How To Create the Best Abandoned Cart Email

How To Create the Best Abandoned Cart Email

The current average figure for cart abandonment is 79%.

Painful, right?

All that time and money that you are spending bringing shoppers to your site – a site that you and your team have lovingly crafted to have smooth UX, highlight your products to their best and portray the essence of your brand – and people are still leaving without having made a purchase.

But cart abandonment is a sad fact of ecommerce life. While you should be doing everything you can to combat it, you also need to accept that some shoppers will get away. In which case, we are presented with a new challenge…

How can we get them back?

One obvious, but often underused, tactic is the use of abandoned cart emails – emails containing the content of an abandoned cart, triggered automatically when a shopper leaves a site.

At Nosto, we see retailers using our abandoned cart email achieving up to 14% average conversion rate – which is a lot of customers that would have otherwise been lost!

But how do you maximize your chances of these bringing those beloved shoppers back?

Show them what they forgot

The first thing, of course, if that the email needs to revolve around what they left. While these are items that they failed to buy, they are also the ones that got closest to the finish line. And let’s face it, people are busy – you don’t know why they were left. While there is a chance they weren’t the right items (in which case, we have a solution for that coming later) it could also be that they simply got distracted, were browsing on the mover or they just hadn’t made up their mind yet.

In any of these situations, reminding them what they were looking at could be enough to get the job done. But don’t just tell them they left something – show them what it is. Remember, shoppers often multi-task, browsing multiple sites in one session – meaning they have probably looked at a lot of products in a short amount of time. This means you need to list everything that was in the basket, including photos. By picturing the item you not only remind them of what the items were, but give them a visual nudge as to why they were attracted to them in the first place.

Babyshop make sure it is clear which items were left in the cart by including the product name, photo and description.

Time it right

There are certain tasks in life where timing is paramount – cooking an egg, making a joke and, finally, sending an abandoned cart email. That’s right – it’s not just what you send but when you send it (anyone that has ever given their Valentine the card late and suffered the repercussions will know this).

With abandoned cart emails we recommend sending the first email somewhere between 5 and 30 minutes after the shopper has abandoned. This may seem hasty but you need to take into consideration that the reason they left may to be to browse another site, in which case they may spend their cash elsewhere. You also want to strike while the iron is hot – buying impulses are strongest when an item is put into the cart and you want to capitalize on that.

We recommend setting the email to be sent at somewhere between 5 and 30 minutes, as can be seen in this example from within Nosto.

There is, of course, still a chance that they won’t be ready to buy (especially, if they left for a specific reason – i.e. dinner was burning or a friend called round). We then recommend a second email approximately 24 hours later. After 24 hours the desires that lead them to select these items start to wane and the chances of your email converting become much slimmer.

Make your subject line count

With anything you say, half the battle is the way you say it – and abandoned cart emails are no exception. Of course, your first hurdle is to get them to open it – otherwise you’ve fallen at the first virtual hurdle. And so you need a kick-ass subject line.

Addressing them by name can go a little way to help you stand out. So to can listing specific items that they left. And make sure it is clear what the email is about.

In terms of length, subject lines are one area in life where it really does does count. It has been claimed that 65 characters is the subject line length that achieves the best read rate (15 characters more than the average). That said, it really does depends on your audience, especially whether they are opening their emails on mobile. To determine the best strategy for you, look at what device your shoppers tend to do and then A/B test.

Craft copy with care

Maybe a kick-ass subject line and the sight of their forgotten items will be enough to send them hurtling back towards your check out. But what if it’s not?

The design of your email is going to guarantee impact, the photos of your products should hopefully create desire but the copy of your email is your chance to really put into practice your powers of persuasion, building on the message and tone of your subject line.

We recommend using one of the following four approaches:


“Did you forget something?”
“We’re holding your items for you”
“Oops… You didn’t quite finish!”

These all works because they sound casual. Like you’re just popping into their inbox to be helpful. Which, if they did just forget something, you are. And in this sense the email your email service – a quick and easy way to get them back to what they were doing (while conveniently ignoring the fact that they may have left on purpose).

Custard and Crumble take a very helpful and polite approach in their email copy – stating “we’d love to help!”.


“Your shopping cart will soon expire”
“Be quick, before your items sell out!”
“We can only hold your cart for so long!”

These messages are, of course, based around the idea of scarcity – letting the customer know that they need to complete the transaction quickly or risk losing out. By highlighting an item as being subject to availability, you make it look popular and this increases desire.

Joy’s email has copy with a real of urgency – urging people to complete their “order before it’s gone”.


“I can’t believe you left the most fabulous dress to ever be made in the whole world in a lowly virtual shopping basket!”

Ok, so examples like this are humorous and over the top. But that is why it works. Humor allows us to portray something as the best thing in the whole entire world. While a customer knows that is (probably) not the case, the excitement is infectious – it makes the items look enticing and helps to reignite their interest in them.

RayBan do an amazing job of being over the top with an email that is both ridiculous and hilarious


“Your items want to be purchased!”
“A shopping cart is no pace for beautiful things like this”. 

Pleas like these can be funny and endearing, and despite not being based on reality (we all know that items aren’t sad about being left in baskets, despite what Toy Story may have us believe), still work to tug on the emotional heartstrings. This not only humanizes the items in the basket but also your brand – showing you to have emotional ties to products and your customers.

BlackMilk have a great abandoned cart email (as shown on this blog) – using the “aw” factor to full effect with a cute puppy, accompanying the text “why did you leave me?”.

Give your CTA priority

Whether you pick a funny approach or a serious one, one thing you have to do is to allow your customers a clear and easy way back to their products. A prominent call to action is therefore important and should be easy to identify.

UK Tool Centre have a very clearly positioned CTA in their email. You should also consider having multiple clickable components. Basically, everything that can be interpreted as a link should be one – header images, photos of the items, hyperlinked description text. While we can try to predict customers behaviour, sometimes mouse movements are erratic and given multiples way to get there only increases your chances.

Consider adding a discount

Cost is one of the most common reasons for cart abandonment, so if you are serious about using abandoned cart emails to improve conversion then consider offering a discount.

Of course, when offering money off you have to be strategic – picking your battles carefully to avoid eating into your profit margin too heavily. For this reason, we recommend using this tactic in the second email.

The Craft Superstore offer a 15% discount to get their shoppers back

Give them to get a way to get in touch

There may be an unresolved issue or a question keeping your shopper from buying – in this case they may want to speak to an actual person (I KNOW, in this day and age!). If this is the case you need to give them a way to do so. This is particularly important if the goods you sell are high end. If they cannot contact you by replying to the email make sure that this is clear and give them an email address or telephone number, clearly marked, for them to do so.

Juniqe provide both a email and telephone address for customers to get in contact

Use the opportunity to suggest other items…

Remember when we said we would tell you what to do in case they just weren’t the right products? Well, here we go! Personalized recommendations to the rescue! These can bolster your abandoned cart emails in a number of ways;

Product based cross selling:

If the items they saved aren’t quite right you need to show them suitable alternatives. How? By using what you do know. The fact that they liked the products they selected enough to put them in their cart is a great indicator of interest – both generally and, more specifically, what they are looking for right now. Leverage this information by recommending alternatives based on what was in the cart.

Juniqe have a “You might also like” section in their email, based on what the customer had in their cart.

Browsing history related

Recommendations based on that individual’s past browsing and buying behavior, excluding those products already in their cart. This makes use of their personal data profile and what it shows about their likes and dislikes, encouraging them to add other items to their cart before checkout.

Joy make suggestions based on what the shopper has viewed and bought previously.

Other recommendation options…

Recently viewed items:

Love The Sign show the items that customers viewed but didn’t add to cart in case they got something.

Best sellers: 

Yumi Kim include trending items at the end of their email.

And one last thing…

Consider the use of a site abandonment pop-up

Finally, it is worth pointing out that for all of this to be possible you first need the person’s email address – something you won’t have for all abandoning shoppers to your store. Which is why, for unknown shoppers, you may want to enable a site abandonment pop up with data capture enabled. These are automatically triggered by exit intent, asking for a email address so that an abandoned cart email can be sent if the customer leaves anything behind.

Paul Evans use a pop up to ask site abandoners to save their cart.

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