How to Execute The Perfect Cart Abandonment Email [Infographic]

This week’s infographic is courtesy of, presenting stats on email timing, subject lines and content and their effect on cart recovery emails based on a study of 200 brands.

Click to blow up this infographic

Takeaways and comments:

Timing matters. Conversion rate drops as time passes from abandonment – 50% within 24 hours. Within 60 minutes is recommended based on this data

Test subject lines. Including your company name has the highest impact on open rates, just edging out product details. Remember, cart recovery emails are not the same as your regular campaigns, don’t rely on what works for your core program.

Content (and design) is king. The averages presented in the infographic are interesting, but the sample layout is just that – a sample. Where you put each link and design element influences click through rate as well. Test your templates and call-to-action labels, and make sure each of these elements are indeed clickable.


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30 Responses to “How to Execute The Perfect Cart Abandonment Email [Infographic]”

  1. Viktor says:

    Great infographic, made me look through our autoresponder program.

    Wonder if less than 20 minutes would increase conversion further? Or is that too soon? Is 20 minutes the low end of sending out this email?

    • I believe I’ve heard from SeeWhy research stats on immediate cart recovery emails, but I can’t find this data online. I will ping them and see if they’ll share their answer on Get Elastic, as they have done the most extensive research on abandoned carts and recovery.

      • Steven says:

        Hi Linda,

        I’ve spoken with SeeWhy in the past and they recommend the following when it comes to cart abandonment campaigns.

        First follow-up = Immediately
        Second follow-up = 23 hours
        Third and final follow-up = 6 days

        Really great infographic, thanks for sharing.

  2. James Daniel says:

    What is the source of the information? Also by emailing after 20 minutes there has to be the issue of traffic cannibalisation?

    Would be good if somebody could clarify.


  3. Alice Ly says:

    50% within 24 hours! Very interesting data.

    I find myself abandoning a cart when a store doesn’t disclose shipping upfront and I get unhappily surprised when it gets to that part in the process.

    Perhaps the sender can also take in consideration at which point the viewer left as design, requiring too much information, or undisclosed fees can also be a factor too. Because even if a cart abandonment email was sent within 60 minutes, it may not close the sale anyway if it’s either of those factors that the email cannot fix.

  4. A couple of notes from the author :)

    Thanks for all the comments guys, the data is very interesting and some of results surprised even us – particularly the variety links in the email creative that will get a customer back to site.

    Firstly, the data source is a selection of 200 global brands that we work with at SaleCycle in the retail and fashion industry. You can see a snapshot of these brands at:

    @Viktor – We have done some work with our brands looking at even quicker response times, but generally advise against it. Primarily as there is a risk of cannibalising ‘natural recoveries’ where people will still complete their purchase without prompting, and we want to ensure a natural customer journey as much as possible.

    As James points out, we do a lot of work with our clients to look at the impact an email might have on the customer experience – and this plays closely to the types of emails we advise our clients to send which are relevant (personalised, product details, etc) and focus on enforcing the strength of the brand (to which the customer has already bought into).

    @Alice – Great points. We work closely with our brands to look at their online process and the likely reasons for abandonment. Like you, I will often abandon a sale if the shipping costs are not clearly advised upfront, so that’s a great starting point. As is minimising the number of steps required, offering multiple payment options and offering to save basic customer information.

    A good basket abandonment email will enforce the brands basic reasons for shopping in the first place (e.g. great product design, excellent service, etc.) and be a reminder for any benefits that may exist (e.g. Remember we offer free shipping for orders over $50, or no fuss returns).

    • James Daniel says:

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for your response. Apologies I’ve just got around to replying.

      My point was similar to that of John below, we’ve done some testing at our end and find our natural return rate to be c.12% and the average time of return 8 hours 45 minutes.

      Therefore 20 minutes would not suffice for us, neither would ‘immediately’. What about those customers who had a browser crash and had every intention of completing? We’d just be paying somebody else for custom we’d already be receiving. Which of course you guys will recommend as you won’t get paid otherwise.

      Also thanks for clarifying the source etc.



      • Hi James,

        These are very relevant considerations, but we look at response time and recovery time as 2 different things. It may take 24hrs to recover a sale, but the influence from an earlier email is always evident in our findings.

        In addition, we have the uplift in natural recovery that brands get when running at 20mins… i.e. people who opened, but didn’t click and went back to purchase.

        In our studies you can double your natural recovery rate without paying for it – that’s the beauty!

        Give me a shout at if you chat through some of the AB Split testing we are doing in more detail.

        Chris :)

  5. 20 mins is far too soon – that would eat into my natural return rate.

  6. I’ve also read about the 20min sweet spot, but as a consultant on multiple large ecommerce websites, the honest truth is that every site is different and finding that ultimate time depends on multiple factors. I find that if the products being sold are highly price sensitive like electronics then 20min is to early because they are shopping around and closer to 1hr works better. If it’s a very high ticket item like jewellery, again 20min is not ideal because a shopper needs more time to think if they are on the fence. Some sites I’ve worked on like ticketing for holidays or concerts etc, 20min might be to long….
    Anyway, I think you get my point. Great infographic aswell!

  7. Nice, I just pinned it. That’s an insane open rate but i guess they are already almost pre-sold you just need to give some visitors that little push to send them over the edge.

  8. @Daniel/John – You’ve hit the nail on the head! As with all good email marketing it comes down to testing and finding out what works best for the brand (and their customers!).

  9. Jason McMahon says:

    I agree that the optimum time differs from site to site (or more likely, by service type). We looked at abandonment and natural return time and set our program accordingly. Our campaign is a simple 1 stage email, it has a 56% open rate and delivers between 4-3% of the gross revenue of the estore.

    Also, we don’t incentives the return, there are no discounts offered in the email.

  10. That sounds like a great campaign Jason – A good example of not having to use incentives to generate results as well.

    One thing it might be worth considering is a 2nd Cycle email 24 hours after the first campaign and sent to customers who have not yet returned to site – this would typically add an additional 1-2% to those already great figures.

    Paul Smith have just released a nice example:

  11. I was a bit surprised to hear that sites are even doing abandoned cart emails as early as 20 minutes after abandonment — I don’t think I’ve gotten an abandonment email that quickly, myself.

    My initial reaction was that the 20-minute timing seems a bit “aggressive.” Is there any way to test whether, although a 20-minute email may be successful at achieving (say) a 50% open rate and a 5% conversion rate, there is some percentage of users who get annoyed by the email and not only do not return to the site immediately, but avoid visiting it in the future?

    Here’s a hypothetical set of user reactions to getting an email from a site 20 minutes after abandoning their cart there:

    5% – Return to the site and complete the abandoned transaction;
    85% – Indifferent to the email;
    10% – Get annoyed by what they perceive as “aggressive” marketing, and never return to the site in the future (when they otherwise would have returned).

    In other words, although the email results in a visible short-term gain, there’s also a less-visible long term loss. I have no idea whether that 10% figure is anywhere near accurate, though — the real figure might be 1%, or 0%. Some users might actually *like* the timely follow-up (even if they don’t return to the site), and perceive it as good customer service.

    • Jason McMahon says:

      Hi Jon,
      we looked at visitor behaviour and worked out the best time to deploy the abandonment email based, We did this by monitoring the traffic and looking at how long it took for abandoning customers to come back and make the purchase. We then chose a point where by we were happy that most people would have returned. This is a little tricky obviously as you also want to bring the abandonee back before they became someone else’s customer. There are a number of people who are likely to return and complete the purchase organically, without the campaign prompting them, but the conversion of other customers who now return outweighs any negative actions. If you feel it necessary, you could use 2 different campaigns with different rules depending on whether the abandonee is an existing customer or a new prospect (loyalty perhaps breeds understanding?).

      In terms of customers becoming annoyed with aggressive marketing, my personal opinion would be that it depends on your market. I think that younger people are less likely to be put off by early emails as they are so plugged-in and accustomed to receiving information by email. I’m also not sure if the older generation would be put off (my parents love the ease inbox purchasing offers them), however I believe that middle block of people (of which I am one), is very suspicious of marketing; possibly as we have seen the growth of the internet and also watched as the world was scammed and seen data ripped off and abused. As I said it’s my opinion and based only on my own experiences as an email marketer.

  12. Jeremy Campbell says:

    Late to the party here, but just getting started implementing our own triggered abandonment emails. One thing that I didn’t see addressed here (and haven’t been able to find much info by Googling) is when/how do you determine if a cart is abandoned? After a window is closed? After a certain amount of inactivity? Is there a standard way of doing it? If not, it seems like people could be talking apples and oranges here – if one person is waiting for 30 minutes of inactivity and then sending 20 minutes after that and another is waiting 10 for example.

      • Jeremy Campbell says:

        Hey Linda, Thanks for the reply. I’ve read that page (twice now) and I’m seeing a lot of talk about how soon after abandonment to send the email, but, unless I missed it, nothing about how to decide when to consider a cart abandoned. Please let me know if I missed it somewhere!


        • OK I was thinking about the timeout issue, covered in that article. Generally, the cart is considered abandoned when the user actively closes the window or the session times out.

          • Jeremy Campbell says:

            Ok that makes sense. If it were on window close it would be the same, but I would imagine session length varies a lot depending on platform. If one person is sending 20 minutes after abandonment and has a 20 minute session, that’s very different than someone who is sending 20 minutes after abandonment with an hour session, which is very different from someone who closes their window.

            In fact, if we’re going to be scientific about it, I would take it further and look at the data separately for people who’s session ended and people who closed their window. People who closed their window are getting the email 20 minutes after their last action on the site, and people who’s session ended are getting it 20 minutes + session length time. If the optimal time is determined to be 30 minutes later and your session length is 20 minutes, you should probably trigger emails 10 minutes after session expire and 30 minutes after window close.

            Maybe that’s what people are doing, but it’s not clear from the data being presented. I would love to hear SeeWhy and others who weighed in on this address the issue.


          • My thoughts on session timeout regardless the time window is the customer hasn’t necessarily finished their research/cart refining process. If you’re like me who has 3 browsers, multiple windows and a bazillion tabs open, I can pogo stick back and forth. In my mind, I’m still shopping and I haven’t “abandoned” my cart. If I actively close my window, I would imagine a trigger would be more welcome. I would love to see segmented numbers between timeouts and active closures.

  13. Jeremy Campbell says:

    Yeah that makes a lot of sense!

  14. Vivian says:

    Hi, how do you decide if the the cart has been abandoned? When the person has left the page? When the account is dormant for X amount of time? Or some other ways?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Either a closed browser or session timeout.

      • Jeremy Campbell says:

        I had hoped to get more detail from people about this as well. After a bit of Googling, it seemed that the closing of a browser window is very difficult to capture accurately. In any case, since I last posted, we got up and running with our program. We are on Magento and use an extension called Follow Up Email by Aheadworks.

        Only after several emails with their support did I finally glean that they consider a cart abandoned after 1 hour of inactivity. This can be changed with a tweak to the code, but we decided to trigger our emails after 24 hours to begin with. Unfortunately we don’t have the ability to A/B different times, so we are going to do that for a while, then try after 1 hour and see how it effects conversions/click/unsubscribe rates, etc.

        • Jason McMahon says:

          We went a little further than just working out when the session ended, we looked at the average time that a customer returned on that same day to complete the purchase. then we set the abandonment campaign to be delivered at a time that we felt allowed people enough time to return without prompting, while being soon enough to encourage those on the edge of purchase to come back with a positive decision.

          It’s a little more work, but it means you kind of tackle the question of “how many would come back anyway?” head on.

          • Jeremy Campbell says:

            Thanks Jason. That seems like a good way to do it – especially if you have reason to be concerned about annoying your customer base. What you were looking at as the indicator that they had left and returned – or from what point did you begin measuring the time?

            I actually spoke to someone about this yesterday. Interestingly they didn’t bother with detecting the abandonment itself, but they measured the time from when the customer first added an item to their cart. I’m not sure how they decided how long to wait (I should ask), but he did mention that they had a 7 email series, and if they were returning to a previously existing cart, it remembered where they were in the series. 7 emails is beyond overkill for us, but nice to make sure you avoid bothering people over and over with the same email.

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