How to Build Abandoned Cart Email Campaign Series

Go beyond the single abandoned cart email and into a well executed 3-email series that can prove to be a 60% lift in your cart recovery.

How to Build Abandoned Cart Email Campaign Series

One of the most common missed opportunities to convert customers is not reaching out to those who previous added items to their cart and began the checkout process — only to abandon their cart entirely and leave the site.

Customers abandon their carts for a variety of reasons — and often — resulting in an average industry-wide abandonment at roughly 74% of all of those who make it to checkout (not merely add to cart).

The most common reasons for abandoning are vast but pretty understandable:

    • Unexpected costs (shipping)
    • Have to create an account (no guest checkout)
    • Conducting research or price shopping
    • Long and confusing checkout
    • Couldn’t find a coupon code (or place to put it)
    • No express shipping

Industry analysts Baymard notes these reasons:


And then, there are some more mundane, but real reasons, why people abandon their carts that may not have anything to do with the top reasons:

    • Checkout is frustrating
    • Purchase is postponed
    • Customer merely browsing
    • “Showrooming” from a retail store
    • Payment declined
    • Payment not accepted
    • Can’t find wallet
    • Boss comes into the room
    • Kid’s start crying in the background, etc.

For these reasons, and considerably more, customers leave your site. But it’s not over — you can still reclaim them. And when you do, you can even get them to spend more money (AOV increases for those who return to an abandoned cart!) than those who don’t.

How do we do this? An abandoned cart email — or series of emails.

Sending an email to a customer who abandoned is commonplace in the industry, but still not dialed-in completely. Which is odd, because there’s ample evidence on what works and what doesn’t.

How many emails? And when? Elevar recommends 3-4 emails in the span of up to 5 days. And the key is more than one. has noted that a three-part series has a 69% higher conversion rate than a single email.

If you’re on Shopify this means you will need to do more than just the native Shopify abandoned cart email which sends out one email only.

But it’s not as easy as sending an email that state they should check out. A great email that converts contains:

    1. A compelling subject line
    2. The abandoned items, in line-time “cart-looking” form, with product name, photos and price
    3. A strong call-to-action such as “Complete Checkout” or “Reclaim your Cart” work. So does some as simple as “Checkout Now”
    4. Customized content, if available, such as name, loyalty number, etc.
    5. Include Customer Service links/numbers
    6. Testimonials/Reviews
    7. Other similar products
    8. Brand Value statement

Having these items essentially combines a great marketing email with a confirmation order email: giving the customer clear direction and single, clear action: CLICK TO CHECKOUT.

The Email Series

Email #1: The “You forgot something” email

Recommended time: 1-hr post abandonment

Try to send the first email in 60-90 minutes post-abandoning, which gets the most conversion, especially if near that hour mark. Your customer may still be online, have a window still open, or may have paused for an undetermined reason. Besides, the purchase is fresh in their head. We like to use this email as a gentle reminder. Because the conversion rate is typically high enough on the first email, offering a discount isn’t necessary. Merely remind the customer of their cart, and mention any items that may help them make a decision immediately: shipping costs, delivery times or cut-offs and guarantees. Also include customer service information somewhere clearly, such as in the footer.

Subject line ideas:

  • Hey {{name}}, you forgot something
  • Forget something?
  • You’ve left something behind {{name}}
  • Your favorite items are still waiting for you
  • Don’t let your favorite items sell out
  • Oops… Was there a problem checking out?
  • Your Saved Basket
  • You didn’t complete your purchase…
  • We’ve saved your basket for you…
  • Your {{Company Name}} Shopping Cart

Email #2: The “Value Proposition” Email

Recommended time: 2-days post abandonment

Always remove the customer from the campaign if they have come back to the site and purchased. But in the event that they haven’t, it’s time to send another. Give it a day or two to let the lack of purchase sink in, then send in the 36-48 hour range post-abandonment. Considering that online shopping consumes a good amount of shopper’s time, the shopper possibly will shop at (around) the same time, so Elevar recommends 48 hours.

This email is another nudge, so consider this a chance to showcase your brand’s value. Free Shipping, Guaranteed for life. Return policies. 24/7 customer service. These all give the customer a chance to learn why they should return and shop from you (and may be a reason they abandoned in the first place). Keep this email pithy. But still list the items, price, and everything else from the first email.

In a 3-part series, the second email typically has the lowest open and click-through performance, so try to get the “meat” of the message into the subject line:

Subject line ideas:

  • FREE Shipping on your cart
  • Guaranteed satisfaction on your order
  • {{Name}}, we know you want these products
  • 365-day return policy. What’s to lose?
  • Checkout now. We’re standing by.

Email #3: The “Last Chance” Email

Recommended time: 5-days post abandonment

The third and the final email should be between 3-5 days. We recommend anytime within this window that suits your company. If you’re a commoditized product if may not matter to wait to the latter period. If you’re a time-based product, such as consumables or perishables, you may consider on the early end. No matter what, test the days and times of the third email.

The third email is typically the last chance email (if you choose to send four emails, or test them, the last email should be the “Last Chance” email and the middle two providing business, product or brand values).

Typically the last email offers a high conversion rate, especially if there’s an incentive to come back and purchase, such as 5% off or Free Shipping (if it’s not usually offered on your site). Be sure not to offer too much of a discount, however. Studies have shown that the best performing open rates and click-through rates on emails have minimal % or $ off

This email can finalize the journey for them. Let them know, creatively, that you won’t be sending them more emails. Infer this through the subject line or body copy.

Subject line ideas:

  • Last chance for your items, {{name}}
  • We’re going to put these back on the shelf
  • Other people want your items
  • Hey {{name}}, here’s a deal on your cart
  • Hurry! Your cart is about to expire
  • 5% Off Your {{Company Name}} Order
  • Come Back and Save 10% Off Your Order

Remember to always remove people from your campaign who interact along the way. The last thing you want to do is send them part of the remaining series if they actually checked out along the way.

Customize your emails as much as possible, as personalized emails convert at a higher rate. And compliment your series with dynamic retargeting ads that show items in the cart, to a segment of cart or checkout abandoners.

Enjoy your return customers!

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Brad Redding

Brad, co-founder of Elevar, has lived in eCommerce for over 12 years. He's helped design, build, and optimize over 100 websites in his career. From new retail startups to well-known brands like Le Creuset, Signature Hardware, Rebecca Minkoff, Char-Broil and more, he specializes in data analytics and conversion optimization to help achieve business goals.

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