Use Abandoned Cart Emails to Win Over Undecided Buyers

You might say that people don’t abandon carts: carts abandon people. When the checkout process is too tedious, when the signup process relies on an email that never comes, when shipping is suddenly exorbitant without warning, the website abandons the user. These might all be decisions based on intelligent rationale, but they drive destructive, anti-consumer trends on e-commerce sites from Amazon to Zack’s Zanny Zapatos.

Why Do Users Abandon Their Carts?

reasons users abandon their carts ecommerce sales

You need to understand the psychology behind abandoned carts to craft effective solutions to that problem. So why do folks leave items in their cart? The most popular reasons users abandon their carts are all solved by managing expectations:

  • Item cost is too expensive, or the price changed before checkout
  • Extra costs increased the total beyond expectations, including shipping, tax, and other fees
  • Complex & confusing checkout or user signup process, which is a more specific form of commonly-noted form avoidance

We do know this happens way more than you might expect if you’re not tracking your numbers. The e-commerce experts at the Baymard Institute say nearly 70 percent of carts are abandoned, after averaging the results of dozens of surveys. More than half of the surveyed users said they had abandoned purchases due to unexpected additional costs, while significant pluralities were bothered by the checkout or account creation process. Of course, many users were likely bothered by both factors, but the commonality of the complaints only indicates the widespread failure of the industry to address these concerns.

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Should you lower your prices? It depends on how carefully you set those prices. If your prices were determined through careful study of the market, then trust in the process. On the other hand, if you threw a proverbial dart, don’t assume you hit the right number. Be ready to lower your price to increase sales, even if it’s only by a psychological concession. Any business owner worth their salt knows the difference between $99.99 and $100.00 is far more than a penny. Just take it slow, and don’t assume your changes should be permanent..

Stopping Abandonment Before It Starts

The good news is that only a small percentage of people abandon their carts because they don’t have the money or they don’t need the product. Their unmet need is still there, waiting to be filled. Fix the problems with your checkout process, which all checkout processes have, and you’ll have the opportunity to meet those needs.

The best way to stop folks from abandoning their carts is to fix those problems. In most cases, it’s a problem of managing expectations. Users should never be surprised by shipping costs. You shouldn’t never obscure taxes or fees: no one appreciates a bait and switch.

People don’t abandon carts: carts abandon people.

If users want to see their total payment amount before checking out, nothing should stop them. If you lose a small percentage of your users with an up-front price, you can expect it to be balanced by carts that would be otherwise abandoned. For example, you might change user expectations on shipping by providing a shipping calculator on the cart page, or charging the same price for shipping on the majority of orders. Taxes and fees should be revealed in the same way.

Most websites can also use a second look at their sign-up process. They might be functional, but very few websites have a sign-up process you might describe as “easy.”

Go through the entire sign up process and eliminate as many decisions as you possibly can. Reduce the form to as little as possible. Fix any problems you find, and do everything you can to make the forms friendly, easy to understand, and direct. Don’t ask for more information than you absolutely need to make the account. Ideally, only ask for the email. Capture the rest from shipping and billing information.

Sending Effective Abandoned Carts Emails

Abandoned cart emails are the fastest way to recover your lost clients. With Zoho’s Workflow and email templates, you can even create abandoned cart emails to help bring dissatisfied users back into the fold. About twelve hours after the cart is abandoned is the perfect time to strike.

1. Include an Incentive

A good abandoned cart email will offer some sort of coupon or financial incentive to the user. Free shipping is popular, and neatly skewers one of the major reasons that user’s abandon carts. A flat percent-off coupon is also tempting, which can reduce the cost enough that the user is again interested.

Whatever cost you eat on the deal, it’s well worth taking the hit now. Good marketers know it’s far harder to gain customers than to keep them, so adding a new customer should always be the top priority. Humans are creatures of habit, and we want them to have a habit of buying things from our companies.

Banks are well aware of this. That’s why they offer attractive cash incentives to users that switch to their bank. Switching banks is hard. But even if it was easy as breathing, inertia keeps most people with the company they know, even if they’re not thrilled with the service. The money the bank spends upfront is an investment in a customer. They will likely make the bank far more money over a lifetime of loyalty–or at least beneficent indifference.

2. Show the Abandoned Product

In your email, include a block that shows the contents of the user’s cart. This should be easy to capture through your CRM. You can then provide a direct link through the user’s cart. If you can’t do that with your website, then you should include a link to the product instead. Provided that your carts are saved in cookies, the user will see their cart waiting for them.

A bright, attractive picture of the product they’re missing out on is the most effective. Don’t overwhelm them, but give enough to activate a few FOMO molecules. Along with the financial incentive and a strong subject line, you’ll have a great chance of converting anyone who’s uncertain.

3. Sell with the Subject

This is the time for your best subject line. Find something that will get your users’ attention and go for it. This varies based on your brand voice and your customers’ expectations, but flexibility here can be valuable.

For example, playful headlines might grab attention, especially if your brand isn’t known that way. “Was it something we said?” for a mediocre example, might grab a user’s attention if it came from a brand with an unadventurous image.

4. Provide a Clear Call to Action

In abandoned cart emails, the entire point is to recover the cart. Nothing else is important. Ads for your next sale or links to blog posts should be left out of these emails. Focus on getting the customer back into the checkout. A large button that says “Check Out Now” would be an obvious example, but dare to be creative: fortune favors the bold, after all.


Senior Web Developer

Billy is a Wordpress Developer with an eye for design. His knowledge will help our company website and client sites meet their goals. Billy and his young family have just moved to Ashland Oregon, and are looking forward to exploring the area’s amazing beer, wine, and food. He also has a passion for synthesizers and drum machines.

Lucas Sant'Anna


With a background in Operations Research and Data Analysis, Lucas is a Brazilian programmer that likes to get stuff done quickly and reliably. In previous jobs, he implemented industrial job scheduling, fleet management and detailed long-haul route optimization – among other data-driven processes – to reach objectives of increased profit and reduced wasted resources. His goal is to make Zoho fully automated and with more meaningful data for spot-on decisions.