Abandoned Cart Email Strategies for Improving Your Conversions

When a user adds a product to the online shopping cart of an e-commerce site but doesn’t proceed to checkout and complete the purchase. Users may abandon because they aren’t ready to buy. Instead, they are using their cart as more of a "wish list" as they shop around and compare prices. Setting up automatic, personalized email alerts to remind users they have items in their cart is often just the nudge they need to finish checking out.


With the right approach, you can entice your customers to come back and sell more products.

Nearly 70% of e-commerce shoppers abandon their carts before making a purchase. People leave stuff behind for all sorts of reasons. But here's the good news: With abandoned cart emails, you can bring them back.

What are abandoned cart emails?

If you’ve ever left an online purchase behind, you may have received abandoned cart emails, which often come in stages. The 1st is usually a gentle reminder to complete your purchase. The 2nd might give you a deadline—“Your order is about to expire!”—and the 3rd usually includes a coupon or discount to bring you back.

Small retailers often create and send these emails manually. If that's too time consuming for your business, don’t worry—you can automate the process.

Using relevant data

To write an effective abandoned cart email, you need 2 key pieces of information:

  • Why did the customer start to buy?
  • Why did they walk away?

If you know the answers to these questions and can address them in your email copy, you're halfway there. Some common reasons for walking away include high shipping costs, having to register for an account, or concerns about the site’s security.

But if you don't have answers, start collecting feedback to determine exactly why your customers show up at your website and not your competitor’s—and why they walked away. Then you can solve the problem with an email that offers discounted shipping, helps them check out, or emphasizes your site's safety.

How to write abandoned cart emails that convert

Clever copy and vivid imagery can engage your customers, but capturing their attention won’t matter unless you make it easy for them to buy the products they want. That’s why it’s crucial to communicate as clearly as possible.

1. Know your audience.

Who are your customers, and what kind of relationship do they have with your business? What kind of relationship do they want? Will they respond well to jokes, or would they rather you just get to the point?

Make sure you know the answers to these questions before you write your email. Better yet, write an email for each segment of your audience.

2. Write a compelling subject line.

The subject is one of the first things your recipients will see. So how do you write copy that grabs their attention?

  • Keep it short and sweet. You don’t want your subject to run off the screen or trail off with an ellipsis. If you’re targeting mobile users, keep it to 50 characters or fewer.
  • Use the customer’s name. For example, you could write, "Hey Tony, you left something here." Whenever possible, keep things personal and friendly.
  • Don't be spammy. This can be tricky, so let your team read each subject line. If anybody says something feels like clickbait, toss it. When in doubt, keep things clean and simple. That means not using more than 1 exclamation point or writing anything in all caps.
  • Use numbers. "Hey Martha, the 7 items in your cart are waiting for you." This will make your email feel concrete and immediate.

A/B test your subject lines and track your results. Keep using the lines that work and rewrite the ones that don't.

3. List the items in the cart.

By the time you send your email, your recipient may have forgotten what they were going to purchase. They may have even forgotten that they were thinking about buying anything from your site at all. That’s why it’s important to remind them what products they selected (and include pictures of them if you can).

4. Conclude the email with a call to action.

You can’t expect your readers to know what to do unless you explicitly tell them, so be sure to include a link to your checkout page with clear instructions. You may even want to consider putting a call to action (CTA) at the top and bottom of the email.

Timing your abandoned cart email

In general, sooner is better. An email sent shortly after the cart is abandoned can generate more revenue than the same email sent 24 hours later, so try to send the 1st email within 1 to 2 hours of the customer leaving your site.

Your abandoned cart email campaign doesn’t have to stop at 1 email, though. Many use a series of 3:

Email #1: This message can be a friendly reminder that assumes the customer just got distracted. Use a subject line like "We're holding onto your goodies for you" or "Oops! There's some stuff still sitting in your cart."

If the 1st email doesn't bring the customer back, send a 2nd email after about 24 hours. Giving your customer a full day makes the 2nd email feel less disruptive, but it doesn't let so much time pass that the customer forgets what they wanted to buy.

Email #2: This message should create a sense of urgency. Let your customer know that their discount may expire or that a product they selected might not be available much longer. Try a subject line like "Don't let [your item] sell out” or "Your discount will expire in 5 hours."

Email #3: Offer the customer an incentive to come back, like a coupon or promo code for free shipping. For this email, you can use a more direct subject line like, “We want you back!” or something lighthearted like "Was it something we said?" The 3rd email is your last chance to grab the customer’s attention, so make it count.

Abandoned cart email tips

Sending a targeted, personal, and timely email can bring shoppers back. However, not all abandoned cart emails generate equally effective results. Here are a few more best practices to get the most out of yours:

1. Stick to your brand's voice.

Are you fun and friendly? Elegant and classic? Either way, keep that tone. Maintaining a consistent brand image keeps your e-commerce business looking professional, which makes it attractive to your potential customers—including ones who are on the fence.

2. Be personal.

Remember that people like messages that speak to them about things that they like, and they want to be treated like a person. You should strongly consider using your customer's name, and make sure to list the specific items in their cart. This shows that you put some effort into the message and didn’t just send an identical email to everyone.

3. Suggest related items.

With product recommendations, it’s easy to show off other stuff that your customers will love. (They might even like those options better.) You can be direct about this and write something like, “We noticed you were looking at gardening supplies! We thought you might find these useful, too.”

4. Offer incentives.

Since high shipping costs is one of the biggest reasons that people abandon online shopping carts, try offering a discount or voucher to win some of those customers back. This strategy can also cost you money in the long run, so keep an eye on it to make sure you’re making enough on sales to justify the discount.

Recapture the interest of shoppers

Abandoned cart emails can bring people back to the checkout line. To start your email campaign, craft subject lines and get feedback from your team. After you draft an email template and conduct some A/B tests, you’ll be able to see what works for you—and get time back to focus on other things.

Take your business to the next level