How to Build an Abandoned Cart Email Sequence

How to Build an Abandoned Cart Email Sequence
abandoned cart email

Hi, I’m Ezra — and I’ve sold over $5 million dollars in design, development, and marketing services to ecommerce business owners.

After sitting in hundreds of sales meetings, I realized that there was one question that every prospective client wanted answered. If I answered this question well, I would close the sale and gain a new client; if I answered it poorly, I would walk away empty handed.

"That fundamental question is: 'How will you help me grow my business?'"

That fundamental question is: “How will you help me grow my business?”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as I’m a judge for this years Shopify Commerce Awards, and one of my categories is Best Abandoned Cart Recovery Experience.

Through my ecommerce marketing blog, I get the opportunity to relate with tens of thousands of Shopify store owners each year, and the number one request I get is for marketing and automation services.

There is a HUGE opportunity for agencies that support Shopify stores to offer more marketing and automation based services. When done properly, abandoned cart automation sequences can be a MAJOR driver of sales for store owners. They are also an easy place to start if you’d like your agency to start offering marketing and automation services.

One of the main reasons they’re such a great place to start is because cart abandonment is happening…A LOT. According to Baymard.com, 69.23 percent of shopping carts are abandoned on average. That’s nearly seven out of every 10 carts!

So if you are going to offer cart abandonment set up as a service, let’s talk about how you can knock it out of the park for your clients!

Already a Master at Abandoned Cart Recovery?

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Our best email sequence for an abandoned cart

When creating an abandoned cart strategy, the first thing to understand is that you 100 percent want to send multiple emails. I would recommend a minimum of one a day, for five days.

Ecommerce customers who receive multiple abandoned shopping cart emails are 2.4 times more likely to complete the purchase than those who receive only one follow up email. And customers who receive multiple abandoned cart emails have a multiple transaction rate 44 percent higher than those who didn’t.

In the last 12 months on our store, our abandoned cart email automation sequence has been the most profitable automated email series on a $/recipient basis. But it wasn’t always this way. To see why it’s working so well, let’s take a look at the actual emails we send.

abandoned cart email: email performance
This image shows the last 12 months revenue from “automated emails” in our store. As you can see, the abandoned cart automation has the highest “Value Per Recipient”.

The goal of every abandoned cart email is simple: Close the sale! Here are the main elements we’ve found work in abandoned cart emails:

  • Urgency
  • Scarcity
  • Ownership benefit content
  • Brand value proposition content
  • Discount ladders

If done properly, the first email that goes out will always be the most profitable. Let’s take a look at an example of an automated email sequence for customers who have abandoned their shopping cart. The examples below come directly from our most profitable Shopify store, Boom By Cindy Joseph.

Email #1

Send schedule: Four hours after abandoning cart.

Subject: Your order is still open, finish it before we run out of stock.

Purpose: Close the sale. Communicate urgency.

abandoned cart email: 1

In this email, we let the prospect know that we’ve reserved their order and that they can now go back and finish it. This store runs on a limited supply chain, so we use that fact to our advantage by communicating urgency: We say we’ve “temporarily reserved” their order, and that they should finish purchasing “before they sell out.”

Notice how this email (and all others) has a hero shot of the product from the abandoned cart dynamically inserted into the email, with blue underlined text calling readers to action, as well as call to action buttons.

Below are the results of this email over the past 30 days. Notice how high the open/click rates are. If you are not seeing this level of open/click on your first email, you may want to test rewriting the subject line and body content.

abandoned cart email: 1 performance

Analytics (Last 30 Days)

Waiting

11

Delivered

2.33K

Open Rate

47.7%

Click Rate

17.2%

Placed Order Rate

9.4%

Revenue

19.6K

 

I was shopping at a store called Buck Mason recently and I abandoned my cart. I thought their initial email (below) was quite good. It had a compelling subject line, a dynamic insertion of the product, and a call to action button. The only issue I have with them is that this was the only email they sent! (Come to think of it, maybe I should go back and buy that Charcoal Twill Trouser!)

abandoned cart email: charcoal twill trouser

Email #2

Send schedule: 24 hours after abandoning cart.

Subject: Last chance before your cart expires.

Purpose: Close the sale. Communicate urgency.

abandoned cart email: 2

In this email, we use nearly identical content to the first email. We remind the prospect that their order is on hold and ask them to complete the order.

Below are the results of this email over the past 30 days. Notice how we have not incentivized users to complete their order by offering a discount. Most people go straight to offering a discount and miss out on converting the folks who were the most interested.

abandoned cart email: 2 results

Analytics (Last 30 Days)

Waiting

55

Delivered

2.04K

Open Rate

38.9%

Click Rate

12.0%

Placed Order Rate

5.0%

Revenue

$9.02K

Email #3

Send schedule: Two days after abandoning cart.

Subject: Hallmark Home and Family’s Beauty Tips.

Purpose: Social proof, education about brand, establish authority.

abandoned cart email: 3

In this email, we make the pivot from leveraging scarcity and urgency to leveraging product ownership benefit content, and brand value proposition content. We do this by emailing a piece of social proof where a third-party endorses our products. Note that this email, unlike the previous two, does not link the user back to their abandoned shopping cart but rather to a video on our site:

abandoned cart email: cindy joseph

If the brand you’re setting this sequence up for doesn’t have a piece of professionally-produced social proof content, then you can use a customer testimonial video. Customer testimonial videos work extremely well in this spot, especially when they include a product demonstration.

Below are the results of this email over the past 30 days. Some people may look at these numbers and think they are comparatively small and not worth the time to set up.

I would agree, that yes, the number of purchases from this email are small compared to the first two emails, but the goal of this email is not ONLY to sell…it’s also to establish trust and authority with the prospect. When done well, this email makes the following emails in the sequence even more powerful! 

"When done well, this email makes the following emails in the sequence even more powerful!"

abandoned cart email: results 3

Analytics (Last 30 Days)

Waiting

182

Delivered

1.36K

Open Rate

34.9%

Click Rate

9.7%

Placed Order Rate

1.0%

Revenue

$1.19K

Email #4

Send schedule: Four days after abandoning cart.

Subject: Get 10% off all BOOM! products.

Purpose: Convert non-buyers. Offer discount.

abandoned cart email: 4

At this point, it’s been four days since the shopping cart was abandoned. To apply heavier pressure to close this sale, we start our discount ladder and offer the prospect 10 percent off their purchase.

Notice that we put an expiration on the discount — not only does this give us an additional reason to email (to let folks know the discount is expiring), it also makes the discount campaign work significantly better.

According to psychologist Dan Ariely, fostering a sense of urgency by setting strict deadlines is a very effective way to overcome procrastination.

You might also like: Why Every Shopify Store Needs a Marketing & Sales Funnel.

Below are the results of this email over the past 30 days. This email has nearly five times the revenue of the previous email!

abandoned cart email: results 4

Analytics (Last 30 Days)

Waiting

365

Delivered

1.27K

Open Rate

32.7%

Click Rate

9.6%

Placed Order Rate

5.0%

Revenue

$5K


Email #5

Send schedule: Five days after abandoning cart.

Subject: My Live Makeover and Makeup Demo.

Purpose: Story, social proof, educate on brand, and establish authority.

abandoned cart email: 5

In this email, we don’t mention the discount of the previous email but rather go right back into building a connection with the prospect via product ownership benefit content. Notice how we go back and forth between direct “ask” emails, where we ask for the sale, and content/informational emails, where we attempt to add value and support the user in making a decision.

This email links to a landing page with content on it, rather than linking to the cart.

abandoned cart email: landing page

Here are the results over the last 30 days:

abandoned cart email: results 5

Analytics (Last 30 Days)

Waiting

454

Delivered

1.48K

Open Rate

28.0%

Click Rate

11.3%

Placed Order Rate

0.8%

Revenue

$784.32


Email #6

Send schedule: Six days after abandoning cart.

Subject: Last chance for 10% OFF Boom!

Purpose:  Convert non-buyers. Offer Discount.

abandoned cart email: 6

In this email, we combine our discount offer with urgency. We let the prospect know that this is their last chance to claim this discount if they’re still interested. The results are undeniable:

abandoned cart email: results 6

Analytics (Last 30 Days)

Waiting

517

Delivered

1.04K

Open Rate

27.3%

Click Rate

7.5%

Placed Order Rate

3.4%

Revenue

$3.25K


At this point, we’ve sent six emails in six days and we’ve recovered a lot of abandoned shopping carts because of it. Based on my experience setting similar sequences up for literally hundreds of stores, I would suggest this number of emails as the minimum to send.

If you want to go the extra mile, you can add even more communications to your automation pipeline. As you can see below, we actually send four more emails after this that focus on product ownership benefit education.

abandoned cart email: results 6 2

Analytics (Last 30 Days)

Waiting

772

Delivered

1.08K

Open Rate

22.5%

Click Rate

5.4%

Placed Order Rate

0.4%

Revenue

$190.90

Analytics (Last 30 Days)

Waiting

861

Delivered

1.11K

Open Rate

21.1%

Click Rate

3.5%

Placed Order Rate

0.4%

Revenue

$392.46


These two emails are are sending out “long form” content in the form of an educational webinar (90 minute video) about our brand and products.

abandoned cart email: results 6 3

Analytics (Last 30 Days)

Waiting

1.05K

Delivered

1.15K

Open Rate

22.3%

Click Rate

3.7%

Placed Order Rate

0.4%

Revenue

$510.19

Analytics (Last 30 Days)

Waiting

1.26K

Delivered

1.14K

Open Rate

20.2%

Click Rate

4.7%

Placed Order Rate

0.4%

Revenue

$371.05


The blog post seen above is a short form video (5min) that summarizes our brand’s philosophy on one of our main market topics (aging).

Go deeper with automation sequences

Hopefully this article has inspired you to go a little deeper when setting up automation sequences for clients (or at least has shown you the potential of doing so).

If you really want to hit a homerun for your client, you can combine this strategy with retargeting ads (to cart visitor non-buyers) on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

abandoned cart email: facebook ad

If you think about it, a brand is simply a group of people and multiple communication mediums. You want your clients to be present on as many communication mediums as possible (emails, ads, etc.), and you want their communications to be relevant, engaging, and aid prospects in the purchasing process.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article!

Already a Master at Abandoned Cart Recovery?

We’re looking for abandoned cart campaigns that turned potential buyers into loyal customers! Enter this year’s Shopify Commerce Awards, and help us showcase the best builds and experiences out there. Submit your commerce project today, or nominate a colleague whose work you think should be celebrated.

ApplyNominate

About the Author

Ezra is the founder & CEO of SmartMarketer.com. He is also a partner in BOOM! by Cindy Joseph, and the company’s head of digital marketing. He owns a network of ecommerce brands and regularly consults for companies across the U.S and Canada. Ezra is also the founder of Zipify, a Shopify app-creation company. Ezra held the rank of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu white belt for 18 years. We're pretty sure that's a world record. He was recently promoted, and is waiting patiently for a successor.

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