How a Scottish Kilt Company Uses Minimally Designed But Perfectly Timed Email to Recover Thousands of Dollars a Month

Nick Winkler
July 20, 2021
minute read

Ecommerce heartbreak comes in many forms…

However, one that often hurts the worst – cart abandonment – is also one of the costliest. Consider the matter from a merchant’s perspective; you pour your time and treasure into creating a compelling customer experience, drive traffic to your site, and persuade shoppers to place an item in their cart only to lose the sale in the very last moment.

The shopper leaves without checking out…

There’s no explanation given to the merchant and certainly no apology.

Unfortunately, this heartbreak is the norm as 73% of the items added to online shopping carts are now abandoned before a customer completes the checkout process. The abandoned cart problem, according to research, is even worse on mobile devices. While the reasons shoppers abandon cart range between unexpected costs to site usability issues, the issue is estimated to cost retailers $4 trillion in lost sales.

It’s an issue Fergus Macdonald, co-founder of Eagle & Fox, which is home to brands like Kilt Society and The Tartan Blanket Co., knows well. However, Macdonald refuses to let cart abandonment bother him.

“I don’t look at cart abandonment as a negative,” Macdonald says. “It actually motivates me to figure out a way to get them to come back and finish the purchase.”

It’s one reason Macdonald, who can watch shoppers abandon their carts in real time while monitoring his Shopify Plus analytics dashboard, smiles when he sees a shopper add something to their cart but leave without completing the checkout process.

“I have their email and I know exactly what they want,” Macdonald says.”That’s a red hot lead and really helps me increase my baseline conversion rate if I can convince them to come back and finish their purchase.”

It’s tempting to overdo it when attempting to recover these lost sales; to overdesign and overthink the copy embedded in cart recovery email. While the timing of cart recovery email is crucial, some of the conventional wisdom associated with cart recovery email strategy is dead wrong for certain target audiences.

In fact, Macdonald’s counterintuitive cart recovery email strategy routinely recoups tens of thousands of dollars a year…

But then again what would you expect from a guy whose wedding day revelation resulted in a multimillion dollar business with a global footprint and accelerated revenue growth.

The Wedding Day Revelation

While irony can often be cruel…

Sometimes it’s the inspiration for entrepreneurial greatness.

Years after Macdonald became known for being one of the first to sell Scottish staples such as sporrans, a type of belt and pouch combination worn around the waist with a kilt as part of traditional men’s Scottish Highland dress, online, Macdonald was in need of a kilt for his own wedding. The business was successful and growing quickly, but when Macdonald visited his own site in search of the perfect kilt- he couldn’t find one special enough for his big day.

“I couldn’t find what I needed on my own site,” Macdonald says disbelievingly. “It was an eye-opening experience. I couldn’t find a kilt to meet my needs. Even though the kilt is a traditional piece I’m a modern man and wanted something more while still respecting tradition.”

But with his wedding to Emma quickly approaching, Macdonald did something most grooms would be raked over the coals for; he went back to his first love. Fortunately for all involved though, Macdonald’s first love was tailoring. So Macdonald used his tailoring skills to create the perfect outfit for a perfect day.

“When my friends saw the wedding kilt I designed they all started asking where they could get one just like it,” Macdonald says. “People loved the outfit, but I had to apologize and tell them I didn’t have kilts like mine available for sale.”

Turns out there was more than just one “I do” that day…

Besides convincing Emma to marry him, Macdonald also convinced his new wife, an accomplished fashion buyer with expertise in merchandising, marketing and branding, to join him as co-owner of Eagle & Fox and dramatically transform the business to stave off margin-crimping price competition.

In what would ultimately become the Kilt Society brand, Eagle & Fox began selling custom designed and tailored kilts like the one Macdonald wore on his wedding day. Similarly, the newlyweds focused on building the The Tartan Blanket Co. brand which offers traditional Scottish tartan blankets and scarves woven from pure wool, lambswool, cashmere, and eco-friendly recycled wool.

“We’re building a dream business together,” Macdonald says of he and Emma. “We’re creating products that we’re passionate about and transforming the organization into the business we’ve always wanted.”

The dream business the Macdonalds have always wanted is also lucrative:

  • The company is on track to do $2.5 million in sales this year
  • Its two brands are growing 30% and 50% respectively
  • The multi-channel approach allows it to sell worldwide

But despite blistering sales growth, international success, and a growing family thanks to the birth of a beautiful daughter named Aila Rose, the Macdonalds are still plagued regularly by the heartbreak that often accompanies digital entrepreneurship; shoppers showing intent to purchase but leaving your site without actually doing so.

There’s a cure for this type of heartbreak though…

It’s quick, simple, and lucrative.

Passive Automated Income [Love It!]

With the newest Macdonald, Aila, a fixture at the company’s headquarters…

It’s not uncommon for Fergus and Emma to handle business in between diaper changes and feedings. It can of course be messy at times but new parents often learn quickly to give their children just what they need quickly and simply.

The same is also often true for shoppers who abandon their carts…

While shoppers who receive multiple abandon cart emails as part of a well-structured sequence are 2.4 times more likely to return and complete the checkout process, converting shoppers who abandoned cart doesn’t always require:

  • Immaculately designed or ultra-visual email
  • Text-heavy email that tells a compelling story
  • Email laden with margin crimping discounts

None of this is to say that these attributes aren’t valuable to include in cart recovery email or won’t yield impressive results. The point being made, at least in the case of Eagle & Fox, is successful cart recovery emails don’t necessarily have to have the aforementioned attributes.

The important takeaway here is that regular experimentation and split testing will help you intimately understand your target market and help you identify the types of email most likely to convert the shoppers on your site.

“We definitely take a lean approach,” Macdonald says. “Rather than building something perfect and hoping it works, we keep it really simple and identify exactly what works and then build on and improve upon that. We’re not going to invest money in something that hasn’t proven it’ll lift our conversion rates.”

In the case of The Tartan Blanket Co., two insights emerged:

For instance, if a shopper visiting The Tartan Blanket Co. adds a pair of blankets to their cart but bounces before completing the purchase, Macdonald relies on his ecommerce platform to automatically send an abandoned cart email within one hour that looks like this:

ks cartabandonment

The minimalist design and sparse content is intentional. However, Macdonald credits three key aspects of the email with delivering superior results:

1. The email subject line: Did You Forget About Us?

“The subject line is quite good and performs really well,” Macdonald says. “It suggests we’re friends and no one wants to forget about a friend. It builds intrigue and causes the recipient to wonder who they might have forgotten about which arouses emotion. We did this on purpose and it really works.”

2. The bold “Return To Checkout” CTA button

“The big bold button is placed right next to the picture of the abandoned cart item” Macdonald says. “We put the button right next to the cart item. If they like the look of the product, it makes the next step pretty straight forward.”

3. Images of the items abandoned in cart

“We want to visually show the shopper the products they added to their cart again,” Macdonald says. “We’re trying to arouse emotion and prompt them to think, ‘Oh yea, I really liked that product.’”

Because Macdonald’s ecommerce platform limits him to one automated abandoned cart email, Macdonald uses another ESP to follow up with one more abandoned cart email 24 hours after a shopper abandons cart:

ks cartabandonment 2

The cumulative results of these two emails:

  • A 34% conversion rate
  • Tens of thousands of dollars in additional sales
“It’s absolutely phenomenal these emails are performing so well,” Macdonald says. “When you set something up and it runs automatically like these emails do, those are sales we wouldn’t have made otherwise. It’s passive income and I absolutely love it.”

Embedding Customer Service (In Abandoned Cart Email)

There’s one thing you’ll never find in Macdonald’s email…


While discounts can certainly inflate the top line they can also crimp margins and profits. Even worse, Macdonald suggests routine discounts can result in unintended consequences. “If you automatically discount you’re teaching customers to wait for a discount before making a purchase,” Macdonald says. “It devalues the product.”

To highlight that Macdonald and team understand their customers intimately, Eagle & Fox takes a slightly different approach with shoppers who abandon cart on Kilt Society. Kilts are a bit more complicated than blankets; they have a larger price tag, must fit perfectly, and may be customized.

Hence abandoned cart emails, while similar, include a bit more text, take on more of a customer service tone, and aim to educate or help customers gain the confidence necessary to pull the trigger on such an important decision:

ks cartabandonment 3

The cumulative results from this sequence:

  • A conversion rate of 23%
  • Tens of thousands of dollars in additional sales
“To think that just a couple of orders from such a simple automated email sequence generated thousands of pounds makes me smile all day long,” Macdonald says. “It takes a little work in the beginning to automate the process but after that the computers are working for you. That’s the holy grail and the passive income it generates is fantastic.”

What to Do Now

Interested in having an an abandoned cart email sequence built for you? Schedule a free strategy session.

Frequently Asked Questions


Nick Winkler


Nick Winkler heads The Winkler Group, a strategic communications firm that provides content marketing services to the world's best known brands, businesses, & marketers. Get more from Nick <a style="text-decoration: underline;" href="" target="_blank">here</a>.

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