Five Ways To Improve Your Cart Abandonment Emails

February 25, 2014

By Chad White, MediaPost

Shopping cart abandonment emails are among the most powerful messages a marketer can send, but they could be even more powerful. Our most recent research into cart abandonment emails shows five clear opportunities to strengthen them:

1. Send quickly. For most consumer purchases, the effectiveness of cart abandonment emails diminishes the longer the delay between the abandonment of the cart and the arrival of the triggered message. This is particularly true during the holiday season and during the run-up to Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and other holidays, when the time of consideration is much shorter than usual.

Our research found that 52% of cart abandonment emails arrive more than 24 hours after abandonment. At the other end of the spectrum, only 10% of cart abandonment emails arrived within an hour.

Start by sending yours as quickly as possible, as that’s likely to be most effective, and then confirm by testing longer delays.

2. Send a series. Because subscribers don’t open every email and sometimes need more than one nudge, marketers are increasingly finding success with a series of triggered emails. Welcome emails appear to have been the testing grounds for email series. According to our 2014 State of Marketing survey, 41% of marketers are now sending a welcome series, with a high level of success being reported.

Series can work well for shopping cart abandonment emails as well. Our research found that already 19% of marketers are sending an abandonment series. We find this to be a particularly compelling approach when the value of the cart is high.

In one case, a cart we abandoned had more than $1,000 of merchandise in it, and we received four triggered emails over the course of a week as a result. That seems very appropriate. Especially if you sell big-ticket items, this is worth testing.

3. Include seasonal context. Holidays mean deadlines. That Christmas gift is no good if it arrives after Dec. 24. But it was surprising almost none of the cart abandonment emails we received included any seasonal messaging. Just as your transactional messages should contain seasonal messaging, so too should your abandonment triggers. Review all appropriate triggered emails throughout the year to look for opportunities to drive seasonal purchases.

4. Make it clear what was abandoned. The harder you make customers work, the lower the conversion rate. So don’t make subscribers open the email and click in order to find out what they left in their carts. Bring that information into the email at least, and perhaps into the subject line as well.

Slightly more than half of the emails triggered by an abandoned cart included the names or images of the products left behind. Only 19% of these emails mentioned the abandoned item in the subject line.

5. Test different approaches. The biggest surprise from our research was the sheer variety of messaging approaches used to address subscribers who abandoned carts. I expected to see a lot of traditional “you left this in your cart” copy, along with messaging about products selling out to create urgency. But there was quite a bit of soft selling.

Many cart abandonment emails used the tactics and language of browse abandonment emails. For instance, some recommended alternative or related products. Others provided information on the product category of the item abandoned. Some stressed customer service and other resources to answer consumers’ questions. And a few shared reviews for the product abandoned. These approaches partially explain why so many of the cart abandonment emails we got didn’t explicitly mention the product(s) abandoned in the subject line or body copy.

Given all the tactics used, it’s clear that there are opportunities to test several approaches and to use different ones for different product categories or different price points.

Of course, the biggest opportunity here is to send cart abandonment emails in the first place. Our research showed that only one-fifth of major retailers are using cart abandonment emails. This represents a great opportunity for brands to generate more email marketing revenue and serve customers better.


"Five Ways To Improve Your Cart Abandonment Emails." Chad White. MediaPost, 02/25/14.

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