Ecommerce Marketing

The Math Behind Abandoned Cart Email Success – and How to Set It Up to Earn 25% More Sales

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What is cart abandonment?

Cart abandonment is when an online shopper adds at least one product to their cart and then exits without making a purchase. Abandonment rates are staggeringly high — demonstrating the huge revenue opportunity to win back these shoppers and make a sale

Why cart abandonment should be a top priority for online retailers

69.23% –– that’s the average percentage of online consumers who will put something in a cart on your site and then just up and leave without ever purchasing.

58.6% –– that’s the percentage of people who say they’ve abandoned a cart within the last 3 months because “I was just browsing / not ready to buy.” These people likely won’t ever even initiate your checkout flow.

But for the 41.6% of other abandoned carts, many people will begin your checkout flow. Why does this matter? Because when a consumer begins your checkout flow, they must first enter their email. And, when you have their email, you can trigger an abandoned cart series to bring that customer back and earn their sale.

These Stats Show the Top Reasons for Online Shopping Cart Abandonment

Outside of the 58.6% of people who abandon cart because they simply aren’t ready to buy, here is the Baymard Institute’s breakdown of alternative reasons for customers who abandon shopping carts.

  • 61%: Extra costs (shipping, taxes, fees) were too high
  • 35%: Didn’t want to create an account
  • 27%: The checkout process was too long or complicated
  • 24%: Couldn’t see or calculate total order cost up-front
  • 22%: Reported the website had errors or crashed.
  • 18% Didn’t trust the site with their credit card information
  • 16%: Delivery timeline was much too slow
  • 10%: Didn’t believe the returns policy to be fair or satisfactory
  • 8%: Didn’t see their preferred method of payment
  • 5%: Their credit card was declined

Here’s the full graph.

shopping cart abandonment stats

Now, many of those issues can be fixed simply with a few design changes.

For instance, to address the need to create an account, your checkout should allow consumers to checkout as guests.

abandoned cart emails

Or, to address a long or complicated checkout process (which is a particular complaint on mobile), make sure your checkout is only one page, and optimized for browser type.

Here is that above checkout experience in mobile view:

cart abandonment emails

Here is another example of a one-page checkout, both of desktop and on mobile.

abandonment rate

Desktop one-page checkout.

abandoned cart email tips

The same one-page checkout, now on mobile, implemented by BigCommerce partner Intuit Solutions.

By and large however, the #1 reason for shopping cart abandonment beyond a customer just not being ready to buy is price.

And this, you can completely control –– and is a mainstay of abandoned cart nurture streams that will help you win back a sale you would have otherwise lost.

The Science of Abandoned Cart Emails

In this post, we’ll be talking mainly about how to reduce that abandonment rate of 61% and turn it into sales. Let’s do the math here really quickly.

Let’s say we have 100 abandoned carts –– and 41 of them (just to round it out) abandon because of reasons other than not being ready to purchase.

abandoned cart software

Because in the Baymard Institute survey, consumers could choose multiple reasons why they abandoned cart, we cannot evenly break down exactly how many people abandoned cart solely because of final price point in checkout.

However, because 61% of 41 is about 25 –– we can estimate that 25 of those surveyed said they abandoned cart after seeing the final price. That makes 25% of our total not checking out because of final shipping, fees or taxes price points.

how to save abandoned carts

Knowing that average abandoned cart emails win back 12-15% of consumers –– and that personalized emails are 6x more effective than regular emails –– we’re already pretty close to hitting average win back revenue.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s start from the beginning.

Calculate Your Abandoned Cart Revenue Increase

Here’s a handy calculator to see how much more revenue you could be earning.

What are Abandoned Cart Emails?

Abandoned cart emails are a series of reminder emails sent to customers who have initiated your checkout flow, provided an email address, and failed to make a purchase.

The emails will trigger based on rules you set up, and will feature the content left in their cart.

Typically, brands send three emails –– the first hours after the abandoned cart, a follow up email the next day and a third the next day. A variety of content goes into these emails in an attempt to win a customer back.

How do I set up Abandoned Cart Emails?

Ecommerce software providers like BigCommerce offer their own out-of-the-box abandoned cart series.

Here is where you set up abandoned carts on the backend. Notice you can set up as many as you would like, though 3 are recommended.

conversion-rate-optimization-abandoned-cart

Here is where you can customize the email and include coupon codes as necessary. We’ll cover the importance of this and what we recommend in a bit.

conversion-rate-optimization-abandoned-cart-email

And here is an example of what the out-of-the-box abandoned cart emails look like.

conversion-rate-optimization-abandoned-cart-email-1

Tons of online brands use these out-of-the-box abandoned cart emails, and see incredible success. For instance, Silk Road Teas sees 17% of customers who have abandoned cart come back to purchase.

Our B2C site now has a steady 4.5% conversion rate, and BigCommerce’s out-of-the-box Abandoned Cart Saver has 17% of those who abandon cart coming back to buy.

But let’s be honest here –– these out-of-the-box emails aren’t the prettiest, even if they work well. Doug Root, CEO of Atlanta Light Bulbs explains it best.

We use BigCommerce’s Abandoned Cart feature. We’ve tried some other ones, too. That’s the thing. You know, the abandoned cart feature on BigCommerce works functionally really well, but it’s just not as sexy as some of the other ones with making some cool graphics or doing some cool stuff. It is one of the best I’ve found in that it gets the best results.

The benefit of this approach is that all data is captured in your store backend.

conversion-rate-optimization-abandoned-cart-report-1

conversion-rate-optimization-abandoned-cart-report

That said, depending on your brand, you may want to use other email providers to enable this functionality –– and really get at those cool graphics.

One such provider is Klaviyo. Here is an example of what our out-of-the-box abandoned cart email looks like.

abandoned-cart-klaviyo-example

Immediately, you’ll see difference here.

  • The photo is larger as is the call-to-action.
  • The platform recommends additional products in order to cross or up-sell.
  • Recommended products can be configured in Klaviyo based on your product and customer data.
  • You can pull in your site header and footer.

Overall, this gives you more options to customize your email.

All email platform providers like Klaviyo will also offer an analytics dashboard so you can measure success and optimize your campaigns. They also offer additional services beyond recovery emails.

Here is what Jennifer Joyce, the Vice President of Marketing at Kurgo had to say about her company’s experience with Klaviyo:

We like Klaviyo because it provides much more advanced technology at a small business price versus other email service providers.

“We are using Klaviyo to power all of our triggered and batch email campaigns to consumers and wholesale accounts. We use it for some of our transactional consumer emails and to collect email addresses through pop-ups, downloadable content, and campaign landing pages. We like Klaviyo because it provides much more advanced technology at a small business price versus other email service providers.

It is seamlessly integrated with BigCommerce and has powerful segmentation and list creation capabilities. In addition, it’s triggered email technology is easy to use and enables us to act like a big brand when we are a smaller company.”

Derek Teschner, Co-Owner of Herb Affair, has had a similar experience with Klaviyo:

Since using Klaviyo, our revenue from email is at about 20%, up from 8%!

“Klaviyo is working out fantastically. Before we started with them, our revenue from email was at about 8%. Keep in mind, we had no quality flows and were mainly sending blast emails.

Since we have been with them, our revenue from email is at about 20%. Being able to segment our customers and send the right emails to the right customer is incredible. We still have plenty of flows to set up. Our goal is to get to 30-40% revenue from email.”

Other Options

Ultimately, which abandoned cart provider you choose if up to you. Here are a few other options:

Your Abandoned Cart Email Campaign Framework

When a shopper abandons a cart, you’re going to send an email — or two or three. But how many emails can you send, and how many different versions of those emails do you have to choose from? What triggers an email?

If all you can do is send a single reminder email, do it. It’s almost certainly better than sending nothing at all. This is true even if it’s a single generic plain-text message with a link.

At Klaviyo, we frequently see strong results from the first email in an abandoned cart series, so the one email you send is likely to perform just like the first email of a series.

That said, sending a series of emails is usually more effective overall than sending just one. If you’re going to send a series, and the same version is going to go out to all shoppers with abandoned carts, here’s the one you’ll want to get started with.

It was first explained to me by Chad Vanags, formerly of Ecommerce Influence and Klaviyo, and it’s a simple yet powerful framework.

It’s a logical 3-part progression:

  1. Reminder
  2. Discount with deadline
  3. Deadline reminder

Abandoned cart email #1: The cart reminder

abandoned-cart-first-email

Example of the first email in the abandoned cart nurture stream.

First, just let the shopper know that their items are still in the cart. In many cases, that’s all it takes to jog their memory of how much they wanted to make the purchase.

Maybe the shopper hesitated because of a lack of information or concern about fit. Maybe they got confused about shipping costs. If you have the bandwidth, offer assistance in the email. Include a friendly invitation to reach out with questions, along with contact information.

Should you include a picture of the item or items in the cart in the email? Maybe.

Truth is, there’s more than one right answer to that. A plain-text email has a personal, low-key feeling and in some cases may be most effective.

But if showing the product is going to draw the shopper back in, which is true in many cases, then that makes the most sense. You’ll need to consider which approach is right for your brand and what you’re selling.

It’s smart here to A/B test your options and go with the version that has the highest performance.

Don’t immediately offer discounts at this stage. You can’t be sure why someone abandoned cart, and you don’t want to offer a discount is it isn’t needed to close the deal (these are your margins after all!).

Many online shoppers now know that abandoned cart emails will contain discounts, and wait to purchase once they get that. If that’s the case, making them wait a bit longer won’t alter their course.

Abandoned cart email #2: The discount with deadline

The first email should have brought in the majority of people who are going to buy based on this sequence. So now you want to amp it up, as the holdouts may require more of an enticement.

A note of caution: sending a discount as part of an abandoned cart email sequence is always a little risky. Specifically, you run the risk of “training” your customers to leave items in their cart…and wait for an email with a discount.

How often does this actually happen? The best way to answer this is to monitor it for your store and see what patterns actually emerge.

Finally, when you’re offering a discount, it’s very helpful to include a corresponding deadline. If it seems like the discount will last forever, there’s no urgency to the message.

Plus, a deadline gives you a reason to send a helpful third and final email.

How to Use Psychology to 2x Sales

There’s a science to humans as much as there is an art. Here is how our brains work when faced with psychological triggers (and how you can use the info to increase sales).

Email #3: The deadline reminder

As the deadline draws close — but before it expires — you’ll want to let the shopper know it’s coming up.

If someone is truly ambivalent about completing a purchase, a modest discount probably won’t draw them back in.

You’re not trying to reach those customers here, though. You’re aiming for the absent-minded folks and the procrastinators who love getting something done in the nick of time.

You are also aiming to help solve for that 61% of abandoned cart customers who leave because of final price. Offering a discount can pull them back in and alleviate those concerns. In this case, you may even want to offer free shipping instead of a discount.

If your email setup limits to you to a single-series approach, where every customer with an abandoned cart gets the same email sequence, good news: you’re done! You can stop reading here.

But if you’re on a platform that lets you create multiple versions of abandoned cart emails based on user behavior — or you just want some more ideas for fine-tuning your single series — keep reading.

Things are about to get more complicated (and more interesting!).

How to Customize Your Abandoned Cart Emails

Still with me? Good, because this is where we roll up our sleeves and get into segmentation with your recovery emails.

If you can create multiple versions of your abandoned cart email series, there are several different variables you’ll want to consider.

Let’s walk through each one (shared here with thanks to my colleague Marissa Petteruti, who originally immortalized them in an infographic).

Customization question #1: Who’s shopping?

Remember the risks we looked at earlier about “training” customers to expect a discount? Turns out there’s a handy way around that.

Set up separate abandoned cart series for first-time customers and returning customers.

Even better, don’t just offer the first-time customers a discount. Let them know why they’re getting it.

It’s fine to say, “As a first-time customer, you’re getting a special discount.” That way, they won’t expect a discount on future purchases. Instead, they’ll have realistic expectations about the cart abandonment process in the future.

However, that doesn’t mean that your abandoned cart emails for returning customers need to be boring. Since they’ve bought from you before, you can utilize that information to cross-sell or upsell. You can set that up on your own or with a built-in recommendation engine if your email platform has one.

Example of an upsell inclusion. Also see their use of urgency –– “Hurry, there items won’t be saved forever.”

Customization question #2: What’s in the cart?

Think about the products you sell.

  • Are a few of them unusually tricky to understand?
  • Are there reasons why people might get them all the way to the cart and then pause?

Set up your abandoned cart emails so that if those particular products show up in an abandoned cart, the customer will get a special version of the series. In it, you can invite the customer to contact support or check out answers to frequently asked questions.

Do you have a category of products that are simply much-loved? Consider including testimonials or review excerpts for those products in your abandoned-cart emails. The value here comes from the specificity and the relevance — known conversion rate boosters.

Besides considering the contents of the cart, you can also customize your messaging based on the number of items in the cart. For instance, you may find that shoppers who add an unusually high number of items are putting them there so they can choose between them later.

In these cases, they may not need to contact support as they would for a complicated product. Instead, they may need help narrowing down the items in their cart and you can provide messaging that helps them. For instance, you can emphasize your store’s easy returns to reduce the risk of making the wrong decision.

Customization question #3: How much is the cart worth?

For especially high-value carts, you may want to offer a special discount, one that only shows up when the value reaches a certain threshold. You may also want to offer free shipping to inspire the shopper to complete the purchase.

Another factor to consider here: the timing of the emails.

For the purchase of a high-value item, a shopper may need more time to decide or to get buy-in from other parties. Consider spacing the emails out further if you’d like to give them more time to do so.

How to Optimize Your Abandoned Cart Emails

Even after you’ve meticulously built out several different email series to fit different situations, there’s more you can do to optimize the revenue your abandoned cart emails bring in. This is where standard email marketing best practices come into play.

A/B testing is a great way to optimize your abandoned cart email templates, and subject lines are an excellent place to start. After all, if recipients aren’t opening the emails at all, they’re unlikely to have much effect beyond serving as a fleeting reminder.

You can also A/B test discount size. If a 10% discount would be just as effective as the 20% one you’re offering now, you’d want to know that, right?

To evaluate the effectiveness, look at standard email metrics like open rate and click-through-rate — and, of course, email-to-purchase conversion.

Finally, you can try varying the timing of the emails.

  • Are you rushing things with the timing of your first email?
  • Spacing your emails too far apart?

The best way to know is to test and find out. Look at click through rate and open rate to gauge the effectiveness of your recovery emails. 

And then there’s a whole other area you can experiment with, and it doesn’t involve sending emails at all.

It’s retargeting with Facebook Custom Audiences.

For example, let’s say your store offers free shipping on purchases over $99. You can create Facebook ads emphasizing this policy. Then arrange for the ads to be shown to customers who have abandoned carts with over $99 of items in them.

Of course, you’ll want to be sure to set up conditions that automatically drop them from the segment if they go back and complete their purchase, so they don’t continue seeing the ads after they’ve bought.

That way, you’re paying to advertise in front of likely buyers, people who’ve already been to your store and put items in their cart — and not people who have just bought. It’s a dynamic way to reach the customers you have who may not be opening or responding to emails, but are active on Facebook.

Final Word

Take the time to invest in your abandoned cart emails and your entire abandoned cart experience.

See abandoned carts as an extension of your customer service; a tool to improve customer satisfaction and help your shoppers complete the transaction they set out to make. A way to turn potential customers into return shoppers. 

You’re likely to see significant results — in the form of revenue from previously abandoned shopping carts, and ultimately customer retention.

Want to see exactly how much you could save? Use our abandoned cart calculator here.

Want more insights like this?

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