Browse Abandonment Emails: The Ultimate Guide to Converting Window Shoppers Into Buyers


ecommerce email

Warning! The information in this guide can transform your business and generate a significant uplift in sales!

You see, digital marketers and eCommerce managers are so focused on driving traffic to their online stores yet they consistently forget  to leverage that traffic and convert more window shoppers into buyers.

What's worse is that 95% of the shoppers already on your site will never add anything to their carts! This is where Browse Abandonment Emails come in.

Continue reading to learn how you can increase your online revenue with browse abandonment emails.

In this guide you will learn:

  • What browse abandonment emails are and how they fit into your overall email marketing strategy
  • How to send browse abandonment emails that are both fully-automated and personalized and can even convert 6 times more than any other marketing channel
  • Examples and best practices of the 4 highest converting browse abandonment emails (and possibly the highest converting messages you will ever send)
  • When and how to offer incentives to generate more sales without killing your bottom line
  • The single most important automation filter you must have in place to ensure that the right message is sent to the right person every single time
  • Some advanced Ninja tips and tricks based on our team’s combined 32 years of experience in behavioral email marketing and conversion rate optimization

What Are Browse Abandonment Emails?

Browse abandonment emails retarget shoppers who leave your site before adding any items to their shopping carts. Some examples include shoppers who:

  • Viewed a product page but never added any items to their carts
  • Viewed a specific category but never actually viewed a specific product
  • Used the site search box to look for certain terms or products but never continued on in the journey
  • Arrived on your homepage but left before clicking any further into the site

The Case for Browse Abandonment

We’ve all heard about cart abandonment and its effect on sales. Just about every shopping cart platform and email marketing service offers some sort of tool or solution to retarget shoppers who've left a cart behind.

But did you know that only 5% of your traffic (best case scenario) actually makes it to the cart page? What about the shoppers who are browsing your site yet never click “add to cart”? Each window shopper that doesn't complete a purchase is a lost opportunity, and the majority of that wasted traffic exists long before the shopping cart page.

ecommerce site traffic

Every online merchant and digital marketer, no matter how big or small, pours time and resources into driving traffic to their online stores, yet most of that traffic (traffic that you likely paid for in some way) is not converting.

So how can you better leverage the existing traffic on your site to actually increase conversions?

The Key to Unlocking Higher Conversions

With every visit, view, click, and search, your shoppers are expressing various levels of purchase intent even before adding an item to the cart. A data-driven approach that leverages browser behavior data can be the key to unlocking higher conversions and increased revenue. 

How much revenue?

Well it turns out that the 80/20 rule applies to eCommerce, too. While browse abandonment emails may seem to make up just a small part of your overall digital marketing strategy, they have been proven to yield nearly 80% or more of the revenue that's generated by your entire lifecycle email marketing campaign.

So then why are most companies overlooking this crucial and highly profitable area of their email marketing strategy?

For one, it's extremely complex. Implementing the right tools to deliver the right message to the right shopper at just the right time - every single time - is an artform that few have mastered and even fewer have the time or knowledge to figure out.

But we have. And we're here to help.

Behold! There is a world of revenue that begins way before your eCommerce shopping cart - a whole world of window shoppers that you should and can be converting into customers.

Finally! A Data-Driven Approach to Personalize Each Email Sent

oprah email marketing

Imagine you could know every single thing shoppers did on your site and then use that data to send a perfectly personalized and relevant email to each individual shopper. While stalking your shoppers' every move in the name of sales may sound like Big Brother, slow your roll, whistleblowers!

The results of behaviorally targeted emails are incredible. Shoppers actually love receiving these types of messages because they add a personal touch to your customer engagement strategy and are relevant on a one-to-one level.

(By the way, SmartMail uses robust buyer behavior tracking technology to capture and decipher the movement and activity of every single shopper on your site, and no it’s not creepy at all.) 

Browse Abandonment Emails: The Next Frontier of Conversion Rate Optimization

The ultimate goal of any successful digital marketing strategy is not only to covert traffic immediately on-site but to effectively re-engage with abandoning shoppers at any given point in the sales journey, pushing them back to the point at which they left off, no matter where that may be.

When you start looking at the data, you discover that the most profitable (yet the most abandoned) points in the sales funnel make up the largest pool of traffic, long before the shopping cart.

Browse abandonment emails are a key element to your conversion rate optimization startegy and have been shown to convert 6 times more than any other marketing channel.

The 4 Types of Browse Abandonment Emails and Proven Strategies for CRO

There are 4 types of browse abandonment: Homepage Abandonment; Category Abandonment; Product View Abandonment; and Site Search Abandonment.

These are the 4 most abandoned points in the funnel, and retargeting browse abandoners at each one of these 4 points can generate up to 15% more revenue.

Let's take a closer look.

1. Homepage Abandonment

Email Automation Trigger Rules: 

Shopper hits your homepage and then bounces without going any further down the funnel.

ecommerce homepage example

Our Best Practice Approach:

  • Have very little text with straight-forward messaging
  • Predominantly image heavy
  • Focus on top selling products
  • Showcase a simple call to action encouraging shoppers to come back and take another look

Winning Subject Lines: 

“These top 10 selling items are going fast...”

“This week’s top 15 sellers”

“We picked these items just for you!”

Average open rate: 22%

Average CTR: 16%

Average revenue per email sent: $0.61*


New call-to-action2. Category Abandonment

Email Automation Trigger Rules:

Shopper arrives on a specific category page, but never clicks on any specific product pages.

amazon online shopping category

Our Best Practice Approach:

  • Lead shoppers back to their previously viewed category and category selections
  • Very little text with straight-forward messaging
  • Image heavy
  • Populate emails with product recommendations of specific products within the category viewed based on top sellers 
  • Explicit call to action leading shoppers to the next step in the funnel 

Winning Subject Lines: 

“View our (category title) selection”

“Our latest products in (category title)”

“Our (category title) are selling fast”

Average open rate: 42%

Average CTR: 27%

Average revenue per mail sent: $1.71

amazon retargeting email

3. Product Page Abandonment

(’s a little secret. Product page abandonment emails tend to outperform cart abandonment emails by over 200%!)

Email Automation Trigger Rules: 

Shopper clicks on and views specific products on your site yet never moves on to hit the cart page.

boots product view

Our Best Practice Approach:

  • Showcase the actual product viewed and feature it front and center
  • Keep text brief with a soft call to action to "take another look", similar to customer service messaging
  • Include large, high quality product image and title
  • Excluding the product's price from the email can increase click through rates
  • Dynamically insert product recommendations or related products

Winning Subject Lines: 

“A quick reminder...”

“Hurry, this item is nearly sold out”

“Take another look…”

Average open rate: 52%

Average CTR: 26%

Average revenue per mail sent: $3.42

product abandon personalized email

New call-to-action4. Site Search Abandonment 

Email Automation Trigger Rules:

Shopper runs a search on your online store for any given term, product name, attribute, cateogry, etc.

using site search

Our Best Practice Approach:

  • Lead shoppers back to previous search results
  • Highlight search term and keep messaging customer service-oriented
  • Provide additional support messaging including a way for shopper to contact customer service
  • Recommend products related to search query or based on site-wide top sellers
  • Simple call to action

Winning Subject Lines: 

“Searching for ‘(search term)’?"

"Couldn’t find what you were looking for?"

“Shopping for (search term)?”

Average open rate: 52%

Average CTR: 28%

Average revenue per mail sent: $2.85

personalized email

Browse Abandonment Emails Convert More Sales: Real Life Examples

Here are some examples of live sites that have graciously allowed us to share the following data to demonstrate the tremendous conversion success they've seen from browse abandonment emails.

Site A: 

lifecycle emails convert the most sales

For this online retailer, SmartMail's personalized, automated marketing campaigns drove conversions upwards of 11x more than all other traffic.

Site B:

personalized automated emails convert highest in google analytics

For this eCommerce site, SmartMail's data-driven messages yielded the highest conversion rate out of all marketing channels. Note that the personalized, behaviorally targetted emails sent by SmartMail converted 7x higher than the site's general newsletter.

Site C: 

personalized automated emails convert highest in google analytics

Here, this merchant saw a huge uplift in sales using SmartMail's behaviorally triggered campaigns with over half of the generated revenue coming directly from browse abandonment emails alone.

Site D:

browse abandonment emails convert 7x more than any other marketing channel

This eCommerce site's SmartMail campaign converted nearly 6x higher than any other channel.

Advanced Strategies for Personalized Behavioral Emails Revealed

Now that you've learned about the 4 types of browse abandonment and the types of emails you can send to turn browse abandoners into paying customers, we're going to reveal some crucial optimization, automation, and personalization strategies that only the industry insiders know.

Suppression Logic: A Must For Conversion Rate Optimization

What is suppression logic?

tom cruise email marketing

No, it’s not a conspiracy theory or strategy from The Matrix or Minority Report, but if Keanu and Tom were digital marketers, they’d definitely be all over this.

Suppression logic is the methodology used to automate and deploy emails that most accurately reflect each shopper's highest level of purchase intent, therefore being the most relevant, the most likely to convert, and ensuring that only one message is sent to any given shopper at a time.

How does suppression logic work in email?

Depending on a shopper’s level of purchase intent, he or she may fall into more than one browse abandonment category.

Suppression logic allows you to engage with your shoppers through behaviorally targeted messaging according to the highest level of purchase intent expressed. Deploying automated lifecycle email marketing campaigns with scrupulous suppression logic rules is part and parcel with conversion rate optimization.

Email Automation Rules Must Be Bulletproof

If your email marketing platform's automation rules are not set up properly or do not have the right suppression options, you’ll wind up sending shoppers multiple, irrelevant, and annoying messages. 

What’s worse is you may accidentally give away too many discounts, send shoppers back to the wrong points in the shopping funnel, and ultimately lose that traffic for good. 

Implementing email marketing strategies that are both sophisticated and precise in their rules, triggers, and filters is critical to success.

When To Offer Incentives in Email

Offering coupons, special deals, and incentives to turn window shoppers into buyers is a tricky thing because depending on your profit margin, inventory, types of products, and various other factors, there is no one-size fits all strategy for online retailers. 

We’ve developed an approach to giving shoppers that extra incentive to buy while still protecting your bottom line. Check it out:

  • Use a soft-sell approach in your messaging
  • Send optimized and smartly-timed messages to keep your store at the top of shoppers’ minds
  • Only offer incentives once the window of purchasing likelihood has closed or is about to close (this varies from site to site)
  • Segment special offers to target only the shoppers who wouldn't likely purchase on their own
  • Match your marketing messages to reflect the unique buying cycle of your store and industry

Email Personalization Ninja Tips and Tricks: Hiyah!

ninja hacks for ecommerce

Here are some even more advanced strategies you can use to increase conversions and make your shoppers go crazy for your products.

Ninja Hack #1: Mix Up Subject Lines

When a shopper doesn’t open your first lifecycle email within day one, send the same email - yes, you read that correctly-  the very same email - but with a call to action that creates a stronger sense of urgency. This tactic can yield an uplift in conversions of 15%!

Ninja Hack #2: Alter The From Name

When a shopper is consistently leaving your lifecycle emails unopened, change the “from” name. 95% of lifecycle emails tend to come from the name of the online store, but when you change that name to something more personal, like the name of your founder, CEO, a known brand ambassador or a customer representative, you’ll get more opens almost immediately. This tactic can yield an uplift of 23% in open rates.

Ninja Hack #3: Segment Messages Smartly

Segment your lifecycle messages by various attributes like product categories, items, brands, sub-categories, and cart value. For example, maybe you only want to offer a discount to shoppers who purchase $100 or more. Or maybe with winter around the corner you'd like to clear out your summer inventory so you offer a special coupon to anyone who viewed a summer-related product. This tactic can yield a conversion rate of 36% and revenue per email sent of $1.06.

Ninja Hack #4: Selectively Offer Coupons

Karate chop those coupon mongers to eliminate any repeated use and abuse of special offers by creating automated rules for incentivized messages that only go out to shoppers who have not recently cashed in on your generosity. This tactic can save an average of $3.71 per emails sent.

And there you have it!

Every day, millions of dollars are spent online, yet with an average sales rate of just about 1% (that's the amount of your traffic that converts), eCommerce sites can do so much more to leverage their site traffic, effectively engage with shoppers, and generate more purchases. 

With all the money, time, and resources you invest in building, maintaining, and growing your online business, don’t miss out on the biggest opportunity to turn all those window shoppers into customers with smart, data-driven email marketing strategies


Download the eCommerce Email Automation Playbook

Learn How To Drive At Least 40% Of Your Revenue From Email Marketing.