Don’t leave this behind: 14 best practices for setting up a cart abandonment email flow
Nearly 70% of online shopping carts are abandoned…
…according to a quantitative study by the Baymard Institute.
The same study found that nearly 60% of shoppers ditch carts because they’re either “just browsing” or “not ready to buy.”
That means no matter how attractive your store or how flawless your product, the majority of your customers will likely abandon their online shopping carts.
Add that fact to a growing list of reasons why marketing trends in 2023 are bound to be…interesting, and an abandoned cart strategy becomes even more crucial.
Good news: We’ve gathered research, examples, and expertise to get rid of the guesswork and set you on the right path.
Read on to learn how abandoned cart emails can help you turn what might otherwise be lost sales into loyal customers.
What is an abandoned cart email?
An abandoned cart email is an email used to re-engage shoppers who have added products to their online cart but leave the site without purchasing them. Abandoned cart email automations can be useful to increase sales by reminding shoppers about the products in their cart and enticing them to complete their purchase.
Customers often visit ecommerce businesses and browse products they like. But when they add a product to their cart, they take one important step beyond that: they demonstrate a desire to buy it and show a high intent to purchase.
A well-crafted abandoned cart email helps you tap into that desire and encourage visitors to return to your online store to complete their purchase.
Translation: Abandoned cart emails make money for your ecommerce business.
They also empower you to build relationships with your customers at the top of the funnel and persuade shoppers to purchase with personalized discounts and other offers.
You can send one-off cart abandonment emails or create a series of automated emails.
Abandoned cart emails and data privacy
A common misconception about abandoned cart emails is that they’re illegal and don’t comply with recent data privacy changes.
But instead of third-party data (consumer information you collect indirectly from a variety of sources, such as marketplaces and ad networks), abandoned cart emails use Customer-First Data™—data you source consensually from your prospects and customers (information they proactively give you, and information you observe about them on your owned channels and website).
Marketing to customers using data collected with their consent, such as the information they offer up when they sign up to your mailing list, is legal and compliant with data privacy requirements.
What makes abandoned cart emails so effective
Abandoned cart emails minimize friction in the sales process so you can remarket products to interested customers and increase sales.
The results of abandoned cart emails may surprise—and inspire—you. We examined data gathered from brands using Klaviyo in Q3 2022 and compiled industry-wide shopping cart abandonment rate benchmarks.
Here’s what we found:
- Abandoned cart email flows generated average revenue of $3.53 per recipient—the highest across all email marketing campaigns and flows.
- The average shopping cart abandonment email open rate across all industries was 51.21%.
- The home and garden industry had the highest average open rate for abandoned cart flows at 52.73%, and a conversion rate of 3.61%.
- The apparel & accessories and sporting goods industries also had high open rates for this kind of flow, both at 52.61%.
- Office supplies had the highest conversion rate at 3.87%, with apparel and accessories close behind at 3.78%.
- The automotive industry generated the highest average revenue per email recipient at $9.82 per email.
- The hardware industry had the highest average click rate at 7.90%.
Why are those numbers so high? Customers who add products to their cart demonstrate a strong purchase intent. When something creates friction in that process, they’re more likely to give up.
That friction can come from something unrelated to your business, like a call from a friend or a funny cat meme. Or it can come from something related to your website, like a high shipping price or a tedious check-out process.
Forcing customers to jump through hoops before they check out is almost guaranteed to lead to cart abandonment.
But if your check-out process is frictionless, chances are the customer abandoned their cart for a different reason, and you might be able to win them back with a cart reminder email.
Additionally, sometimes shoppers abandon their cart for a reason you can proactively address. They could be comparing your product to something similar from a different company, or they could be trying to justify a high price point.
If you know why shoppers tend to pause before pressing the “Place order” button, you can use your abandoned cart emails to alleviate any hesitations head on.
Pro tip: Not sure why shoppers aren’t converting? Ask them. Use your abandoned cart emails to poll shoppers on what’s holding them back, then use the data to power your abandoned cart email copy.
New research: abandoned cart metrics
Klaviyo’s product analytics team analyzed over 100K abandoned cart flows sent in 2022 to gather data on abandoned cart open rates, click rates, recovery rates, and revenue per recipient (RPR).
A note about open rates: Apple’s iOS 15 allows users to block email senders from viewing how recipients interact with their emails. While the feature intended to give people more privacy, it actually registers emails as opened even if the recipient didn’t open the email.
As a result, many open rates that take into account machine opens can be inflated.
Klaviyo’s product analytics team removed all machine opens from their data, so these open rates are not inflated.
Here’s what our team found:
Average abandoned cart metrics for Klaviyo customers in 2022: high rates + RPR
- Open rates: 34.5%
- Click rates: 7.5%
- Recovery rates: 4.0%
- RPR: $8.25
These rates are attractive even at their average, but some industries have even more exciting abandoned cart results. The home and garden industry and sporting goods industry, for example, reported nearly $20 RPR, while the jewelry industry brought in nearly $15 per recipient.
This is good news across industries, as it shows high RPR on both items people need—like furniture—as well as leisure and luxury items—at-home exercise equipment or fancy earrings.
Recovery rates correspond with AOV + number of orders/month—up to a point
In 2022, recovery rates varied according to average order value (AOV), but not by much.
Average recovery rates using abandoned cart flows for AOVs from $1-$49 were just over 3%, and increased based on the number of orders:
- 100-499 orders per month: 4.39%
- 1K+ orders per month: 5.87%
For larger average order values—those between $50-$99—average recovery rates were a little higher, up to 1K orders a month:
- Under 100 orders per month: 3.91%
- 100-499 orders per month: 4.60%
- 500-999 orders per month: 4.67%
- 1K+ orders per month: 4.88%
For even larger order values—purchases between $100-$499—average recovery rates rose even higher (again, only up to 1K orders a month):
- 1-99 orders per month: 4.38%
- 100-499 orders per month: 5.27%
- 500-999 orders per month: 5.21%
- 1K+ orders per month: 5.44%
So, as order value grows, recovery rate improves—but only up to a certain point. Of course, if you’re selling a big-ticket item like a mattress or couch, people likely aren’t forgetting they put that $2K sofa in their customer cart—there’s going to be a naturally longer buying journey.
By contrast, it’s probably easier to get your distracted shopper to take another look at a smaller-ticket item like jewelry, consumer-packaged goods, and apparel.
For average order sizes of $500 and higher, the average recovery rates were a little lower than order sizes under $500.
It’s also worth noting that the top 10% of Klaviyo customers had high recovery rates—all above 6% and some close to 10%—no matter their order sizes or AOVs.
This goes to show that if you put the effort into devising an optimal abandoned cart strategy for your ecommerce store, you can experience high dividends that make the work well worth your while, especially if your average unit price is $1K or below.
Wondering where to start? We’ve got you covered.
How to set up an abandoned cart flow
Setting up an abandoned cart flow in Klaviyo is simple. Before getting started, make sure your ecommerce platform is integrated with Klaviyo.
Step 1: Create a segment of recent cart abandoners in your Klaviyo dashboard.
Step 2: Choose a pre-built abandoned cart flow from the flows library.
Don’t worry, you can always customize it later. You can also create an abandoned cart flow from scratch.
Step 3: Determine how long after the shopper’s cart has been abandoned you want their abandoned cart email to send.
Make sure you’re giving your customers enough time to complete their purchase. In other words, don’t set this flow to send if the cart has only been abandoned for half an hour. They may have just stepped away.
We recommend sending that first email 2-4 hours after someone starts a check-out. But if you sell big-ticket items, like mattresses, you may want to leave more time for more consideration.
Step 4: Decide how many emails you want to include in your abandoned cart flow. We recommend sending 2-3.
Step 5: Craft the content of your abandoned cart emails.
For detailed instructions on setting up an abandoned cart flow, visit our Help Center.
14 steps to an unforgettable abandoned cart email
Abandoned cart emails aren’t a new concept to experienced ecommerce marketers.
In fact, brands will increase the number of emails they send per day globally from about 306B in 2020 to more than 376B by 2025, according to Statista.
With so many emails going out every day, your abandoned cart email needs to stand out to succeed.
Here are 14 tips to help you make sure your abandoned cart flow stands out in the inbox:
1. Put yourself in the shopper’s shoes
Think through your customer’s experience. Have they gotten distracted by something on the internet or in real life, or are they just not that into your product?
“Answer the question of why,” Mulloy suggests. “Why should that customer purchase it from you? You should be highlighting value props such as return/exchange policies, shipping incentives, quality call-outs, etc.”
With this abandoned cart email, Whisky subscription brand Whisky Loot deviates from the norm by highlighting the value of its products instead of forcing a sale. The brand communicates the value of its products and includes responses to potential barriers to purchase.
Curly hair care brand Only Curls incorporates all the elements of a winning cart abandonment email and backs it up with a personal touch from their founder. The email feels like a conversation and invites potential customers to reach out to the Only Curls team with questions:
2. Create customer segments
Before you start crafting the actual email, make sure your email list is properly segmented.
Segmenting customers into groups using metrics such as purchase history, cart size, and product preferences can help you target them with personalized abandoned cart emails.
“Sometimes, the best way to turn a missed sale into a conversion is by highlighting items a shopper may have missed,” says Sharon Goldstein, CEO at LimeSpot.
“Including personalized product recommendations in an abandoned cart email can turn heads and drive much higher click rates as shoppers investigate new finds that align with what they’ve already shown an interest in.”
DTC grooming brand Beardbrand does a great job following this advice. In this abandoned cart email, they not only use personalized copy and a friendly tone to inspire shoppers to “reclaim” their cart, but also keep the product front and center, with distinct CTAs to draw the recipient’s eye:
The challenge with segmentation is that there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy. The most effective customer segments are often unique to a business and its goals. So, we recommend that you analyze your segments periodically to find the best ones.
It’s also important to filter out folks who have repeatedly abandoned carts recently. Hitting their inboxes too frequently can result in annoyed customers and more opt-outs.
3. Decide how many emails to send
A cart abandonment email doesn’t have to be an isolated message. You can also create an abandoned cart series.
For example, a simple abandoned cart email sequence might look something like this:
- Email 1: Remind customers about the products in their cart.
- Email 2: Send a follow-up email with a discount.
- Email 3: Share a product recommendation or ask for customer feedback.
Email marketing pro Chase Dimond shares that in his experience, “having multiple abandoned cart emails results in 69% more orders than a single abandoned cart email.”
But you might want to test it for yourself: Klaviyo’s new research found that single abandoned cart emails actually generated more revenue per recipient than flows with multiple emails.
One email (vs. 2 or more) also generated the highest click rate.
The way to figure out if a single email is more effective than a series is to simply test and continue to look at your unique performance metrics.
If you’re seeing that your first abandoned cart email is successfully converting customers, it may be enough on its own. If your conversion rate isn’t meeting your goals, it might be worth adding in a second or third email.
Once you know what works for your audience, you can set up a series or a single abandoned cart email.
4. Start strong with an attention-grabbing subject line
Something as simple as “Hey Alex, where’d you go?” or “Stay hydrated with the bottles you left behind” can work wonders for your marketing campaign.
Our new research found open rates were highest—nearly 37%—when the subject line included “left something behind” or “forgot something.” Subject lines that included “saved your cart” or were personalized also earned high open rates.
If you aren’t using profile properties for email personalization, you can use something simple yet conversational to grab customer attention instead. Here’s how jewelry brand Uncommon James uses an abandoned cart email strategy to get a shopper’s attention:
5. Tailor your email copy to match your brand voice
An abandoned cart email’s objective is to nudge shoppers into revisiting their carts. It can be a good idea to keep your email copy short, limit punctuation, and stay on brand as you convince customers to recover their abandoned shopping carts.
Sustainable activewear brand Girlfriend Collective uses a minimalistic email template with clever copy: “Looks like you left something cute and sustainable in your cart. Don’t worry, we saved it for you.”
“This abandoned cart email from Girlfriend Collective is *chef’s kiss,* says Alex McPeak, content strategist at Klaviyo, on Twitter. “I love the deviation from ‘you forgot something/left something behind’ with ‘you dropped this’ and how they hammer home the sustainability aspect, which is core to their brand.”
But that’s not to say simple, direct copy is for every brand. “Customize the email for your business,” Jeremy Vale, VP of product development at Logical Position, says. “If you’re serious, be serious. If you’re funny, be funny.”
Road ID, a brand that makes ID bracelets, sends this playful, funny abandoned cart message.
It’s friendly, not desperate. It gives the shopper a reminder without annoying them.
It’s also important to consider the audience you’re sending to when crafting your copy.
Ben Zettler, digital marketing and ecommerce consultant at Ben Zettler Digital, puts it this way:
“Not all customers should be treated the same. Has someone purchased before? If they have, tailor messaging to them. If they haven’t, tailor messaging to them, too, but consider how discounting plays a role in your email marketing strategy and put an offer in front of users that have yet to make their first purchase.”
6. Feature the abandoned product
By the time shoppers see your email, a million other thoughts could be consuming their mind—and your product might not take priority. Keep the abandoned items front and center in the email to remind them what they left behind in their cart.
In their cart abandonment email, Apparel brand Alex Mill uses most of the available real estate to highlight abandoned items with high-quality product images, then complements those with an enticing discount to drive conversions.
Razor brand Wilkinson Swords sends 2 emails after a shopper abandons a cart: The first includes a shot of the product they were looking at, and the second email provides direct information about the product.
This strategy earned the brand an astounding 15.9% click rate and “strong conversion rates” as well.
7. Mix in some social proof
Social proof can influence buying decisions by communicating your products’ value through user-generated content (UGC). More importantly, it can help you earn the trust of shoppers who aren’t familiar with your brand.
Brandon Matis, owner of Luxor Marketing, sees abandoned cart emails as a great place to include an added value of why people should finish checking out.
Customer testimonials and reviews are a great place to start. But you can also include star ratings and even social media mentions to convey authenticity and build trust.
This cart abandonment email from Kim Kardashian’s shapewear brand, SKIMS, uses both star ratings and customer reviews:
Home goods brand Sunday Citizen knows how to use puppy dog eyes to capture customer attention. In this abandoned cart email, Sunday Citizen uses UGC from its Instagram feed to help shoppers visualize products in their homes.
8. Offer discount codes…
Personalized and limited-time discounts are a timeless strategy for creating a sense of urgency and increasing conversions. After all, who doesn’t love a good bargain?
The added benefit of offering a coupon code to abandoners is that it doesn’t reduce the value of your brand upfront.
It’s worth pointing out that offering discounts to repeat cart abandoners can work against you because it can train them to wait for a discount before buying.
One way to overcome that is by providing one-off discounts like health and beauty brand Golde does for new customers:
9. …or consider offering free shipping instead
More than half of cart abandoners report that the reason they walk away is that extra costs, like shipping, are too expensive.
It stands to reason then, that offering free shipping may push them over the line to purchase.
Belle Murray, ecommerce senior strategist at SmartBug Media, suggests this strategy as a way to do more than simply remind your customers that they left without buying.
“Introduce a free shipping offer toward the end of your abandoned cart automation,” she suggests.
“Shipping cost is a very common reason customers leave before completing their purchase. A one-time free shipping offer is a great way to give them a nudge to place their first order. Keeping it at the end of your automation with engagement filters will help target engaged subscribers that are still on the fence about purchasing.”
Hair and bodycare brand Rudy’s offers free shipping to these cart abandoners, including the offer highlighted at the very top, along with a clear message about the offer’s urgency.
10. Use a convincing CTA
The call to action (CTA) is one of the most important parts of your cart abandonment email. It gives your customers clear instructions about what they need to do next—return to their cart and complete their purchase.
Some traditional, clear CTAs for abandoned cart emails include:
- Buy now
- Shop now
- Keep shopping
- Return to cart
- Proceed to checkout
- Finish checking out
- Check out now
- Complete your order
But if you’re offering a discount or free shipping to get them back to the cart, consider making that the CTA:
- Activate free shipping
- Get my 10% off
- Reveal new price
If your brand wants to come off a little softer, consider a less aggressive CTA for your abandoned cart email:
- Take a closer look
- View cart
- Take another look
But if your brand’s voice is cheeky or conversational, now is a great time to have fun with the CTA:
- Let’s do this
- Finish the job
- Seal the deal
- Treat yourself
- Go on, girl
11. Optimize for mobile
Insider Intelligence forecasts that retail mobile commerce sales in the U.S. will double from about $359B in 2021 to about $728B by 2025. Optimizing your cart abandonment emails for mobile devices is an easy way to nudge your customers back to their online carts while capitalizing on this growth.
Make sure everything of value is above the fold on mobile, so shoppers don’t need to scroll down to read your copy and CTA.
Athleisure brand Public Rec does this well. Their campaign includes some of the best abandoned cart email examples of a minimalistic design and how it can be used to showcase the abandoned product and keeps everything above the fold:
12. Time it right
Timing your cart abandonment email is crucial to its success. Don’t send an email too soon after your customer abandons their cart. Whatever distracted them from their purchase might still exist. And if it does, your email might end up buried deep in their inbox or straight in the trash.
Send your first reminder 2-4 hours after abandonment. More importantly, keep it simple. You want it to feel organic and friendly.
If your customers don’t engage with your first email, consider sending another reminder 24-48 hours after that. You can make the second reminder a bit more salesy, or work in a personalized offer to amplify its impact.
If shoppers don’t respond to 2-3 emails, they’ve likely completed their purchase somewhere else or abandoned it entirely.
At this stage, sending a third sales-oriented email might not help. Instead, send an exploratory email to suggest popular items or related products and lay the foundation for a future sale.
Katherine Burlock, CLV strategist at &BAM, shares these tips for timing your abandoned cart message:
- Test the timing of your first message.
- Make sure you don’t have separate flows competing at the same time (for example, a browse abandon and abandoned cart flow both with a 1-hour delay).
- Separate out and time your flows based on first-time vs. returning users, number of items in the cart, and cart value.
13. Run A/B tests
Sending the same emails over and over won’t improve your conversion rates. You need to run controlled experiments with different copy, creative, and CTAs to find the best fit for your audience.
A/B testing is a reliable marketing strategy for making data-driven decisions that boost your abandoned cart email conversion rates. You don’t need to guess why things didn’t work. Instead, you can use data to find out.
Before you start running A/B tests, make sure you outline a hypothesis and set a clear goal. After that, run your test for at least 1-2 weeks to gather statistically significant data.
14. Think beyond emails
Email is cost-effective and scalable. But there are other ways to improve abandoned cart recovery rates.
More than half of Americans prefer receiving brand communications over email. But that doesn’t mean SMS is not an appropriate channel for you to use in certain situations. You can complement an abandoned cart email with SMS to help the other half of your audience through their preferred mode of communication.
If you’ve collected your customers’ phone numbers and SMS consent, send a quick text reminding them about the products they left behind. That might be the push they need to follow through with their purchase.
Christine Watson, director of CRM and email at Tinuiti, cautions against misusing the channel:
“If you have both SMS and abandoned cart emails, make sure you aren’t using the same strategy and messaging in your touches, which will cause fatigue,” she says.
“Think strategically about your timing for each channel. SMS is typically better for more urgent messaging, while email is good for a follow-up. If you are using the same system to deploy, put in place suppressions if someone is converting off one or the other. If not, ensure you aren’t blasting the same messaging at the same time. This will cause your contacts to get fatigued and potentially opt out.”
Best way to do this? “Suppress out converters and stagger send times,” Watson says.
Another way to look beyond just the abandoned cart email is to offer a live call.
According to Brittany Rycroft, director of marketing at GhostRetail, “oftentimes, people can abandon a cart because they just don’t have enough information—something no amount of automation can fix,” she says.
“Invite customers in your abandoned cart emails to hop on a live 1:1 video shopping call to get tailored service and questions answered, including even showing a product in real time.”
Finally, consider setting up a direct mail automation flow. Drew Sanocki, CEO of PostPilot, says they see positive ROI even if a company has first tried with cart recover emails. “Flip your campaign into postcards using the Klaviyo x Postpilot integration,” he suggests.
Ready to give your abandoned cart emails a boost?
Despite uncertain economic conditions, Forbes predicts a growth in ecommerce market share, with an expectation that nearly 21% of purchases will be made online this year.
If you’re thinking about adding an abandoned cart email flow or want to optimize your current one, bookmark this post so you can use it as a guide.
And if you’re not using Klaviyo yet, now’s your chance to experiment with abandoned cart flows that you can set up in minutes.
Abandoned cart email FAQs
When to send an abandoned cart email?
To maximize the chances of user re-engagement, users should receive an abandoned cart email no more than 30-60 minutes after placing items in their online carts.
How to write an abandoned cart email sequence?
An abandoned cart email sequence should consist of three personalized emails:
- Cart reminder email, sent no more than 30-60 minutes after the products are added to the cart
- A follow-up email, sent a few days after the first abandoned cart email
- Final email reminder containing a promotional discount
What are some of the cart abandonment email best practices?
Email marketing experts state that an effective abandoned cart email should be optimized for mobile and contain the following items:
- Strong email subject line
- Brief but catchy email copy
- Social proof
- Abandoned product
- Discount code
- Catchy CTA