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E-commerce businesses lose an estimated $4.6 trillion each year due to cart abandonment — over 3/4 of shoppers leave items in their cart without purchasing. It’s a massive number that impacts the bottom line of every e-commerce store.  

Browsing online isn’t so different from window shopping at a brick and mortar store. It’s common for shoppers to walk by an item several times before stepping into the store to buy or even to get cold feet and leave something at the checkout. The same phenomenon happens in online stores; only it’s even easier to bail with items still in your cart.

Recent studies find 98% of consumers don’t make a purchase during their initial visit to a site. Customers abandon carts or leave a website for various reasons, from unexpected shipping costs to checkout errors. Whatever the reasons, email is one of the easiest ways for e-commerce brands to address this issue, get those customers back, and recover the revenue from those abandoned carts.  

Sending a cart abandonment email sequence is one of the most effective ways to bring visitors back to complete their purchase. In fact, 46.1% of people open cart abandonment emails, and shoppers who click cart abandonment emails spend an average of $36 per click. Emails work because they act as a reminder and encourage customers to finish their purchase.  

Here are some tips for setting up and writing cart abandonment emails.  

Tackle the Timing

Timing is everything when it comes to cart recovery campaigns. Your first email should be sent within an hour of the cart abandonment to take advantage of the time the item is still top of mind. Emails sent within an hour have an average conversion rate of 4.5%, while emails sent more than 24 hours after cart abandonment convert approximately 2.6%

Additional follow up emails can be sent 24 — 48 hours later. It’s best to space the emails far enough apart to give the customer time to consider the purchase and to avoid bombarding customers with multiple emails over 24 hours. Each email should offer new messaging and increased urgency.  

For more on email cadence best practices: 

The Ideal Email Cadence for Your Audience

Focus Your Message

Remember, you’re emailing customers who initially wanted to buy your products and changed their minds at the last stage. Since they’re already aware of your brand and your products, you can keep the content short and straightforward. You won’t know what caused them to leave, so the message should focus on the product they liked enough to add to their cart. Use a photo and a description to remind the customer how great the product is and why they originally put it in their cart. 

For tips on writing win-back email copy:

How to Write Win-Back Email Copy

Strengthen Subject Lines

No matter how good the message or great the product, nobody will open your email if your subject line doesn’t break through the clutter and stand out. Below are some tips on building out a compelling subject line.  

  • Product details: Include what was exactly left behind in the cart.
    We’ve saved those shoes you wanted.
  • Customer name: If possible, personalize the subject line with the customer’s name. Personalized subject lines can generate up to 50% open rates.
    John, we’ve saved your items! 
  • Tone: The subject line should be friendly and approachable — speak as if you’re talking to a friend.
    Your cart misses you, or Come back, we saved your items.
  • Urgency: Tell the customer how long you’ll hold the items in the cart or put an expiration date on a promo code.
    : Final Hours: 25% off items left in your cart, or We’ve held your cart for a limited time only.
  • Simplicity: Keep it short.  It only takes a second for your customers to decide if they’re going to open the email.
    Did you forget something?

For more best practices for email subject lines:

Email Subject Lines to Engage and Re-Engage

Offer Discounts or Coupons

Customers have become accustomed to searching for deals or discounts to come back to complete a purchase. While discounts will cut into your profit, they might also build loyalty and increase your total sales amount. 

28% of shoppers abandon their cart if they’re faced with unexpected shipping costs. Consider free shipping to incentivize a customer to come back and complete their purchase. Straight discounts off the purchase price are also effective — just make sure customers don’t try to game the system by adding items to their cart just to get the discount.  

For more on how to create discounts and promotions: 

A Guide to Discounts and Promotions for D2C Brands

Rolling It All Up

To put it mildly, email is an excellent defense against high cart abandonment rates. Sending the right email at the right time is the best way to bring shoppers back to your site to complete their purchase. Sometimes, customers aren’t ready to buy, and that’s fine — just don’t let them forget about your products. 😉

For a ready-made cart abandonment recipe to help drive visitors with products in their carts back to your website and over the finish line, click here.


Scott Jones is the Sr. Product Marketing Manager at AdRoll.