Did you know that more than 69% of online shopping carts are abandoned before the buyer completes their purchase? Many buyers tend to get cold feet between finding an interest in a product and checking out. 

The unwillingness to complete a purchase can be caused by several factors, including technical issues, concerns about costs, or distractions. However, the great thing about these potential customers is that they’ve already shown interest in your products. Many of them just need a gentle nudge to finish their purchase. 

Understanding what an abandoned cart email is, combined with using abandoned cart email best practices, can help you re-engage these customers and re-excite them about the products they were looking at. With newfound enthusiasm, many of these leads can be turned into paying customers. 

What is an abandoned cart email?

Abandoned cart emails are email messages that companies automatically send out whenever a shopper places items in an online shopping cart but doesn’t finish the checkout process. 

What you need to know about abandoned cart emails

The goal of abandoned cart emails is to act as a gentle reminder about the items in a customer’s shopping cart and encourage them to complete their purchase. 

Why do customers abandon their carts? 

There are several reasons why customers might leave items in their carts without buying. Some of the most popular reasons for abandoned carts include:

  • The “extra costs” — like shipping and tax — were too high, or the site didn’t calculate their totals for them.
  • Customers didn’t want to create an account on the site.
  • Delivery was too slow.
  • Customers didn’t trust the site with their credit card information, or there weren’t enough payment options.
  • The checkout process was too complicated.
  • There were technical errors (such as the site crashing or not accepting their payment).
chart showing why shoppers abandon carts
This graph from Baymard Institute shows a breakdown of why people abandon their shopping carts.

Current studies suggest that approximately $260 million in recoverable revenue is lost each year. This means that companies would have the ability to regain a large portion of income lost to abandon carts just by making simple changes. 

While changes like reducing shipping costs and simplifying the ordering process could alleviate some issues, there’s no way to prevent all customers from abandoning their carts. But knowing abandoned cart email best practices can help you recoup lost revenue by re-engaging your customers. 

Should you send abandoned cart emails? 

The simple answer is yes. Because people who place items in their shopping carts and then abandon those items are what marketing experts call low-hanging fruit. Very little is necessary to convert these leads into paying customers. 

Keep in mind that most abandoned carts happen on mobile devices. When you send an abandoned cart reminder, your customers may see the reminder on their desktop, where cart abandonment rates are much lower. 

Instead of asking yourself if you should send abandoned cart emails, ask yourself this question: Why wouldn’t you? 

A best practice abandoned cart email is non-invasive and makes the checkout process easier for your customers. In fact, 25% of customers actively appreciate being reminded about the products they were thinking of buying. Sending this type of email shows initiative and provides valuable customer service. 

How effective are abandoned cart emails? 

Not only does it make sense to send abandoned cart emails, but studies show that doing so is also incredibly effective. Nearly half (45%) of abandoned cart emails are opened. Of the email users who open them, 21% will click through to their cart, and half of those users will buy the items.

This means that just by sending automated retargeting emails, you can generate more revenue for your business. Considering how cheap it is to send automated abandoned cart emails, the return on investment for this marketing practice has massive potential. 

Abandoned cart email best practices

There’s a common saying that “statistics mean nothing to the individual.” As a business, it’s important to know your statistics around a marketing practice. Yet, if you don’t put as much effort into your marketing as another brand, you won’t see the same results. 

Implementing abandoned cart email best practices can help you meet — or even exceed — typical abandoned cart email success rates. These practices include knowing how long to wait, how long the email sequence should be, and what to include in your messages. 

How long should you wait to send your first abandoned cart email?

Getting the timing down on abandoned cart emails is vital to maximizing their impact. Send the messages too soon, and you risk accusing customers of abandoning their carts while they’re in the middle of the checkout process. But if you wait too long, they may have purchased similar items with another retailer instead. 

The ideal wait time for your first abandoned cart email is 30 minutes to one hour after someone has placed items in their cart. 

This first email should not try to sell customers on your products. Instead, it should aim to resolve any technical difficulties that may have prevented customers from finishing the checkout process. Present alternate payment options — in case their first payment option was declined — or suggest a preferred browser for using your site. 

How long should an abandoned cart email sequence be?

While many companies opt to send only one abandoned cart email, this may be a mistake. Studies show that brands that send three abandoned cart emails see 63% more sales compared to businesses that send just one. 

To make an abandoned cart email sequence work well, you’ll want to space your emails out sufficiently. After the first abandoned cart email, wait at least 24 hours before sending the second one. The third message should be sent 24 to 48 hours after the second. 

Spend your first email trying to resolve any technical issues that may have prevented customers from completing their purchase. 

In the second message, try to remind customers why the items were in their cart in the first place and showcase what makes your business better than the competition. The second email is a great place to include product descriptions, social proof, and breakdowns of the key features of your products or brand. This is the email where you try to sell your products to customers and convince them to change their minds and make a purchase. 

With the third email, be gracious about the fact that the customer may have chosen to go another route. While you should still link to their cart — in case they want to finish their purchase after all — this is also a great time to send a brief survey asking the customer why they abandoned their cart in the first place. These answers can help you make important business decisions going forward. 

In your third mailing, you can also offer a coupon or explain how customers can lower fees with your business. For example, do members get free shipping? Studies show that the majority of online shoppers want and expect free shipping on their items. In fact, 80% of shoppers said they expect their items to ship for free if they spend a certain dollar amount on their order. 

If abandoned cart survey responses often show that your customers are turned off by shipping prices, consider offering free shipping and increasing the costs of your items to offset shipping fees.

Best practices for cart abandonment emails: What to include 

Abandoned cart email best practices involve more than knowing what to include in emails or how many mailings to send. Each email should be carefully constructed to improve open and click-through rates. 

Use a great subject line

The subject line is the first thing email recipients see. Research how to craft a great subject line and implement the best practices to increase the odds that recipients will open your abandoned cart emails. 

Personalize your email

Personalizing marketing emails is important — abandoned cart emails are no different. This can be as simple as addressing your recipients by name or as complicated as using information from list segmentation to tailor follow-up emails. 

Your abandoned cart email can also be personalized to include the contents of the cart (see more on this below), as well as suggestions for other products a customer might like based on their purchase history with your company.

You could even say something like, “Wouldn’t this shirt in your cart look great with these pants you ordered from us before?” The world is your oyster if you have the personalized data on file. 

Feature the contents of the abandoned cart

One of the most important things to include in an abandoned cart email is a picture of the contents of their cart, with prices and totals included. 

Featuring the contents of the abandoned cart acts as a form of personalization. But it also serves as a visual reminder of the things the person was shopping for. Most people are visual creatures, so visual cues are even more important to online shoppers, as senses like touch and smell are not available. 

Visual commerce recommendations highlight the importance of showing products from multiple angles and using high-quality images to enhance the online shopping experience. Using these same tactics in your abandoned cart emails can improve click-through and conversion rates. 

When featuring the contents of the abandoned cart, it’s also a great idea to include clear, concise product descriptions. Well-written product descriptions help answer the question: “Why do I need this item?” By including these in your abandoned cart emails, you remind customers of the problem they were hoping to solve with your products.

Use social proof

Entrepreneur calls social proof “essential to building your brand” for several reasons: 

  • It establishes your credibility.
  • It highlights you as a subject matter expert.
  • It showcases how you’ve helped other customers.
  • It immediately establishes trust with your customers.

While these reasons are great for establishing your business, they’re also helpful for nurturing existing leads. Social proof can make your brand look more compelling than your leading competitors, which may make shoppers think twice before looking elsewhere.

From reviews of individual products to reviews certifying your company’s trustworthiness, there are a variety of ways to incorporate social proof into your abandoned cart emails. 

Reinforce key selling points

Your abandoned cart email is a great place to reinforce the key features that make your products stand out from the competition. Key selling points could be anything from the price and durability of the items to the social values your company supports. 

When you reinforce key selling points, it’s also a great idea to tell customers about things they may not have known. For example, payment plans or multiple payment options are strong selling points to highlight in an abandoned cart email sequence. 

example of the abandoned cart email best practice of pointing out key selling points of a  product
See how USAA incorporates key selling points for its loans into this email, along with a clear call to action button and contact information for customer support.

Create a clear call to action

Your call to action button should catch your customers’ attention. It should also make it easy for customers to finish checking out by taking them directly to their cart, not just to your website’s homepage. 

Having a call to action button boosts engagement. And when you’re sending abandoned cart emails, boosting engagement is the name of the game. Any time customers click on your call to action, they’re going deeper into the journey to purchase products. 

Provide customer support

One of the biggest reasons customers appreciate abandoned cart emails is the help they offer when completing a purchase. So, it should come as no surprise that providing customer support is one of the most important abandoned cart email best practices. 

Providing customer support can be as simple as leaving a link to your chat support or your FAQ section. You can also provide support by educating customers about different checkout methods, payment plans, and shipping options. By incorporating support into emails, you boost their trust in your company while driving engagement. 

Remember that 73% of customers will remain loyal to brands with friendly customer service representatives. By staying positive, upbeat, and helpful, you put your business on the fast track to being their preferred brand to work with. 

Incorporate SMS

Although email marketing works great on its own, using email marketing in conjunction with SMS marketing is even better. Understanding how to use SMS and email marketing together can bolster both marketing channels. 

Helping customers re-engage could be as simple as starting with a quick text that says something like, “Your checkout process hasn’t been completed. Can we help?” 

Short and sweet, this type of text can serve as a great reminder to customers who got distracted during checkout or thought they had bought their items but hadn’t completed the checkout process. 

Thus, when you send your abandoned cart email 30 minutes to an hour later, you know that the customers who still haven’t checked out are likely having some other issue. Your abandoned cart email can focus on providing support for whatever the issue may be.

Follow standard email marketing best practices

When drafting your abandoned cart emails, you want to follow standard email marketing best practices. This includes getting permission before sending emails and having a professional-looking email template that represents your brand well. Look at examples of abandoned cart emails to help guide your email development process. 

Re-engage customers with abandoned cart best practices

As a business owner, the last thing you want to hear is that you’re leaving money on the table. But if you’re not using abandoned cart email best practices, that’s exactly what you’re doing. 

Setting up an abandoned cart email sequence helps give interested customers the nudge they need to complete their purchases. Using a sequence that includes a gentle reminder, some product descriptions, social proof, and incentives for completing the purchase increases the chances that your customers will trust and buy from you.

You don’t have to tackle everything at once. If you’re starting from scratch, set up one abandoned cart email to test this process. Once you’ve done some A/B testing on that email, you can add a second and third mailing to your sequence. When you’re comfortable with the full sequence, you can then work on adding SMS marketing to complement your abandoned cart emails.