16 Tips for Shopping Cart Recovery Email

With the global average cart abandonment rate ranges between 60 and 75%, trillions of dollars of merchandise will be left behind this year.

However, 63% of abandoned carts (Barilliance) are potentially recoverable with cart recovery email. Your own recovery success depends on how well you execute your cart recovery email campaign.

16 Tips for cart recovery

1. Persist your cart

Cart recovery only works if you keep cart contents in-tact. While some sites like Amazon keep cart contents indefinitely, the Barilliance study found that of those who purchase after abandoning a cart, 95% took up to two weeks before finally checking out. Keeping contents live for at least 14 days is a good guideline.

What if you’re not able to keep carts live past the initial session? ASOS doesn’t persist cart contents due to high product turnover and frequent product stock-outs, so instead of linking customers back to their cart, items get moved into a “saved items” list for retrieval.


2. Capture email early in checkout

Asking for email as early as possible in the checkout process allows you to send recovery email to far more checkout abandoners than when it’s captured in steps to or deeper.

For abandoned carts, consider creating a display remarketing camapaign specifically for cart abanoners.

3. Strike fast

A study by SeeWhy (now a part of SAP) of over 60,000 abandoned carts reports 54% of all carts that are successfully recovered are won back within the first few hours after abandonment. Another 10% can be saved within the first 48 hours, and 82% can be salvaged within seven days.

Sending cart recovery email immediately results in higher open rates (60% versus 55% 6% for messages sent 24 hours after abandonment), higher recovery rates (11% versus 6%) and revenue per email ($11 versus $4).

4. Craft a compelling subject line

Timing is not the only factor to open rates. Check out this sampling of cart recovery subject lines:


While subject lines can always be tested, those that specifically mention “cart” in the subject line are most relevant. Subject lines like “Snap me up before I’m gone” could refer to any campaign or sale, and are less specific.

The use of icons (Sears) and personal names (Tipsy Elves and 80sTees) are also effective to attract attention.

5. Show contents in the cart

When cart contents aren’t displayed in the email body, it’s less persuasive to the customer. Show ‘em what they’re missing!

kmart-cart-recovery email

Yes I’m forgetting something – I’m forgetting just what I was looking at on your site!

6. Have clear calls to action

As with any conversion optimization activity, ensuring calls to action are in-your-face-obvious is important. Make sure “back to cart” buttons don’t get drowned out by other design elements.

While Golfsmith (above) includes two return to cart buttons, they’re more subtle compared to other graphics. Spencer’s Gifts (below) uses two can’t-miss buttons that pop against other design elements.


7. Have some fun

Golfsmith’s “just tap it in” line scores some major brand personality points. Have fun with your subject lines and copy.

8. Create urgency

Just like in the cart, urgency in the cart recovery email can push to action. Remind customers that their loves don’t always last forever.


9. Show off value props

Whether it’s free shipping, hassle-free returns or a product guarantee, value props can be as persuasive as urgency.

But don’t rely on body copy, make them stand out. Hockey Shot’s 120-day hassle-free returns badge is hard to miss.


10. Leverage social proof

Bulk Reef Supply goes beyond star ratings, and includes a featured review!


11. Test product recommendations

Many customers use their carts as wishlists, and aren’t actually cart abandoners so much as cart savers. These abandoners are often still open to suggestion, and recommending products with affinity to cart items can be one of the most targeted personalization strategies in ecommerce marketing.


According to eMarketer, more than half of customers who return to their cart end up spending more than what they left behind. Help them keep shopping.

12. Include contact information

For shoppers that bail due to technical issues, customer service numbers are helpful. As with value propositions, don’t bury customer service numbers in blocks of text. Show them off and make them stand out.


Also, make sure they’re click-to-call enabled for mobile openers.

13. Make it responsive

Speaking of mobile, responsive email design ensures carts can be read from any device. While carts abandoned on a different device are tougher to recover immediately unless the customer is near the “original” device, and sufficiently motivated to check out.


Bulk Reef Supply’s responsive cart recovery email

A tactic I haven’t come across, but which could solve this issue is to assign a number to every abandoned cart, so a shopper’s cart could re-populate with cart contents, even if it’s a different device. This would require custom programming, and wouldn’t be possible on some ecommerce platforms.

14. Be strategically serial

If at first, they don’t covert, try, try again. If you sent an immediate abandonment email, consider sending a follow up after 24 hours, and another 48 hours after the second.

It’s always a good idea to test conversion strategies, and email series are no different. Consult your average days to purchase report in analytics to get an idea of a reasonable time span to continue remarketing.

For reference, in my study 80sTees sent me recovery emails the day of abandonment, the day after, +3 days, +5 days and +6 days before dropping off. Day 6 (+5) contained a 20% offer, with a notice on day 7 that the offer would expire that day.

Make sure your subject lines are persuasive and specifically reference the abandoned cart. The more time that passes, the less the customer remembers their visit, so clarity is even more important in the follow-up than the initial trigger.


Subject lines of note:

FORE! Your shopping cart expires soon – Golfsmith blends brand personality with a call to urgency.

Enjoy 10% OFF your cart when you finish ordering today – Not only an offer from 1800PetMeds, but a specific, time-limited one.

A little extra something to make it worth your while – Tipsy Elves evokes curiosity, how could you not open?

15. Incentivize wisely

To send and offer or not to send an offer?

Offers can sweeten the deal, but also train customers to abandon carts in exchange for discounts, so it’s recommended to save them for shoppers that either don’t open or don’t respond to an initial recovery message.

Tipsy Elves sends its first email day zero…


…and an incentive the next day.


In the third recovery email, Tipsy Elves held steady with its 15% offer.


And in the fourth, it upped the ante to 20% (final offer). After this final message, the Elves left the building.


16. Don’t be spammy

Many sites in my email recovery study began sending unsolicited promotional emails that I didn’t opt into (or did so unwittingly) — even sites that never sent an abandoned cart message.

Take the high road and respect the opt-in. If you want to stay top-of-mind with cart abandoners, consider display or Facebook remarketing instead. You may even want to embed an email opt-in into your recovery emails to get abandoners on your list legit.

Putting it all together

When it comes to ideal cart recovery design, Bulk Reef Supply is a great example. It shows cart contents, contains two bold calls to action, highlights value propositions and contact information, supports click-to-call, uses playful copy, includes a product review and creates urgency.


Bulk Reef followed up promptly the day I abandoned, and sent two follow-ups, +24 hours and +48 hours before releasing my cart back into the sea.

What Bulk Reef could improve on is its initial subject line “Thanks for stopping by!” and its persistent cart. I was disappointed to find my cart empty one week post abandonment.

As for product recommendations and discounts, they’re not critical to good cart recovery creative, but are elements the Bulk Reef team could test.

Need help with your cart recovery and checkout optimization strategy? Drop me a line.

Ecommerce Illustrated is a project of Edgacent, an ecommerce advisory group.

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1 Response

  1. Sergio says:

    Hello Linda, thank you very much for the info, very informative!
    I am about to start working with email automation. I am running a small ecommerce (up to 10k visitors per month). Could you please recommend any tool? I’m runnung Prestashop.
    Thank you!

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