Imagine you had a 50-gallon barrel of Vanilla Coke Zero (or insert your favorite beverage here) that has a leak in it. What are you going to do? Chances are, you’re gonna stop that leak really fast… because every minute that goes by means more Vanilla Coke Zero all over the floor.

So what does this have to do with eCommerce and growing your online sales? Similar to a leak in a barrel of whatever, customers tend to leak through the cracks of your website —in fact, as many as 70% of online shoppers add a product to a shopping cart and then abandon it. Crazy, right?

To put that in a little more perspective, that would be like 100 shoppers going into a supermarket, and seventy of them deciding to walk out and go somewhere else. Now you won’t usually see that in a supermarket because people definitely need food. But shopping online is a different experience.

If it makes you feel any better big-name retailers like Macy’s and Apple are also letting customers slip through the cracks. But if you’re not a nationally branded retailer, you cannot afford to be letting this much business get away.

What are abandoned cart emails and why do they matter?

Stats indicated that abandoned cart emails are pretty successful, which makes sense; the recipients are already warmed up to the idea of making a purchase. Around 46-50% of consumers open their abandoned cart emails (which is much higher than the average open rate of 15-20%). Around 13% of the readers will click through to a product, and 35% will end up closing a sale.

To translate those stats into numbers, abandoned cart emails could be saving you as many as 2-3 customers per 100 shoppers. And considering that the average conversion rate is right around 2.63% (or 2-3 customers per 100 shoppers), that means abandoned cart emails could double your sales numbers.

Oh and by the way…they’re also automated and the cost of setting them up is minimal.

Do you know of anything else in business that can double your sales, doesn’t cost a fortune, and runs on autopilot?

We know it’s exciting…but let’s take a few steps back.

If you’re still wondering what we’re talking about, an abandoned cart email is an email you send to customers who have browsed your store, added an item to their cart, and then moved on with their life (without buying the item). Of course, to make this happen, you’ve got to have their email address, which brings us to the first point on our list.

15 Ways To Improve Your Abandoned Cart Email Results

#1: Have the right email address. The easiest way to do this is to make customers input their email early on in the checkout process. It’s best to have some way of verifying the email address in real-time so you can develop an accurate marketing list for future use—not to mention that abandoned cart emails don’t work if they’re not going to the right place.

#2: Act quickly. Timing is of the essence. You will want to send the abandoned cart email within one hour. If you wait any longer, you’ll lose your ability to capitalize on their initial urge to buy. If you send more than one (see our next point), the timing should be as follows: one hour, twelve hours, and twenty-four hours. Of course, there is no exact science to this timing formula. Other estimates suggest 30 minutes, 24 hours, and 3 days. But the general rule of thumb is that once you get past a few days, the cart is no longer abandoned. It’s forgotten.

#3: Send more than one email. As mentioned, you might also want to send more than one email. While it may seem a little onerous, studies are showing that today’s consumers need to see something multiple times before becoming convinced. To that end, you might consider an abandoned cart email series leveraging a mix of the strategies in this list. If a discount doesn’t work, maybe free shipping will. If neither of those work, maybe a similar product is better.

#4: Use the Jedi Mind Trick of scarcity. Remember that scarcity leads to urgency, which leads to action—and if you need help remembering that formula, just picture Yoda saying it to a young Darth Vader…but know that action does not lead to the Dark Side. In fact, quite the opposite: injecting a message of limited supply or limited time will bring the force of clicks to your website. Some examples of this include:

  • We’re holding this for you…but we can’t hold it forever.
  • This item is flying off the shelves—act now!
  • 20 other people are looking at this right now…act now before they do!

Phrases like this put consumers on edge and make them want to buy now. There’s just something magical about scarcity…it almost triggers a primal part of our brains that tells us to stockpile what we want before it’s too late (even if we don’t really need it). Your abandoned cart email copy can use this principle to your advantage.

#5: Discounts, deals, promotions, oh my! Sometimes shoppers just need a little push over the finish line, especially when they can so easily do comparison shopping. Consider offering a percentage discount (that still makes sense for you, such as 10%) or free shipping as an incentive; one study by Klavio showed that emails with discounts or coupon codes had above average open and click-through rates.

#6: Regenerate their cart. You’ll convert more often if you give customers a clear path to purchase. The easiest way to do this is to give them a button to click on (return to my cart, or perhaps continue shopping) that will drop them right back to the checkout line. You do not want a generic link that drops them right back to your store, because then they’ll have to find the item (again) and fill in the billing information (again). Customers do not want to go through that type of circular experience, and the numbers show it. In a test designed to test cart regeneration against emails without it, cart regeneration outperformed the lack thereof by 33%.

#7: Keep it simple. This is not the email for content-based updates, multiple coupon codes for upcoming sales, or too many other products (though in a series of abandoned cart emails, there might be one that recommends similar products—more on that later). The abandoned cart email should have a clear call to action (CTA). Remember, the purpose of this email is to reconnect your customer with the item(s) they abandoned in their cart, and encourage a sale. If you leave open too many other paths to navigate around your website, you will most likely continue to lose stragglers to distraction (the ever-present disease of the internet).

#8: Optimize the subject line. The front line of email warfare is the subject line and preheader. Make sure to personalize the subject line with a name, because that attracts more attention and builds a sense of trust. The subject line should also clearly mention the abandoned cart with phrases like Robert, your basket is ready for checkout, or Looks like you left something behind, Amelia, or Are you ready to complete your purchase, Jamie? Lines like these were found by BigCommerce to increase open rates by as much as 7%.

#9: Leave no stone unturned. There are a variety of reasons why shoppers abandon their cart, and among those reasons are technical difficulties. In addition to your call to action, you might want to include an easy way for potential customers to get in touch with your support team by asking if there was a problem at checkout. They might also have questions about the product that your FAQ page did not answer. Give them an opportunity to ask these questions.

#10: Keep mobile in mind. These days consumers move fluidly from one medium to another. A customer might be browsing your store while they’re at work, until the boss comes around the corner. A few hours later, when they can shop on their lunch break, they’ll take out their phone and go back to their cart. Of course, it definitely helps to seal the deal if you send them an email; and since the email could be read on multiple devices (phone, tablet, desktop), you want to make sure it looks good on all venues.

#11: Be clever with copy. Consumers tend to like a little quirkiness these days (usually). Consider using attention-grabbing phrases. Check out this abandoned cart email from Toms.

The message makes your really stop and think for a minute… Catch them if you can. What does that mean? It makes you take a second to read a bit more and hopefully bring them back to your website. This is the perfect example of using clever copy.

#12: Talk about what they’re missing. With all this talk about abandoned cart emails, you’d think including the item(s) under discussion goes without saying, but it bears repeating. A prominent image of the item is a must. An accompanying description should provide details about the item (size, color, pattern, material, etc.). This information will refresh the customer’s memory and make them remember what attracted them to the item initially, which is especially important if they’re engaged in distracting behaviors like comparison shopping.

#13: Include reviews. Consumers place a lot of trust in online reviews, despite the fact that they most likely don’t know the reviewers. In fact, 84% of consumers trust these reviews as much as they would trust a recommendation from a friend. Use this trust factor to your advantage and include some reviews in your abandoned cart email, because reviews can really make or break a decision to purchase. Maybe all a customer needs to sway their decision is seeing a few five-star reviews from happy customers. At the same time, remember what was mentioned earlier, and don’t overcrowd the design of your email.

#14: Give them other options. In your first abandoned cart email, you will definitely want to showcase one product (namely, the one that almost got away). But in subsequent abandoned cart emails that are part of your series, you can showcase some similar products that might be better for the customer. This customer may not have converted because they felt the product wasn’t the right fit. Of course, recommending similar products will require a little bit of market research and the right analytics. You may also like or you may also be interested are perfect subheadings to connect the customer to other options. You could even use this strategy in your first email, but you will definitely (as mentioned) want to keep the spotlight on the abandoned item before suggesting others.

#15: Keep the connection going. In times past, an abandoned cart was the end of customer interaction—but now (as you’ve seen) it doesn’t have to be. What’s more, is that unread abandoned cart emails also don’t have to be the end of an interaction. Once you have a customer’s email, they should be added to your ongoing email campaigns. Their email should be input into some retargeting software that will help you follow these consumers around the internet and show them ads. Remember that the best type of customer for your business is a long term, repeat customer, so developing good relationships is key. Your abandoned cart emails (all of your emails, for that matter) should contain links to your social media feeds like Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook.

A final word on Abandoned Cart Emails

According to SalesCycle, the main reason why shoppers abandon their carts is that they were “just browsing.” But this is actually great news for you. This means that although they were “just shopping,” they were compelled enough to start checking out—and only then decided to move on. Abandoned cart emails present an opportunity for you to capitalize on the part of their shopping experience that motivated them to almost complete a sale, and bring them back to that point in time.

Of course, in a brick and mortar setting, there is little recourse to do this. If a customer has a cart or basket and is waiting in line, and then gets frustrated and decides to leave, there’s no way the store owner or manager can chase after them—but as the owner of an eCommerce store, you can. You have more control over the situation, thanks to the tools we have today.

If you need any extra push to realizing the value of abandoned cart emails consider this: some estimates place economic losses from abandoned carts as high as $18 billion annually. Once you realize how many sales you’re losing, and how easy it is to fix, abandoned cart emails become a clear choice for improving your conversion rates.

I left Florida for Utah’s mountains in 2007. My passions are making pizza, mountain biking, skiing, and making movie props (as me about my helmets). My tips for being happier include drinking more water, eating more vegetables, sleeping 7-8 hours, and finding opportunities to exercise outside. I love accountable, responsible marketing. I’m not happy until I get results or answers for my clients.