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Let’s say you’re running a successful store. You’ve figured out inventory, you’ve got a healthy amount of traffic, and your customers are raving about your products. Have you covered all your bases?

Not necessarily. You could still be experiencing a huge number of lost sales.

How? Through shopping cart abandonment.

We shared an astonishing fact a little while ago that comes from a roundup of studies: 67.45% of online shopping carts are abandoned before the customer completes a sale. That implies that your sales numbers may only be one third of what they could potentially be.

Now it may not be possible to persuade all cart-abandoners to go through checkout and triple your sales. Some customers may have never had the intention to purchase in the first place. But it’s worth putting in the effort to resolve as many lingering hesitations as you can, because a significant percentage of them are persuadable.

You can find on that previous post our discussion of the typical reasons cited for cart abandonment, as well as how to prevent it before it happens.

Today we want to zoom in on one of the most effective ways to recover lost customers after they abandon their carts: the Email Recovery Campaign. Then we’ll share the tools you need to set one up for yourself.

In a Shopify analysis of 50 online stores, ranging from the very small to the very large, from clothing retailers to phone case manufacturers, we’ve derived the essential characteristics of great abandoned cart emails.

Plus, a bonus: Read to the end to find our feature on another type of cart-related email that drives sales.

First, what are abandoned cart emails?

Abandoned cart emails are sent to customers who have added products to their cart but failed to check out.

It’s remarkably effective as a sales recovery tactic. According to SaleCycle, nearly half of all abandoned cart emails are opened and over a third of clicks lead to purchases back on site. You have to understand that customers often abandon their carts without meaning to do so, for example because the website crashed, because the process was complicated, or because the site timed out.

Here’s a quick example.

It’s a simple yet shockingly underused tactic by even some of the largest retailers on the web. Stores that fail to generate abandoned cart emails include Macy’s, Apple, Nordstrom, and the Gap. These are big retailers that are leaving money on the table.

There’s no need to copy their negligence. Abandoned cart emails are easy to set up.

First, the essentials

Abandoned cart emails are easy to create, and go a great length to pull back reluctant customers. There are two things that every abandoned cart email must have:

A reminder of what they’ve abandoned

It’s quite possible that after some time away your customers decide that they do want to buy after all. It may take a few hours after abandonment to be reminded of what they saw in the items in the first place.

More importantly, they may have never attempted to abandon the cart at all. 24% of customers cite “Website Crashed,” and 15% cite “Website Timed Out” as reasons that they didn’t complete a purchase. An issue with the internet provider could have caused either, and your customers may still want very much to buy. Saving their cart, or displaying the items that they’ve planned to purchase, and sending the preserved cart to them with a link is the easiest way to get those customers back.

Take a look at this example from Hello Merch. It’s a very simple message telling me what I’ve given up. Better yet, it gives me the link to easily get back to my cart, skipping the registration page so that I don’t have to provide my info all over again.

Here’s another email, slightly prettier but still very simple, from Fifty Three. This one stands out for its visual elegance.

We have one more standout example. Chubbies Shorts has excelled on three dimensions of a great email: compelling visuals, great copy, and multiple links.

Pay close attention to the way Chubbies Shorts wrote this email. “Allow me to teleport you,” “Let’s turn this party up to 11,” and “Word up” all go along with the image of the store run by fun-loving people. Also, note that clicking any of the three links in the email takes you back to your cart. (There are active links in the title, on the main picture, and also on the big button at the bottom of the email.)

Great copy

The example from Chubbies Shorts serves as a good transition point into the next feature of standout abandoned cart emails: great copy.

Think of abandoned cart emails as a bonus marketing opportunity. You take care to make all your marketing materials compelling, and you shouldn’t slack off here. In addition, because of the purpose an abandoned cart email serves, it may be a much more welcome email than what you’d normally send.

What are the ingredients for a good marketing email? An attention-grabbing subject line, great copy, and good images are all important. These next few emails excel on one or more of these areas.

Our favorite email with great copy comes from Doggyloot. In addition to showing what I’ve selected and giving me a link to my abandoned cart, it really lays it on thick with the dog imagery. See: “Don’t let your items run away!,” “Fetch your items now,” and a sign-off of “Lots of licks.”

Who doesn’t love dogs? If your store persona is highly marketable, incorporate it into your copy.

Even a store that has very little to do with dogs features a cute puppy in its email.

Black Milk Clothing isn’t afraid to use a bold email subject line: “WHERE’D YOU GO?!” It also writes: “That gear in your cart is lonely :(” and “To save the day, click here,” with the link back to the cart.

The next two emails don’t appeal to our love of dogs, but have great copy in another way.

Holstee offers the most solicitous email that we’ve received. It follows up its offer to please respond if there were “any problems, or anything at all I can help you with” by giving the name and phone number of its Community Love Director. It also emphasizes its local character with its sign-off: “Best wishes from Brooklyn!”

 

And take a look at this example from Tapiture.

Tapiture makes a different sort of appeal: “We noticed that you left a few items in your shopping cart. They’re not reserved so they could sell out. We’ve seen it happen before and it’s not pretty.”

There’s a sense of urgency. If you really wanted those items, then you shouldn’t delay. Scarcity is a powerful psychological sales trigger that smart online retailers know to take advantage. Customers are afraid that something they want to buy might sell out. Tapiture taps into that anxiety, and urges its customers to buy soon.

All four of these stores are using great copy, in addition to other tricks, to entice customers to go back to their cart and make the purchase.

Next, the great-to-have’s

Every abandoned cart email needs compelling copy and an easy way to get back to the cart, or at least display the items that were abandoned. The following features aren’t exactly essential, but they’re great if you can manage them.

Offer a discount

Most customers abandon their carts because the final price is more than what they expected.

When people think about how much they’re going to pay, they’re usually adding up the prices of each item they add to the cart. They don’t always think about taxes or shipping, and if they do, they often lowball the estimates.

That’s why three of the top four reasons that people abandon their carts have to do with prices.

And there’s a simple way to recover the customers who have been scared away by the final price: issue a discount.

NOMAD’s email subject is a question: “Dan, you want to make a deal?” And the deal is a good one: 15% off the cart, with a link to take me back.

Plus, it’s personalized. There’s a real person, not a generalized inbox, that’s offering to make a “deal” with you. Imagine getting that kind of a message from a no-reply@whateverstore.com.

Here’s another, with even more drastic savings, from Ashley Bridget. For reference, I had $90 worth of purchases in my cart, and this discount discount would apply if I added $30 worth of items to it.

Discounts are easy to create. Simply decide on the amount, generate a discount code, and leave it in the abandoned cart email.

Now, you’ve got to decide carefully whether discounts make sense for your business. You know that a lot of customers are abandoning their carts, but no two stores face the exact same mix of reasons. You have a good chance of encouraging your customers to make their purchases after a discount, but you also don’t want to lose too much in sales.

That’s a fine line to walk, and you have to decide if or how you offer your discounts. There’s no right answer; your customers may walk away from deals because of prices, or for reasons that have nothing to do with them. It’s up to you to discover how they behave.

HTML

If you know a little HTML or can make some tweaks on existing graphics, it’s a good idea to make some enticing visuals.

We all know how important it is to create attractive themes for stunning websites. We also know that great product photography sells.

And again, think of abandoned cart emails as yet another platform for marketing. If all of your regular emails are really pretty, this one should be too.

Fab.com, Doggyloot and Chubbies Shorts, featured above, are examples of emails with great HTML.

For another example, see this one from Urban Outfitters:

Its colors are vibrant, it has clouded bubble-text, and there are lots of active links taking you all over Urban Outfitters. Yes, there’s a dog, but that’s only because it’s part of the product we selected :)

By contrast the email from Fifty Three, already featured above, is simple and elegant. Just because it’s mostly text-driven doesn’t mean that the text should be design-free.

The reason we have HTML as a nice-to-have but not an essential is because the marginal difference between great visuals and no-visuals is not as large as the marginal difference between an email and no-email. If creating great visuals is a a bit of challenge, don’t worry about it; focus on creating enticing copy instead.

Reserve the items in the cart

Remember how we discussed that Tapiture uses the possibility of your item selling out to encourage a purchase? There’s another way to take advantage of that scarcity effect.

Here it is: your customers may be encouraged to go through checkout if you guarantee that you’ll hold the items for them for a definite but limited time.

Customers know that small stores without super sophisticated supply chains frequently sell out of popular items. Knowing that the items will be held for them may push them to buy.

This email from Grove informs me that my cart will be held for three days. It’s still an example of the psychological effect of scarcity that motivates customers to buy now. It’s also an example of beautiful HTML.

We’ve designated “reserve the items” as a great-to-have and not an essential because we know that you want to ship to the customers who have already paid in case supply is short. And you absolutely should. So only offer to reserve the cart if you’re sure that your stock is generous and you can afford to hold the items for many who potentially won’t pay.

One final email

One email incorporates nearly everything we’ve discussed here. Although its design is more functional than flashy, it more than compensates in other ways.

Are you taking notes?

The first thing the Talking Friends Shop does is to offer me a 10% discount.

It then tells me that my shopping cart will be reserved for three days, and offers me the link to take me directly there.

It also gives me a phone number and an email if I need support questions. Unfortunately it’s not directly to the person who will answer the inquiry.

Finally, it shows that it wants very much to understand why its customers don’t complete their purchases. So it created and linked to a quick survey for customers. It’s the only email out of the 30 we’ve seen that asks customers who abandon their carts to fill out a survey. Now that’s real dedication to understanding why their carts are abandoned, and why could be done to reduce that tendency.

That’s great, but how do I start sending out abandoned cart emails?

By now you should see that abandoned cart emails needn’t be too fancy.

If you’re on the Shopify Professional or Unlimited plans, you can find out how to set up abandoned checkout recovery emails here.

In addition, there are several well-reviewed apps that can give you other sorts of functionality.

If you’re not on Shopify, you still have options. These include:

These apps all provide guides on proper use.

One note on timing: We recommend that you don’t wait more than 24 hours before you send them out. Some merchants choose to send an email instantly after a cart is abandoned. In any case, you don’t want to wait to the point that someone has forgotten the items she wanted before you send her an email.

Bonus feature: In the course of our research we’ve also stumbled on the wish-list email. Take a look at the email below from ModCloth. These are quite similar to abandoned cart emails, and also add some urgency to completing a purchase.

Once you’ve properly set up your abandoned cart emails, you may want to test out the Wish List email to remind customers that something they’ve set in their wish list is about to run out. The WishList + Reminder app on the Shopify App Store is a cheap and well-reviewed app that lets your customers create a wish list on your site and lets you to send follow-up emails to them.

Conclusion

You see, abandoned cart emails are easy to set up, and really it should be something that everyone does given the high abandonment rates. Learn from the pros above, and get started on recovering sales today.

About The Author

Dan Wang is a Shopify Content Specialist studying economics and philosophy at the University of Rochester. Talk to Dan on Twitter.