Abandoned Cart Emails: Strategy and Timing for Rescuing Ecommerce Sales

It’s painful … and we both know it.

That heart-breaking moment when you gaze into your analytics and compare visitors to customers. While it might be cold comfort, rest assured, you’re not alone. According to the Q3 2016 Monetate EQ Benchmark Report, the global on-site conversion rate is a mere 2.5%. The math on that is pretty easy. Across the world, a full 97.5% of web traffic arrives at a site and then … does nothing.If you’re in ecommerce, the only thing worse than the average “do nothings” are visitors who add to a cart, make it all the way to checkout, and then … do nothing. As many as 74% of e-commerce shopping carts are abandoned, and Business Insider Intelligence put that number in even starker terms: “Approximately $4 trillion worth of merchandise will be abandoned in online shopping carts”

Here’s the good news.

That same Business Insider report reveals a huge upside: “An abandoned shopping cart does not automatically translate to a ‘lost sale,’ because three-fourths of shoppers who have abandoned shopping carts say they plan to return.”

Those “three-fourths” are exactly why abandon cart emails matter so much.

So what’s holding you back?

The struggle to create a sale-rescuing abandoned cart sequence comes from one of two places. First, maybe words like “automation” fill you with terror; just reading about Javascript and syntax errors cover you in a cold sweat. Or second, you’re using abandoned cart emails, but not seeing the results you want.

Those struggles – and the $4 trillion in lost sales – are why we’ve put together this list detailing the five abandoned cart emails you need to save ecommerce sales.

Let’s dig in …

The reminder abandoned cart email

The Reminder is the simplest abandoned cart email. The entire purpose is to get the exact product left behind back into your would-be customer’s mind. To do that, (1) send the Reminder out quickly – between one and three hours after abandonment – and (2) keep it short and specific.

For instance, this Reminder from Chubbies is a great example of engagement thanks to the stand out language.

abandoned cart email-Chubbies

The email shows off Chubbies hip and upbeat tone; telling leads they will happily “teleport” them back to their cart fits perfectly, but a possible addition would be to include the exact products waiting for them after being “transported.”

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Mango, whose Reminder is specific, but comes off as dry:

abandoned cart emails-Mango

Doggyloot, however, brings everything together by being both fun and specific.

abandoned cart emails-Doggy Loot

How can you say no? With the specific items that you chose, a possibility of your deals running out, and that incredibly cute picture at the top (tailormade for their target audience), the pull is irresistible.

Send a RE-Reminder

If you feel like a second Reminder might be redundant, think again.

The RE-Reminder is very similar to the Reminder except for timing. The RE-Reminder should arrive 24 hours after abandonment. Having spent an entire day out of your leads mind the RE-Reminder gets you back where you belong, at the top.

According to Statista 37% of leads say they abandoned their cart because they were “just browsing”, and cutting even deeper than that, 21% said the process was taking too long. Ouch.

It is easy for a lead to get distracted for a number of reasons. That is why you need to give them more than one gentle nudge.

Since The RE-Reminder is so similar to The Reminder, let’s quickly cover some examples that make minor mistakes. Kate Spade Saturday’s is personalized with the specific item that the visitor had in their cart. It pops out at you with bright colors. It even has a “side note” about free shipping and returns for anyone on the fence.

Kate spade email sent as a reminder

The only issue is it strays in focus. The last line of the email reads: “OR TAKE A PEEK AT WHAT’S NEW THIS WEEK AT SATURDAY.COM.”

This is a mistake. Your abandoned cart emails have one goal: finishing the checkout. You might feel like giving your lead the chance to buy additional products is a smart thing to do, but this only reinforces the driving factor of abandonment in the first place: distraction. Don’t let the allure of making more money lead you away from the opportunity to make a sale in the first place.

Just to drive this point home – that distraction is the enemy – here’s an example of a RE-Reminder that obviously goes overboard:

dabs.com email for abandoned carts

The two big buttons in the center of the email do a solid job of majoring on what cart abandonment emails are all about. They even have an offer if the visitor has found a lower price. Genius.

But the rest of the RE-Reminder is an overcrowded mess of links. The header – which looks almost identical to their website’s – includes nine options to click…none of which relate to the cart. The footer – “Why chose Dabs?” – adds five more clickable options. These are all meant to reassure the recipient that they’re making the right choice. In other words, they’re designed to overcome the objection: “I left my cart because I don’t trust you.”

Unfortunately, making those statements clickable dilutes the central call to action (CTA).

Instead, make the main thing the main thing. Strike while the iron is hot and – at the risk of beating this point into the ground – get them back to the items you already know they want.
FatFace’s RE-Reminder nails this objective.

Fatface forgot something email

FatFace keeps it simple. No links to jump around their store; no special offers on other items. Just one option: “COMPLETE YOUR ORDER.”

The Apology email (Option 1)

While visitors normally abandon carts because of personal reasons, sometimes the fault is your own … and you know it. The Apology covers you in case you had a site error, sudden issues with your server, or – if the worst happens – your customer had a poor shopping experience.

The Apology should go to leads as soon as you discover the issue. However, if you’ve already sent out the Reminder and RE-Reminder, don’t flood them. Instead, wait another 24 hours.

Notice that the Apology is the first of three “Options” for your final email in this sequence. You can certainly send more cart-abandonment emails than three, but the best way to start and optimize is by testing the Apology (Option 1), the Incentive (Option 2), or the Proof (Option 3) against each other or by merging their elements together.

In your Apology, be honest. Something along the lines of “Oh no, did we do something wrong?” does wonders. After acknowledging your mistake, offer some sort of amends to get them back on track.

This example from Linen Source does a commendable job. They mention the issues, include a special one time only discount, and keep things light hearted with a picture of a banana peel and the words “we slipped up!”

Sorry we slipped email reminder 30% off

With a very similar feel, here’s another example that’s a bit more stripped down:

we are sorry email examples for brands

While solid, both of the above examples don’t quite make the cut for the perfect Apology. This next example, however, brings the best of the Reminder, the Apology, and our next type – the Incentive – together in one:

shape fx oops email strategy

Shape FX names their error, apologizes, offers a 20% discount as amends, and includes product specificity: the New Spring Collection. That last part is still – even in the Apology – the most important element. On top of all that, they attribute their error to “even more excitement than we expected,” cleverly blending social proof into the equation.

But, here’s the question: what if nothing “went wrong”? Should you still make the Apology a part of your automated sequence?


Why? Two reasons.

First, the truth is you won’t always be aware of every problem a visitor might face. Loading the Apology into your sequence ensures nobody falls through the cracks. Second, even if they didn’t experience an issue, this abandoned cart email puts a human face on your brand. After all, our common foibles connect us far more than our uncommon successes. Being upfront that something might have gone wrong, reassures leads they’ll be taken care of if there ever is a problem in the future.

The Incentive email (Option 2)

It’s fairly easy to give your subscribers the option to choose how often they hear from you, and this is a great way to segment your newsletter list to ensure that you’re not over-emailing people.

It’s usually best to take things slow at the beginning – even if you send emails every day, start off sending new subscribers emails weekly. Give them the option to start getting them every day. If that’s how often they want to hear from you, they’ll make it happen. We did this with our own newsletter and noticed a huge bump in open rates.

As either an alternative or supplement to the Apology, the Incentive goes beyond merely reminding leads about their products and ups the ante by adding something special.

The Incentive should be sent out four-to-five days after the lead abandons their cart.

The problem with most Incentives is that they’re a dime a dozen. Neiman Marcus’ email would do well as a Reminder or RE-Reminder (it sticks to the point), but there’s nothing genuinely special about free shipping on such a small item or 10% off.

The trick is to create an over-the-top reason to come back and complete the order. This means two things:

  1. A legitimately deep, oh-my-gosh discount.
  2. Urgency by way of a time constraint on the offer or limited product availability. This hits FOMO (fear of missing out) on the head … as long as it’s believable.

For a little extra icing on the cake, make them feel special by including something conversational like, “We don’t normally do this kind of thing, but here’s (the offer) on what you left in your cart (just because we want you back).”

In lieu of a discount, you could include a gift, like an additional item with their first purchase for free. The image below sadly doesn’t include product specificity, but it still is a good example of how to give an incentive.

Birhbox we want you back email flow

Birchbox is offering 20% off a leads next purchase if they would only just come back. And although they don’t directly mention any specific products, they do offer up a link to the products that “our members can’t get enough of.” So, this may not be the perfect example for an abandoned cart it is a good example of the Incentive.

As inspiration, think about your Incentive the way your would during peak shopping seasons – like Cyber Monday and Tuesday – or like a flash sale. If you go all out in those settings and your lead has already filled up their cart then give them what they want … along with an offer upwards of 50% off. An offer they can’t refuse.

French connection wait you forgot something email

The Proof email (Option 3)

As the final option to round out your abandoned cart sequence, now it’s time to bring out the big guns.

We were all taught in school that peer pressure is a bad thing. Nonsense … as long as you’re saving sales and not trying to get folks to “jump off bridges.”

The Proof email is your chance do exactly that: leverage peer pressure (also known as “social proof”) to demonstrate how happy other people just like your visitor are that they ordered. Schedule the Proof to be sent out just under one week after the original abandoned cart.

So how do you leverage Proof?

Three words: user-generated content.

User-generated content means including reviews, testimonials, and – the strongest of all – unsolicited social-media comments from existing customers. It’s incredibly hard for would-be customers to not come back when they see the great things everyone else is saying about your products.

Here’s how Dollar Shave Club does this in their abandoned-cart email:

Dollar shave club email example

With phrases like “Chuck is bummin’ pretty hard. He loves new friends.” and “Trust one of our ridiculously satisfied members,” they’re true to their brand and hit home the idea of Proof. Even better, the reviews themselves are fun and reflect the very kind of people they’re most interested in attracting.

Sephora takes the analytical angle by adding ratings to each and every item a lead leaves behind (along with a direct link to read the full reviews):

Sephora hurry these may sell out email

Whatever tack you choose, remember: you are not your best salesperson; your customers are.

Abandoned carts are not the end

Abandoned carts hurt … to the tune of $4 trillion dollars annually. Fortunately, you don’t have to let your abandoned carts slip away.

Here is a quick review of the five emails for creating your own sales rescuing sequence.

  1. The Reminder
    • When: 1-2 hours after abandonment
    • What: A short message reminding the lead of the specific item(s) they left behind
  2. The Re-Reminder
    • When: 24 hours after abandonment
    • What: Another bump of your leads abandoned cart
  3. The Apology (Option 1)
    • When: 4-5 days after abandonment, or within 24 hours of any major site errors.
    • What: A personal apology that makes amends even if you don’t know the lead ran into a problem
  4. The Incentive (Option 2)
    • When: 4-5 days after abandonment
    • What: A deep discount or extra special, time-sensitive offer
  5. The Proof (Option 3)
    • When: 4-5 days after abandonment
    • What: User-generated content that shows your lead how happy others are that they made their purchase

Even though that list really just comes down to creating three autoresponders and testing the apology, incentive, and proof against each other, you might still feel overwhelmed.

Interested in learning more about creating and optimizing abandoned cart automations? Read this shopping cart abandonment resource on timing.

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