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7 ways to optimise your abandoned cart emails (and what to avoid)

Why do you need an optimised cart recovery campaign?

As an eCommerce business, your website is your storefront and your abandoned carts are the number of items that customers pick up and put back.

Unfortunately, Australia has one of the worst virtual abandoned cart rates in the world at 57%

Not only does abandoned cart hurt your revenue and hike up your cost per acquisition, it undermines everything you’ve done to maintain your shop and grow loyal customers.

That's a SERIOUS problem! 

You must keep your abandonment rate to a minimum. Abandoned cart recovery emails are one of the best ways to do that. Here's a reminder of how well they could be working for you:

  • 45% of cart abandonment emails are opened;
  • 21% of all are clicked on;
  • 50% of the users who click, purchase.

But it takes more than having a campaign in place to rescue your bottom line. Your campaign needs to be optimised; it needs to be relevant, persuasive and well designed.

If it isn't, then you could still be losing revenue or (even worse) bringing down your customers’ faith in your brand by irritating them.


7 ways to optimise your abandoned cart email - and what to avoid

Part of knowing what to optimise in your campaign is also knowing what to avoid. That said, abandoned cart emails typically come in a series but today we're going to focus on just one - the first one you send after cart abandonment.

Here are some of the common mistakes we've spotted from cart recovery emails of past and collated into one single email.

Alright, let's play spot the mistakes...


Did you manage to spot them all? Here they are:


Subject line too dry.

Avoid formal or too-literal subject lines i.e. "Cart reminder" that do nothing to intrigue or excite the recipient. 35% of emails get opened based on subject line alone, so it pays to perfect yours.

✔️ Solution: Craft a subject line that speaks to your buyer persona.

Do you know who your buyer persona(s) are? Understanding their wants and needs can make the difference between them clicking on your email subject line, or throwing it into spam. Also, don’t be afraid to show off your brand’s personality in the title - people aren't robots! If you're unsure what works best, we recommend A/B testing subject lines against each other.


Email copy is too long.

Abandoned cart emails aren’t like other marketing emails. They are designed for a single purpose - completing a transaction - so when it comes to email copy, less is more. You can’t afford to distract the recipient by throwing multiple messages at them, or losing their attention with lengthy text.

✔️Solution: Keep email copy under 4 lines of text.

When you’re trying to get shoppers to take a specific action, the copy should be just that: actionable. Keep your email copy short, sweet and to the point (in general, copy should not exceed 4 lines). But just like the subject line, the copy should reflect your brand persona/tone and not be overly formal or dry.


Call-to-action button too small.

Your call to action button is the star of your email - it’s the only place or destination your recipients should be clicking on. When the button is too small, it doesn’t command attention. On a mobile, this would be flat-out ineffective.

✔️Solution: Make your CTA button the Beyonce of your email.

Your "Complete Purchase" button should be the dominant, front-and-centre feature of your email. 

We encourage you to A/B test the message and colours of the button too. (According to research, the best 3 colours for call-to-action buttons are red, green and orange/yellow. The worst 3 colours are black, white and brown).


No image of the abandoned item(s) included.

The more time lapses, the more people will forget what they actually left behind in their cart. (Considering the average human’s short term memory is only 15 - 30 seconds... we're not that much better than goldfish).

Visual information can be processed up to 60,000 faster than text, so a simple text summary of what they left just isn’t going to cut it if you're looking for a fast reaction.

✔️ Solution: Add product images to your email template.

Make sure your cart reminder email features prominent images of what they’ve left behind. Usually, this just means adding a line of code to your email HTML that will feature a image of the shopper’s specific product.

Make sure that your image is also linked to go to the Complete Purchase page (sometimes a shopper might click on it instead of the actual CTA).


Too many different call-to-actions or goals.

As mentioned above, abandoned cart emails contain ONE purpose only: to encourage someone to complete a transaction. So in this case, distractions like newsletter signups, social media sign ups, blog article previews, are not allowed and not on the guest list.

It might seem like the perfect chance to cross-promote other parts of your business, but you don’t want the reader clicking off elsewhere and ending up light years away from the page they were meant to be on.


✔️ Solution: Keep your eyes on the prize!

Clear ALL links that don’t point back to your Complete Purchase page. (With the only exception being the unsubscribe button, or a customer support email). Save all those shiny links for your other marketing emails. We promise that'll improve their focus, and results!


Reminder email sent too late.

Why is timing so critical?

Because bad timing has the ability to undo everything. All the hard work you’ve put into crafting the perfect email campaign won’t matter if you’ve struck at the wrong time. (No pressure).

Here’s why timing can be tricky though: on one hand, buyers often need more time to consider a purchase. On the other, if they’ve had too much time to consider, they may run off to a competitor or lose interest.

✔️ Solution: Act fast!

Generally speaking, your first reminder email should go out within 3 hours after the cart was abandoned - but since industries are all different, we suggest you test different sending windows to determine the best timing for your business.


No evidence of user segmentation.

There’s a saying “if your content is for everybody, it’s really for nobody”.

...This is an extension of that. If you’re sending the same cart reminder email to everybody, then it’s not going to resonate with your different groups of buyers.

As a rule of thumb:

More user segments = emails are better targeted to each buyer -> high converting emails

Less or generic user segments = emails are not targeted to different buyers -> low converting emails


✔️ Solution: Create segments and send them differing messages

Divide your pool of cart abandoners into segments like cart value or product type, and send different messages to each group. You could consider messaging tactics like:

  • Offering a cash discount for high value abandoned carts
  • Contacting low value buyers more quickly i.e. within 1 hour
  • Offering free shipping for buyers who live locally

In summary, an optimised abandoned cart email should have:

  • Attention-grabbing subject lines
  • Engaging, concise copy in the email
  • A clear call-to-action or link
  • A prominent call-to-action button
  • Images of the item(s) left behind
  • Timeliness (sent at the most opportune time)
  • Segmentation of different buyer types
  • A/B tested elements, such as subject lines or call-to-action

If you follow these guidelines, we promise you'll end up doing a happy dance when all your wayward buyers start returning to ship (just couldn't resist a sea pun - we are alphawhale after all). 

For more advice on creating an abandoned cart recovery campaign that actually works, grab a free copy of our guide Abandon Ship! alphawhale's guide to fixing leaky carts and getting back lost sales today:

abandoned cart ebook alphawhale

Christina Peng
Christina Peng
Christina is a content strategist with a digital marketing background. She loves bringing words to life and harbours an unwavering affection for 80's music and digital art.

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