For every ten people who add to their online shopping cart, seven will abandon it.
That’s a lot of people saying adios to their purchases which means there’s a lot of money left on the table.
Marketers have found ways to combat this reality by using abandoned cart emails. But it doesn’t matter how great your email content is if your subject line flops when it hits your contact’s inbox.
Subject lines are what sell the click to open the email.
It’s a small but mighty piece of marketing real estate that even the most seasoned marketers can struggle with nailing this one part of their email marketing.
That’s why today we’re covering:
- What are abandoned cart emails?
- 5 types of subject lines to use to help people complete their purchase
- 3 best practices for your abandoned cart emails
What are abandoned cart emails?
Abandoned cart emails are generally a series of emails (and even SMS) that are triggered to send when someone adds items to their cart but leaves an online store without making a purchase.
More likely than not, you’ve received more than your fair share of these types of emails. Usually, you’ll see a promotional email, click on the website and browse around a bit while you add items to your shopping cart.
However, somewhere along the line, you didn’t follow through on the purchase and later got an email that says something along the lines of, “Yo, your cart is calling!” with a call to action (CTA) to get back to your cart.
That’s an abandoned cart email.
It sounds like a familiar tale because all of us (including your aged grandparents) have done this more times than we can probably remember.
But these handy little email reminders work really really well at getting folks to come back to your site and make a purchase. In fact, these types of email campaigns save anywhere from 3-14% of those potentially lost sales.
Now that’s the type of sales-ready emails we’d all want to have running in the background of our business, don’t you think?
You can send as little as one or as many as ten reminder emails, although most brands find something closer to the middle as the right amount.
Why do potential customers abandon their emails in the first place?
In 2019, the average cart abandonment rate was 77.13%, but in 2021, that number jumped up to over 81%. Why the increase?
We can speculate about it night and day, but the chances are that with more people being at home the past couple of years, it’s just more of the same things that have always made people abandon their shopping carts.
Most people don’t complete their purchase because:
- They’re just “window shopping.” We all know this is true. How many times have you added a bunch of stuff to your Amazon cart only to sit on it for a week? (*guilty*)
- The checkout process was too long or complicated.
- The shipping costs were too much.
This is just a shortlist of reasons, and there are plenty of other reasons why it happens. It’s always good to look at the common reasons so you can figure out areas for improvement outside.
But now that you’re aware of some areas you can make changes outside of email, let’s get back to the nuts and bolts of this thing and start chatting about email subject lines.
What’s the best length for abandoned cart email subject lines?
The short answer: It depends.
That’s not a solid answer; I get it. But it varies quite a bit because opening an email on a computer gives much more room for a subject line while using an email client on a mobile device to open the same email.
If you want to know the best length for your brand, start by looking at your email marketing data. If your subscribers mostly open emails on a mobile device, a shorter subject line could be better.
If you’re just getting started and don’t have access to that sort of data, then aim for a shorter subject line since mobile email opens tend to be more popular.
However, just making your subject line short isn’t going to be an instant winner.
Copywriting skills will help you make the most of your subject line. If you want to brush up on email marketing copywriting, feel free to download our free ebook about copywriting.
5 types of abandoned cart emails worth stealing
The subject line leads into the email so, let’s consider the type of emails you’ll send and dig into the subject lines that go along with that.
1. The “Tap On the Shoulder” email
These are the “friendly reminder” emails that you’ll usually see as a first email in an abandoned cart email sequence.
They are sent about an hour or so after someone doesn’t check out and act to remind them they left something in the cart in the hope they go back and finish.
The subject lines usually attached to these types of emails often look like this:
- Heading out without checking out? (Huckberry)
- Did you forget something? (Casper)
- You Forgot Something (Public Rec)
- Leave something behind? (Moment)
- Where did you go? (Dollar Shave Club)
These are good examples because they tend to stand out in an email. They’re an alert without being too alarming and make someone go, “Oh yeah, I need to finish that checkout.”
A lot of brands mix up the verbiage for this type of abandoned cart subject line. Here are some keywords you could use in yours:
- Forget/ forget
- Whoops/ oops
- Leave/ left
Don’t overthink it. You can spend a few minutes jotting down some ideas using these words and be able to come up with something worth using.
Now, the subject line is just part of the deal.
It’s what get’s people to open it, but the content inside the email will work to seal the deal. So let’s look at a good example of this email type and see what we can learn.
Key Takeaways from this Email
- Use of their logo. You want to make it easy for people to know who this email is coming from, and using your logo at the start of your email is a great way to do that.
- They use “Saved” as their keyword. Like in our list above, using the right keywords help drive sales.
- They have two calls to action. CTAs are a vital part of your reminder emails, and they included 2: one at the start and another a little later. They also changed what the button says, as one may work better than another.
- They offer other items outside of the cart. This isn’t necessary, but it can be a nice touch and helps keep the flow open for people to design their own experience with you. That’s part of what providing great customer service is nowadays.
2. The “Incentivized Offer” email
One BIG reason for people not checking out is hidden costs like shipping. Whatever the reason is, we hate to pay for shipping even though we rely on things to be shipped to us all the time.
But since you know that people are likely looking for free shipping, you can use that to your advantage in your emails and offer free shipping. The subject line for an email like this looks similar:
- The price dropped for something in your cart. (Target)
- ✨ Free Shipping Sitewide Ends Sunday ✨ (Attention Grace)
- Welcome + Free Shipping (Rigby)
- Free Shipping Just for You! (Tattly)
- Free 2-Day Shipping—Today Only (Everlane)
- Don’t let free shipping go to waste (Rudys Barbershop)
- Free Shipping, Free Returns: Easy, Risk-Free Shopping With Teva (Teva, obviously)
As you can see from the list above, there are many ways you can frame the free shipping incentive. And that’s a good thing. You want your brand voice to shine through in areas where it can, and sometimes, that can be in your subject line.
Notice how Attention Grace uses emojis. Emojis have a place in email and can be a great way to make your email pop. Teva addresses concerns like returns and free shipping while using “risk-free” to put buyers at ease.
Really you only need to know two words for this subject line:
This example from United by Blue bends the phrase another way by saying orders over $150 “Ship Free.”
It’s different, but it gets the point across, which is what you’re going for. If you’re going for a little less design in your email, then you could go the route of Huckberry.
From there, you can build out your subject line for your emails, but feel free to take some creative risk too. Here are some ideas to make your subject line pop:
- Use an emoji or two. You don’t want to go too crazy here, but a couple of emojis every once in a while can make your email stand out.
- Try using only lowercase. I know, I know. Capitalization is part of proper grammar, blah blah blah. But you’re not writing this to ace a test, you’re doing it to stand out, and this stands out a lot.
- Throw in a bit of FOMO. You can do this by making free shipping have a deadline. Like, “Free Shipping. Only 24 hours left.” It’s the same offer, but now you’ve applied a bit of pressure and that it can be all that’s needed to get them to pull out their card and make the purchase.
- Test what works for you (but don’t get too hung up on it.) A/B testing subject lines can work to help you figure out what’s working for your audience. You may not be able to do this with great results for much longer (we’ll get to that later), but for now, it could be applied to your abandoned cart funnel so you can start to get a feel for what’s working.
3. The “Your Item Is Running Out” email
Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a popular sales tactic because simply put, it works. It seems like an odd thing that we as people would be “afraid” of something like not buying that one thing we wanted, but we really don’t like the feeling.
While you don’t want to go overboard with pulling at the psychological strings, it does have a place, and this sort of email could be exactly what your abandoned cart sequence needs.
Here are some ideas for your subject line that other brands have used:
- Final call: Last chance to save (Google Store)
- Last hours to save $600 (Eight Sleep)
- Marvel x TOMS | Selling out fast! (TOMS)
- Time is running out to save 25% ⏰ (hims)
- Final Hours, Last Chance to Save! (Joybird)
You can see from the above examples that words like “last chance” and “final” tend to be used over and over. Other ideas to use would be something like:
- X days/hours left
- The item in your cart is selling out
- Selling fast/out
- Your cart is expiring
If you examine the email copy above, you’ll see that Google actually manages this email with great finesse.
Rather than simply stating the item in this person’s cart is literally running out, they say, “Just a heads up: our more popular items sell out fast.”
This is a much more honest alert, almost like a polite salesman letting you in a little-known fact that you’d rather know. But there are a lot of ways you can apply the FOMO tactic. Take this example from Society6.
They could have just said, “We reserved your cart!” and then used the CTA to take the customer to the checkout process. But they take it a couple of steps further with two marketing tactics:
- They used FOMO. They gave the cart a shelf life by saying they’d only reserve this cart for 48 hours.
- They offered an incentive. They used the CTA to incentivize the purchase by offering a 30% off discount.
It’s subtle, but that’s what makes it a pretty great example. They already have a decent headline and a CTA without using these two tactics. But they managed to slip them both into the copy real estate of the main heads and CTA.
As a copywriter, I’ll say it:
Keep those two tactics in mind when you’re putting together both your abandoned cart email subject lines and email itself.
4. The “It’s Back In Stock” email
This may seem like a strange one to put in your abandoned cart series, but it's a great way to keep the conversation going a little later in the funnel. With a “back in stock” email, you can frame it around a popular item and alert people that the best seller is ready to buy.
Another way to do this is to use personalization to let them know an item they viewed in your store or added to the cart before is now back in stock. Either way, you’re putting content in front of them that will likely resonate and turn into a sale.
Here are some subject line ideas for this email type:
- Stay Asleep is Back in Stock! (Sandland)
- Guess what's BACK in stock? 😱🎉 (Tech Will Save Us)
- Our Linen Shirts Have Returned (Everlane)
- OMG! It’s back in stock. The Crying Unicorn Candle (Firebox)
- See What's Back In Stock. (Public Goods)
The key phrase here is “back in stock,” but you can see that Everlane and Birdiebee changed up phrasing a bit to make things their own. And Tech Will Save Us added emojis for an on-brand, fun flare because it worked for them.
This example from Public Goods uses the phrase “They’re back” and covers popular items that are back in stock. This is a great framework inside an abandoned cart email series because it does a few things well.
- It keeps the conversation going. If they didn’t purchase the items in their cart, that doesn’t mean they hate you. You just need to keep at it in a polite way. Showing items are in stock is a great way to keep people interested and shows you’re still interested in them.
- It shows more products. A pleasant-looking email can do a lot to get people back to your site and explore your store’s products again.
- It makes them feel a bit special. The copy in the email says, “We wanted you to know first.” And that’s true, you do want them to know, and it’s nice to make people feel just that little bit special.
When it comes to this email type, play around with the phrasing, but if nothing comes to mind, stick with the tried and true “back in stock.”
5. The “Would You Like a Discount?” email
We all love discounts. All of us. So when you’re down to the wire, and you want to nab the sale, offering a discount could be the clincher.
Before you jump to do that, be sure to do the math on the offer you’re considering to make sure it doesn’t throw off your profits.
Take a look at home these brands use subject lines for their discount emails:
- Last chance to save 40% off on Grammarly Premium (Grammarly)
- 🗳️ 1/2 OFF SALE! Save 50% on A Kids Book About Voting (A Kids Book About )
- Bonus Gift: Last chance to save on June. (June Oven)
- Today only: Save on Stadia Premiere Edition (Google)
- Limited-time Offer | Save Up to $120 (Bose)
- Unbox a Grizzly… Save 58%! (TunnelBear)
- Last day to save 30% (Process Type Foundry)
- It’s On: Save 15% Storewide at the Herman Miller Holiday Sale (Herman Miller)
The big word you’ll notice?
But other phrases and words tend to work as well:
- Take $XX off
- Take XX% off
- Last chance
- Last day
- Half off
In general, using the actual savings amount (either percentages or dollars) can be pretty effective in the subject lines of these emails.
However, a lot of brands mention how much will be saved and throw in some FOMO by calling it the last chance or limited offer.
It’s a creative and compelling way to make the most out of the subject line and something you can use to your advantage too.
Test Your Subject Lines While You Still Can
A lot of advice out there will mention testing your subject lines. A/B testing is great, but now that iOS 15 is out and gaining traction, A/B testing subject lines is becoming a bit of a moot point.
You can still test this part of your email for now so that you’re taking advantage of it, but eventually, you’re going to want to try multivariate testing your email content to see if changing the format or offer improves conversions.
With multivariate testing, you can test up to four variations of your emails:
- Your subject line. Take advantage of that while you still can.
- Your content inside your email. This has the most options. With the content inside your email, you can test everything from CTAs to images and really anything inside the email. Since test variations inside email are still trackable, this is a viable option to get the most out of your abandoned cart emails.
Abandoned Cart Email Best Practices for Your Brand
We’ve just covered a lot of subject line ideas for your abandoned cart emails. But as you get your automated funnel rolling along, there are a few best practices you’ll want to consider.
1. Get permission and make it clear
Getting permission to send people marketing emails is important. That’s why buying an email list is always a big no-no.
Even when people sign up to your email list, that’s not always a clear sign that you got their permission. To make it clear that they’re going to be receiving promotional emails from you, you can do two things:
- Add a tick box to your pop-ups that they’re required to check before they sign up. Make sure to mention that by ticking that box, they are permitting you to send them content.
- Use double opt-in. This keeps your site clean, and it's a great way to gather permission from contacts.
2. Always give them a way out
We don’t want to be getting emails from the brands forever.
Maybe we lost interest, maybe we don’t shop there anymore since we moved away, or maybe it’s just that we don’t want to keep getting so many emails.
Whatever the case is, people may not want to get emails from you forever so you should make it easy for them to unsubscribe. This is easily done with a small button at the bottom of an email.
Don’t try to remove it.
Leave it there and let people make their exit when they want to.
This is better anyway because it helps keep only people on your list who are truly interested in your brand and making purchases.
3. Keep customer data secure
This is a big one nowadays.
Savvy consumers are aware they have personal data out there globally, and brands are expected to do all they can to keep it secure.
SEMRush covers some great tips for how to protect customer data, but you’ll be happy to know that Sendlane put this as a top priority for our customers, which means it’s less of a worry for both you and your customers.
You can’t escape abandoned carts, but you can deal with them them
It’s just going to happen. It’s the reality of how we shop in a digital world.
And since we can’t avoid it, we should do all we can to find ways to deal with it. The tried-and-true method for that is abandoned cart email funnels.
Bonus points for weaving in SMS/MMS marketing into your automation funnels to maximize reach and conversions! Inside Sendlane, you can unite your email and SMS efforts under one roof for a seamless user experience.
If you want to get more information about how to set your funnel up correctly, be sure to read our Definitive Guide to Abandoned Cart Emails ebook.