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The Power of Abandoned Cart Emails

How to use this robust tool to recover lost sales and maximize your ROI

Now more than ever, marketers are facing pressure to justify budgets and show a positive return on investment (ROI), so I’m constantly surprised to see brands not employing abandoned carts emails as part of their digital marketing mix. In fact, a leading email service provider (ESP) found only 29 percent of brands were actively recovering lost sales through an abandoned cart email strategy.

Matt Finn

If your business is one of the many not already engaging in an abandoned cart email program, read on to learn the how and why of adding ROI-generating cart abandonment emails to your overall marketing efforts.

Why set up an abandoned cart email campaign?

Put simply, return on investment. Typically, you can expect north of eight-to-one return on abandoned cart emails. Given that an estimated 75 percent of all carts started will be abandoned, the opportunity to gain a significant volume of incremental sales is nothing to sneeze at. 

Still not convinced? Our team’s experience shows nearly half (44.1 percent) of all cart abandonment emails are opened and a third of clicks will eventually lead to an onsite purchase, thus proving that your business’ cart abandoners remain a highly engaged audience, even after they have left your online store. Further, the average order value of purchases from abandoned cart emails trends 14.2 percent higher than average onsite purchases, representing an even more enticing revenue opportunity that should not be ignored.

OK, I’m convinced. Where do I start?

There are a multitude of different ways to set up your new abandoned cart email campaign, ranging from third-party solutions to utilizing your ecommerce platform to send the data to your ESP for more direct control. In terms of cost, there are a variety of different models to explore from cost per acquisition (CPA) to cost per thousand impressions (CPM) and everything in between. In short, it pays to do your research and find the pricing model that best fits your business needs.

Now, how do I choose the right message timing?

Best practice dictates that you will see optimum results (open rates and conversion) by triggering your first abandoned cart to send one hour after the abandonment occurs. However, as the old adage goes, test, test, and test again to confirm that this is the best-performing approach for your customers. What works best in general may not always be the optimum solution for your business.

Implement a sequenced messaging approach that progressively builds a sense of urgency and compelling reasons to purchase. In the past, I have used the following sequence to good effect:

Example abandoned cart email sequence

Sample abandoned cart email sequence

Are there any further best practices to keep in mind?

All the existing best practices which apply to email marketing campaigns—engaging subject lines, personalization, mobile-friendly templates, and so on—apply just as readily to abandoned cart emails. With the high level of engagement you can typically expect from abandoned cart emails, these practices are possibly of even greater importance. For example, one client’s open rate for abandoned cart emails was 45 percent higher than their next best-performing campaign.

How important is continuous optimization once my abandoned cart email campaign is launched?

Very important. You will want to continually test, learn, and optimize your abandoned cart email campaigns to maximize results in the same way that you would for any email marketing campaign. 

You will know from your reporting the areas that need addressing in your cart abandonment program. Open rates look low? Test timing. Is one hour too soon or not soon enough? Does your subject line resonate and set customer expectations of the email content?

Click-through rates low? Are your calls to action clear? Strong, compelling product imagery will help here. Remember, these people have shown an interest in your product, so you need to offer compelling reasons to return. Providing social proof in the form of product reviews and ratings is one way to do this.

Discounting is another option that many consider for their abandoned cart strategy. But be careful here. You don’t want to cannibalize what could potentially be full-priced sales by offering a discount too early in the cadence. Testing here is vital and will allow you to understand what, if any, incremental revenue a discounting strategy can deliver.


Ultimately, your abandoned cart program should be managed the same way you would any other email program—by continually optimizing for those incremental gains. It’s easy to have a “set it and forget it” mentality with triggered email programs, but doing so could end up costing you revenue.

In summary, there are many benefits to having an abandoned cart email marketing campaign, chief among these being a potentially large volume of ROI-positive incremental sales. By utilizing the above guidelines for setting up your new cart abandonment email marketing campaign, choosing the right message timing, adhering to best practices, and optimizing on an ongoing basis, you will be well on your way to capitalizing on incremental sales opportunities that exist for site visitors who abandon their online carts.


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