Best practices for abandoned cart email content

If you’re here, you know that cart abandonment represents a significant amount of unearned revenue for your store. Since 2 of every 3 carts are abandoned, saving some of these sales can provide significant increases in revenue. As customers have already placed items in the cart, the hurdle to completing a purchase is also smaller than for a brand new visitor.

Using recovery emails can help you increase sales from these lost orders, but what kind of emails are most effective? What should the timing look like? Should they include discounts or other information?

While many of the answers to these questions are dependent upon your store, target audience, and industry, there are some general rules of thumb that can help you improve your abandoned cart email content and recovery rates overall for abandoned orders. As Jilt merchants average over a 23 percent recovery rate across all stores, we’ve put together some strategies we’ve seen work well along with research on best practices for abandoned cart email content.

Why are carts abandoned?

In order to effectively sell to a customer who has already left a purchase, we need to get some insight into why they left the purchase in the first place, and determine how we’ll target these reasons via our recovery emails.

Let’s start with some statistics from Baymard Institute—customers were surveyed to determine why they left a cart, and could list multiple reasons for abandoning the purchase:

  • 61 percent of customers cite, “Extra costs too high” (let’s keep this in mind for later)
  • 27 percent cite, “Too long / complicated checkout process”
  • 24 percent say, “I couldn’t calculate / see total order cost up-front”
  • 22 percent of customers say the “website crashed”
  • 21 percent of shoppers say the “process was taking too long” to purchase
  • 15 percent of customers cite, “Website timed out”

While “extra costs”, such as shipping or taxes, form the number one reason for cart abandonment, we’ll take a look at that reasoning in our second or third abandoned cart email. Instead, have a look at the rest of the reasons we’ve picked out for this list—over and over again, customers cite some sort of issue with the purchasing process as a reason for abandoning:

Too complicated, Website crashed, took too long, Process timed out

When we look at all of these other reasons in the aggregate, it’s clear that discomfort around or impatience with the purchasing process is a large driver for abandoning a purchase. Since the ways this manifests for the customer are so varied, let’s make this the focus of our first recovery email: ask the customer what happened.

First recovery email

Stores like Peak Designs have had lots of success with customer service-focused initial emails. These emails target all of those aggregated reasons Baymard lists for customers: “What happened?”

This email is designed to ask the customer what went wrong, giving you an opportunity to start a conversation, or reminding the customer in a friendly, helpful way that the cart is waiting for them. For example, check out this example from Huckberry:

Huckberry email example

While this may not always be immediately conversions-focused, this does give you valuable insight into issues with your checkout funnel, along with providing opportunities to improve your purchasing process. For example, sometimes the abandonment is as simple as a customer worrying if an order will arrive on time, for which you could offer expedited shipping or handling to save the sale.

With Jilt merchants, we’ve seen that this has great success among several types of sellers. For digital goods stores, this email provides an opportunity for customers to ask questions about the product that the sales page may not have answered. For stores selling physical goods, this opens the opportunity to answer questions about shipping or return policies.

In terms of timing, the effectiveness of your first email varies greatly with sending delay. There’s not a good hard-and-fast rule to go by here, so we recommend experimenting with your first email. By default, Jilt will schedule initial emails for a 1 hour delay, and we’ve seen the greatest success with 1 to 4 hour delays on an initial email.

Of course, there’s more to a recovery email than just the copy and timing—your subject line can affect your open rates. Better open rates mean more effective campaigns. This post offers a good roundup of advice on writing a winning abandoned cart recovery email subject line.

Second recovery email

So now let’s circle back to the main reason for abandonment that Baymard lists: unexpectedly high costs. Across all sorts of studies, this is cited as a top reason for cart abandonment. For example, a VWO study cites that 28 percent of shoppers abandon carts when presented with unexpected shipping costs.

The good news here is that most of these customers also say they’d be willing to resume the purchase if these goods are offered at a lower price:

54 percent of shoppers will purchase products left in shopping carts, if those products are offered at a lower price.


Our second email can focus on this source of abandonment—this is opportunity for you to offer a free shipping coupon, or remind customers of free shipping if it’s already offered. If your margins allow for it, you could also include a coupon to sweeten the incentive to purchase.

So why not do this right away? Discounting is great, but typically warrants moderation and you should avoid discounting too soon:

  • Since abandonment can be a result of checkout issues, first attempting to solve these issues can often lead to recoveries without eating into your margins with a coupon code.
  • Frequent discounting can devalue your brand.
  • If customers come to expect a discount in the first abandonment email, this can “train” them to wait for an email before purchasing.

By focusing on common causes of abandonment—unexpected costs—in our second email, we can target more of the common reasons that shoppers leave a cart without cutting into profit margins as deeply as immediately offering this discount would do.

In terms of timing, our merchants have seen the greatest success by delaying this email by a day (24 to 30 hours), as this typically ensures merchants have had enough time to see the first email. If you’re looking for a faster cycle, we recommend waiting a minimum of at least six hours.

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Last recovery email

For your final abandoned cart email email, iterate any discounts or willingness to help with questions. This also gives you an opportunity address any other, less frequent reasons for abandoning the cart—link to your refund or return policy, guarantees, or other areas of your site that help overcome purchasing barriers.

This is also a good opportunity to employ scarcity—letting customers know that the cart can’t be reserved much longer and that items may go out of stock can encourage them to purchase, and doing so after a couple of previous emails is more effective than trying to use scarcity as a selling technique in initial emails (where it can seem more pushy).

Timing for this email tends to be dependent on your product industry. For example, digital goods sellers can’t often employ scarcity via inventory, so this may work for time-limited offers such as pre-orders. Instead, an email within a day or two reminding the customer of your refund policy can help.

Sellers who ship goods often have higher success by delaying this email 2 or 3 days, then offering a discount (if not offered already), or some sort of promotional gift, such as offering expedited shipping at regular cost.

As this email may not always be sent to all customers (if the order has already been recovered), it can also be a good place to try new tactics, inject some humor, or offer “easter egg” incentives for customers that are opening / reading these final emails.

Jilt final email

If you see conversions in your final email, it’s also worth trying to move these elements of the email into the first or second recovery email, and use this to test out last-ditch efforts to save the sale.

Boost your sales with automated abandoned cart recovery campaigns. Sign up to try Jilt free today.


    1. Hi! EDD is a small, but very active & well-maintained integration for us so the total number of active sites is lower than other platforms. Easy Digital Downloads uses Jilt on their own site, so you can rest assured that it’ll work really well for your store as well 😄 Happy to answer other questions over chat or over email (

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