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Retail Insights

Amelia Willson

69.8%.

That’s the average online shopping cart abandonment rate, and it’s the bane of every retailer’s existence. For mobile shoppers, the number is even higher, at 85.65%.

The good news is that many abandoned carts can be recovered. Retailers just need to take advantage of the right tools and messaging.

Below, we review the cart abandonment stats you need to know, explore the landscape of abandoned cart communications, and share our best tips for crafting the perfect abandoned cart email.

The Stats Are In: Here’s Why Shoppers Abandon Their Carts

Shoppers abandon their carts for a number of reasons, a few of which are sadly out of the retailer’s control. Many shoppers are simply browsing or putting together their wishlist with no real intent to purchase in the moment. Those shoppers account for 58.6% of all abandoned carts, according to research out of the Baymard Institute

Nearly every other reason a shopper provides for abandoning their cart is something that’s completely within the retailer’s control. That’s great news, because it means that 4 in 10 carts are recoverable. Take a look:

At 49%, the #1 reason shoppers abandon their carts is due to extra, unexpected fees at checkout, such as tax or shipping costs. Offering free shipping, either upfront or in an abandoned cart offer, is the simplest thing retailers can do to win back those carts. 

The other top reasons are operational issues, such as a suboptimal returns policy or design problems with the retailer’s website. These are all things retailers can fix, too—in fact, Baymard Institute estimates that the average ecommerce site can lift cart conversion rates by 35.3% just by redesigning their checkout. Looking at the total ecommerce sales in the U.S. and E.U. of $738 billion, that conversion lift translates to $260 billion in lost orders, all potentially recoverable through checkout optimizations alone!

From Push to Popup: Exploring the World of Abandoned Cart Communications

Some of these fixes take longer than others, but there are immediate actions retailers can take to save carts before they get abandoned. Retailers can tempt those balking at their cart totals by offering free shipping. For shoppers who are just browsing, retailers can stress the urgency to buy now by reminding shoppers that items are low in stock.

To communicate these offers and the urgency to buy now, retailers have a few communication tools at their disposal. These range from the classic abandoned cart email to exit popups and push notifications.

Abandoned Cart Emails

As the name suggests, abandoned cart emails are sent to a shopper after they’ve abandoned their cart. Most commonly, these emails contain an image of the items in their cart, along with a compelling message enticing them to come back.

For example, this email from Sephora speaks directly to browsers, asking if they’re “ready to commit.” They get bonus points for including a free shipping promo code and personalizing the email.

Exit Popups

Exit popups aim to prevent abandoned carts before they happen. Typically, these popups appear while the person is in the checkout flow, right as their mouse hovers near that big red X on their browser tab.

Some popups are even more proactive, like this example from Nike. The popup urges shoppers to check out now to take advantage of free shipping. Even though the cart total already qualifies the customer for free shipping, the bright orange box and the wording make the offer feel both urgent and exclusive. 

Push Notifications

Retailers with branded mobile apps can also leverage push notifications to invite shoppers back to their carts. Check out this friendly example from Target. 

With just two lines of text and a tiny thumbnail, the notification accomplishes both the primary function of reminding the shopper they left something in their cart, while also playing up the customer’s relationship with the brand.

Retargeting Ads

Finally, brands can pay for retargeting ads in Google’s Display Network, as well as social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. These ads show up when people are doing other things online besides shopping, such as watching a YouTube video, reading an article, or scrolling through their social media feeds. Wherever these ads appear, they have one goal: reminding users of the items in their cart and encouraging them to come back to complete the purchase. 

Here’s an example of a retargeting ad from Target. The banner ad includes an item from the person’s cart, along with the product name and a “Low price!” call-to-action:

How to Craft a Compelling Abandoned Cart Email

As these examples demonstrate, the best abandoned cart emails include the following:

  • An eye-catching subject line
  • Persuasive pre-header text
  • Photos of items they left in their cart
  • An offer or discount
  • A call to action to check out or buy now, with a link to their cart

The subject line can make or break an abandoned cart email, so it’s worth testing several and seeing what works for your users. Popular abandoned cart email subject lines often speak to a sense of urgency or FOMO, and include a bit of personality. Here are some examples:

  • You left something behind
  • Come back to your cart
  • You still have items in your cart
  • [Product] = low in stock
  • We saved your cart!
  • Don’t miss this — your cart is expiring soon
  • Oops, you forgot something!
  • Free shipping just for you
  • Still thinking it over, [Name]?

Looking to draw inspiration from a gold standard? Here’s an abandoned cart email from Anthropologie that perfectly captures all of these elements. The email subject line is strong (“Circle back to your cart!”) and the email header recalls a popular song to show the brand’s personality (“Don’t you… forget about these.”):

Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to one abandoned cart email template—go wild with an abandoned cart email drip campaign! In fact, most marketing experts recommend it. 

Ideally, you’d send your first email within an hour or two of the person abandoning their cart. The followup email can arrive a day or two later, and the third followup can arrive a few days after that.

Here’s an example from Pottery Barn. Their first abandoned cart email starts out subtly, with a simple subject line (“You left something behind”). The body of the email opens with a banner offering free shipping and motivating people to shop (“These products are almost yours! Pick up where you left off”).

By the time their second email arrives, the message is more insistent (“You still have items in your cart”, “Your cart is waiting.”) The email subject line also advertises a free shipping offer.

Beyond photos of the abandoned items, everything in the body of an abandoned cart email should serve to direct shoppers back to their cart. You can include reviews and social proof, or your BNPL offer. 

Buy now, pay later lets shoppers split the total cost of their purchase into multiple installments, which can be especially relevant to shoppers at this stage of the buying journey when price may be holding them back from completing the purchase. Make the overall cost more manageable, and BNPL can bring shoppers back to checkout from their inbox.

BNPL improves the customer experience and lowers their hesitation. That’s why Zip merchants enjoy an average 20% lift in conversion and 60% boost in AOV after implementing Zip. Add Zip to your checkout flow now to make abandoned carts a thing of the past.

Amelia Willson
Amelia Willson

Amelia Willson is an online marketer-turned-freelance writer, based in sunny southern California. She covers ecommerce, sleep health, tech, and online marketing. When she’s not busy writing, you can find her at the beach or walking her dog Rockefeller. Connect with her on LinkedIn.