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How to Create the Picture-perfect Abandoned Cart Email

Picture this: You’re walking down a brick-lined, dimly lit alley and come upon a dark object in your path. A flash of lightning forks across the sky and illuminates the item—it’s a rectangular form of mangled metal that’s caked in layers of spider webs.

Thunder booms overhead and another bolt of lightning fires across the sky and again illuminates the item. Warped cardboard boxes lay entombed within the form, trapped behind slim, rusty metal bars. The decrepit object lays on its side, battered and worn, one swivel wheel jutting upward and slowly spinning with a squeak that fades in and out.

If an abandoned online shopping cart had a physical form, this is probably how it would look. Sad, forgotten, mysterious, lost in the shadows of doubt—the perfect combination of Hitchcockian elements.

If you’re an ecommerce website owner, you’re probably all too familiar with the dreaded abandoned shopping cart scenario. You’ve got a customer who seems to really be into the goods you’re selling, and they’re loading products into their online cart like it’s nobody’s business.

Then, suddenly, they’re gone. Completely vanished. Shopping cart filled to its virtual brim, but stalled in limbo. Now what? How do you get that customer back through the checkout? Should you use abandoned cart recovery emails? What are the best ways to approach the subject?

Let's walk through the ins and outs of what it takes to create the perfect abandoned cart email and what strategies work best for recovering customers who have flown the coop. So grab a cup of joe, kick back, and keep on reading.

The Psychology Behind the Abandoned Cart Email

For starters, why the abandonment?

It’s another classic cart abandonment scenario: Customer Bob seems totally invested in your online sporting goods store—he loads up his shopping cart with a pair of hiking boots, new shorts, and a brand new rainproof jacket. But just as he’s about to hit the checkout, customer Bob vanishes leaving his cart full of unpurchased products.

What gives?!

Was it something about your online store that made Bob change his mind? Did his credit card get declined? Did his internet connection fail? Did customer Bob fall over dead in front of his computer? (RIP Bob.)

When it comes to the truth about abandoned online shopping carts, there can be a variety of reasons why a customer suddenly jumps ship. According to a survey from Worldpay, a few of the top reasons why consumers abandon online shopping carts include:

  • Price: Perhaps the price of the product itself wasn’t justifiable, or the customer was able to find a lower price elsewhere.

  • Unexpected costs: Customers like transparency, so if unexpected fees—such as high costs for shipping and handling—catch a customer off guard at the checkout, it can lead to a feeling of resentment and an immediate shopping cart derailment disaster.  

  • Just browsing: Sometimes it’s fun to load up a shopping cart and use it as a sort of “wish list.” Admit it, you’ve probably fallen victim to this guilty pleasure, too.

  • Complicated website: Customers don’t want to be challenged when it comes to their online shopping experience, so if navigating your online store isn’t smooth sailing, consider your ship (ahem, cart) sunk.

  • Payment security concerns: If a customer gets the feeling their personal information is at risk, they’re likely to turn elsewhere to purchase the same product from a more trustworthy website. Excessive payment security checks can also lead to an abandoned online shopping cart.

  • Long process: If there are too many hoops to jump through—such as too many required form fields that need to be filled out, or your customer is forced to create a new user account before they can even consider checking out—the shopper might not think the process is worth the product.

  • Technical problems: From website time outs to payment processing issues, technical glitches and errors can wreak havoc on a customer’s shopping experience.

While all of these scenarios are total and complete downers for your online business—especially since a couple of them can be tech-related and out of your control—there is a solution to reeling in those customers from the deep blue sea: the abandoned cart email.

What Are Abandoned Cart Emails and Why Do They Work?

What exactly is an abandoned cart email? Basically, it’s an automated email that gets sent out to customers who have added products to their online shopping cart but failed to check out.

For example, remember those Amazon emails that occasionally show up in your inbox?Like that one you received last week that reminded you of the shampoo you forgot to buy? Yeah, the one with the life-sized picture of the shampoo bottle? That’s an abandoned cart email.  

So, why are abandoned cart emails a good idea and why do they work? There are a few reasons:

Email is alive and kickin’. According to a study conducted by eConsultancy, companies say that email marketing is their number one channel for ROI, with 73% of respondents reporting a “Good” or “Excellent” return on their money.

And, to put things into an even clearer perspective, get this: according to ExactTarget, a whopping 91% of consumers check their email inbox daily. That’s right, 91% check their email on a daily basis!

Email itself is entertaining, it’s fun, it grabs someone’s attention, and it can serve as a great way to connect with customers on a deeper, more personal level. And who doesn’t crave a more personal shopping experience?

Friendly personal reminders. Abandoned cart emails serve as friendly reminders for people who might need just a tad more engagement from an online business before they decide to press the “purchase” button.

Sometimes shoppers use their carts as wish lists and purposely choose to abandon their cart for a day or two while they decide whether or not to buy something. Or sometimes an uninvited technical glitch occurs and a cart unintentionally gets abandoned. Whatever the situation, an abandoned cart email serves as a great way to easily re-establish a connection with your customer and bring them back to their experience.

Lift conversion rates. When your business sends out an abandoned cart email, it lets you capitalize on the expressed interests of the customer and can even help to lift conversion rates. If you’re not taking advantage of sending abandoned cart emails, your business is likely losing between 3% and 10% or more of your store’s total shopping carts. That’s a lot of business.

Drives a sense of urgency. The chances are good that when your customer was loading up their cart they were in the mood to buy. Sending an abandoned cart email acts as a way to drive a sense of urgency.

Ultimately, your goal is to keep customers in the buying mode, so sending them a personalized email that contains a discount or coupon code that expires in 24 hours is a great way nudge a customer back into completing that purchase. The familiar saying “time is of the essence” couldn’t ring more true for another reason why abandoned cart emails work.

Effective Approaches for Abandoned Cart Emails

Now that you’re familiar with the reasons why online shopping carts become abandoned and why abandoned shopping cart emails work, it’s time to explore the best and most effective approaches for creating abandoned cart emails.

Ingredients Needed:

Each of your customers is different from the next one—everyone comes from different sources, takes different actions, and is interested in different things. With this in mind, it’s time to say buh-bye to generic messages and cold “sales-ish” lingo and hello to personalized messages with warm, meaningful language.

From that cozy and fuzzy feeling you get when seeing your name appear in an email sent from your favorite online store, to being greeted by a message that contains product recommendations based on your previous shopping experiences, personalization can lead to better customer engagement and can help turn leads into customers and customers into hard-core brand advocates.

Top tips for personalizing messages:

  • Be sure to address the abandoned shopper by name. Even the great American writer, lecturer, and self-improvement enthusiast Dale Carnegie stressed in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People that “a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

  • Include images. A picture’s worth a thousand words … and so is an abandoned cart email that contains an image of what’s left in an abandoned cart. A big, beautiful image can serve as a great way to jog a shopper’s memory and get them sprinting toward the checkout.

  • Perfect the subject line. Email inboxes have a tendency to get clogged up faster than a sporting venue’s plumbing on Superbowl Sunday, so it’s important to keep in mind the email’s subject line. Your goal is to make sure that the abandoned cart email gets noticed and opened. Consider a subject line that gives a shout-out to the product (example: Your [insert product name here] Is Waiting!), or a line that’s suggestive (example: Are You Forgetting Something?), or even a subject line that embraces a sense of curiosity (example: Here’s a Gift Just for You).

  • Offer great customer support. It’s possible that a shopper might have abandoned their cart by accident (technical error, wrong button pressed), so be sure to express support and a willingness to offer assistance in helping the customer purchase the product.

  • Let the customer know when their cart will expire. Telling your customer that their item will be put back on the virtual store shelf in 10 days is a great way to create a sense of urgency.

  • Keep things simple. Within the abandoned cart email, be sure to include a direct link to the customer’s abandoned cart. Keep the navigation simple and straight-forward.

The Magic Number to Conversion

If you’re looking to make as many conversions as possible from your shopping cart abandonment campaign to increase your business sales, sending more reminders is the way to go. According to Soundest, sending a series of three abandoned cart email reminders brings in a staggering 131% more orders than a single email.

Think of it this way: If your online business is currently only sending customers one email reminder about their abandoned shopping cart, your business can more than double its recovery sales by sending out two more emails.  

Unleash the Ultimate Abandoned Cart Campaign and Workflow

If the news of having to send out additional cart abandonment emails sounds exhausting and overwhelming (after all, three emails is the magic number!), it’s time to upgrade the abandonment series in your ecommerce marketing strategy—and Drip is ready to help.

Consider Drip’s Cart Abandonment Recovery email campaign blueprint. Locked, loaded, and ready-to-go, Drip hooks you up with three pre-made emails that fit in nicely into your ecommerce marketing strategy:

Order of Campaign Emails
1. Your shopping cart misses you
2. Questions about your order?
3. Save 10% when you complete your order.

Inside each of these emails you’ll find pre-written copy that’s tested and approved, so that all you have to do is fill in the blanks with information like your shop’s name and a few links to your shopping cart.

Or you can make sure your abandoned cart email campaign deploys automatically every time a cart is left behind by making an abandoned cart automated workflow.

This workflow will recognize every time someone starts adding things to their cart and is ready to send personalized cart abandonment emails and Facebook ads the moment they jump ship.

And then, like magic, you’re set to more than double your cart abandonment recovery.

Timing Is Everything

When it comes to following up with a customer who has abandoned their shopping cart, time is of the essence. As soon as a cart has been abandoned, the tick-tock of the recovery clock starts right away, so here are key timeframes to follow:

Email #1: Since you’re aiming to connect with the customer before they walk away from their computer or set down their phone, your first recovery email should be sent within the same hour the cart has been abandoned. Rather than trying to push the sale, ask if there was a technical problem when checking out or if the process was taking too long.

Email #2: Consider waiting at least 24 hours before sending out the second recovery email. Now is a great time to ask if there were any questions about the order.

Email #3: Your final cart abandonment recovery email should be sent anywhere between two to seven days post-abandonment. This is the email where you’re trying to make the final push toward the checkout line, so now is the time to include an incentive like free shipping or a coupon.

Alternatives to Abandoned Cart Emails

Throughout this blog we’ve tackled the psychology behind the abandoned cart email as well as the best ways to go about creating the most effective abandoned cart emails.

But if you're wondering about ways to prevent abandoned cart emails (and look to them more as a last resort strategy), you’re in the right place. Here are a few suggestions for helping customers complete the whole checkout experience instead of leaving their cart behind:

Snag those email addresses sooner rather than later.

Rather than waiting for a customer to initiate an order, capture a customer’s email address before they hit the checkout aisle. Doing this allows you to increase the customer data within your ECRM platform, which helps to build a more robust database. Consider capturing email addresses right away—like on your home page. Offering an incentive, such as a discount on shipping, or a coupon for a product, or access to a free e-book is also a great way to get a customer’s attention.

Show the cost of shipping up front.

Hidden shipping costs or any other surprise costs are like a cartoon hammer to the head—comically jarring and instantly angering. You’re all excited to have finally found the perfect pair of narwhal mittens you’ve been looking everywhere for, you load them into your online shopping cart, and just as you’re ready to check out you’re greeted by an unwelcome “shipping costs” line that boasts nearly the same monetary amount as the product itself [insert maniacal laughter and the violent thump of a laptop screen slamming shut].

Save your customers their sanity by being crystal clear about any additional costs up front—especially since unexpected shipping costs are a top reason why customers abandon their carts.

Be clear about payment methods.

Another sure way to keep a customer’s frustrations at bay is by mentioning the types of payment methods your business accepts before the checkout aisle. From credit cards and debit cards to PayPal and bank transfer, be clear about the acceptable payment methods early in the process to help build trust and offer clarity.

Offer persistent shopping carts.

Sometimes customers just aren’t quite ready to hit that big ol’ “purchase” button on their screen. (We can all relate to the guilty pleasure of a wish list cart.) With this in mind, make it easy for your customers to return to their original shopping cart by offering persistent shopping carts—carts that keep tabs on unpurchased items and save the information for the customer’s next visit.

Not only will persistent shopping carts help to lower the number of abandoned cart emails you’ll have to send, but the carts will also help to increase your sales.

Make your good more tempting with Facebook remarketing.

Remarketing is a surefire way to advertise to customers after they’ve abandoned their online shopping cart. Through remarketing, you’re able to follow your customers online and advertise to them based on their recent browsing history.

Remember customer Bob from earlier (the guy who abandoned hiking boots, shorts, and a rainproof jacket in his shopping cart)? Thanks to remarketing, you have the opportunity to be able to retarget Bob with images of those same hiking boots, or that same rainproof jacket, while he meanders around in the online world.

For smart and relevant personal ads, utilizing Drip’s Facebook Custom Audiences integration can help your business deliver targeted ads—so hyper-targeted that they can even highlight the items left behind in a customer’s abandoned shopping cart. With remarketing, the checkout aisle is only one point and a click away.

Facebook Custom Audiences in Drip workflow

Add people to any Facebook Custom Audience in your automated Workflows with just a couple clicks.

Keep the checkout page clean.

What ranks up there with the awfulness of stepping barefoot onto a hornet’s nest during a camping trip? How’s about being greeted by an online store’s checkout page that contains so many mandatory form fields it makes filing your tax returns seem like a joyous experience.

Nobody likes to fill in more information than necessary, so don’t put your customers through the agony of a messy checkout page. Keep only the form fields that are necessary and, if you can, pre-fill customer information when possible. If it turns out that multiple steps are required to complete the checkout process, consider implementing a progress indicator so that your customers can have an idea as to when they’re nearing the finish line.  

Abandoned Cart Emails Are Your Shop's New Best Friend

There are a lot of strategies you can put in place to try and get more shoppers to never leave another shopping cart behind again. But, in reality, no matter what you do, people are still going to get distracted or disrupted and leave behind a virtual cart full of goodies.

When that does happen, you'll be ready. By understanding why people abandon carts, your email responses can be more in-tune with what they're thinking. 

And with Drip on your side, you can make sure you never miss another chance to send an abandoned cart campaign (and recoup some of that dough) again. Dig in and try your hand at making your next abandoned cart email and workflow with a free trial of Drip. Happy recovery!


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