How to Create a Super Effective Abandoned Cart Email

For an eCommerce business, there’s not much more frustrating than a customer who fills their virtual shopping basket with high ticket items, only to disappear from your site. The abandoned cart email can help win back some of that lost custom. But how do you make your emails enticing, not off-putting?

The Baymard Institute (who estimate based on 33 studies) suggest 69% of online shopping baskets/carts are abandoned before the sales are completed.

If your online store suffers from a high rate of basket abandonment, it may be time to re-evaluate your Customer Experience (CX). The ideal way to discover any pain points that may be causing customers to fall away throughout their online journey with you, including those that press the ejector seat at the last hurdle, is by undertaking Customer Journey Mapping.

Download your Introduction to Customer Journey Mapping for a complete overview  of how to create an effective map for CX optimisation.

No matter how great your customer experience is, a certain amount of basket abandonment is unfortunately inevitable. But all is not lost. One of the most effective ways to win back customers that have dropped off is by sending them an abandoned cart email.  

Cart Abandonment Emails – Are They Worth It?

Yes – though, naturally, you will not win back every customer, cart abandonment emails can be incredibly effective. For every abandoned cart email sent, the retailer can expect to win back over $8 in revenue. SaleCycle reports that consumers open almost half of all abandoned cart emails and, of those that click, more than a third go on to complete purchases.

Abandoned cart emails are simple to create and can be the thing that makes the difference between losing a customer and making a high value sale.  

Essentials to Make Your Abandoned Cart Emails Effective 

Remind The Customer What They Left Behind

There are many possible reasons why a customer did not complete their purchase – they may just have needed some more time to consider their choices or wanted to shop around a little more. Research also shows that sometimes the customer didn’t choose to abandon their cart at all – when quizzed, 24% have been found to claim that the website crashed, and 15% cited the website timing out as the issue.  

Sending a link to the saved basket may be all it takes to win back these customers, and a little prompting may also be all that is needed to persuade a customer who was unsure about making the purchase for another reason. 

Make it Easy

No one likes jumping through hoops, so make it as easy as possible for those customers who click back to your site to complete their purchase. A link to get straight back to the cart, with no need to fill out the registration page all over again is ideal, and you should make it as easy as possible to find this link – whether it’s clearly announced in a text based email or provided multiple times (accessible by clicking on the image, heading text and a clear link for instance) in a more visual email.

Write it Well

These emails should be thought of as marketing, rather than customer service (even if sent from your customer service team), so give the copy as much attention as you would any other email.

Your subject line is, as always, key. The most important thing is to make it absolutely clear what the email is about, but adding personalisation and creating a sense of urgency and excitement about the purchase can all make a big difference.

You want a helpful, not pushy, tone and to put across the following things: the customer has left items in their basket, they must have been interested in these items, and they should return to their basket now and complete purchase now. Personalisation is great – use sign off from a real person, rather than a generalised email that looks like 

Be helpful

Many good examples do not only remind the recipient of what they left behind but also offer a link to their customer service page, in case the basket was abandoned because the customer needed assistance. This also helps to demonstrate your business as one that cares about its customers and gives your emails a more friendly and professional feel. 

Get the Timing Right

We suggest waiting no more than 24 hours after cart or basket abandonment to send your emails. SaleCycle’s findings were as follows:

  • emails sent within 20 minutes had an average 5.2% conversion rate
  • emails sent within an hour had an average a 4.5% conversion rate
  • emails sent over 24 hours later managed only 2.6% average conversion rate.


For Even Better Results 

Appeal to Scarcity

Talk of FOMO – fear of missing out – has ballooned over the past few years, but marketers have long known the value of scarcity as a powerful trigger for purchase.

In fact, Scarcity is one of Robert Cialdini’s Six Principles of Persuasion. Cialdini argues that scarcity, whether real or just perceived, generates demand.

When crafting your abandoned cart email, you may wish to highlight the fact that items in a basket or trolley are not reserved indefinitely and products can sell out at any time to nudge shy customers into action.  

Reserve the Items

Promising to hold the items for the customer for a limited time can help motivate a customer to return to their basket, especially for smaller stores with a restricted inventory or “hot-ticket” items. 

This tactic builds upon the last – adding a powerful sense of goodwill to the scarcity principle.

Of course, you should only offer to reserve the contents of a basket when you’re sure that you have plenty of stock and you can afford to hold items when payment is certainly not guaranteed. When supply is short, priority will and should always go to customers that pay immediately. 

Businesses that operate a wishlist or “Save for Later” feature may find they also enjoy positive results from emails that let their customers know when a saved item is running low on stock. 

Offer a Discount

The number one reason cited for cart abandonment is being hit with unexpected costs (most commonly delivery charges). Offering a discount as an incentive to return to the purchase may be enough to mitigate these off-putting costs. A discount can also help when a customer just wasn’t quite sure enough about the items to pull the trigger on their purchase, or when they were shopping around in search of the best deal.

In fact, in a recent survey for VMO, 58% of customers said that they would purchase a previously abandoned item if offered it again at a discounted rate. 

The reasons for offering a discount are obvious, but each business will have to weigh up the value of winning back “lost” custom against the cost of selling items at a discounted rate. It’s worth remembering that once a customer abandons their cart, they might never be back, but if you are able to win them back, they might become a loyal life-long customer.

One possible way to balance the enticing power of a discount against the cost to the business is with discounts that are restricted to certain basket values. A customer who currently has, for example, £38 worth of goods in their cart may well be persuaded to add items to take them up to £50 in value in order to trigger a discount code.

Include Customer Reviews

Social validation is a powerful tool that influences decisions and can encourage online purchasing.

Picking the most favourable review for the items in the customer’s abandoned basket will help grow the customer’s confidence in the product and may help tip them towards returning to it. 

Use Great Design

Your abandoned cart emails don’t need to be works of art, but if your usual marketing emails are pretty or highly designed, then it’s worth putting the same care into these. And if you’re selling jaw-droppingly gorgeous products, then you’ll want this reflected in all of your correspondence with your customers.

Good design can help, but don’t let it hold you up – better to have a plain email, with engaging copy, than no email at all. 

Show Similar Items

It might be that the item (or items) they abandoned just weren’t quite what they were looking for, but a closely related product may be spot on. Similarly, showing some of your most popular products can be an enticing way to draw customers back to your site.  


These tips should help you create highly successful abandoned cart emails. For a comprehensive examination and improvement of your customers' journeys through your site, you should consider customer journey mapping. Our inductory guide to customer journey mapping will help you get started. 

  eBook Introduction to Customer Journey Mapping Help create a customer  experience that drives results for your brand.  Download now