Abandoned Cart Email: Everything You Need to Know

If you run an ecommerce site, you need to be sending abandoned cart email — whether you know it or not.

An “abandoned cart” is when shoppers add your products to their online shopping cart, leaving your site before purchasing.

Why did they leave? It could be because they were browsing, faced technical difficulties, or saw fees or shipping costs they weren’t prepared for. Regardless of their reasoning, it leaves you with one question: how can you inspire these “window-shoppers” to become buyers?

One effective way to do this is to send an abandoned cart email. This transactional email aims to re-engage those who added items to their cart but didn’t make it to checkout. Delivering these messages can help you recover lost sales and turn would-be consumers into loyal advocates of your brand. 

So how do you create an abandoned shopping cart email that grabs recipients’ attention and motivates them to spend? Fortunately, the process isn’t as hard as it seems. You can reel interested shoppers back in with a bit of brainstorming and creativity and boost your revenue. 

What is a cart abandonment email?

Cart abandonment emails are automatically triggered messages sent to customers who didn’t go through with a purchase on your site.

Sending these emails has proven to be effective in winning shoppers back. 48% of abandonment cart emails are opened. Quite simply, it’s one of the best ways to increase sales in online retail. 

In addition to reminding customers of the items left in their cart, these emails can contain an incentive. For example, they can include coupons, discount codes, or free shipping. However, including an incentive isn’t always necessary in piquing customers’ interests. Sometimes, a catchy headline, excellent copy, and eye-catching images are all it takes. What you put in these emails will often depend on your company’s current budget and resources. 

Is it legal to send abandoned cart emails?

In recent years, governments have been tightening restrictions on what companies can do with consumer data obtained on their websites. Many businesses leverage this data in digital marketing strategies, including email marketing.

While leveraging data helps develop more targeted and personalized email campaigns, specific rules are in place regarding how you should properly collect and utilize user data. 

The first thing to note is that an abandoned cart reminder is a transactional email, not a marketing one. The difference is important, as marketing and transactional emails serve different purposes and therefore have varying regulations.

Marketing messages are sent to a group of contacts with a commercial purpose, such as newsletters or promotional campaigns. They’re meant to inspire readers to take another step with the brand. As a result, they’re great for nurturing leads. 

A transactional email, on the other hand, is sent to a single individual based on an action completed on your site. 

These emails include password resets, confirmations, or abandoned cart messages. Transactional messages focus on building relationships with current customers rather than encouraging action from new or prospective customers.

The big difference between the two is that a recipient action triggers transactional messages while marketing ones do not. 

Region-specific transactional email laws

Many regions have specific laws regarding transactional emails.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has some of the strictest, leading to another big question: are abandoned cart emails GDPR compliant? To answer that, you can look at specific sections of Art. 5 of the GDPR, which are most relevant to transactional emails. Abandoned cart emails must:

  • Be “processed lawfully, fairly, and transparently.”
  • Be collected for “legitimate” and “limited purposes.”

To summarize, in the EU, you must have a reason for sending your transactional email that patrons might expect. For instance, after making a purchase, customers have come to anticipate a digital receipt that details the total cost of their items.

An abandoned cart notice serves a similar purpose, as buyers were already nearing the end of the sales funnel. You can add an opt-in button to ensure consent when customers agree to supply their email addresses. You can also include a privacy policy that details these terms. 

How about the U.S. and Canada? The U.S. has The Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM), while Canada has Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). Similar to GDPR, these laws require that the email’s purpose is transparent. However, there are some disparities between the three. 

While transactional emails may not contain false information, they are exempt from “most provisions” of the CAN-SPAM Act. All they need is a clear subject line, an understanding of who the sender is, and for the message to state its primary purpose at the beginning of the text. There’s also no prior consent required. Users must have an opt-out option. 

As for CASL? It’s more strict than CAN-SPAM in that transactional emails require prior consent from consumers. Specifically, CASL has two types of consent: explicit and implied. 

With explicit consent, individuals have voluntarily complied to receive company communications. Under implied consent, users already have a relationship with a company. For example, they may have bought a product from your brand in the past. Either way, recipients must have agreed to hear from you.

Abandoned cart email strategy

So how can you use abandoned cart reminders as an ecommerce marketing tool and incorporate them into your email marketing strategy?

The first step is to decide when to send these emails. You don’t want to come off as pushy, but you also don’t want to reach out to a buyer when they’ve already lost interest. To solve this issue, you can send a series of emails. The best strategy is to deliver three of them.

You should send the first shopping cart reminder within an hour of consumers abandoning their carts while their shopping experience is fresh in their minds.

However, with this first email, merely write a friendly message. Don’t incentivize just yet. Many shoppers may have gotten temporarily distracted or busy and planned to return to finish their shopping soon. A little nudge can be all it takes to get them to go through with the final click. 

For the second email, wait at least 24 hours.

This reminder should have a stronger sense of urgency. A common tactic is to let users know the items they saved will disappear from their cart. Or, you can inform them that any deals will expire on a specific date or time. Still, remain friendly and upbeat in your copy, as coming off as too invasive or negative can drive shoppers away. 

For the third email, let 48 hours pass.

At this time, you can start to incentivize. You can offer patrons unique discount codes, coupons, or free shipping they can apply to their final purchase. 48% of shoppers say they abandon their cart due to high extra costs, so financial incentives are often effective. However, waiting until the third email provides financial offerings ensures you’re not losing too much money. If you send an incentive with every first email, customers may be tempted to wait until getting that first one to buy. 

Abandoned cart email best practices 

While every company is different in how they approach their abandoned cart strategy, there are some essential abandoned cart best practices to follow. Incorporating these tactics increases shoppers’ likelihood of returning and may turn them into loyal customers. 

Remind them of their items

The number one feature in any abandoned cart message is a reminder of what shoppers left in their shopping carts.

You can feature photos of the items as well as the product names. There should also be text (also known as copy) that tells the customer they’ve left their cart — to drive the point home. Lastly, there needs to be a call to action (CTA) with a link to finish their purchase. They should remember right away that they didn’t buy and should have a straightforward way to complete their purchase. 

Personalize, personalize, personalize 

Personalization is key to any successful email marketing strategy.

Using the shopper’s name, you can use personalization in both the subject line and the copy of the cart abandonment email. It’s a straightforward but surefire way to grab someone’s attention, especially as people receive up to an average of 100 emails per day. Such a high volume of emails means people are prone to skimming any repetitive, boring text. 

Include a killer subject line

Speaking of abandoned cart subject lines, they’re one of the essential parts of an abandoned cart email. After all, it’s the first part of the email your shoppers will see in their inbox. They won’t click on your email if you don’t grab them from the get-go.

Aside from personalization, make sure your subject lines are clear, relevant, and engaging.

You can use a customer’s name and a question, incentive, or Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) statement.

FOMO creates that sense of urgency you want in your second and third abandonment cart email series. For example, you could write something like, “Alex, the items in your cart are almost sold out.” Letting the customer know that if they don’t buy soon, they will miss out on the product —  without a guarantee that they can purchase it later. 

Write catchy copy

An excellent, catchy copy can turn a user from one who quickly scans your email to one who eats up every word.

Remember that you aim to remain upbeat, even when using urgency. To achieve this tone, many companies inject some humor and cleverness through wordplay into their copy, such as light-hearted puns or similar witticisms. 

Another idea is to extend an offer of help to the consumer. They could have abandoned their cart because the checkout process was too confusing, or perhaps they experienced a glitch. To solve these problems, you can include customer service’s contact information, such as a phone number, email address, or a chat link. 

Have a visual appeal 

Who doesn’t love a good visual? 

To entice your would-be buyers to finish making a purchase, include high-quality images of the item(s) they left in their cart. 

And while the focus is on the items left in an abandoned cart, it’s essential to include your brand imagery. Brand imagery can include photos, illustrations, or colors that resonate with your brand. Ask yourself what vibe you’d like your brand to give off. Something bright and colorful? Moody with a modern aesthetic? No matter what it is, visuals attract readers who tend to skim over the text. You can use brand imagery in your email header, body, footer, or a combination of all three.

Use social proof

Social proof is a phenomenon we see in marketing and in our everyday lives. It’s the psychological idea that people will almost always follow the majority’s actions.

You can commonly see social proof in action when potential customers read reviews of a product. These shoppers are interested in what most people have to say about a product and will likely make a decision based on the general consensus. If there are great reviews, chances are they’ll buy. However, the opposite is also true. 

You can use social proof in your abandoned cart email by including customer reviews and testimonials.

Some companies include the product’s average rating with a link to read more. Others go more in-depth by featuring one customer quote or user-generated content (UGC). UGC can consist of user-shared photos or videos of previous customers using your product. UGC can be an exciting and fun alternative if you want to go the visual route. 

Incorporate a strong CTA (call to action)

No abandoned cart message would be complete without a strong CTA.

The CTA button is what takes people back to their shopping cart to finish their purchase. More than anything else, it should include action-oriented words to motivate them to take the next step. Think of using words like “get,” “shop,” or “buy.” It’s much more compelling than a simple “click here” and reminds readers of their next step. 

You can use more than one CTA button in your reminder if you’d like. For example, you can include one in your header and two in your body. One can be above the copy and the other below it. The point is to give recipients as many opportunities as possible to click on a relevant shopping cart link. 

Be mobile-friendly

With 300 million mobile users in the U.S. alone, there’s a high chance your shoppers will be opening your reminder on their phones. But shoppers are quick to click out on emails that aren’t mobile-friendly. An unfriendly mobile message is challenging to navigate, requires zooming, and has hard-to-read text. You aim to make mobile emails as easily accessible as your desktop ones. 

To do this, ensure your subject line is under 30 characters, or it will be cut off. Do the same for the pre-header text or the copy your recipient will see under your subject line. Also, ensure that any images you use are displayed correctly before shooting off your message. When a reader clicks on your mobile email, everything should be easy to read and scroll through. CTAs should also be easily identifiable, and users should have no trouble clicking on them. 

Abandoned cart email examples

Are you looking for abandoned cart email inspiration? Check out these abandoned cart reminder examples below. They incorporate some of the best practices above while adding their unique flair. 

1. VistaPrint – Makes it personal

VistaPrint provides a sleek, clean design in their email.

VistaPrint, which produces digital and physical ecommerce products, does a lot right in their email. They start with a compelling and complementary header: “Your design looks great.” The message is customer-focused, which is a crucial personalization technique. Below this text, VistaPrint uses a gentle, non-pushy reminder to finish building the product “when you’re able to.” There’s no pressure here, letting the patron complete their order on their terms. 

They also include two clear CTA buttons, which use personalization with “my” in both. In the footer, they offer help in finishing the order with three customer support options. Clearly, the brand is on the buyer’s side and wants to help them in any capacity, demonstrating strong brand trust. 

2. J. Crew Factory – Uses several (strong) CTAs 

example of using strong CTAs in an abandoned cart email
J. Crew Factory uses a mix of bold, colored, and underlined text to make its email stand out.

J. Crew Factory doesn’t just have one CTA in its cart abandonment email — it has several. There’s the option to finish buying items in the cart, shop for new clothes, or get advice on what to wear. 

Including additional, creative CTAs like this gives the reader an incentive to buy another item if they are hesitant to go through with their first purchase. Alternatively, incorporating this tactic gives your business the chance to upsell. The customer may get other clothing ideas and add them to their original purchase ideas. It’s a win-win for both you and your customer. 

3. Bonobos – Has visual appeal

example of using visual appeal in an abandoned cart email
Bonobos use a light tone throughout its copy; a common strategy used to easily attract user attention.

Bonobos nails its abandoned cart email by using eye-grabbing visual appeal. The picture used is humorous, creative, and undeniably unique. Once Bonobos has reeled in the reader with its picture, it uses the words “distracted” and “confused” to target typical reasons customers abandon their carts. 

It doesn’t just end there, however. There’s both a CTA and an alternative suggestion here. Firstly, Bonobos gives the reader the ability to finish their purchase. But the company also suggests contacting customer support if the customer needs any help. Incorporating this other idea can help the customer feel less pressured to buy. 

4. Luna – Incentivizes

incentivize your abandoned cart email
In addition to offering an incentive to make your purchase now, Luna makes sure to reflect its brand colors, throughout its abandoned cart email.

Luna, a company that sells weighted blankets, goes straight for the incentive here. After an urgent-oriented header (“Your cart is about to expire!”), the company provides a discount code that gives the buyer 10% off. As many customers abandon their cart due to checkout fees, this is an effective and straightforward way to reel a shopper back in. 

The CTA button that follows, “Don’t snooze on this,” is a strong example of clever wordplay. Sometimes, all it takes to re-pique the intrigue of customers is a little humor thrown in at the right moment. 

5. Ugmonk – Includes helpful copy 

an example of helpful copy in an abandoned cart email
Ugmonk understands that not every email needs to be filled with bright, eye-popping images or colors to work.

The first thing you’ll notice with Ugmonk’s message is its lack of visuals. Instead, everything is copy-based, with the occasional linked text used. Still, what’s in the copy makes this abandoned cart reminder a good example. 

The third paragraph of this email details a common pain point that causes readers to abandon their cart — questions about the products themselves or their designs. Adding this pain point is beneficial because it could directly apply to the reader or make them realize that this is a problem they have. 

What does Ugmonk offer to do to solve this issue? Offer a point of contact: a CTA to email the company’s owner in this case. It’s an incredibly personal way to reach out to the customer and let them know the business is truly on their side. There’s also a CTA to finish their purchase if they simply forgot or got distracted from shopping earlier. 

6. Etsy – Induces FOMO

an example of using FOMO in an abandoned cart email
Etsy starts off with “Make it yours,” an inviting header that makes customers want to read more.

Ecommerce retailer Etsy scores another abandoned cart email homerun. What it does differently than others on this list is give specifics to its urgency. In the header, Etsy emphasizes that only one of these t-shirts is left. More specifically, 17 other shoppers have the item in their carts. Sharing these details provides substantial motivating factors for a shopper to buy the item as soon as possible. 

7. Walmart – Uses a simple reminder

an example of a simple reminder abandoned cart email
Walmart incorporates both its brand colors and a simple white background to make for an easy-to-read email.

Walmart gets points for including similar products in its email. In this case, they call them items that “other shoppers also viewed.” And, when your potential buyer lives in the U.S., these recommendations are always a great idea because shoppers can imagine how they can use their abandoned products and these suggested items together. However, suggesting additional items is not allowed if you do business in Canada. In the EU, the suggested items have to be similar to those left in the abandoned cart.

Walmart also goes for less pressure with its message. They tell the customer to “take another look” and have a CTA that says “view cart.” While these phrases are more straightforward, they still encourage recipients to act. This Walmart message is an excellent example of a first abandoned cart reminder before creating any urgency. 

Recover lost sales with abandoned cart emails

One of the best ways to recover lost sales is to send abandoned cart reminders to customers. After all, they have already shown an interest in your company and its products. Often, they need only one extra push to click on that CTA button. 

To get started with your abandoned cart email, consider your brand personality and how you can show it while enticing window shoppers to become buyers.

Don’t forget that you’re not stuck on just one type of abandoned cart notice, either. Test different versions to see what receives the most engagement. Play around with the copy or visuals to see what gets more clicks. With a bit of refining. you’ll create a winning abandoned cart message that increases sales and builds strong customer relationships.

Learn more about retail email to increase your ecommerce sales.