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A Nitty Gritty Guide to Winning at Cart Abandonment Email

$18 Billion.
This ghastly sum represents the estimated total revenue lost by online retailers to shopping cart abandonment every year.
But as a digital retailer, what can you do about it?

Start measuring

Cart abandonment affects all businesses that rely on converting website visitors into buyers.
Understanding the quantitative opportunity it represents is an important step in trying to reduce its frequency.
Start by setting up your Google Analytics funnel or use a service like Paditrack to create funnels that visualize your analytics data. Google Analytics can help you understand the aggregate trends around where customers drop out of your funnel.  You can also employ a specialized solution designed for your ecommerce platform to measure transactional data (like how much revenue is being left in the cart or which items are being dropped most frequently).
(Want to learn more about tools that will ease your experience with Google Analytics? Do so here.)
Cart abandoners are an incredibly important group of potential customers.
They are providing a signal of buying that is far greater than any average site browser would.
Here’s why: the cart abandoner engaged with your checkout page to some degree AND showed you what they were interested in purchasing. This is a powerful combination. At a minimum, start measuring the number of drop offs from checkout to receipt, and use your average order value to determine the revenue opportunity.

Email is your second chance

Instead of thinking about shopping cart abandonment as a terrible problem that is costing your online business precious revenue; let’s think about it as an opportunity to…

  • Improve the experience that customers have when shopping with you and
  • Use the insight to understand what makes your customers tick.

This insight can be business changing.
But how do you start gathering that insight?
The most effective way to re-engage with prospective customers who abandon cart is by sending them email.  These campaigns are referred to as cart abandonment emails, abandoned cart emails, cart reminders, cart follow ups, etc.
Let’s explore the moving parts of a well executed cart abandonment email campaign:

Timing & Frequency

When should you send an email after a customer has abandoned a cart on your site?
We haven’t found a difference in conversion for an email sent 16 minutes post-abandon vs. 19 minutes post-abandon, or any other “to-the-minute” interval of that size.
We do reference a study conducted at MIT that does show a significantly lower engagement rate for outreach that occurs more than one hour after the first-touch. The data indicates that your chances of re-engaging a lead drop by as much as 10x, if you follow up more than an hour after your first interaction with them.
Frequency, or the number of follow-up emails you send, really depends on the strength of your offer.
How are you enticing cart abandoners to return to your site?
If you’re delivering a simple reminder, we recommend sending one email at the most. Beyond that, you’re not providing any additional value to the customer and will negatively impact your brand by not respecting their inbox.
A more favorable approach is to develop an offer that is truly unique and designed specifically to engage cart abandoners. We’ll talk more about offers in a moment. Once you start gathering qualitative feedback about what’s causing people to abandon in the first place, you’ll quickly start to see trends that can be used to craft a compelling offer.
The concerns we see most frequently in B2C eCommerce are related to high/unexpected shipping costs. This isn’t surprising. A study conducted by ComScore indicated that 61% of U.S. consumers are at least somewhat likely to cancel an order if free shipping isn’t offered.
As eCommerce has matured in the U.S., buyers have become conditioned to expect free shipping, made popular by services like Amazon Prime and larger online retailers like L.L. Bean who always offer to ship for free.  This isn’t always easy for small-to-medium sized retailers to stomach, but are there are ways to get creative.


Using strong, unique offers to re-engage cart abandoners is good business for the simple reason that we outlined earlier: these customers are exhibiting the highest levels of buying intent you could ask for. Many times, they should need a bit of love to convert. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind.
You don’t want to train customers to abandon on purpose just to obtain a discount. This can be mitigated by using intelligent frequency capping. It’s wise to set a suppression window of 30-60 days for customers who have abandoned in the past or who have converted as a result of a previous abandonment campaign (or, in other words, they were exposed to your offer already).
Setting these caps gives you confidence that your follow up is delivered only to those customers who abandoned with non-purposeful intent. This gives you freedom to get creative with your offer.
There are 3 facets to a strong offer:

  • Exclusivity in that the offer is used only for cart abandoners.
  • Scarcity in that the offer has a set number of people who can take advantage of it.
  • Urgency in that the offer will expire at some point in the near future.

Here’s great example of how to leverage urgency from the guys at


According to internal analytics, 49% of the remarketing emails Rejoiner sends are opened on a mobile device (representing Apple iPhone, Google Android, Apple iPad). Two years ago, that number was 26%. The awesome team at Litmus kindly tracks email client market share numbers for us and here’s the latest data from September 2014.
Their data suggests that almost half of all emails are opened on mobile.
There has been a fundamental shift in how people consume their email and it’s rapidly moving away from larger screens.
This trend impacts your cart abandonment email program (well, actually all of your marketing efforts) in three ways:

  • Pay close attention to your mobile experience, specifically how your emails render on mobile devices.
  • User sessions should regenerate cross device. It’s highly likely that customers are consuming your cart abandonment emails on a device different than the one they originally abandoned on.
  • Your cart/checkout process must be useable on a mobile device. Users probably won’t convert on mobile, but the experience shouldn’t be a negative one.


Not all abandoned carts are created equal.
For most retailers, there are four segments to really consider when delivering email to cart abandoners. Approach each group with care and a specialized campaign:

  • Most valuable customers – The customers who order most frequently and have higher average order values when compared to your entire base of customers.
  • High value orders – These are particularly high value orders when compared to your normal average order value.
  • Carts containing specific brands/product categories – Many times you’ll have more room in terms of margin on specific brands or product categories. This is an opportunity to make a more aggressive offer if there is room from a margin perspective.
  • Low value orders – For low value orders, we’ve seen success in offering a “threshold” discount. To bring up average order value, you could consider offering free shipping or a small promotion if the customer returns and completes an order that is over a certain dollar value.

Now we’re delivering the right offers, to the customers, at the right time. The last piece of the puzzle is one you don’t hear about very often.


Cart abandonment emails are the perfect opportunity to make your customers smile. After all, emailing someone about abandoning an imaginary cart is already a pretty comical idea.
By injecting humor into the copy and photography used in your abandonment campaign, you not only humanize your brand but you also create connection with customers that they will remember.
Ann Handley of MarketingProfs summarized this approach perfectly,

“Humor is effective in marketing because it humanizes and surprises. You can play it straight and write a blog post that clearly and emphatically states how your computer router can handle up to 6.4 terabits of data. Or, you can get the point across and create something relatable, charming and (of course!) shareable.”

Here’s a great example from Chubbies shorts…
And another from…
And this might be my favorite from Doggy Loot….
What do you think? Have you ever received a great cart abandonment email campaign? A terrible one? A hilarious one? Better yet, what’s working for your business?

Mike Arsenault

Mike Arsenault

Mike Arsenault is the CEO and Co-Founder of Rejoiner. You can connect with him on Twitter and his blog .

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