How Email Marketers Tackle Their Cart Abandonment Woes This Holiday Season

Written by: Chris Donald
Chris is Managing Partner at InboxArmy and has more than 25 years of experience in email marketing

Hopefully, you started your holiday marketing preparation months ago. Yet, no matter how well you plan your holiday marketing campaigns, there’s still one big fear: Cart Abandonment.

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Unfortunately, those moments where site visitors put items in their online shopping carts and abandon them are increasingly unavoidable. In fact, cart abandonment rates continue to rise, from 68.53% in 2015 to 69.23% so far this year.


Source: Statista

What are the Main Reasons for Cart Abandonment?

As the number of abandonments rises, the question becomes: why do customers abandon their carts? As Per Statista, costs—whether they be shipping costs or other fees (or simply the total cost of the cart)—are the main contributor to cart abandonment.


As shown in the chart above, there are lots of rational reasons why carts are abandoned. It’s also important to remember that you’re dealing with human beings, not robots—so sometimes, the reason could be simple forgetfulness.

This is where a well-timed cart abandonment email comes in.

Why Cart Abandonment Emails?

A Barilliance study found that 1 in 5 shoppers who opened and clicked on a link within a cart abandonment email made a purchase. Moreover, the average order value of purchases from a cart abandonment email is 14.2% higher than from regular promotional emails. And during the holiday season, cart abandonment emails become even more critical, owing to the increase (we hope) in online shopping.

The Anatomy of a Stellar Cart Abandonment Email

Good cart abandonment emails have the following:

  1. An attention-grabbing subject line.
  2. A relevant headline
  3. An actionable CTA
  4. A description (and images) of the abandoned products in the cart
  5. A discount offer (optional and situational)
  6. A link to FAQs or customer service options.

Learn More About Browse Abandonment Emails & it’s examples.

All this, and your cart abandonment emails may need to be punched up a bit for the holiday season. Here’s how you can add some holiday flair to each element of your cart abandonment emails to potentially increase engagement and recover more “lost” customers.

Six Tips for Holiday Cart Abandonment Emails

Tip #1: Use a Holiday-Oriented Subject Line

Nothing is more warming than feeling the holiday cheer right in the subject line. Add some urgency here as well—an example could be “Finish your purchase now before your holiday cart expires.

Tip #2: Create Urgency with a Countdown Timer

Countdowns psychologically trigger the ‘fight or flight’ instinct of the human brain. It’s increasingly common to see this tactic used in general promotions (like the FunkyPigeon example below), particularly for timed sales like Flash Sales and Weekend Sales. Utilize countdowns to push abandoners to complete their purchase.

Funky Pigeon

Tip #3: Cross-Sell Products

Not all subscribers abandon due to high cost. Use this opportunity to cross-sell related products. It could be best-sellers and even a great use of a product recommendation engine. Starbucks has a great example below:


Tip #4: Get Up Close and Personal

If you collect the right data to enable it, personalization can go a long way. It could be as simple as “Dear [First Name],” or include key information like cart item names, pricing, and images. White Stuff has a nice example below:

White Stuff cart abandonment email

Tip #5: Go Interactive

The use of interactive elements in email, including animated GIFs, is on the rise. These eye-grabbers can be effective in drawing attention into your email. This is an excellent opportunity to add a holiday touch to your cart abandonment emails.

Cart abandonment email

Tip #6: Add a survey (and incentive for filling the survey)

Post-cart abandonment is a great opportunity to send a survey to see how you can improve your customer experience. Incentivize completion of the survey to better motivate recipients to answering questions.

Talking Pet Shop

(P.S: The data you collect from these surveys enables you to learn what your customers want and help you better plan your email marketing campaigns.)

One Email is Necessary. A Series of Emails is Better.

Putting all of your cart abandonment email eggs in one basket (one email) means you’re more likely to include some sort of discount. And frankly, some customers are savvy and will intentionally abandon carts to get the discount—effectively “gaming” the system.

While a purchase with a discount can be better than no sale at all, you run the risk of experiencing diminishing returns and destroying your profit margins. A great way to mitigate this issue is to put a series of cart abandonment emails in place. I generally recommend a three-email series.

Email 1:

The first email is a simple cart reminder email The overall tone of the email needs to be a reminder to the visitor that they have forgotten some items in their cart and include a direct call to action to complete the purchase.

Dote cart abandonment email

Subject Line: Your shopping bag misses you!

In the above email, Dote uses humor to draw the attention of the recipient to the cart items. There is no extra fluff—just a headline, simple copy, a summary of the cart items, and a clear CTA.

Email 2

The second email may be targeted to those visitors who abandoned the cart due to uncertainty, shipping concerns (not shipping charges), delivery concerns, payment issues, etc. Use this space to deliver a customer service-oriented message that drives recipients to FAQs, customer service phone lines, etc.

Dyson cart abandonment email

Subject Line: Items in your basket at

The folks at Dyson include a link to contact a Dyson expert. The footer features reasons to shop at Dyson, including their price guarantee, return policy, and 2-day delivery.

Email 3

This final email is a great spot to include a discount or other incentive.

Levis cart abandonment email

Reminder: During the holidays, you are going to experience a substantial (we hope) increase in orders. If you are planning to offer free holiday shipping, make to align this offer and schedule with that of your cart abandonment email series so there is no disconnect in the customer experience.

Wrapping Up

The holidays are here. Between the early bird offers and last-minute discounts, there is going to be a huge influx of customers—and a proportional number of abandoned carts, too. Add some holiday elements to your cart abandonment emails to boost engagement and conversion rates.

Share your experiences of cart abandonment during the holiday season in the comments and start the conversation.

About Author

Chris sent his first email campaign in 1995. He’s worked directly with Fortune 500 companies, retail giants, nonprofits, SMBs and government agencies in all facets of their email marketing and marketing automation programs. He’s also a BIG baseball fan, loves a good steak, and is mildly obsessed with zombie movies. For more information follow him on linkedin

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