3 myths and best practices for writing browse abandonment email subject lines that work

Profile photo of author Phil Weltman
Phil Weltman
8min read
Email marketing
February 13, 2018
Image shows hands typing on a laptop.

Browse abandonment emails work.

These emails have a 62.9% higher open rate than traditional emails.

To help you increase your open rates, I dug into the data to discover which type of browse abandonment subject lines are the most common, which subject lines don’t meet our expectations, and how to get you started.

Browse abandonment email benchmarks

I analyzed over 1,000 browse abandonment emails sent to over 1M people to see how this type of email performed overall.

The results were impressive:

  • Average open rate: 52.79%
  • Average click rate: 10.87%
  • Revenue per recipient: $2.88

Browse abandonment emails range in performance — largely due to the varying levels of purchase intent. But overall, all had high open and click rates.

3 best practices for writing browse abandonment email subject lines

1. Keep the subject line simple

To help you drive more opens from your browse abandonment subject lines, here are a few tips for the next email marketing campaign:

You don’t need to be overly clever to drive more email openssimply reminding recipients that they abandoned a page will do the trick. Doing this will pique your reader’s curiosity without being creepy or overwhelming.

The most popular subject line example among browse abandonment emails was “Did you see something you liked?” This subject line had an open rate of 56.82% – 7% higher than the benchmark average.

A couple more simple, yet effective subject lines were:

  • Recommend just for you: 53.82% open rate
  • We saw you checking us out: 58.55% open rate

These proven subject lines have a few things in common:

  1. They talk directly to the recipient using “you”. You’ve already built up a bit of a relationship because they were on your site, so carry that over to the subject lines
  2. Simple language that you’d use every day. No overly clever copy
  3. All are 30 characters or less. Which leads me to the next tip…

2. Keep a low character count

When looking at browse abandonment subjects lines, the higher performing ones are on the shorter side.

Image shows a bar graph indicating character count of subject lines.

There’s a gradual decrease in performance as the subject lines get longer. Subject lines with 40 characters or less performed 10% higher than those with over 40 characters.

There are two reasons for this:

  1. You only have a split second to capture subscribers’ attention, and long subject lines might deter them from opening.
  2. People read their emails on mobile devices, with 68% of email opens taking place on mobile devices. Mobile screens show 25-30 characters tops, causing the longer subject lines to be cut off.

With that in mind, we recommend using subject lines with fewer than 40 characters to make sure the people scanning your emails read the entire subject line.

3. Punctuate your subject line

Using proper punctuation in your subject lines will help add life and entice your email subscribers to open the email. Question marks, periods, and exclamation points proved to be the most effective punctuation.

Punctuation markAverage open rate
Question mark (?)56.19%
Period (.)48.50%
Exclamation point (!)48.00%

Punctuation adds character to your subject lines – whether it’s curiosity, finality, or excitement.

Do use caution with your punctuation game, however. Yes, posing your subject line as a question helps add curiosity resulting in an open rate 6% higher than the average. But don’t go overboard. Too much punctuation can come off as too emotional and immature. Not only will it affect your open rate, but it could trigger the spam filter and damage your email deliverability.

Browse abandonment subject line myth busters

Data is helping us kill some long-held myths about high-performing email campaigns. Let’s look at some browse abandonment subject lines that many people assume generate high open rates, but in reality, fall short of expectations.

Add product personalization

Product personalization in the subject line incorporates the product or category that the person was browsing. Many retailers assume that if you remind the person what they were browsing, they’ll open and buy.

In reality, pulling in the specific product yielded an open rate of 21% below average.

Remember, the interest level for people who abandon a product page is much harder to determine than for someone who abandons a cart. The person merely looked at the item on your site without proceeding to the checkout. Including the product name in the subject lines can cross the line from helpful to invasive, deterring the reader from opening the email.

Hype the discounts

Incorporating a discount into your subject line did not perform well — almost 18% below the average.

A couple of low-performing browse abandonment email examples include:

  • A whopping 25% discount for you (today only)
  • 10% off for 24 hours only!

There are two reasons this might be happening:

  1. Including the discount might make the subject line too long, causing the reader to lose interest.
  2. You’re using special characters ($, %, FREE) that might be causing your messages to trigger the spam filter.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include discount codes in your subject line because discounts do work. Start off by testing different discounts to see what people on your email list like the most.

Or, tease the discount without actually telling the subscriber what they’re getting — invoking their curiosity and enticing them to open your email. For example, “Deals that make us proud.” or “Shop now. Save big.” Once they open, reward the readers with the discount specifics. This will help increase open rates and click rates.

Make the subject time-sensitive 

Many marketers use the subject line to create a sense of urgency and put pressure on their subscribers to take action. This is done by putting a time limit on the call-to-action (CTA).

Unfortunately, emails with a time limit in their subject line received the lowest open rate of all — 27% below the average compared to other browse abandonment campaigns.

For example, one customer used the subject line “Final notice…. (4 hours left)” and received an open rate of less than 15%, If your subscriber feels pressured, odds are they’re going to say “forget it” and not open your email.

20 ready-to-use browse abandonment email subject line examples

If you’re struggling with browse abandonment emails, take inspiration from these 20 successful subject lines:

Simple yet effective

  1. Did you see something you liked?
  2. Recommended Just For You
  3. Thanks For Stopping By!
  4. Take a 2nd look!
  5. Still thinking about it?


  1. Hey Phil, any questions?
  2. Phil, did you see something you liked?
  3. Phil – you have great taste!
  4. Your Tom Brady Jersey is waiting.
  5. Tom Brady Jersey is still waiting for you!


  1. Deals that make us proud.
  2. Shop now. Save big.
  3. We Want You Back – Take 15% off
  4. Here’s how we’re going to look after you.
  5. Maybe this will help – $10 off, just for you


  1. Were you checking me out?
  2. We must have the same taste
  3. We saw you peeping…
  4. I’m in Love! I’m in Love!
  5. Did you have your eye on these?

Final word

Data proves that browse abandonment emails deliver sales for our customers. The first hurdle is getting the potential customer to open your email and take a second look at the product they’ve had their eye on – and that’s why the subject line is so important.

Every audience is different and reacts differently to subject lines, so view our top-performing subject lines as a good starting point. A/B test your subject lines to determine what resonates with your audiences and what doesn’t. Maybe your audience loves pressure or personalized product recommendations — your own data will guide you.

Browse abandonment email subject lines FAQs

What are the different types of abandonment email subject lines?

The top 5 most popular abandoned email subject lines brands use when they want to turn window shoppers into customers are:

  1. Classic subject lines
  2. Discount subject lines
  3. FOMO subject lines
  4. Attention-grabbing
  5. Brand or product-related subject lines

What is the purpose of a browse abandonment email subject line?

Browse abandonment emails are follow-up messages used as a part of a carefully crafted email marketing strategy to reach out to visitors who have looked at specific products in your ecommerce store but haven’t placed them in the shopping cart. The browse abandon email subject lines are carefully written to remind customers of the product they were interested in and motivate them to complete the purchase.

What is the difference between browse abandonment email and cart abandonment email subject lines?

Both browse and cart abandonment emails are email automation used to increase conversion rates. However, browse abandonment email subject lines target website visitors who have looked at specific products but haven’t proceeded to the checkout. In contrast, abandoned cart email subject lines are retargeting customers who have placed products in their cart but haven’t completed the purchase.

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Phil Weltman
Phil Weltman
Phil was formerly on the marketing team at Klaviyo. Prior to marketing, Phil spent a year on the growth team helping lead the charge to build a digital marketing platform for nonprofits and fundraising organizations.