Five Ways To Improve Your Cart Abandonment Emails

Shopping cart abandonment emails are among the most powerful messages a marketer can send, but they could be even more powerful. Our most recent research into cart abandonment emails shows five clear opportunities to strengthen them:

1. Send quickly. For most consumer purchases, the effectiveness of cart abandonment emails diminishes the longer the delay between the abandonment of the cart and the arrival of the triggered message. This is particularly true during the holiday season and during the run-up to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and other holidays, when the time of consideration is much shorter than usual.

Our research found that 52% of cart abandonment emails arrive more than 24 hours after abandonment. At the other end of the spectrum, only 10% of cart abandonment emails arrived within an hour.

Start by sending yours as quickly as possible, as that’s likely to be most effective, and then confirm by testing longer delays.

2. Send a series. Because subscribers don’t open every email and sometimes need more than one nudge, marketers are increasingly finding success with a series of triggered emails. Welcome emails appear to have been the testing grounds for email series. According to our 2014 State of Marketing survey, 41% of marketers are now sending a welcome series, with a high level of success being reported.



Series can work well for shopping cart abandonment emails as well. Our research found that already 19% of marketers are sending an abandonment series. We find this to be a particularly compelling approach when the value of the cart is high.

In one case, a cart we abandoned had more than $1,000 of merchandise in it, and we received four triggered emails over the course of a week as a result. That seems very appropriate. Especially if you sell big-ticket items, this is worth testing.

3. Include seasonal context. Holidays mean deadlines. That Christmas gift is no good if it arrives after Dec. 24. But it was surprising almost none of the cart abandonment emails we received included any seasonal messaging. Just as your transactional messages should contain seasonal messaging, so too should your abandonment triggers. Review all appropriate triggered emails throughout the year to look for opportunities to drive seasonal purchases.

4. Make it clear what was abandoned. The harder you make customers work, the lower the conversion rate. So don’t make subscribers open the email and click in order to find out what they left in their carts. Bring that information into the email at least, and perhaps into the subject line as well.

Slightly more than half of the emails triggered by an abandoned cart included the names or images of the products left behind. Only 19% of these emails mentioned the abandoned item in the subject line.

5. Test different approaches. The biggest surprise from our research was the sheer variety of messaging approaches used to address subscribers who abandoned carts. I expected to see a lot of traditional “you left this in your cart” copy, along with messaging about products selling out to create urgency. But there was quite a bit of soft selling.

Many cart abandonment emails used the tactics and language of browse abandonment emails. For instance, some recommended alternative or related products. Others provided information on the product category of the item abandoned. Some stressed customer service and other resources to answer consumers’ questions. And a few shared reviews for the product abandoned. These approaches partially explain why so many of the cart abandonment emails we got didn’t explicitly mention the product(s) abandoned in the subject line or body copy.

Given all the tactics used, it’s clear that there are opportunities to test several approaches and to use different ones for different product categories or different price points.

Of course, the biggest opportunity here is to send cart abandonment emails in the first place. Our research showed that only one-fifth of major retailers are using cart abandonment emails. This represents a great opportunity for brands to generate more email marketing revenue and serve customers better.

15 comments about "Five Ways To Improve Your Cart Abandonment Emails ".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Bill Kaplan from FreshAddress, Inc., February 25, 2014 at 1:19 p.m.

    Great overview, Chad. But there's one more critical task that must be performed to best leverage cart abandonment opportunities: Clean, correct, and validate email addresses at the point of registration.

    If the email address is problematic, the recommendations Chad detailed above will all be a waste of money and time... and you will have lost your customer/prospect for good.

    A proper real-time email hygiene, correction, and validation service will block problematic addresses from getting into your database, correct inadvertent hygiene errors, and validate the deliverability of each email address registered.

    For more details on how leading marketers ensure that their email files are safe to send, see

  2. Chad White from Litmus, February 25, 2014 at 2:21 p.m.

    Thanks for the...insightful...comment.

  3. John Caldwell from, February 26, 2014 at 10:42 a.m.

    Nice post Chad. One thing that I would add is to not just arbitrarily send an abandoned order email X minutes/hours/days after the shopper abandons. To avoid attributing natural sales to an abandoned order program one should determine the time of organic return and then send the abandoned order message slightly after. For example, I once worked with an organization where the majority of abandoners that would return to purchase did so within an hour, so we set the first in our abandoned order series to send at an hour and 15 minutes. The result was an average 22% lift in conversions on the first in a series of abandoned order messages without cannibalizing or taking credit for natural sales.

  4. Chad White from Litmus, February 26, 2014 at 10:59 a.m.

    Great tip, John. Thanks!

  5. Andrew Kordek from Trendline Interactive, February 26, 2014 at 11:11 a.m.

    Great post Chad. One thing that I would add is to test out offer/no offer within the CA email and gauge if the margin squeeze on the offer made up for a lost sale. I have seen plenty of organizations who simply offer something generic like free shipping or 10% off but I often wonder if they track just how effective long term it could be. Each organization is unique, so I would approach this with caution, but it certainly is worthwhile.

  6. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, February 26, 2014 at 12:01 p.m.

    @Chad: Totally agree. The most important thing is to send reasonably quickly - about 30 mins seems right - followed by making it clear what was abandoned. I would personally merge one of the names of abandoned products into the subject or pre-header. @Andrew: you have to be very careful with incentives, because they vary customer behavior and can be counter-productive:

  7. John Caldwell from, February 26, 2014 at 12:16 p.m.

    @Pete - "30 minutes seems right" based on what? Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice....

  8. Andrew Kordek from Trendline Interactive, February 26, 2014 at 12:25 p.m.

    @Pete - Of course you have to be very careful, which is why I always recommend doing a simple A/B for a prolonged period of time and gauging the ROI and margin effect long term before you decide. One client of ours did not offer an incentive but had a 546% ROI in 3 weeks by having an AC series. They chose to not even test an offer because they were a brand that very rarely discounted. I think its safe to say that mileage will vary on incentive/no incentive.

  9. Chad White from Litmus, February 26, 2014 at 2:25 p.m.

    Hi, Andrew. I generally advise against offering incentives in cart abandonment emails because over time they train subscribers to abandon carts and delay purchases--and, at least in many of the cases I've seen, don't improve conversions much. However, some brands say they are very effective for them. Testing certainly not a bad idea, but I would lean toward a default of no incentive.

  10. Andrew Kordek from Trendline Interactive, February 26, 2014 at 5:07 p.m.

    Totally understand what you are saying Chad..but I have yet to see a case study or a testimonial which says that margins were destroyed or people were trained to abandon and delay purchases on a mass basis which subsequently caused revenue to tank. I have heard the "train subscribers" argument for years..but yet I have seen no proof to support that statement. Just saying :-)

  11. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, February 27, 2014 at 6:46 a.m.

    @John: Based on experience with our client base. 30 minutes is a good starting point, but we have clients who have tried a wide variety of delays and we have private data on the effects. @Andrew: See the link in my previous comment for a case study which shows the "trained subscribers" effect. The problem with going beyond this and asking for proof is that you would need to replicate the study - and any experiment that deliberately set out to test whether presumed bad marketing reduces sales could be extremely expensive. But if you know anyone who has a few £million to cover lost sales, than I'd be prepared to offer our services for free.

  12. John Caldwell from, February 27, 2014 at 10:09 a.m.

    @Pete: so basically what you're suggesting is picking an arbitrary dwell based on one vendor's client base rather than basing messaging on an individual organization's client's purchasing trends; and then, of course, attributing all sales on the abandoned order message regardless of whether or not that message actually drove the sales or just took credit for sales that would have happened naturally.... got it....

  13. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, February 27, 2014 at 10:50 a.m.

    @John: don't see how you reached that conclusion. On attribution, I always say the following: "as with all such data, there is room for error in these figures. The recorded results could be too high, because some customers were going to buy anyway even if we didn't send recovery emails, or too low because some were reminded by the emails but bought in a way that we couldn't measure. We do our best, but nothing is 100% accurate."

  14. John Caldwell from, February 27, 2014 at 10:55 a.m.

    @Pete: so obviously you didn't read my first post in this thread....

  15. Elizabeth Ball from It's In The Stars, March 4, 2014 at 1:48 a.m.

    I send a series of three emails with the first reminding them what they started buying, the second encouraging them to return with testimonials from other happy customers and the third with other, similar products which may suit the anniversary, birthday, new baby or other important gift occasion. However I think the gap for the first email needs to be somewhat longer for products in which the customers must obtain more info - such as the correct size, birthdate etc - for a gift recipient - than for straightforward, add to cart products.

Next story loading loading..