How To Design A Shopping Cart Abandonment Email Campaign

Did you know that more than 1/3 of shopping cart abandonment emails lead to a purchase? Check out 5 tips for designing a cart retrieval email campaign that can help you recover lost sales.

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Your online store is a huge success. You’ve meticulously planned out your merchandising and mastered SEO, ad placement and PR to generate great traffic. Plus, you’ve ironed out all the kinks in the checkout flow to make the buying experience is as easy as possible.

Think your sales are being maximized? Well, not quite. Unfortunately, the harsh reality is that, on average, 67.91% of shopping carts are being abandoned.

While it is impossible to convert 100% of abandoned carts (some online “window shoppers” never actually intend to buy), it is certainly possible to turn a good percentage of those carts into actual sales by implementing a shopping cart abandonment email campaign.

According to SaleCycle, more than half of cart retrieval emails are opened, and over a third of cart retrieval emails result in purchases.

If you’ve decided to launch a cart retrieval email campaign to recover lost sales, there are five important elements to consider before sending that first “Your item is still available!” message.

1. Timing Is Everything

How long does a typical shopping experience on your website last? How long does it take for people to browse and find their desired product(s)?

To answer these questions, try putting yourself in the shoes of a shopper visiting your online store. This will help you determine the necessary time delay before sending out your first cart retrieval email.

Unless your product requires a lot of research (TVs, mattresses, bicycles), typically we’ve found that 1-3 hours after a cart has been abandoned is the optimal time to send the first cart retrieval email.

If you wait less than one hour before sending the email, your shopper may still be browsing and could become confused or annoyed by your premature message. However, if you wait too long, your shopper may have already purchased the item from a competitor’s website.

If you’re sending more than one cart retrieval email, 24 hours after the first reminder is a good time to follow up with the second communication.

2. Design Your Templates

When designing your cart retrieval email templates, it helps to be as descriptive as possible. Be sure to include the item name, description, price, link and image for the products that were left behind. How many items to display in the email will depend on the average basket size for your store.

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Image screenshot from my own inbox. (Note: I am not affiliated with Doggyloot in any way.)

If you sell higher priced items, displaying just the first item in the cart will suffice. If you sell lower priced items, you may want to display up to five items in your template. Make sure the tool you use to create your email templates has the ability to generate personalized email messages featuring information and images of the abandoned items for each user.

Finally, the most important part of your cart retrieval template email is the call-to-action. There should be a no-brainer checkout button that will take your subscriber straight to the shopping cart page to complete the purchase.

3. To Discount Or Not To Discount?

If you decide to send more than one cart retrieval email, you may want to design a ladder-style promotional email series, where each subsequent message contains a larger discount promotion. These discounts can help nudge shoppers to make a purchase if they have been mulling over the decision for a couple days.

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Image screenshot from my own inbox. (Note: I am not affiliated with Levi’s in any way.)

The best practice here is to offer discounts starting with the second or third cart retrieval message (and only to customers with cart values that exceed a specified amount). You do not want to offer deep discounts in the first email to customers with very low-value carts, because you’ll risk hurting your bottom line and attracting price-sensitive, discount shoppers.

4. Set The Proper Rules

No one likes to get bombarded by emails. Therefore, make sure whichever solution you are using to build your shopping cart abandonment drip campaigns has the ability to create rules that will prevent subscribers from getting too many messages about items they left behind.

First and foremost, it is important to have a rule in place that would prevent a shopper from entering the shopping cart drip campaign more than once. This way, even if a user keeps adding more items into the cart over a period of time, they will not receive another email for each additional item they leave behind in the cart.

Next, if you are sending a series of cart retrieval emails, be sure to apply filters to check in between each message step to see if the customer has already purchased the item or has emptied the cart. If so, the user should leave the drip campaign and not receive the next shopping cart abandonment message.

5. Test, Test & Test Again

Before you launch your shopping cart abandonment drip campaign to your customers, be sure to test the workflow to make sure all the templates render properly and that the rules are working.

A good way to make sure the campaign works is to walk through it yourself. Create an account in your online store, add some items to your cart and see if the workflow works. Do your email templates show the proper items with corresponding images, links and a highly visible checkout button? Are the rules working to prevent users from getting multiple cart retrieval messages for each additional item that is added to the cart?

Test, test and test again to ensure that your shopping cart abandonment campaign has been designed properly before the public launch.

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 11.42.59 AM

Image screenshot from my own inbox. (Note: I am not affiliated with Zappos in any way.)

Shopping cart abandonment campaigns are extremely effective and quite simple to set up. As long as you pay attention to the five tips above, you should be well on your way to recovering lost sales!

Contributing authors are invited to create content for MarTech and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the martech community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Justin Zhu
Justin Zhu is the CEO and Co-founder of Iterable, an all-in-one email marketing and optimization company based in San Francisco. Iterable enables fast growing companies like Dot & Bo, Eat24 and Wrapp to send highly engaging triggered, promotional and drip campaign emails. He writes about improving email ROI, deliverability and user engagement.

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