look at your sales cycle and tailor follow up messages accordingly.New call-to-action

Cart Abandonment Email Subject Lines

When it comes to emails, it’s the subject line that separates the wheat from the chaff. A good one gets clicked. A vague or generic one gets deleted.

Subject lines should make it clear who the email is from (you or your brand), and/or what it is about (their lovely items waiting to be purchased).

  1. You left items in your cart
  2. Hey [name], you forgot something
  3. We’re holding those items for you
  4. Hurry back! Your cart is only good for 24 hours
  5. [name] You know you want this
  6. How can we help?
  7. Don’t let your favorite item sell out
  8. You left something behind
  9. Your items miss you/feel abandoned
  10. Forgot something?
  11. Let’s sweeten the deal
  12. Was it something we said?
  13. Shopping cart today, in your closet tomorrow
  14. What happened?
  15. We want you back!
  16. Where did you go?
  17. Take another peek




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Cart Abandonment Email Performance

That’s all sounds great in theory, but everyone wants to see results. So, just how well do abandoned cart emails work? Very. Consider:

  • Cart recovery emails can generate an 18% conversion rate (Barilliance)
  • A cart abandonment email sent within an hour saw a 20.3% conversion rate (CVR) compared to only 12.2% if sent 24 hours later. A second email sent 24 hours after abandonment had a 17.7% CVR while those 48 hours or more were only 7.7%. A third and final email sent 72 hours after abandonment had a CVR of 18.2% (Barilliance)
  • Each abandoned cart email sent generates $8.21 in additional revenue, while the average order value of recovered carts is 14.2% higher than regular purchases (SaleCycle).
  • Free shipping incentives are 2x as effective as a discount (Email Monks)
  • Close to half of all abandoned shopping cart emails get opened (Soundest)
  • Up to 60% of cart recovery emails result in a reclaimed sale within 24 hours (Inbox Army)
  • Over half – 51% – find abandoned cart emails helpful (MarketingSherpa)



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Abandonment can happen anywhere on your site: homepage, category page, product page, or site search. You should have a plan for each.

If nothing else, though, you can’t go on without an abandoned cart email strategy…there’s just too much revenue sitting unclaimed in those carts.

SmartMail can help put it where it belongs: in your pocket. Contact us today. 


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