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How to Optimize Abandoned Cart Emails to Win Back Sales!

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Conversion Optimization, eCommerce, eCommerce Strategy, Email Marketing, How To Grow Your Business, Magento Commerce, Marketing

Are you leaving money on the table? We’ve all been there. Your customers have added items to the cart, but some aren’t making it to checkout.

Cart abandonment is the worst! Did you know that up to 70% of all shopping carts will get abandoned before the purchase is complete? Luckily, a timely series of relevant emails can recover your lost sales.

Level-up your abandon cart email strategy with the following tips from our in-house Email Marketing Manager, Chris Jackson, and the email experts at Klaviyo. We’re sharing with retailers our performance benchmarks and real-world examples that will help optimize your abandoned cart emails and recover lost sales.

Get the data and the strategies you need to recover lost sales, right now!

Abandoned Cart Flows – Flow Performance Benchmarks

First let’s focus on laying some foundation to better your understanding of abandoned cart emails and what their performance benchmarks are.

What’s a flow?

A “flow” as they think of it at Klaviyo is an email, or series of emails, automatically triggered to send when someone joins a list, is added to a segment, or takes an action. There are many types of “flows”. In Klaviyo you can build your own custom flows or access prebuilt flows like, welcome series, new customer thank you, and of course the abandoned cart flow.

What’s an abandoned cart flow?

The abandon cart flow is a series of emails that are triggered to send when a customer or prospect adds at least one product to their cart but does not purchase within a defined period of time.

This particular flow is very popular and absolutely CRITICAL for every online store because online shoppers leave a lot of carts behind. Thanks to a recent report by Baymard Institute we know that, on average, 7 out of every 10 ecommerce carts are abandoned.

How do you know abandoned cart emails are an effective tool for recovering sales?

Abandon Cart Flow Statistics

The team at Klaviyo recently looked at the data from approximately 9 MILLION emails sent out across over 3100+ unique abandoned cart flows during Q2 of this year.

In their sample, abandoned carts flows had an overall average..

In total US-based Klaviyo customers made over $60 million in sales from abandon cart email flows alone! Not bad for email that sends itself!

Of course.. these benchmarks don’t necessarily match everyone’s business. There are many unique business models that won’t fit.
For example, if you’re running a seasonal business your results might vary depending the time of year.

That said, these benchmarks do provide us with a solid starting point to move forward from. We know from them that, in general, an abandoned cart flow is absolutely necessary, because they make money and have a strong engagement level.

If you want to know how to optimize your abandoned cart flow performance, you’ll need to dig deeper into the data. Luckily, with millions of messages to analyze at Klaviyo’s disposal, they can take a shot at solving one of the most common challenges for eCommerce marketers!

Abandon Cart Flow Performance

abandoned cart flow performance

Pinpointing the ideal number of emails to send in an abandoned cart series is crucial.

It’s extra tricky to try and quantify this number — in theory — you should be able to generate more total revenue by sending more email with longer flows — so why wouldn’t you default to setting up a longer series?

At a certain point, your flow WILL have too many emails and it can become detrimental to your business by annoying your prospects. No one wants a million reminders to buy something.

So to help us think through this, we first — segmented the data to show the performance of abandoned cart flows grouped by the number of emails in the flow series (or the flow ‘length’) AND THEN we used our compiled benchmarks as a barometer to judge performance against the greater average.

Average Email Open Rate

average email open rate

Open rates by flow length showed an almost linear regression with the exception of the changes in performance that happen between 3-email flows and 5-email flows.

Flows with 3 emails AND flows with 4 emails had about the same average open rate — but when we expand to sending 5-email flows there is a significant drop of more than 7%. Furthermore, This drop puts open rate performance of abandoned cart flows (with 5 emails) under the compiled benchmark average of 41%.

Average Click Rate

average click rate

Click rates told a similar story, showing the most significant change happening between 4-email flows and 5-email flows. Again the drop puts average Click Rates performance for abandon cart flows (with 5 emails) under the compiled benchmark average of 9.50%.

Average Revenue per Recipient (RPR)

average revenue per recipient

Average revenue per recipient was different. Abandon cart flows with 2 emails made significantly more than flows with 3. The performance of 3-email flows also had a lower average RPR than the greater benchmark average but not by much.

Your Optimal Flow

optimal email flow

Klaviyo’s data suggests that abandon cart flows with 3 emails would be the optimal flow length.

Abandoned Cart Emails: Optimizing the Basics

Now that we have a strong understanding of what an abandon cart flow is, what to aim for in performance, and how many to send — let’s zoom in and talk about how to optimize the basic components.

Timing Cart Abandoned Emails

So now that we know how many emails to have in our abandon cart email flows — we need to know when is best to send them!

  1. Your first email in your abandoned cart flow should be setup to send 3 hours after the cart has been abandoned.
  2. The second email 24-48 hrs after the first reminder
  3. The third goes out 2-3 days, again after the previous email

Very Important: Make sure a transaction hasn’t occurred between these emails, and also make sure the first email has been delivered before the following email is sent so you can accurately track engagement.

Now that we know how many emails to send and when to send them, let’s switch gears, move away from the logistics of abandon cart emails, and discuss copywriting, creative concepts, and design.

Email Copy-Writing and Design Guidelines

Some general considerations on copywriting and design are..


  • Emails shouldn’t be more 4 sentences – preferably a mix or 1- 2 and 2 – 3 sentences
  • Length of copy used should vary based on the level of content being discussed or the message that’s trying to be conveyed.
  • Tone

  • Tone of copy should match the brands standard communications to ensure their audiences is communicated in a fashion that isn’t known or that develops an uneasiness
  • Inclusion of light-hearted jokes or commentary should be done if the brand’s demographic will understand it
  • Testing

  • It can be surprising to see what works and doesn’t work, which will require continual testing and measuring of performance to identify what works specifically for each brand individually.
  • Define the results that are being sought and work towards meeting those goals first then make the necessary adjustments to begin exceeding goals
  • Layout

  • Primary image – Item(s) that were abandoned
  • Body text – Outlined above
  • Call to action button
  • Links

  • Primary Image should link to the complete purchase page
  • Call to action button should link to the complete purchase page
  • It’s likely that the first place that you will apply all of these considerations is in the subject line

    Subject Line Performance

    email subject line performance

    As part of Klaviyo’s recent benchmark analysis they looked at the performance of three different types of abandoned cart subject lines. Ones that only used text with a message about something being “left behind”, subject lines using emojis, and subject lines discounts in them.

    Subjects lines that merely reminded the abandoner that they left something behind performed the best with a significantly higher open rate of 47.67% they also a high revenue per recipient with almost $9.

    Adding an emoji will help you add a little personality to your subject line, but Businesses who used them had a saw lower engagement rates across the board. Still, the added flare might be worth testing especially for special occasions like holidays where you can slip in a themed emoji.

    Lastly, discount focused subject lines are intriguing. For this statistic we included subject lines that had a percentage, dollar sign, or the words “free shipping”. CTR was strong at 10.75% , but Open rate and Rev Per Recipient were still much less than the simple “left behind” text messages

    But by far, the best performance comes from keeping the subject line to a straightforward message referencing the action of abandoning a cart.

    Real-world Abandoned Cart Examples

    Now that we have knowledge on how to best setup the basic components of our abandoned cart emails let get into some more advanced strategies — starting with different concepts for abandoned cart email and how they are applied through real world examples

    “The Reminder” Email

    the reminder email

    Our first abandon cart email to the customer is “The Reminder” and it’s the simplest.

    Rule number one, keep the copy short and sweet. Show the image of the product they have forgotten behind and one call to action for example..

    For creative consider using…

    Shocked expressions: Finding images of shocked expressions is pretty easy and they’re eye catching. The caption for your image can be something simple, such as “Wait! Where did you go?

    Cute sadness: For example think big cartoon-ish, doe eyes. The kind of image that evokes a sense of vulnerability and makes someone want to go “awwww.”

    Absurdity: You could throw a complete curve ball and lead with an image that seems unrelated to your business. You know those Old Spice ads?

    “The Proof” Email

    the incentive email

    I like to think of the Second email is “The Proof” because it focuses proving why your product is worth returning for. Your copy should include product information and user-generated content.

    “The Incentive” Email

    the incentive email

    The last email in our abandoned cart email series is “The Incentive”. Your creative content and copy should be oriented around “urgency”. Some ideas include

    Special Offers Performance

    email special offers

    Discounts are an important mechanism for incentivizing your customers and closing the deal. As part of our recent benchmark analysis we looked at the performance of three different types of abandoned cart offers — Free shipping offers, Percentage-based discount, and Dollar-based discounts. Each discount type had its own strength.

    Percentage based discount: was the most popular discount in our dataset yet it was also our lowest performer in every category.

    Free shipping resulted in the highest open rate and click rate but unfortunately didn’t generate much more Revenue Per Recipient than percentage-based discounts. This is interesting because shipping costs are often cited as the number 1 reason for someone to abandoned a cart, so you’d think that it would be better at closing the deal.

    Dollar-based discounts were the best performing offer with the highest performing Open Rate and a dramatically higher Revenue Per Recipient average ($15.91).

    In summary, given the low revenue results of “free shipping” I would consider testing it but it probably shouldn’t be your first choice unless you’re hyper focused on maintaining large margins. Both Percentage-Based Offers and Dollar-based offers impact your bottom line but Dollar-based is the winner.

    Aside from these benchmark numbers — there’s one other factor you should take into consideration while making your the decision on using special offers — and that is segmentation

    Abandoned Cart Segments

    You will want to segment your carts while using special offers because some offers make more sense than others for different groups of prospects.

    1. Location: based on your prospect’s location you may or may not want to use “free shipping” as an offers because offering free shipping to international buyers is going to be expensive.

    2. Repeat vs. First-Time Customers: because it makes sense to offer a discount (or other promotion) to a first-time customer that will welcome them into your community and provide the extra push they may need to buy. If you are sending a discount to repeat customers, they could figure out your flow and start abandoning their carts on purpose to get the discount.

    2. Cart Value:
    which refers to the total monetary value of the items in a customer’s cart. Because with high value carts you may want to offer a fixed cash discount instead of a percentage which will cost you more.

    4. Product Type: is good to segment on if you have special catalogues because it lets you use a whole new type of special offer, complementary products as an incentive — for example free a free hat for purchasing a snowboard.

    This blog post is adapted from a webinar presented by Demac Media and our partners at Klaviyo, and Magento. A recording of this webinar is available here.

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