We all do it.
We go window shopping at our favorite online retailer. As products pique our interest, we throw them into our cart or bag so we don’t forget about them. When we check our cart, we notice the total and realize: there’s way too much stuff here. It’s disappointing, but we promise ourselves we’ll come take another look later, when we have a clearer mind.
And then we forget about it, anyway.
It’s a common story. So common, in fact, that not only does it have a name (“abandoned cart”), but it’s inspired its own marketing strategy.
Let’s talk about abandoned cart email series, why they’re important for your business, and how to create a subject line that helps encourage opens!
Why should I have an abandoned cart sequence?
If you’re a cart abandoner who uses email (like me), you’ve probably received shopping cart reminder emails. As a marketer, I’ve often wondered why these emails are so common—and how successful they might be.
Well, I’ve done the research. And what I’ve found is surprising:
Abandoned carts are extraordinarily common
If I had to guess the total number of abandoned online shopping carts, I would not have come close. According to the Baymard Institute, the average cart abandonment rate is 69.99%. That’s right—nearly 7 in 10 customers are adding items to their cart, then leaving them behind.
The reasons for abandoned carts are varied, but one thing is certain: convincing even a fraction of these customers to complete their purchase can dramatically increase sales.
Abandoned cart emails succeed. Often.
Perhaps it’s because abandoned carts are so common, but reminder emails lead to a lot of success in recovering lost sales. Research from Moosend shows that around 45% of cart recovery emails get opened. Of those opened emails, nearly 50% get clicks. Of those clicks, nearly 50% end in a purchase.
That’s a roughly 10% email conversion rate. In fact, Barilliance repeatedly lists abandoned cart emails as being some of the most successful email campaigns.
In an era where data is king, abandoned carts might provide you with the most important information available: you know which specific customers are interested in which specific products. And best of all? You now know that they’re very close to the end of their journey to purchase.
They’re standing on the precipice. All they need is a little nudge. As a marketer, you’ve got them right where you want them—one email away!
If it's good enough for Amazon...
Many of the world’s biggest retailers use abandoned cart sequences to their advantage. Wal-Mart, eBay, Target—they all understand the value abandoned carts represent. The evidence is likely right there in your mailbox.
And then there’s Amazon.
As a business, Amazon can be pretty polarizing. But one thing not up for debate is that Amazon converts. As far as I can remember, they created my earliest memories of receiving abandoned cart emails. And they were probably more successful than I’d like to admit.
But Amazon goes the extra mile. In fact, they find abandoned carts so important that they don’t stop at emails. Have you ever placed a product in your Amazon cart, left it behind, then continued to browse the internet? You might have noticed that same product advertised in Amazon banner ads on other websites.
Amazon uses a lot of strategies small businesses can’t afford to use themselves. So, when a company that big focuses on a simple, inexpensive marketing tactic with a proven track record, I say we pay attention.
The importance of subject lines
For an abandoned cart series to succeed, we need to focus on conversion rate optimization. And if we want to convert, we’ve got to convince recipients to open the mail we send. Subject lines are an important tool for improving our email marketing conversion rates. There are many ways you can construct a selling subject line and you can combine any strategies you like.
Here are some tips I’ve found useful in creating subject lines that lead to opens:
Keep it short and simple
Short subject lines can convey information in a quick, punchy, and compelling way. But short subject lines have a hidden value: your customers can read it.
It’s likely that your customer base uses several devices to check their email. On those devices, they have their pick of several email apps and services. And each device and app has its own subject line cutoff point.
If you collect user data, you can use that to target the email apps most of your customers use. Google can help you find average subject line lengths for those services. If you don’t have that data or access to it, you could do worse than assuming the old standbys: iPhones and Gmail. While each version of the iPhone is different, the average iPhone cuts off subject lines at 41 characters. Gmail and other email clients on mobile can cut off subject lines anywhere between 33 and 43 characters.
You have roughly seven words to get your point across. That’s shorter than my previous sentence. So make it count.
Your customers probably receive a lot of emails. If they’re anything like me, if it’s not a personal email, it goes straight into the trash folder. If you want them to open the email, you’ve got to give them a reason.
Do your best to convey to the customer that there’s value in opening the email. If you offer a discount to their cart items, say so! If you can provide any value beyond a reminder of their abandoned cart, let them know what it is up front.
Abandoned cart emails are part of your digital marketing strategy. Building customer relationships is still a priority. Personalized emails can provide a warm and welcoming environment that many customers appreciate. Personalization is a proven strategy, even if it’s on a subconscious level.
Sometimes, curiosity can be a winning marketing strategy. It’s open-ended and enticing. It can make customers wonder what’s in the email. When doing this, I try not to be vague. Instead, I like to think of a specific question I want the customer to think to themselves.
To them, it’s a mystery. One that requires solving. And the only way to do that is to open the email.
Appeal to FOMO
Like it or not, FOMO can be a driving force behind purchase decisions. It creates a sense of urgency. In a subject line, it often presents a problem with a specific solution. Maybe stock is running low. Maybe a sale is about to end. Maybe there’s a limited-time discount being offered. Or a price change is forthcoming. Social proof can create FOMO—is the product in the current social zeitgeist? They can’t afford to miss out!
Well-written FOMO subject lines often have an unspoken call to action for the customer: if you don’t want to miss out, you’ll need to complete your sale.
Integrating abandoned cart emails into your digital marketing strategy
Abandoned cart emails can fit in with your existing digital marketing strategy. They are malleable enough to fit your branding and business goals. Here are a few tips on how to more easily integrate an abandoned cart email series into your existing strategy:
If you already use email marketing, you might already have access to email automation. If not, you can take your pick from the many tools and services available to email marketers.
Using automation, you can create an abandoned cart flow. This lets you prewrite the copy for your abandoned cart emails, then set an abandoned shopping cart as a trigger for sending the first. If you want to create a series of emails, you can set timed triggers for the rest of the series.
Research shows that emails sent within 20 minutes of a cart being abandoned have the highest rate of success. Conversion rates start dropping shortly after that. If you wait 24 hours or more before sending your first email, your chances of success drop precipitously.
The lesson: strike while the iron is hot. The more time you take, the more time the customer has to talk themselves out of buying your product.
Match your brand
How your email looks is part of your branding. When you open an email from Amazon, it features their logo, their coloring, their recognizable font, and product photos from their website.: the email looks like it’s from Amazon.
If you have signature brand colors, use them. If you use the same font throughout your branding, use it. You’ve probably spent time and money developing a look, feel, and voice for your brand. Use it. Help your customers know who sent the email even if they never see the logo.
I’ve said it before—in this post, even—and I’ll say it again: in digital marketing, data is king. For abandoned cart emails, this works twofold:
Collecting data: Use your email data to track opens, clicks, conversions; email campaigns can teach you a lot about your customers. If you can, collect that data for future use.
Using collected data: If you already have data you’ve collected, use it to create abandoned cart emails that specifically target your customers. You can create more compelling copy, subject lines that get opens, and automated send times that match common customer open times all based on your customers’ habits.
Data is a great strategy loop that keeps feeding and improving itself. You just need to use it!