Ecommerce industry benchmark report: abandoned carts

Have you ever gone online, visited your favorite site, added something you wanted to buy to your cart… then walked away without actually completing your purchase? Of course you have. And you’re not alone. You’ve joined the millions of people out there that contribute to the bane of ecommerce brands everywhere: the abandoned cart.

As every savvy ecommerce marketer knows, there’s no better way to recover abandoned carts than sending a timely series of relevant automated emails to your would-be shoppers. Between April 1 and June 30, 2017, nearly three thousand US-based Klaviyo customers sent out 3,127 distinct abandoned cart messages to more than 9 million email addresses. That’s 9,346,675 deliveries of abandoned cart emails, to be exact.

We analyzed those millions of abandoned cart emails and calculated averages for open rates, click-through rates, and revenue per recipient. But of course, ecommerce is a broad industry. So we also segmented the email data by average order values to show what’s typical, what’s good, and what’s bad for businesses with baskets of a similar size. Then we dove into the details to figure out what the best performers had in common, from subject lines to coupon strategy and everything in between. You won’t find a more comprehensive, data-driven guide for abandoned cart emails.

1. Abandoned carts make you money

First things first: in case there’s any doubt, abandoned cart emails bring in the big bucks. Customers in our data set generated more than $60 million in sales directly from their abandoned cart emails in our three-month analysis window.

The key to driving those sales is relevance and timing. And that’s why abandoned cart emails have some of the best stats across any email marketing strategy for Klaviyo customers. Let’s look at the overall performance for abandoned carts in our dataset:

  • Open rate: 41.18%
  • Click rate: 9.50%
  • Revenue per recipient: $5.81

But results will vary based on how many carts are abandoned on your store, and what your average cart size looks like. For that reason, it’s worth taking a more segmented look at all the core ecommerce email marketing metrics for abandoned carts.

And while open rates, click-through rates, and revenue per recipient are important… they don’t necessarily answer the first question you’d ask: exactly how many abandoned carts should I expect to recover? This will tell you how well your abandoned carts are performing. The higher your recovery rate, the better they’re performing.

Companies with smaller average order values tend to recover a lower percentage of carts: for instance, those with basket sizes under $50 tend to capture around 3% of abandons on average. And in most cases, the top 10% of ecommerce companies are doing AT LEAST 3x the average performance.

Recovery rates

$1–$49 average order size

Top 10%12.5%11.7%10.3%11.4%
Bottom 10%0.5%0.5%0.6%0.4%

$50–$99 average order size

Top 10%12.1%13.1%14.1%11.4%
Bottom 10%0.7%0.5%0.5%0.5%

$100–$499 average order size

Top 10%11.8%12.9%10.1%11.1%
Bottom 10%0.4%0.5%0.6%0.4%

$500+ average order size

Top 10%14.9%13.8%9.1%11.0%
Bottom 10%0.6%0.5%

2. Understanding how many messages to send

A common challenge for ecommerce marketers is trying to pinpoint the right number of emails to send in any given series to maximize your sales without annoying your subscribers. With millions of messages to analyze at our disposal, we set out to quantify the ideal number of emails you should have in your abandoned cart flows.

Check out averages for open rates, click-through rates, revenue per recipient (RPR) and total revenue across the three month time period based on the number of emails that are in your abandoned cart series.

Performance by total number of emails in a series

Open rateClick rateRevenue/recipientRevenue
1 email63%14.5%$10.75$3.8 million
2 emails49%11.8%$8.28$16.4 million
3 emails46%10.7%$5.52$24.9 million
4 emails47%10.5%$4.29$6.5 million
5 emails39%8.1%$4.36$3.1 million
6 emails35%6.8%$2.59$2.8 million
7 emails32%6.2%$4.62$2.1 million

At first glance, it looks like the best performer is a single email with an open rate of 62.94%, a click-through rate of 14.53%, and revenue per recipient of $10.75. That makes sense because single email campaign series are typically sent right after someone has abandoned their cart, and timeliness improves performance. But you’ll be leaving money on the table if you stop there. You can see that ecommerce brands who send series with two or three emails make the most amount of revenue, and their open rates and click-through rates remain very strong.

We double checked this by looking at only the top 100 performers based on revenue per recipient. Just 12 companies in the data set sent more than 5 emails, and nearly half were sending a two-email series.

The evidence for considering two to three emails in a cart abandonment email flow a general best practice is adding up. But before we call it, let’s take a look at at the performance of each individual email in the series to see if we can get a better sense for how performance changes depending on the number of emails you send.

Performance per individual message in a series

Open rateClick rateRevenue/recipient
Email #163%13.6%$10.76
Email #249%11.1%$8.27
Email #346%10.1%$5.52
Email #447%9.6%$4.29
Email #539%8.1%$4.36
Email #635%6.8%$2.59
Email #732%6.2%$4.62

Open rate: The first email in the series averages an open rate 10% higher than average. That’s amazing! But it doesn’t stop there. The second, third and fourth emails are also hovering right around the benchmark average. But after that, open rates begin to drop significantly. If you’re looking at open rate alone, this is where you should stop sending. The lower your open rate drops, the more likely you are to hurt your sending reputation and negatively impact your email deliverability.

Click rate: Click rate is in the same boat as open rate. The first email performs exceptionally well at 11.35%, 1.36% higher than the benchmark average. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th are also up there with click rates that hover around the average. After that, you’ll see a similar drop off that you saw in open rates.

Revenue per recipient: The first email in the series performed the best with an RPR $8.65 above the average. The second email doesn’t drop off much, coming in $5.55 above the average. This makes sense because the first two emails are sent while the product is still fresh in the customer’s mind, resulting in higher performance. But from here, performance starts to drop.

At this point, it’s fairly conclusive that one email in an abandoned cart series isn’t enough, and piling on more than five messages is probably too much. Ecommerce marketers should stick with two to three messages in a series as a general best practice for optimal email performance.

Now that we know roughly how many emails to send, when should you send them? We took a look at the timing of our top 100 performers emails and found that 91 out of 100 sent less than 5 hours after someone abandoned a cart. The success rate of any abandonment emails starts to dwindle as time passes. With abandonment emails, the sooner you get in front of them the better.

3. Create better subject lines for emails

Now that we’ve worked out performance expectations and cart abandonment messaging strategy, let’s start talking about content. It all starts with the subject line.

Subjects lines that merely reminded the abandoner that they left something behind tended to perform the best with an open rate of 47.67%, almost 4% higher than the average. This gained not only a very high open rate, but also a high revenue per recipient with $11.21. The most popular subject line was “It looks like you left something behind…”

Adding an emoji will help you add a little personality to your subject line, but it may also impact your open rate. Businesses who used them had a slightly lower average than the general population, at 39%. Still, the difference is slight enough to make testing the use of emojis in subject lines worthwhile for most brands.

Discount focused subject lines are intriguing. Subject lines that contained either a percentage, dollar sign, or the words “free shipping” have an open rate slightly under the average (38.31%). Yet recipients are still clicking: average CTR is 10.75%. But by far, the best performance comes from keeping the subject line to a straightforward reference to the action of abandoning a cart. The best performing subject lines mentioned that the reader “left something behind.” A variation on that theme also worth testing is “Oh no. Your cart is about to expire”.

4. Add coupons to the emails

What happens when you add a coupon? You’d automatically assume that people would see that discount and jump at the opportunity to score a good deal. And you’d be right.

According to the data, cart abandonment emails that included a coupon code had an above average open rate (44.37%) and click-through rate (10.85%). Can you honestly say that this surprises you? Each discount type has its own strength.

Let’s dive into what we’re looking at:

  • Percentage based discount: The most popular discount in our dataset, percentage based discounts was our lowest performer in both open rate and revenue per recipient.
  • Dollar-based discount: The highest performing discount with the second highest open rate and the highest revenue per recipient ($15.91).
  • Free shipping: Shipping costs are often cited as the number 1 reason for someone to abandon a cart, so providing free shipping in your abandoned cart series makes perfect sense. You can see that offering free shipping results in a high open rate and an even higher click rate (12.53%).

The data backs up information from Shopify, who found dollar based offers vs. percentage based offers can increase performance by as much as 175%. For more on coupons, check out our analysis of three best practices for discounting.

5. Key takeaways for email marketing

First, check out what your recovery rate looks like and how many sales you’re making compared to businesses like yours. This will give you an idea of how well your abandoned carts are performing. If you’re seeing above average results, then great – keep doing what you’re doing! If not, then take a step back and look at your abandoned cart series as a whole.

For instance, take a look at your messaging. How many emails are you sending? You might be sending too few or too many. If you’re sending a single email, then you might be leaving money on the table. If you’re sending more than 5, then you risk damaging your sending reputation. Send 2-3 emails to maximize revenue while protecting deliverability.

Next, dig into your subject lines. Are you receiving low open rates? Then maybe you’re trying to do too much with your subject lines. Try simplifying with a message like “You left something behind…” and see how that works for you.

Finally, although percentage based coupons are extremely popular with ecommerce marketers, dollar-based coupons will make you the most money.

Above all else: make sure you test, test, test. Abandoned cart best practices aside, every ecommerce business is different. What works for some companies might not work for others.

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