5 Design Tips for Cart Abandonment Emails

It’s easy to leave an online¬†order. We’ve all been there. In fact, 68% of online shopping carts are abandoned, according to research from the Baymard Institute. As a result, email marketers are presented with the challenge‚ÄĒand opportunity‚ÄĒof saving sales via email. Enter cart abandonment emails.

When done well, these emails are¬†super effective. According to other research by BI Intelligence and Listrak, emails¬†sent three hours after a consumer deserts a cart¬†averages a 40% open rate and a 20% click-through rate. These emails are critical for any online retailer. Today, we’ll offer our top design tips to optimize your cart abandonment emails.


Tip #1: Start with an attention-getting subject line

Write a short, on-topic subject line that conveys urgency. Here are some examples from our inbox:

  • You Left Something in Your Shopping Cart at Walmart.com
  • There’s still time to finish your booking for Seattle.
  • ‚úĒ Nobody likes to miss out. Are you still interested in Ancestry?
  • Did you forget to finish your order?
  • Complete Your Purchase!
  • Your shopping cart misses you!
  • Oops, you forgot something
  • Your shopping cart is so needy…
  • Shopping alert! See what’s in your bag…
  • One less lonely bag in the world

Most are short and direct, which means they’re optimized for phone screens (where most of us check email). Some ask questions (Did you forget to finish your order?) or make exclamations (Your cart misses you!). As you design and test your own subject lines, here are some considerations to make:

  • Grab attention: Can you personalize or customize it?
  • Check it out on a mobile screen: Should it be shorter?
  • Know your audience: Is the¬†voice and tone on-brand?
  • Stand out: Try asking a question, being silly, or using an emoji.
  • Create urgency: Mention timing or, like Ancestry does above, imply “FOMO” (fear of missing out).

Tip #2: Show the actual products

We all know the old adage: show, don’t tell. Cart abandonment emails provide the perfect opportunity to put that oft-heard advice into practice. When you show a shopper what’s still in her or his cart, it works as a visual reminder that’s easy to scan and absorb. Thrive Market, the healthy grocery startup, asks readers if they’re still interested in the items in their cart, then shows them¬†what’s there.

thrive market cart abandonment emails

The “Buy Now” call-to-action buttons that bookend the message¬†stand out against the white background. Plus, the email adds a coupon code to amplify the discount and encourage readers to take action. The email is clear, simple, and visual. As a result, the message is optimized for readers who are on the go and reading on mobile screens.


Tip #3: Add customized, targeted content

Whenever a marketing email feels like it’s from a person and not a robot, that’s a win. With increasing amounts of subscriber data at their fingertips, email marketers are wisely designing¬†emails that feel individually-tailored to readers. Cart abandonment emails provide a perfect opportunity to use the data you have to customize content.

Take this cart abandonment email from Starwood, the hotel company, for example. Its subject line reads:¬†There’s still time to finish your booking for Seattle. Mentioning the reader’s specific destination in the subject¬†immediately¬†indicates the message isn’t generic. Here’s the full email:

starwood hotels group cart abandonment emails

The intro of the email is all about reminding the reader about the benefits of completing the order. Exclusive rates. Wi-Fi. Starpoints. But in case that isn’t convincing enough, Starwood follows up with events and offers available at the specific hotel for the specific dates of interest. By putting its data to use, Starwood is able to offer relevant, customized content to encourage the sale.

Similarly, Ann Taylor, the women’s fashion retailer, provides “upsell” content in its cart abandonment email, below.

ann-taylor cart abandonment emails

The key call to action to “View my bag” is still prioritized at the top, but Ann Taylor also presents customized images of additional possibilities. In other words, this email says, Keep shopping! The retailer may be¬†playing off the idea that the cart was abandoned because the shopper¬†wasn’t satisfied with what she’d picked out. So, why not offer something new to catch the eye?


Tip #4: De-emphasize prices

When you look at the data for when carts are abandoned, it helps reveal the reasons why carts are left behind. According to BI Intelligence, here are the reasons why consumers leave their carts:

  • 46% occur¬†at the payment stage
  • 37% occur at checkout login
  • 36% occur once the shoppers see¬†shipping costs
  • 21% occur when the user needs to enter their billing address
  • 20% occur when the user needs to enter their shipping or delivery address

It’s a lot about hassle factor. The easier checkout is, the better for shoppers.

What’s also interesting is that only one reason has to do with price¬†(shipping costs). Still, retailers often strip product pricing out of cart abandonment emails. That way, brands can focus on¬†reminding readers about the things they want while de-emphasizing the costs associated with them. While the Thrive email does list prices (and discounts), the emails below from Amazon and Snapfish are product-focused and leave pricing out:

amazon cart abandonment emails

snapfish cart abandonment emails

Emails from both Thrive Market and Amazon focus on presenting readers with item images in their carts. But sending cart abandonment emails with and without pricing is an easy thing to test. Try it, and track how readers respond.


Tip #5: Make the CTA obvious and inviting

Just like with any email, the call-to-action should be front and center: easy to spot, easy to tap, easy to act. Ancestry.com does a great job of making its CTA button the central component of its cart abandonment email.¬†The orange pops against the black-and-white image, and the CTA language used is much more action-oriented¬†than “Click here” or “Learn more.”

screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-10-08-14-am

Think about how easy it is to act upon the Ancestry email compared to one that omits a button altogether, like the one below from Walmart:

walmart cart abandonment emails

With three hyperlinked phrases‚ÄĒ”shopping cart,” “Free shipping,” and “Help”‚ÄĒin all the same color, size, and style, the reader can be overwhelmed about where to click. A bulletproof button would make¬†the email so much more effective!


Bonus tip: Get cheeky with cart abandonment emails

Many brands also get cheerful and playful with cart abandonment emails. And there’s good reason: they don’t want to be annoying! It’s easy for these emails to seem¬†pesky or even slightly intrusive. To combat that, email marketers often keep the messages very simple with¬†cheeky copy. Take the message from makeup retailer Glossier, which is a play on the “If a tree falls in the woods…” joke:

glossier cart abandonment emails

Similarly, Thrive opens up one of its cart abandonment emails by personifying its products to coyly ask: Did you miss me?

thrive market cart abandonment emails

If being silly is within your brand voice, try getting clever with your email copy to lighten the mood and appeal to readers.

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