Anatomy of an Abandoned Cart Email That Gets the Sale

Anatomy of an Abandoned Cart Email That Gets the Sale


If you help manage an e-commerce website and you don’t have a strong email campaign for customers that abandon their carts, you’re missing out on a lot of revenue.

According to SalesCycle, 75.6% of carts were abandoned in 2018.

To understand how you can win back customers we need to know why people abandon them in the first place.

Then you can send out an abandoned cart email that will be able to convert some of those lost sales into additional customers.

Top 3 Reasons Consumers Abandon Carts

The top three reasons online shoppers abandon carts are:

  1. They were just browsing
  2. They didn’t like the shipping timeframe or pricing
  3. They were comparison shopping

Don’t be discouraged by these reasons, instead view them as opportunities to win the sale.

How to Address Customers Just Browsing:

If a customer is just browsing, it means he or she is at a minimum interested in a product you offer. That’s half the battle!

Now you just have to convince the shopper this item is worth purchasing with a great list of features/benefits and maybe a testimonial or two. You could even offer a special discount to sweeten the deal and earn the sale on a product they may be still on-the-fence about.

How to Address Shipping Issues 

Amazon Prime has changed the expectations that online shoppers have when it comes to shipping speed and cost. Not only do customers often want free, fast shipping but they also want to know they can return the item for free if necessary.

In fact, a study by Lab42 found that 96% of online shoppers are more likely to buy from a site that offers free shipping. The same study found that 87% of consumers are more likely to shop on a site that offers free returns.

Many stores have been offering free shipping “with minimum purchase” for a couple of years, but the latest study from National Retail Federation found that 75% of customers want free shipping even on orders under $50.

The same study found that “many consumers consider shipping costs even before getting to the checkout page, with 65% saying they look up free-shipping thresholds before adding items to their online shopping carts.”

Additionally, due to the Amazon effect, 39% of consumers expect two-day shipping to be free, and 29% have backed out of a purchase because two-day shipping wasn’t free.

If your e-commerce shop doesn’t have a large enough volume of orders to offset the sometimes high costs of shipping, you can at least give customers different shipping options. Allow them to pay more for faster shipping, or less for slower shipping.

However, if you can afford to offer free shipping, it’s a no-brainer to do it.

How to Address Comparison Shoppers 

If you sell a totally unique product or have a corner on the market, comparison shopping may not be a concern for you. However, most companies have at least one competitor.

To address comparison shopping you could: offer a price match guarantee, offer free shipping if your competitor doesn’t, throw in free samples or a surprise with purchase, offer free returns, or build-up a loyalty program that rewards customers for shopping directly with you.

Putting Together an Abandoned Cart Email 

Even if you address all three points on your website in an attempt to win the sale on the first visit, there is still a chance the consumer will abandon their shopping cart. Sometimes we simply get distracted or run out of time and cannot complete a purchase.

No matter what you do to convince the consumer to checkout, you cannot combat distractions that occur in real life. The good news is that you can still win back the sale with a strong abandoned cart email.

An abandoned cart email is an email that automatically goes out a set amount of time after someone abandons the cart. According to Omnisend it’s best to send this email out about an hour after the cart is abandoned so that you’re still top of mind with the consumer.

In fact, Omnisend has found that brands that use a series of 3 abandoned cart emails earn the sale 69% more than brands that only send one email.

diagram of an abandoned cart email

The first email should be sent one hour after abandonment, the second email should be sent 12 hours after abandonment, and the third email should be sent 24 hours after abandonment.

Anatomy of a High-Converting Abandoned Cart Email Strategy

To discover the best way to put together a high-converting abandoned cart email strategy, let’s take a look at how the global beauty giant, Tarte, wins online sales.

First, once a consumer places an item in the cart and then begins checkout Tarte asks for the customer’s email address. This is important because abandoned cart emails can only be sent if the email address is captured.

You can see in the screenshot below I placed the Rainforest of the Sea High Tides and Good Vibes Eyeshadow Palette in my cart and then proceeded to checkout where I was asked for my contact information in Step 1.

One page checkout processes are nice, but if you don’t have the technology to capture the email address without a form submit, you should split the checkout into two pages. This way if someone gets to Payment Method and decides to abandon you still have the chance to send them emails.

Let’s say someone does abandon their cart here, what does Tarte do? Sends an abandoned cart email of course.

In this email we can see Tarte doing many of the right things to win the sale:

First Tarte includes a picture of the actual product that I abandoned in my cart. This is so much more compelling than using a generic image since I didn’t want to purchase any old product, I wanted the High Tides eyeshadow palette. Most abandoned cart email software vendors offer the ability to dynamically insert the abandoned product into the email.

Next Tarte offers a 20% off discount on the palette. This addresses all three reasons why consumers frequently abandon their carts.

If you recall, the top reason a shopper abandons a cart is that the customer is just browsing. Well, a 20% off discount on a product I was on-the-fence about is a compelling reason to take a chance on it!

The second reason people abandon carts is because of shipping costs. Tarte offers free shipping on orders valued at $40 and above, but by saving 20% it’s almost like getting shipping for free even on orders that are less than $40.

Finally, for customers that are comparison shopping, a 20% discount will likely make buying from the most cost-effective option even though the same exact product is available from other beauty retailers such as

Another really great aspect of this abandoned cart email is that the consumer can choose to “extend the offer” by 24 hours. This gives a truly on-the-fence customer the option to think it over but still take advantage of the discount. Plus, it helps out consumers that may need to wait another day until they get paid.

The only true negative I found in Tarte’s strategy is that I only received one abandoned cart email, even though Omnicore’s research found that 3 follow up emails is the right amount for most shoppers.

Putting These Tips into Practice 

Now that you know why shoppers frequently abandon their carts and how to put together a strategy to win the sale, it’s time to get to work!

Putting together the designs and copy for three emails may require some effort but just think about all the revenue you’ll be generating from re-capturing the customers who would otherwise be lost.

Not only will you now have the chance to earn a one-time sale, but they will then be in your email database where you can remarket to them over time to win multiple sales!


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