Designing an ecommerce cart abandonment email sequence that converts


Kevin Urrutia




July 10, 2024

eCommerce is a multi-trillion dollar industry and cart abandonment is the elephant in the room when it comes to improving revenue figures. 

Some statistics place the abandonment rate as high as 70% and others place it around 50%. Whatever the case, it still means more than half the people who start the checkout process don’t finish it. 

It’s a problem that should be tackled head-on. 

In this article, we’ll look at how to use one of the most powerful eCommerce channels – cart abandonment emails – to recover customers who would otherwise never return. 

What is cart abandonment?

400;”>Cart abandonment is when someone is shopping online and adds at least one item to their cart but leaves the website before completing the checkout process. Since the abandonment rate is so high in most eCommerce businesses, it represents a huge opportunity. 

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Why it matters

Whether you’re starting an eCommerce business or have been at it for over a decade, cart abandonment should be a priority. 

Let’s say an online retailer makes a million dollars in revenue every year. That’s a respectable business and has a lot of potential. It doesn’t have cart abandonment as a part of their ecommerce email strategy, and about 60% of the people who start the checkout process never finish. 

That means their one million revenue number could be seriously boosted. Even if they were to reduce cart abandonment by just 20%, they’d add six figures in revenue every year. It’s worth it. 

Before you’re able to implement an effective cart abandonment campaign, it’s important to know why people are abandoning the cart in the first place. 

The common reasons as cited by the Baymard Institute include: 

  • Extra costs such as shipping, tax, and miscellaneous fees are too high
  • Site requires account creation
  • Complicated checkout process
  • Can’t see the order costs up-front
  • Site isn’t trustworthy

These are great starting points but it’s important to know why people are abandoning the cart in your specific situation. Send out a short questionnaire to everyone that doesn’t complete the checkout process to get a better understanding of why people are dropping off. After that, you can build an effective eCommerce email sequence to recover abandoning shoppers. 

How to design an effective eCommerce cart abandonment sequence

Before crafting emails, do your best to remove common roadblocks that were mentioned in the last section. For example, allow visitors to check out as guests and show the total order costs so you can reduce abandonment from those reasons. 

Increase trustworthiness by prominently displaying reviews, using an SSL certificate, and placing trust seals within the checkout flow. These are relatively simple tweaks that can have a big impact on your cart abandonment rate. 

After these changes, move on to creating a cart abandonment email sequence. It’s important to note that cart abandonment emails aren’t a magic bullet. You can expect to recover anywhere from 10% – 25% of revenue from your abandoned cart sequence. For example, Silk Road Teas is able to achieve a 17% cart abandonment recovery rate using a simple sequence. 

Elements of your cart abandonment emails

The most effective cart abandonment emails address the reason why people left the cart in the first place. That’s why I mentioned sending out a short questionnaire with the goal of understanding why people are exiting. After you understand the reasons, you can then add the right elements to get people to complete checkout such as: 


Many people have had bad experiences with merchants that are legit  but who proved to be less than excellent. Since bad news spreads faster than good news, you can assume everyone has heard a horror story or two. 

Trust is a major reason people abandon carts so one of the things your emails should do is establish credibility.


In the example from Dyson, it establishes credibility by mentioning its 30-day money-back policy. Another thing it does to break down trust barriers is to make a price match guarantee. Few brands do this and it’s only the most confident ones that can pull this off. The confidence in its products can rub off on customers. 

You may not have those specific guarantees, but that’s not a problem. Insert positive reviews from past customers for the highest rated product in the cart. If one item has 4.9 starts then lead with that. You can also add trust seals. That is the strength of the combination of social proof and abandoned cart emails. Different ways to improve the trust and amplify the qualities of your products and services by showing examples of outcomes.  

Urgency and Scarcity

When something is urgent, it tends to be scarce. When something is scarce, any action around it becomes more urgent. 

The people that abandoned your cart should feel the urgency, scarcity, or both to get them back into the checkout flow. You can do this by telling them there are a limited number in stock (if it’s true), or informing them that you won’t hold items for long. If it’s part of a limited collection or limited window of opportunity, be sure to let them know. 


Drop (formerly Massdrop) combines urgency and scarcity together to get visitors back to the store. It clearly states how long the product may be available and emphasizes the fact that its custom. Custom items are usually scarcer than normal production runs. 

It also shows other items and how many of them have been sold. Relatively speaking, those are smaller quantities and helps reinforce the inherent scarcity. 

Brand personality

400;”>Brand personality is an overlooked part of this entire process. Many eCommerce businesses spend time getting their branding right on their website. When it comes to the cart abandonment emails, everything becomes transactional, the design is dropped and overly process-oriented or formal. 

Someone made it to the checkout because the things you’re doing resonated with them. Don’t create an awkward moment by changing your brand personality when you’re trying to get them to come back and shop with you. 


People may add many products to their cart before getting to the checkout. What happens if someone added 15 items and exited before buying? 

Most eCommerce stores send an email that showcases each item in the cart. This makes sense on the surface but can hurt conversions because the cart abandonment email isn’t focused. 

Instead, make a single item more prominent. This can be the one they’re most likely to buy, the most popular item in their cart, or even the one with the highest star review. Focus on selling this single item in the beginning of the email then move on to the other ones in the cart. These emails can be automated with the right tools so don’t worry about trying to set everyone up individually.  


In the email from Asics, a single item takes up the top half of the email and focuses on getting the visitor back into the cart. If that doesn’t have the desired effect, the email tries again with the rest of the items. 


Discounts can be a powerful cart abandonment tool when they’re used sparingly. Most ecommerce brands make the mistake of using them as a crutch. It can train their customer’s to expect them. A motivated buyer doesn’t need a discount, they need a reminder. 

Segment your customers based on the items in their cart or the cart value. For those who are below a certain threshold, you can offer a percentage discount. For those above a certain threshold, you can offer free shipping. I’ll talk more about the timing of discount emails in the next section. 


How to structure your cart abandonment email campaign 

You can have as many emails in your cart abandonment sequence as you want but the more you add beyond a certain threshold, the less effective they become. The ideal number is 2 – 3 and each one has a specific focus and goal.

The sequence you’ll see below has three emails. If you want to add more, you’ll have to rework the way you approach your customers because no one wants 4 emails in a row that tell them to come and buy. Instead, approach longer series the way you would a nurturing sequence. 

The first cart abandonment email 

The first email shouldn’t have a discount. This is for a simple reason. If you lead with a discount, you run the risk of training your customers to expect it. 

Instead, what you’re trying to do is capture the segment of your audience that didn’t buy but still has high purchase intent. 

Send out an email that addresses the most common reason people abandon their cart. If, from your questionnaire, you know that it’s because of the inability to see order costs, place that information in the email. If it’s for a different reason then be sure to address that in your first email. 

Choose a single product to feature prominently. This should be the one with the most reviews or the most popular item (when compared to others in the cart). Below the featured product, list out the other items in the cart.

Don’t send this email too early so people who’re still shopping won’t receive it. There’s no perfect time to send an email but wait at least an hour but send it within 8 hours of abandonment. 

Finally, consider A/B split testing this email with different messages, imagery, layout, etc. 


The example above uses humor to get the reader to engage. At the same time, it shows the item in the cart and has a clear CTA to lead visitors back to the cart and complete the purchase. 

The second cart abandonment email

Send the second email out within 24 hours of abandonment. This is enough time after the first email so it doesn’t feel like you’re pestering them but it’s not enough time for them to forget they started the checkout process in your store.

If someone hasn’t purchased by this point, they may be on the fence about whether or not they want the product. Focus the email on the benefits of their purchase to reduce doubts and give them a reason to take action sooner rather than later. 

You can also introduce a time-limited discount here to get people to finally take action. The most engaged shoppers would’ve already returned so a discount at this point may be effective. Test sending the discount here or in the third email

There are three types of discounts you can use based on the value of items in the cart. 


  • Percentage off. If the cart value is relatively small a percentage discount will look more appealing than a dollar amount. 
  • Dollar amount. If the cart value is larger and the percentage discount will be more than $30 then show the dollar amount instead. It looks more appealing. 
  • Waived fee. This works when shipping is a major issue that causes abandonment. When you can absorb the shipping cost and still turn a profit then consider waiving it entirely.  

The third cart abandonment email 

Most of the motivated buyers have purchased at this point and the people who were on the fence should have been convinced by the second email.  If you’ve not done so already, implement a discount with a hard deadline. 

If you did introduce a discount in the last email this one will serve as a reminder so they don’t forget about it. 

You can also add a “related products” or “goes well with” section here. The shoppers that weren’t convinced have an opportunity to check other items. You can discount the complementary product instead of the original product so there’s an added incentive to move now instead of later. 

Finally, send this email out within 48 hours so the products are still fresh on the mind. 


Cart abandonment emails are one of the most effective ways to recover revenue that would otherwise be lost. There are many ways to go about it but the most important thing is to address the reason for abandonment. 

This article has laid out a simple but effective sequence you can implement today to increase your revenue with minimal effort. Remember that it should build credibility, create urgency, and use the right imagery. 

Let me know how you use cart abandonment emails to improve your bottom line and don’t forget to share. 

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