Best Practices for Cart Abandonment Emails

There are only 147 days until Christmas, and only 119 days until Black Friday. Does that send a chill down your spine? If you’re in ecommerce, it should. Holiday sales are what moves many retailers from the red into the black. The next 119 days will go fast. But there’s still enough time to get ready. There’s even enough time to get better. One of the best ways to spend your precious time before the holiday sales season would be to get your cart abandonment emails up to snuff.

These triggered emails are a proven way to boost sales and customer retention. They’re also automated, so once you’ve got them running, they’re largely hands off. We figure you’ll be pretty busy around the holidays.

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Editor’s note: This article takes you through the ins and outs of winning your customers back with cart abandonment emails. To learn other effective strategies that’ll help you scale your ecommerce business, read our guide to ecommerce email automation.

How much cart abandonment is going on anyway?

Before we dive into the do’s and don’ts of cart abandonment emails, let me explain the scope of the problem they address. Two studies put out this year both place the average cart abandonment rate at 75%. That’s three out of four carts getting left behind. And just in case you want one of the studies’ exact definition of cart abandonment, it’s “the percentage of customers who leave behind their order instead of purchasing.”

Think of all the work you do to get those customers to your site. And then all the other work you do to entice them enough to actually put something in their cart. They were so very, very close, and you put so much work into getting them there. To have 75% of them leave at the last moment seems like a massive lost opportunity.

But it doesn’t have to be. Most of the popular shopping cart systems make setting up cart abandonment emails fairly simple. Your GetResponse account has settings to make it even easier. This is something you can do, and for not too much hassle.

It will also put you way ahead of your competitors. According to ReturnPath, only 21% of online retailers are sending cart abandonment emails. We want you to be in that 21%.

How effective are cart abandonment emails, really?

Super effective. The company SalesCycle did a study for Q1 2015 data on cart abandonment emails earlier this year. Here’s what they found, and how it’s changed from last quarter’s data:


This is a section of the infographic, “The Remarketing Report”, published by SaleCycle. It shows data pulled from January, February and March of 2015.

Those statistics put cart abandonment emails among the most effective types of emails anywhere, including welcome emails. So let’s show you a few simple rules for how to rock these profitable little messages.

1) Send two cart abandonment emails.

This is a best practice according to Shopify and quite a few other sources. It’s also one of the improvements that got retailer Dot & Bo a 400% lift when they rehauled their cart abandonment emails.

One recent email study even reported that sending the second email typically earns retailers a 50% increase in cart abandonment revenue. That’s compared to just sending one email. Companies that sent three cart abandonment emails got a 56% increase.

Note that’s only a 6% increase from sending the third email. It might be worthwhile for some, but you also don’t want to annoy people by overmailing.

Related: The Best Marketing Automation Apps for Shopify

2) Send the cart abandonment emails a couple of hours after the cart is abandoned, and then again 24 hours after the cart was abandoned.

This is also a recommendation from Shopify and others. And it’s a trick Dot & Bo used, too. Here’s Shopify’s explanation of why to send two emails, and when you should send them:


Dot & Bo’s approach is to send the first email two hours after the abandonment. That email is shown right below. Note the “It’s still available” headline – that’s the copy they got the best results with.


24 hours after the customer has left their cart with something still in it, Dot & Bo sends this:


Dot & Bo found that sending a cart abandonment email with all the items from a cart did better than just reminding shoppers about one item. Maybe it gave people more choices.

Looking for a better way to drive sales from your store? GetResponse Shopify email marketing offers everything you may need to run effective marketing campaigns at scale.

3) Offer a discount that expires soon.

In the example above, the 10% off offer is set to expire a few days after the customer receives it. This one trick can boost revenue from this type of emails by a lot. The important part of this is to add urgency by limiting how long the discount is good for. Otherwise the shopper may just stay inactive.

Do note that some online shoppers are wise to this “discount if you leave something in the cart” practice. They will sometimes leave things in a cart just to get the discount. Continually test your offers to make sure you’re getting good results.

4) Address the major reasons why people abandon carts in the first place. 

You don’t have to do exactly what Dot & Bo did. In fact, their copy and their offers probably won’t work for your particular audience. You’ll need to take a different approach. But whatever approach you do take, consider addressing the major reasons people tend to leave their carts behind.

This survey data from Visual Website Optimizer, as laid out by will tell you what you need to know. Notice how unexpected shipping costs are the #1 reason people bail? Based on that, I might test an offer for free shipping.


Just as an aside, the results of this survey lined up nicely with a similar survey done a few months later for UPS and comScore. Here are those results:


5) Include product images.

As you probably know, we are visual creatures. Pictures sell. They sell especially well in cart abandonment emails. So while it might be easier to just send a text message, try to step it up a bit and add a photo.

This cart abandonment email from Drs Foster and Smith would be far more enticing if they showed me an image of the product. It would be even better if they included some positive customer feedback about the product.

They did include some suggestions about other products I might like, but they’re not  closely related to the product that’s in my cart. Still, it’s something.


6) Make yourself available if they have questions. 

The example above from Drs Foster and Smith does this very well. In fact, the customer service information is above the information about the product I left behind.

One of the biggest reasons people don’t pull the trigger on a purchase is because they’re not sure about it. Giving them plenty of information, or an easy way to get more information, can help a lot. Don’t forget to give them more than one way to reach you. Some people like talking on the phone; others prefer an online chat.

7) Get assertive about registrations. 

There is one huge drawback about cart abandonment emails: You need peoples’ email address. If you’ve been able to get them to register on your site, you’ve got this covered. If not, you may need to do some inbox retargeting. That can be expensive, but it will be pretty easy to figure out if it’s a good investment.

Try this:

  • Figure out how much money you’re losing from abandoned carts. Usually it’s about three times current sales. For this example, let’s say it’s $100,000.
  • Estimate your retargeting solution can get the email addresses of about half of those lost shoppers. This is a conservative estimate according to some retargeting shops, but it’s smart to lowball this.
  • Estimate you can get about 25% of the sales from those retargeting customers back with a good cart abandonment system.
  • Run the math. For example, you’re looking at $100,000 x (.5 x .25) = $12,500
  • If your retargeting costs and the cost to set up and send the cart abandonment emails are less than $12,500, this might be worth the investment.

If it’s not worth the investment, you’ll need to give people more reasons to register on your site. Offering free tools and other benefits can help. But there’s a particular business model, or registration approach, that you might consider: Don’t give people access to your site until they’re registered.

Here’s what the Dot & Bo homepage looks like when you first arrive on the site:


This looks like a typical lightbox, but it’s not. There’s no way to click out of it. You’re forced to “introduce yourself” or you don’t get access to the site. So unlike other retailers who have to hope their customers and prospects sign into their accounts, Dot and Bo already has every visitor’s contact info.

Does that turn people away? Absolutely. But does it mean these marketers can get more dollars from the people who are willing to give their information? You bet. But Dot and Bo has enough of a brand reputation (ie, they’re “cool” enough) that people do want access. And if you want access to their website, they want access to your inbox.

This is not a solution for everyone, but it’s a setup I’m seeing more and more. And it definitely makes sending cart abandonment emails easier.

What about you?

Those are the most common and best-known cart abandonment tips. But maybe you know some secrets that I don’t. If you’re having success with cart abandonment emails – or if you’re still not sure they’re worth the work – tell us about it in the comments.

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Pam NeelyPam Neely

Pam Neely has been marketing online for 15 years. She's a serial entrepreneur and an avid email and content marketing enthusiast with a background in publishing and journalism, including a New York Press Award. Her book "50 Ways to Build Your Email Marketing List" is available on Pam holds a Master's Degree in Direct and Interactive Marketing from New York University. Follow her on Twitter @pamellaneely.

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