4 email marketing best practices for abandoned carts

Every so often, one of our experts here at WhatCounts have a desire to chime in and drop some knowledge on everybody. Today, our senior strategist Fawn Young fills us in on some of the abandon cart educating she did while at MarketingSherpa. Take a look and see why you should be using these best practices to help drive more revenue.

I recently had the opportunity to attend the MarketingSherpa Summit as a Coach for their Coaching Clinic. My role was to meet one on one with marketers to discuss the topics of abandon cart best practices or ways to organically grow their list.

In today’s post I’d like to cover four best practices for abandon cart that many of the marketers I met with were surprised by. These were things they hadn’t considered in the past and were eager to put into practice.

4. The First Abandon Cart Message Is Considered A Transactional Message

Everyone knows what an abandon cart message is, but something that came as a surprise to many marketers that I met with is that the first abandon cart message is considered a transactional message. This means it can be sent to a contact whether they have opted into your promotional email campaigns or not.

In addition to the abandon cart message being a revenue driver, this opens up an opportunity to use it as a list growth tactic as well. Many marketers aren’t doing this today. By simply adding in a call to action to sign up for promotional emails within the message, marketers can begin adding new contacts to their list.

Keep in mind that from a best practice standpoint transactional messages must follow the 80/20 rule meaning 80 percent of the message content must be transactional in nature and the remaining 20 percent can be promotional. To be in compliance with this, be sure to keep the sign up callout as secondary content within that 20 percent promotional area.

Here’s a real life example from a company called Salt Life. Notice how they have incorporated a cta button to sign up for emails directly into their abandon cart message. The main cta buttons in this email are bright green and really pop out, while the “Sign up for Salt Life emails” button has been given a more subdued treatment. This ensures that the sign up button does not draw attention away from the main CTA. When clicked, the sign up button should lead directly to a sign up webform where the person can opt into promotional emails very easily.


If you are running a series of abandon cart messages, it’s only necessary to include the sign up callout in the first message since any subsequent messages are considered promotional and would only be sent to promotional contacts that have already opted into your email campaigns.

3. Capture The Shopper’s Email Address Early In The Checkout Process

Many of the marketers that I spoke with had no idea where they ask for the email address in their cart, and when we dug in and looked, it was always one of the very last steps. This is a missed opportunity since the first abandonment message is considered transactional and can therefore be sent to anyone, capturing the email address as early as possible in the cart process is imperative. By doing so, you are gaining a wider audience in which to trigger an abandonment message in the event the shopper doesn’t complete their purchase.

My recommendation is to audit your cart process and see where most shoppers abandon. Then make sure you are asking for their email address BEFORE that step.

2. Promotional Codes Should Be Designed As HTML Text Rather Than Part Of The Image

Everyone loves a good deal and many times a promotional code is associated with an abandon cart message. In the event you do use a promotional code in your email, the ideal scenario would be that the code would automatically be passed over with the click. That’s not possible for all marketers, so making sure the coupon code is displayed in a way that it is easy to copy and then later paste into the proper place in the cart is necessary. In order to accomplish this, the promotional code should be created as html text instead of part of the image.

My recommendation is to hold off until the final message of an abandon cart series to provide a coupon. This allows you to see if you can get the shopper to convert without giving a discount. Many times shoppers simply got distracted and a simple reminder email with no incentive does the trick to gain the sale. If you are only sending one abandon cart message, I recommend a/b testing to see if it is necessary to include an offer.

1. Offer Live Chat Within The Cart

Shoppers can get confused when it comes time to check out for a number of reasons. Instead of taking them out of the buying mindset by making them find a FAQ page or search for a customer service number to dial, live chat should be offered directly within the cart. Ideally the live chat feature would be available throughout the cart process to address any questions or concerns that may pop up as someone is checking out. However, if it can only be in one spot, place it in the area where you are seeing the highest bounce rate.

This example shows a non-invasive way to display chat within the checkout process. It’s there and easy to find if you need it, but it doesn’t overwhelm the cart and draw attention away from flowing through the cart process.


These are just four of many best practices to put into place when it comes to optimizing the cart process and abandon cart messages. Do you currently employ any or all of these methods? Did any of these surprise you?

Also check out 3 Things All Successful Email Marketers Do and 4 Email Types To Convert Subscribers To Customers.

More to explore…


Apple Mail Privacy Protection

What is Apple Mail Privacy Protection? Apple Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) is a feature available to Apple Mail users. MPP protects a user’s privacy by

Read More »

Media Manager upgrade

You may have noticed that your preferred browser provides a security warning for any mixed content. Recent changes in browsers such as Chrome, Firefox and

Read More »

Understanding DMARC

DMARC, or Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance, is an email authentication protocol that works alongside Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM). What

Read More »

Ready to See WhatCounts in Action?

Take your first step towards supercharged engagement!

This website stores cookies on your computer. These cookies are used to improve your website experience and provide more personalized services to you, both on this website and through other media. To find out more about the cookies we use, see our Privacy Policy. We won't track your information when you visit our site. But in order to comply with your preferences, we'll have to use just one tiny cookie so that you're not asked to make this choice again.