By Ryan O’Connor

There are a number of reasons why a customer will abandon their online shopping cart—anything from shipping times and finding better prices elsewhere to simply being distracted by a phone call. 

As a marketer, it’s your job to wrangle the customer back in before they completely abandon the sale. You can make this happen with a strategy that uses pop-ups, SMS messages, and emails working in conjunction to incentivize the customer to complete their purchase. 

This article is dedicated to one aspect of the marketing strategy: automated abandoned cart emails. Each email in the sequence encourages the buyer with different techniques. But before we get into those, let’s take a look at why cart abandonment happens.

The Psychology Behind Cart Abandonment

To properly market to your audience, you need to understand their psychology first. There are endless reasons why cart abandonment happens, but each reason is related to the business or personal life

Bounces Related to the Business 

Typically, cart abandonments related to the business are due to:

  • Purchase objections
  • Distrust of the company
  • Quality of the product
  • Shipping time 
  • Bad reviews 
  • A competitor’s better rates

Taking these factors into consideration, your email campaign can target any and all of these issues by:

  • Telling the brand story (building trust)
  • Offering coupons
  • Being transparent about shipment times
  • Providing reviews from previous customers

With the right messaging, abandonment related to the business is relatively easy to overcome. 

Bounces Related to the Customer’s Personal Life

We live in a world that has endless sources of distractions. In fact, some experts think we’ve lost the art of concentration. While shopping online, customers might bounce because:

  • Their credit card has expired
  • Their kid asks for lunch and the customer gets up to make it
  • They click into another tab and completely forget about their cart
  • Their research leads them to a competitor 
  • And numerous other real life interruptions 

Although this is a little more difficult to wrangle the customer, sometimes an email reminding them that they have a cart open can be the trick to convert them into buyers. 

Automated Email Marketing Strategies for the Abandoned Shopping Cart 

Every solid email marketing strategy is a sequential process. In other words, you want to send out relevant emails at different times to create an incentive for them to return to their cart. 

Although email sequences are going to look different depending on the type of business, here’s what a typical email sequence might look like:

Email #1: A Reminder

With this email, you want to assume that the customer became distracted and forgot to return to finish checking out. This email is usually sent about five minutes after they have abandoned the cart. You might want to prompt them by asking if they’d still like to check out, but at this point, you don’t need to offer coupons as an incentive. 

Email #2: Incentive Offer

For the second email, you can apply a bit more pressure. This email is usually sent out about 12-24 hours after they have abandoned the cart, which might mean that they have made a conscious decision to abandon it. You can attempt to wrangle them back by offering an incentive, such as a coupon or free shipping. 

You can also throw in a strong customer review about the product in the cart and similar products in case the product they abandoned wasn’t a good fit. 

Email #3: Cart Expiration

Sent 24-48 hours after the second email, the third email creates a bit of urgency. As you will see with one of our examples in the next section, marketers will often lead with a countdown to when the cart  or the discount will expire. Usually, this email will also prompt the customer to speak with a live agent if the cart value is high. 

Email: 4: One Final Reminder

Many email marketers tend to stop at three emails—this is a mistake. The fourth email, which should be sent 7 days later (same time and day the shopper abandoned), reminds the customer of the products that were in their cart. It might also include similar products in the case that the customer didn’t want the products in the cart. 

What Happens After Cart Abandonment?

Let’s say the customer wasn’t reengaged after the email sequence—what happens next? It’s important to continue to nurture the customer relationship by sending them general email marketing campaigns. Although this might not seem like much, it’s clear that the customer was interested in the brand. They might just need more time to learn the story of the brand and establish more trust.

Abandoned Shopping Cart Emails in Action 

Okay, we’ve got the theory out of the way. Now let’s see how a real email campaign plays out. 

As you might notice, not all of the content in the following examples aligns with the descriptions above. Each business works a little differently, so introducing incentives at different times might happen as well. Below, each email is broken down to show you why it works so well:

Email #1: A Reminder 

With this first email, the writer provides some validation to the customer by referring to their choice as “smart.” It also creates a sense of urgency by stating that it “really shouldn’t have to wait.”

The direction for the customer is also very clear: Simply click the box to complete the order. Finally, the customer has an opportunity to ask a rep a question in the case that they abandoned the cart because something was unclear in the process. 


Email #2: The Countdown Begins 

What’s the first thing that you see in this next email? If it was the timer, that’s because this email is all about creating a sense of urgency. In the next five hours, the customer’s cart will no longer be available, and they shouldn’t “run off” before it happens. Similar to the methodology of the last email, the customer is being directed to complete their cart. 


Email #3: A Discount Offer 

This email is sent a few days later and provides a discount to help incentivize the customer to return to their cart. As you have probably noticed, the copy in each email is very light and catchy in order to be both direct and friendly. This email includes a “👇” which points to the items in the customer’s cart, adding a visual element to accompany the text. 


Email #4: Countdown on the Discount

This final email, sent about a week after the third, begins a countdown on the discount. You’ll also notice that the first box encourages them to “shop now,” which offers them a link to a page other than their cart. This might be important for those who bounced because they were uninterested in the item in their cart. 


Wrangle the Power of Email Marketing with SmartBug

As you can see, email marketing can be a quick, fun, and powerful way to incentivize customers to convert. But email marketing doesn’t stop there—check out the COVID-19 Email Marketing Impact Report to learn about the full scope of email marketing in the context of an inbound marketing strategy. 

COVID-19-Email-Marketing-Impact-Report-cover

Check out a few email strategies we executed during the first three months of COVID-19 in our

COVID-19 Email Marketing Impact Report

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Ryan O’Connor

About the author

Ryan O’Connor is Smartbug’s Director of e-commerce Growth, product manager, and sales director. He enjoys helping readers learn how to solve big business challenges through consumer psychology within the constantly evolving e-commerce landscape. Over the past 10 years, Ryan has helped 1000s of DTC brands navigate challenges to grow fast through intelligent marketing. He’s not afraid to get his hands dirty, having launched his own e-commerce stores from the ground up. Read more articles by Ryan O’Connor.

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