The Science Behind A High-Converting Abandoned Cart Email

Darren Foong
Darren Foong
March 27, 2020
2 min read
The Science Behind A High-Converting Abandoned Cart Email

In this article

From Targetbay: A guestpost about the science of cart abandonment.

Imagine this - a potential customer visits your eCommerce store and seems to really enjoy the experience. He/She picks up some really cool products, adds them to the cart - you can almost….almost smell the sale - and when everything seems to be going good, going great... poof!. The customer disappears into thin air without completing the transaction.

cart abandonment

Strikes a chord? You’re not alone.

About 3 out of every 4 customers abandon their carts, resulting in a massive revenue loss of over $18 billion across various industries. (Source).

This number is no joke. And though it may seem difficult to eradicate cart abandonment completely, there are definitely ways to mitigate it and recover a good percentage of the losses.

The Reasons Behind Cart Abandonment

The first step to curbing cart abandonment is to figure out the major reasons causing it.

abandoning cart

There are definitely reasons that we have no control over, such as a customer wanting to go in-store or is not ready to purchase at that particular moment. But there are some issues that we can resolve. Let’s break this down.

  1. The issue - A good chunk of the abandonment happens due to cost or payment related concerns. Most customers face an inflated cost on the checkout page ( due to shipping and taxes ) and jump ship. Lack of diverse payment options and payment security also deters a good chunk of customers from going ahead with the purchase.

The solution - Display all costs upfront, so that customers are not in for a shock on the checkout page. Add multiple payment options on the page. Having multiple payment options facilitate convenience - thereby allowing you to accommodate a larger segment of shoppers. The initial setup may be difficult, but it definitely helps garner more sales in the long run. Add trust badges to add credibility to your brand.

  1. The issue- Website optimization seems to be another top reason why customers leave. Complicated checkouts and navigation, broken links, forced account creation, slow loading speed all contribute to a less than stellar user experience.

The solution- Keep your website clean and simple- therefore easy to navigate. Reduce the amount of text and display products clearly. Segment products and display tabs for easy access. Allowing for guest checkout is a great call as well.

Additionally, It’s a great call to have a dedicated support team and display the CTA prominently in a way that customers can easily reach out for help.

  1. The issue- Another major reason as to why customers seem to be hesitant to go ahead with the sale, is centered around shipping. Either the shipping charges seem to be high, the delivery is taking too long, and the returns policy is unsatisfactory.

The solution- Implement a friendly shipping policy. Have speed shipping as an option if possible. This will come in handy for time-bound occasions such as Valentine’s Day or Christmas.

What Are Abandoned Cart Emails, and Why Are They Used Extensively?

Improving the user experience by working on the aforementioned factors will definitely play a hand in reducing cart abandonment. But to further reduce the cart abandonment rate, it’s imperative to have a solid cart recovery strategy in place.

One of the most popular recovery strategies is to send out an abandoned cart email. The major purpose of this email is to remind the customer of the product(s) they have abandoned and then persuade them to complete the transaction.

There are other tactics such as retargeting ads and exit-intent popups to combat abandoned carts. But abandoned cart emails are any businesses’ best bet to land a lost sale.


Simply because email marketing is a wider platform and has greater visibility. There are over 3.8 billion people who have active email accounts. To top it off, an average person checks their emails about 15 times a day. The audience for a business email is huge. And even a small conversion percentage leads to a substantial profit.

Abandoned cart emails have an average open rate of about 43% with a conversion rate of 18.64%, which makes for a very good save of an otherwise lost revenue. Using retargeting ads and popups is a good idea, but in combination with the perfect abandoned cart email - the conversion rates get even better.

Getting Started - Capturing Emails

The very first( and the most important!) step towards creating a high converting cart recovery strategy is to first collect the emails of the customers who had abandoned their carts. It may seem an easy task, but in reality, it is not.

Customers are generally apprehensive when it comes to sharing their personal information, with good reasons. With data theft at an all-time high, data privacy is at a premium in this digital era.

Here are some tried-and-tested ways to go about collecting emails.

Implementing Pop-ups: Pop-ups are a great way to collect data. But timing is key. Display the popup a decent time into the user’s session. Displaying it too early may put off the customer, in the same vein, displaying it too late has the risk of the customer leaving the website even before the popup is triggered. Trial-and-error is the best way to find the right trigger time for your website, but for a start-off point, according to Unbounce, the ideal time to trigger a pop-up is around 60 seconds into a user’s session.

The content of the popup has to be short and catchy. The addition of a discount code has always yielded great results. Pair it up with attention-grabbing imagery. The overall idea is to retain the customer, convince them to rethink their decision to exit the website or hand out their information before they leave. A popup only has a couple of seconds to make an impact. So it’s important to pay maximum attention to details while creating it.

site bounce popup

Creating Hooks: It is important to give something that adds value to a customer’s life before asking them to give some data back. So create some high-quality informative hooks such as ebooks, infographics or other exclusive information that can be accessed only after the entry of the email. Promoting your newsletter is a great way to add emails to your list. Promise great content - and deliver. It may or may not convince shoppers to go ahead with a sale. But it definitely forms a bond and helps in generating future sales.

Nurturing the list is as important as adding to it, and has to be carried out regularly. Delete inactive or incorrect contacts. And add new leads to the list every now and then. Segment the list based on age, location, gender, etc. to send effective email campaigns.

email sign up

Finalizing the Campaign

Now that we’ve got the data, we just need to send out an email and prospects will turn into customers, right?

Well, it’s not that easy.

This is where the actual work begins. Let’s start off with the creation of an airtight recovery strategy. How many emails should be included? What should go into these emails? And what’s the right time to send them out?

The most commonly used (and successful!) practice is to send out a series of 3 emails.

Email 1: The first email always has to be a reminder of the abandoned product and is best sent out within an hour of the cart abandonment. Adding an image of the abandoned product is a great trigger. The shopper is most probably still on the lookout for alternatives after abandoning the cart. So it’s a great time to send out a gentle reminder of what they are missing out on without any hard selling.

Email 2: This is the mail where we can go ahead with the sales pitch. Feel free to showcase the advantages of the abandoned product by showcasing user reviews, or by offering discounts and other incentives. Use any style of content and imagery that will not only be memorable but also convince the shopper to make the purchase. This email can be sent around 24 hours after cart abandonment.

Email 3: We’ve done the reminder, and we’ve done the sales push. It is now time to step back and form a bond with the customer. Send out this email after a week from the abandonment. Don’t promote actively, instead recommend other suitable products you may have, or products that go with the current trends. Ask to send out newsletters, this way you will be fresh on their mind for future purchases.

conversion rate

6 Components to Focus on Before Sending an Abandoned Cart Email

Creating an abandoned cart requires a lot of thought. It’s not an ordinary email. It not only does the talking for you - but also convinces shoppers into trusting your brand and making that purchase. It is a high stake game with your profits on the line. It’s only fair that you take the time to perfect this email.

1) Focusing on the Subject Line

The subject line is often overlooked when creating the body content for an abandoned cart email. Do not make this mistake - subject lines can make or break your email campaigns and have a direct impact on open rates. Over 47% of email recipients decide to open an email based on the subject line alone.

The ideal subject line character length is 60 characters, and if the recipient is using a mobile phone to check emails ( which most people do!) the character length drops to 30. And in this short space, your primary focus should be on convincing the shopper to open your mail. Use catchy text, emojis, and discounts to boost the email’s open rate.

Another aspect to think of is the content style of the subject line itself. You can use different styles of content. Add a disclaimer such as “ Almost sold out”, or “3 hours till the deal’s over” to turn over sales quickly. This helps create a sense of urgency which helps the sales turnover at a faster rate.

marketing strategies

Incentivizing your email is another great way to guarantee a higher open rate. Consider texts like “30% off on your cart”, or “Free shipping for next 24 hours”. Adding a condition that they can make use of an incentive only in the next few hours, hastens the conversion.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it sure has converted many shoppers. Add intriguing subject lines like “ We know you want this…” or a simple “Forgot something?” does the trick too.

2) The Content Style/Tone

The next step is to focus on the body content. How would you want your email to come across?

Funny? Memorable? Relatable?

No matter what style you pick, ensure that it’s anything but generic. It’s a good call to keep the content short and crisp with a clear CTA. The email recipient should be able to take the required actions easily, without a hassle. Avoid spam filter trigger words, you don’t want your precious email to land straight to the spam folder. Choose a clean font, decent font size, and a bold text color. There should be no compromise on easy readability.

Here’s one example as to how you can leverage the power of content:

marketing techniques

3) Optimizing Images

Sure, content is king and it has the power to land conversions. But it’s images that grab a person’s attention first. Use amazing images that complement your text. Adding images of the abandoned product is common. Some companies stand apart by using cute images of puppies or other animals, thereby creating a sense of intrigue. Using GIFs has become increasingly popular too.

marketing tactics

There are no rules to images. If you can imagine it and align the idea to your business need - implement it. There’s one major thing to keep in mind - the size. Image-heavy emails tend to trigger spam filters and also impact email loading times. So ensure that your images do not weigh the email down in any way.

4) Usage of Reviews

Over 90% of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase. In this current era of flashy marketing and smart business tactics, more and more people trust and rely on word-of-mouth recommendations - aka user reviews on the internet.

User reviews give a sense of credibility to any brand. It’s important to gather them and leverage them for maximum benefits. In addition to displaying the product image, consider adding user reviews from satisfied customers. This gives the potential customer a sense of satisfaction that the product is coming from a credible source and is of high quality.

Usage of Reviews

5) Cross-selling and Up-selling

Just because it’s an abandoned cart email, it doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on a chance to cross and up-sell. There’s a chance that the customer may have lost interest in the product or has already bought the product elsewhere. So the inclusion of similar products or other recommended products ( based on latest trends, or simply things that go with the abandoned product) in an abandoned cart email is a great way to showcase your collection. The user might find something they might like.

retail online

6) The Discount Code Debate

The usage of discount codes has been highly debated in the eCommerce space of late. Customers are conditioned to make a sale, only with the provision of a discount. In fact, many customers abandon carts with the expectation of certain incentives. Coupons may be a great way to convert shoppers. But they do take away quite a bit from the profits.

It’s important to understand exactly when to send out a discount code. Instead of the very first cart recovery campaign, try it for the second to the third ones. Or maybe incentivizing only the most loyal customers. Make the discount codes rare, thereby adding more value to them. Trial-and-error is mandatory to find the right balance between satisfying customer expectations without giving up a lot of the profits.

discount marketing

Final Notes

The strategies, components behind an abandoned cart email can be pretty standard. And sometimes standard formulae need not work for every business. This is where A/B testing comes in. Find your own secret sauce to a high-converting cart recovery strategy by carrying out extensive A/B testing for every component; right from the subject lines to the provision of discount codes.

Do you use some really out-of-the-box cart recovery tactics for your business? We’re willing to learn. Let us know in the comments!

Darren Foong
Darren Foong

Darren is a content/SEO writer and product marketer. He doubled search traffic for the blog and put ReferralCandy on the front page of the Shopify AppStore.

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