When Is the Best Time to Send an Abandoned Cart Email? (And How to Do It Right)

James Miller
July 20, 2021
minute read

At this point, it’s no secret that an abandoned cart email campaign is one of the most valuable email marketing campaigns around. Nearly 77% of online shopping carts were abandoned in 2021, presenting an opportunity for ecommerce companies to recover a ton of revenue.

There are a lot of variables to tweak in order to get the most conversions from abandoned cart emails. But, as with most triggered emails, it’s important to get the timing right.

The key is to reach the customer when they’re most receptive, based on their buying behavior. It’s just as possible to send an email too soon as it is to send one too late. So, this leads us to two questions:

  1. When is the best time to send an abandoned cart email?
  2. What makes an abandoned cart email effective?

First, when you’re evaluating how effective a change to your email marketing is, the conversion rate is the most powerful metric for measuring success. Open rates and click rates are great, but at the end of the day, the sale is the only thing that matters.

After sending millions of emails, here’s what we know about when to send abandoned cart emails, and how to create emails that will recover some of the $4 trillion in revenue left in abandoned shopping carts.

Send the first abandoned cart email one hour after abandonment

conversion rates by time after abandonment graph

As it turns out, there’s an optimal window when customers are most receptive to an abandoned cart email. Contacting cart abandoners too soon results in lower conversion rates, and waiting too long to contact them gets even worse results.

Conversion rates for emails sent 60 minutes after the customer’s last interaction on your site are highest for two reasons:

  1. Your email doesn’t contact customers who were going to come back and make a purchase without any encouragement.
  2. Your email lands in the customer’s inbox before they buy somewhere else.

Your first abandoned cart email—the reminder email—generates the most revenue, so take some time to run A/B tests and find out what works best, use a customer service approach and avoid any hard selling.

Here’s an example from HydroFlask…

hydroflask abandoned cart email example

Once your first email is dialed in, round out your abandoned cart email campaign with an additional two emails.

Send a second and third abandoned cart email to recover the most revenue

Even though the first email is the most effective, a single abandoned cart email doesn’t recapture all of the revenue left on the table by cart abandoners. Following up with customers who don’t purchase after the first email generates a significant amount of revenue.

Here’s an example from one of our customers:

abandoned cart campaign breakdown

The second and third emails rake in a combined total of $324,672.49, which is over half of the total revenue of this abandoned cart email campaign.

This is why the most effective abandoned cart email campaign is a series of emails that maintains contact with the customer until they complete their order. A campaign that features fewer than three emails is likely leaving a significant amount of revenue on the table.

Based on the data, sending a second email one day after abandonment and a third email three days after abandonment will bring in the most conversions. Using this three-email series, one company is able to get peak conversion rates of over 32%, which we showcased in this research piece.

As you set up your abandoned cart series, remember to suppress further abandoned cart emails once a customer returns and completes their purchase. Continuing to contact a customer after they’ve completed the sale turns a positive interaction into an annoyance.

Take a customer-centric approach to get the most value from your abandoned cart campaign

Now that you know when to send abandoned cart emails, it’s important to speak to customers in the right way. The customer-centric approach is by far the best strategy for reaching out to cart abandoners. If you focus on helping the customer, your customer service will leave a great impression of your company, and you’ll collect valuable qualitative feedback, even if you don’t win the sale.

Here’s how PeachDish approaches their abandoned cart campaign…

PeachDish abandoned cart email example

Image Source

There’s a lot going right in this email from PeachDish. Let’s take it from the top.

Send abandoned cart emails from a live email address

PeachDish sent this email from a live monitored email address (michael(at)peachdish.com), so that the customer could respond directly to the email if they wished to give feedback or ask a question.

In your own abandoned cart campaigns, always send from a monitored email with a name attached to it. You can also go one step further and include a customer service phone number. This helps humanize the interaction, and builds trust with the customer by allowing them direct access to a helpful person.

Start by offering to help the customer

PeachDish does a great job of frontloading the customer service in this email. The customer service inquiry comes before the sales offer.

This is a staple of a customer-centric campaign. Always offer to help the customer with their problem first. If the customer abandoned their cart because there was an issue with your site, the offer won’t make much difference.

Additionally, this approach helps you identify problems with your checkout process that are causing customers to abandon carts, so you can fix them ASAP.

Use a discount in dollars for more conversions.

The discount in this email is in dollars off, which is smart for PeachDish. Research shows that using a larger number in your discounts gets more conversions, regardless of whether it’s in dollars or percent.

Using your average order value, calculate the discount you can offer without negatively impacting your ROI. If the discount in dollars is a higher number than the equivalent percentage, offer the discount in dollars. For example, a $50 discount will likely perform better than a 15% discount, even if they’re equivalent based on your average order value.

Given the decline in conversions for the second and third emails in the series, using a discount in these emails will help boost conversion rates for your follow-up emails.

But keep in mind that if you always offer a discount to cart abandoners, you run the risk of training your customers to abandon carts to get a discount. Use frequency capping to avoid this pitfall.

Something else to note is that unexpected shipping costs accounted for 25% of abandoned carts in 2017, so offering free shipping in your abandoned cart email campaign is a good way to directly address a common customer objection.

Use data collection and dynamic content to reduce buying friction

One of the most important aspects of an abandoned cart email is that it removes any barriers to making a purchase that the customer encountered the first time. If a customer returns to make a purchase after receiving one abandoned cart email, then runs into another problem and abandons again, chances are they won’t be back for a third try.

peak design bag abandoned cart email

This abandoned cart email from Peak Design utilizes some great data collection tools and dynamic content insertion to personalize the email, and make it easy for the customer to complete the purchase.

Use session regeneration to make it easy for customers to get back to their cart and complete the sale

Peak Design uses session regeneration to take the customer from their inbox, back to their cart already populated with their selections.

The goal of this tactic is to make it as easy as possible for the customer to complete a purchase. An abandoned cart email should help the customer finish buying in the fewest clicks possible. If a customer has to refill their cart, they may decide it’s too much effort and opt out of the purchase.

Dynamically insert images into your abandoned cart emails for better personalization

This email also uses information from the customer’s shopping cart to present imagery that matches what the customer was looking at.

Personalized emails get 10% more conversions, on average. However, dynamically including the customer’s name in the subject line stopped impressing customers. So it’s time to step up the email game, and start personalizing the emails themselves.

The more specific your email is to the customer, the better the email is going to perform.

Optimize your emails for viewing on multiple devices

40% of online transactions involve multiple devices, and 71% of customers react negatively to inconsistencies in brand experience across devices. This means that your abandoned cart emails should be optimized for viewing on any device.

Have a look at the desktop version and the mobile version of this email from Frank and Oak. See how similar they are?

frank oak cart abandonment email on mobile and desktop devices

Image Source

This Frank and Oak abandoned cart email is laid out thoughtfully, so that the email is not only readable on a desktop computer or a mobile phone, but the user experience is almost exactly the same.

Customers want to feel familiar with the site no matter which one they go to. Using the desktop site should be really similar to using the mobile site, so that there’s no learning curve at all. The same goes for email. When the customer opens an email on their mobile phone after first viewing it on their laptop, they should easily be able to locate all the links and information because they have already viewed the desktop version.

Here’s how your abandoned cart email campaign should look:

  1. 3 email series
  2. First email one hour after abandonment.
  3. Second email one day after abandonment.
  4. Third email three days after abandonment.
  5. Customer-centric approach
  6. Offer to help the customer before driving the sale.
  7. Always send from a monitored email address.
  8. Include a customer service number.
  9. Personalized emails
  10. Include dynamically inserted images of products that were in the customer’s cart.
  11. Use session regeneration to provide a link to a populated cart to minimize buying friction.
  12. Optimize emails for multiple devices
  13. Provide a consistent user experience across all devices.

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James Miller


James Miller is a content writer at Rejoiner. He's responsible for engaging with customers through the Rejoiner blog. He researches and writes articles that are useful for customers and subscribers. James is a ski nerd and book writer.

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