Abandoned Cart OptimizationThe holidays are approaching faster than you’d like.  And you’re probably sitting around using the same old campaigns for abandoned carts that you’ve been using since, well, forever.  Abandoned cart campaigns, like a bouquet of flowers, need to be refreshed every now and again.  Optimizing abandoned cart campaigns is easy: It’s time to dust off your email editor and take a look at what you have.  Leaving it alone is likely leaving money on the table and possibly annoying customers.

Why Optimize Your Abandoned Cart Campaigns?

In a word:  freshness.  Customers can smell stale content a mile away.  Especially those that bought from you last year.  Or last month.  Keeping your emails new and up to date tells your customers that you’re on top of things.

Moreover, the techniques you’re using from last year are probably getting long in the tooth for this year.  Maybe the wording is off, or the memes are stale.  Maybe it just needs to be reworded because your demographics are shifting in your store?  Whatever the reason, it’s worth revisiting the campaigns to see if you can do better.

Free Download: 57 Black Friday/Cyber Monday Email Examples to Steal Ideas from

What should you Optimize in your Abandoned Cart Campaigns?

1) Put your Opt Ins where people can find them EASILY

Research shows that visitors follow an “F” pattern when visually scanning your site.  Something like this:

Abandoned Cart Optimization Techniques

Based on this, you want to make sure that if you have an opt-in form for emails, that it sits in those hot zones (the orange and yellow areas) and isn’t in the grey ones.  At a bare minimum, make sure that your critical elements are in the blue areas (like your Checkout button, or Add to Cart button)

2) Make sure your forms and pages all have clear Calls To Action (CTA)

When a customer is browsing your site, do they have a clear action on what to do next?  Or are you confusing them with too many colors, fonts, and buttons or images.

A clear CTA looks like this on a page:

Abandoned Cart Optimization

This beauty is from Ugmonk, and they’re making sure you are choosing wisely between two options.  No ambiguity at all–just one clear decision to make.

What does this have to do with Abandoned Carts you ask?  Everything!  By offering a clear discount when the user is leaving your site, you are giving them reason to stay.  Do you have an exit-intent popup configured for your site?  (Psssst, Recapture offers that for you!)

Clear decisions for every part of your store decreases the customer’s cognitive load.  That’s just a fancy way of saying that they don’t have to think hard about whether they want to stay or not because you’ve made things clear and reasonable for them.  A major improvement in abandonment!

3) Use emotional triggers and personalization to connect with your users in your copy

We get it.  Writing is hard.  Not everyone excels at it.  But it will make or break your email content and your website copy.  There are great people out there to help if you are stuggling–Like Joanna Wiebe of Copyhackers or Lianna Patch from Punchline Copy.  Even when you think you’ve nailed it, it can probably get better.  For example, the difference between these two is pretty powerful:

The one on the right uses urgency (“today only”) as well as personalizes the message (“your favorite items”) with a specific CTA that is also personal (“get MY coupon code”) for the reader.

Or how about this abandoned cart email, using emotional words and images, along with a themed subject (“fetch your deal”) to connect with the audience and make sure you pay attention:

Emotional beats bland any day of the week.

4) Use the right colors for emotional impact with your audience

While it’s easy to use color to make something “stand out” on your site, do you know what the color is saying to your customer?   Consider taking into account well-known color connotations, that differs across countries, cultures, and genders, such as:

  • Blue: Security
  • Purple: Luxury
  • Red: Urgency
  • Yellow: Caution

Understanding your target audience and appealing to what they need and want, or avoiding what they fear and loathe, is important, even on this subconscious level.

Free Download: 57 Black Friday/Cyber Monday Email Examples to Steal Ideas from

5) Make sure your subject lines aren’t bland

Your Subject Line is the first (and possibly last!) thing your customer will read about your abandoned cart email.  It has one job:  to get the customer to OPEN your email.  Is yours the strongest it can be?  We recommend one of three strategies:

Humorous Subjects

Humor works really well for a lot of brands–probably yours too (unless you’re selling tax software, or maybe caskets…don’t know about those).  Here are some subject lines to get you thinking about making your customer chuckle before coming back:

  • These look good in your bag, but they look better on you (Madewell)
  • Hey, where did you go? (Puma, coupled with a funny picture of a clerk with shoe boxes up to her face)
  • Is your Wi-fi okay? (Adidas, which also used some clever copy about making sure that they didn’t forget about these great shoes)

Direct Subjects

Beating around the bush is something you can do at the holiday dinner table when someone raises a controversial subject.  But it’s better and more profitable to just make the ask immediately:

  • Is it me you’re looking for? (Debenham’s)
  • See anything you liked? (Whistlefish)
  • It’s in the bag (Levi’s)

Emotional Subjects

If you have products that come with some emotional investment (pet items are a great example), then use that emotion to convey a sense of loss, or FOMO–fear of missing out

  • I want you to want me (Nasty Gal)
  • Wait a second! (Doggy Loot, coupled with the cute image of the dog having both paws in the air above!)
  • Going, going… (Warehouse)

Obviously some subjects fit under multiple headings, and the more triggers you can hit with your campaign, the more likely the customer is to act on them.

6) Prevent People From Abandoning in the First Place

There’s an old saying–“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Abandoned carts, while they are a fact of life in your store, don’t have to be a foregone conclusion.  Quite a few factors are under your control.  Here’s a list of the top reasons why users abandon the cart in the first place:

Image via Invespro

Of those reasons, clearly many are ones you can prevent with some work up front:

  • Make shipping costs clear (and if possible, offer free shipping!)
  • Minimize the amount of info you need to complete the order
  • Make sure your site’s infrastructure is stable and ready for traffic
  • Optimize the page loading speed with caches and image optimization tools
  • Offer guest checkout

And of course, make sure you have your abandoned cart email campaigns active in the first place!

7) Personally Test your Checkout Flows Frequently

Go through your own desktop and mobile checkout flows once a week.  Yes, I said both mobile AND desktop.  Desktop isn’t dead, but mobile checkouts are the #1 place that users fall off in stores because the process isn’t smooth.  Check to see that you’re receiving the abandoned cart emails you expect.  Confirm that certain discount codes apply.

If you’re hitting 40-50+ sales a day, test it once a day.

I know many people just trust that it works. There are plenty of reasons the average cart abandonment rate is 60-70%, a poor or broken checkout experience is a big one.

If you don’t have time, hire a VA and give them some instructions to follow and email you the results!

8) For Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BFCM), Edit the Copy of the Abandoned Cart Emails to be SPECIFIC

Something nearly everyone forgets to do for the Black Friday weekend…EDIT YOUR CART ABANDONMENT EMAIL COPY! Make sure you let people know they only have one day left before this deal is gone forever.

If you’re using Recapture, just create a new email campaign and activate it for the BFCM timeframe.  After it’s over, switch back to the regular one.

Leaving your generic cart campaign in place means you’re missing out.  Tell people they are going to miss the biggest sale of the year!  This increases chance of them returning will be much higher then your usual abandonment recovery rate.

9) Tighten up the Abandoned Cart Email Timing for BFCM

It’s a short sale window, so don’t set the usual timings (like 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week) because they’re just too LONG for this time of the year.  We recommend tightening the abandoned cart schedule for this sale to something really short:

  • One hour (first email)
  • Three hours (second email)
  • Eight hours (third and final email)

Another winning sequence might be 1 hours, 24 hours, and 48 hours.  The point is, keep it short because you want people to act, not wait.

In total, we saw customers that recovered more in that single day than they normally would in a month. 

Get the bonus content: Almost 60 Black Friday/Cyber Monday Emails in a Swipe File

10) Change your Email Sequence to use a Personal Message (from you)

Marketing messages can make us pretty numb sometimes.  Instead of the usual remind, persuade and close sequence, make the final step in abandoned cart sequences look like a regular email, coming from the owner of the store.

Here’s an example from In God We Must, that is simple, empathetic and direct with personalization to boot:

It doesn’t have to be long and flowery–short and sweet will work just fine:

“Hey <first name>, I noticed you left some items in your cart(link). I wanted to reach out personally to see if there was a technical issue or any other problem, please let me know – we’re always trying to keep our customers happy”

Something like that. Simple and effective. You’ll be surprised how many people appreciate the “personal” email and respond!  It’s also surprising to people to receive something “direct from the owner/founder” and that’s what makes it work so well.


11) Segment Your Customers For Successful Recovery

Of course, you should be segmenting ALL the time with your customers, but it’s even more critical around the holidays.  Here are the 5 biggest (and best) segments you’ll want to target with abandoned cart emails.  Set them up now if you haven’t already!

  • Big spenders (those with high Average Order Value (AOV)
  • Recent spenders (those who bought in the last 30 days)
  • Repeat purchasers (those who bought from you before)
  • VIP customers (those special people who drive the highest ROI in your store)
  • Wishlisters (anyone who created a wishlist on your store)

By targeting these folks in particular, you’re maximizing your chances for completing the sale when it counts: in the abandoned cart sequence.  Use bigger discounts with the more valuable segments and send more emails to all of them.

12) Don’t be afraid to send more emails!

Every store I’ve ever worked with is afraid of sending too much email, but your customers want to hear from you and there’s a lot of noise out there.  If you’re sending 2 emails in a sequence right now, consider adding a third.  Chances are you’re not following up enough, especially during this time of year when inboxes get inundated with content.  The persistent will win.  Don’t be shy.

Final Thoughts

The holidays are the biggest sales weeks of the year for most stores.  Running your store on autopilot can be a disaster, particularly with your abandoned cart campaigns.  These 11 tips should help you make the most out of your highest revenue generating time of the year.  Make sure you take some time before things get crazy and optimize your store for success during this holiday season.

Free Download: 57 Black Friday/Cyber Monday Email Examples to Steal Ideas from

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