The Meat and Potatoes of Cart Abandonment Email Sequences

by Josh Barney

Busy? Multi-task with our audio version: 


Selling online?

Einstein Marketer’s regular readers will remember our post, 7 Out of 10 People Abandon Their Digital Shopping Cart, Let’s Make that CHANGE! Since I published that guide, I’ve received tons of messages about the (promised) follow-up, cart abandonment email sequences…

…well guys, today is your lucky day!

If you’re selling online, thinking about getting stuck into ecommerce or dropshipping, or simply have an email sequence that is not converting, stick around, this article is chock-a-block with info that you can’t afford to miss.

Let’s start with a painful fact, approximately 70% of people who load up their digital shopping cart, abandon it before making the purchase. That leaves you with just 3 of 10 customers.

cart abandonment email sequence

(I’m hoping that a lot of you have reduced that figure already, using the guide I mentioned a minute ago)

Even those with the sleekest, friction-less and straightforward check-out processes will still see high levels of cart abandonment, so what can we do about the people who get away?

Two things:

#1: The first (and something that I don’t want to cover in too much depth in this article) is Facebook retargeting ads. By placing a Facebook pixel on your site, you can retarget every visitor of your store. In other words, anybody who enters your website, will see an advert for your product/brand on their newsfeed. These convert really well, and you must be running them!

I’ve already published a couple of guides about retargeting, which I’ll link at the bottom of this post, but no sweat, I’ll bring out a new one soon, detailing how to set them up quickly and easily for e-commerce.  

#2: The second is cart abandonment email sequences, AKA the reason we’re all here.

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The (Expensive) Common Errors

Before we get into all the must-haves, tips, tricks and sequence frameworks, I need to dispel a myth:


I really want you to understand that, so read it again. Read it twice if you have to! Go for it a third time!

I see this error all the time and it’s so frustrating. So many businesses immediately follow-up a cart abandonment by offering a discount! It’s desperate, skips out techniques that guarantee to draw people back through the buying process and limits your average customer value.

cart abandonment email sequence

Yes, we want to convert as many people as possible, but ideally, we want them all to buy at full-price, right?

Offering an immediate discount is lazy. Stop doing it.

Another big mistake is the one-page buying process.

Our other cart abandonment post runs through every reason that people abandon their cart (and how to handle these objections). The 2nd and 3rd most common reasons are:

2nd: ‘The Site Wanted Me To Create An Account’- reason for 35% of cart abandonments

3rd: Too Long/Complicated Buying Process- 27% of cart abandonments.

The buying page should all be one webpage, most of you will have this already, what a lot of you won’t have is a page before this, that offers an OPTIONAL account set-up process, or a GUEST CHECKOUT.

cart abandonment email sequence

This is where you’re going to generate your cart abandonment email sequence list.

An email address takes moments to fill out for prospects, and allows us to monitor and grow our list.

When they fill out this field and move onto the next page, we MUST collect this information for our cart abandonment email sequence. Anybody who abandons their cart on the payment page, will be automatically tracked.

You can do this automatically with the help of software, plugins or web apps. Most of them are based on a monthly subscription price, but trust me, it’s worth it. $10-$40 a month isn’t a lot, and if you aren’t prepared to invest in your business, you should quit now.

A few examples of these cart abandonment email capturers and auto-responders are:

When you’ve got one of these set-up (or something similar) you’re ready to start boosting your sales with the help of a cart abandonment email sequence.


The Must Have Elements  (in EVERY EMAIL)

Yes, we’re sending out separate emails, but there are three elements that must be included in every communication.

This might sound simple, but I’ve seen clients who fail to include a number of these throughout their sequence. Tick each of these off for EVERY EMAIL.


  1. KILLER SUBJECT LINE- it goes without saying that every email should have a tempting message to increase open rates. So, why are loads of you getting lazy after the first email? I don’t want to say too much more here, because we’re going to get to subject lines very soon.

cart abandonment email sequence 

  1. PHOTO or VIDEO- If a picture tells a thousand stories, a video tells a million. YOU MUST include a photo or video at EVERY stage of your cart abandonment sequence. Don’t send out emails that are purely text. They might work in email marketing, but not in a cart abandonment sequence.

cart abandonment email sequence

  1. CALL TO ACTION- people like buttons. Underlined, blue hyperlinks are good and I encourage you to add 2 or 3 into your communications, but please make sure you’ve got a button with a strong CALL TO ACTION. Classic examples include, ‘COMPLETE MY ORDER’, ‘FINISH WHAT I STARTED’, ‘RETURN TO MY ITEMS’, ‘LET’S DO THIS’, ‘TAKE ME TO MY CART!’.

cart abandonment email sequence


Cart Abandonment Email Sequence: Tips and Tactics

Let’s pretend that you’ve been through every step in this article so far. You’ve resisted the urge to offer a discount, you’ve set-up your email capture page, installed a plugin and have a three point checklist for every email in your sequence.

Your next step, before creating the emails, is to understand the tactical skills that are needed to build out a successful sequence.

I’m going to run through four that are absolutely essential. There are more, but these will grab you the most conversions. When you’re all set-up, return to the blog and you should find another article about how to convert an extra 1-5%.

#1: Subject Lines  

How many emails have you ignored over the years? How many have you pushed straight to the spam folder? Or deleted without even opening?

If you’re anything like me, it’s a lot.

According to Convince&Convert, 35% of people open their emails based on the subject line alone!

And as for the other 65%, if you produce a compelling, unique and exciting subject line, the majority will follow.

cart abandonment email sequence

Start by adjusting your mentality. Don’t look at this email sequence like you’re trying to sell something, or encouraging prospects to spend their hard-earned cash, use the subject line to remind them that they’ve forgotten something that’s already theirs, and if they don’t act now, they’ll lose it.

Be direct and try to include some sort of urgency or scarcity.

Here’s a few of my favourites:

  • -Your Cart is About to Expire
  • -Cart Expired (Items MIGHT still be available) – perfect for follow-ups
  • -Did you forget something?
  • -Oops, something went wrong…
  • -Stock availability LOW, Your Cart is Reserved (temporarily)
  • -Your Final Warning! Last Chance!

There are a number of techniques available at different stages of your sequence. Just remember, the most effective are those that stand out and create intrigue and urgency.

#2: Timing

Most guides to email sequences give you hard and fast boundaries on timings. You need to delete that knowledge.

Statistics give us averages. They’re useful, but not something worth dictating the future of your business around.

When it comes to sequence timing, think about two things:

-Your target market

-Your product’s price point

As a general rule of thumb, young people are quicker to forget about their carts and move on, than older people. And cheap items escape the memory a lot faster than expensive ones.

cart abandonment email sequence

Look at it like this, if you abandoned a cart with a t-shirt in it, you’d need to be emailed quickly to remind you to buy, but if you abandoned a cart with a high-ticket item in it, like a television, you’d probably need a little longer to consider the purchase.

Your email sequences should strike when the prospect is still hot and has had enough time to psychologically prepare themselves for purchase.

If you’re into dropshipping, you probably operate with low-ticket items, this means striking fast and hard, (typically within 1 hour).

If you’re into ecommerce with bespoke products/services, you should wait a little longer, (1-24 hours)


#3: Device Optimisation

Most people are just like you: THEY CHECK THEIR EMAIL ON THEIR PHONES!

When you’re creating a draft for your sequence, send it to yourself and check: the format, subject line length, image load speed and size, copy length and CTA buttons on mobile.

cart abandonment email sequence

The majority of your prospects will open your emails via their mobile device, so make sure it isn’t messy, poorly formatted or unsuitable for mobile.

This is a step that you MUST not forget!


#4: FOMO

I love this word. I don’t know whether it’s purely the sound (when said aloud) or the effects it has on marketing campaigns, and to be honest I don’t care. FOMO is a must.

For anyone who doesn’t know, FOMO literally stands for Fear Of Missing Out, and when you figure out how to use it effectively, the world is yours.

Everyone has a psychological trigger that’s set off when they feel like they’re about to miss out on something. This is the FOMO effect, and is something that you must learn how to use.

I’ve written a detailed post about FOMO, and it’s crazy effects in an earlier post, What Your Marketing Campaigns Can Learn From the Northern Lights. If you’d like to learn more about FOMO, check it out!

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For now, think of supermarkets on Black Friday, of online stores ticking through sale after sale, think about the psychological rush to grab the last item off an empty shelf. That’s FOMO.

It can be induced in a number of ways, these include (but are not limited to):

  • -Item scarcity- when/if you’re running low on stock.
  • -Offer urgency- when you’ve created an offer that will expire in the next X hours or minutes.
  • -Limited edition– when you only run with a product for a limited time, and when it’s gone, it’s gone

Add one of these tactics to your cart abandonment email sequences and you’ll see a significant increase in buyers.


Cart Abandonment Email Sequence: The Basic Framework

As this is our first article about cart abandonment email sequences, we’re going to strip our formula down to its most basic 3 steps. When you’ve got this in place, you can start to add more emails (steps), and implement more advanced tactics.

If you’re running with a sequence that isn’t converting, I suggest stripping it down to this framework and building from there.

These 3 steps are proven to work, provided you follow everything in the rest of this article. When you’ve optimised these emails, and got your copy, subject lines, images, CTA’s etc. perfect, you can build 2 or 3 more emails into the process.


Email #1: The Reminder/Urgency Email (typically 0-24 hours after cart abandon, depending on target market and product)

cart abandonment email sequence

The first email in your sequence is a reminder that creates some kind of FOMO.

This email sticks to the psychological principle that your customer has forgotten something, NOT that you are trying to sell to them.

You must include a photo of the product/s they abandoned, with a small amount of text that seeds urgency.

And remember to stick to your brand principles!


Email #2: Up the FOMO Email (typically 24-48 hours after cart abandon)  

cart abandonment email sequence

This email is similar to the first, except it focusses a lot more on FOMO.

It is still a reminder and should include images of the items that have been abandoned, but must create a greater urgency to buy.

The simplest and most-commonly used tactic (because it works!) is to tell the prospects that you had reserved the items in their cart, but due to demand you can’t hold them any longer. You should include a cut-off time, and make sure that you seed the idea that these items won’t be available forever.

Your email should imply that your prospect is on the verge of missing out, unless they act immediately.

Email #3: The Incentive (3-5 days after cart abandon) 

cart abandonment email sequence

If your first two emails don’t do the trick, use an incentive.

This could be something as simple as free shipping, a discount, voucher or referral code.

Using an incentive as your last throw of the dice is the best way to ensure you convert as many prospects as possible, at the highest average value.



Cart abandonment email sequences are fundamental to your success. Even if you convert at a higher than average level, you’ll still find that these emails are a high revenue generating source.

With as many as 7 out of 10 people abandoning their shopping carts, you’re missing out on a lot of money, and your potential customers are missing out on the benefits of your products.

If you dislike email marketing, just remember, many people will have taken the time away from your site to consider the purchase. Don’t miss out on this revenue stream just because you’ve had a bad experience in the past.

And don’t forget, once these emails are tested and set-up, you’ll never have to work on them again, because they’re AUTOMATED!

What do you think of this basic framework as a cart abandonment email sequence? Have you had any success in the past? Leave a comment! Our audience would love to hear your opinion!

If you’d like to learn more about Facebook retargeting, check out our Guide to the What, Why and How of Retargeting.

You can learn more about Cart Abandonment with our guide, 7 out of 10 People Abandon Their Digital Shopping Cart.

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Josh is the Founder of We Imagine Media, an award-winning content marketer, best selling author and creator of the He creates and strategises content, sharing the most successful tactics with his lovely audience. He hates writing in the third person, follow him on the social links so he can get back to writing as himself.

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