When To Send Your Abandoned Cart Emails: Complete Guide

Written by

Bogdan Mihalache


February 16, 2022

When To Send Your Abandoned Cart Emails: Complete Guide

When it comes to marketing, abandoned cart emails are a must. These emails are sent automatically after a customer abandons their shopping cart, and they're crucial for driving up sales. 

But when should you send these emails? How often? What content should be included? 

Often, the answer to these questions depends on your business's goals, but after creating what feels like thousands of abandoned cart emails over the last five years, I decided to put together this guide so you can make the best decision for your business. 

Here’s what we'll cover:

  1. What Is An Abandoned Cart Email
  2. How To Send Smart Abandoned Cart Emails
  3. What Content Should You Include In Each Email
  4. My Favourite 4-Email Abandoned Cart Playbook

What Is An Abandoned Cart Email

The truth is, we don’t need to get into fancy definitions for abandoned cart emails. We all abandon carts daily. Just think about it. What was the last thing you added to your cart but didn’t actually buy?

For me it was a pre-workout with whiskey sour flavour (that’s my favourite cocktail) Obviously, I had to have it, but somehow I reassured myself that I don’t actually need it…

We’ve all been there. And I mean all of us. In fact, 70% of all online shopping carts are abandoned. 

That’s why it’s so important to send a follow-up. Otherwise, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to recover lost revenue for your business. 

That pre-workout I’ve just mentioned. They were smart enough to follow up three times on my abandoned purchase, the last of which had a pretty sweet 25% discount with it.

Spoiler alert: I bought it. 

Chances are, if I wouldn’t have received those emails, I wouldn’t have made my purchase. That’s why the abandoned cart email series can have a significant ROI, and the odds are in your favour when it comes to recovering otherwise lost revenue.

How To Send Smart Abandoned Cart Emails

My philosophy is that if you’re going to do it, you should do it right. 

It doesn’t have to be anything complicated, but you want to make sure you tick some boxes when you first create your abandoned cart series emails. 

  1. Avoid discounts for the first two emails
  2. Use urgency and scarcity in your favour to get them over the line
  3. Communicate your brand’s USPs
  4. Split your emails based on cart value
  5. Go for the hard sale at the end

Let’s take them one by one. 

Avoid discounts for the first two emails

You do not want to include discount codes in your first reminders. Imagine a sales person welcoming a potential client through the door and then shoving the contract in their face to sign. 

Ultimately, your goal is to generate a response by sending a gentle reminder; wait until later to play the discount card. Remember, this is just a primer. By the time you send them a coupon, they’ll already be thinking, “Just take my money.”

Use urgency and scarcity

Next up, urgency and scarcity. You don’t have to overkill it with these, but simple copywriting elements such as “Time is running out” or “It’s selling out fast” usually work quite well. 

The key is to not write your email like a marketing email. For the first two emails, I would go for the customer service approach and top it up with a couple of urgency elements. 

For example: 

Hey there, Bogdan from Email Kong here. I see you added something to your cart but didn’t checkout. Is there anything I can help with? Hit reply on this email and you’ll go straight to the top of my inbox. 

Remember, our products usually sell out fast. Avoid seeing those “out of stock” notifications.

I’ve added a list of the items in your cart below. You can continue your purchase using the link at the bottom of this email. 

Speak soon,

You see what I did here? It’s personal, it feels real and genuine. Almost like I’ve literally taken time out of my day to send them an email and ask if they need any help. And then I’ve concluded my email with a little urgency element. 

Communicate your brand’s USPs

We often forget that just because someone subscribed to your email list (in this case abandoning their purchase while on your website), doesn’t mean they know everything about your brand.

Use this as an opportunity to tell them why they should buy from you. Why are you unique? What makes you so special?


Why should they buy from you? What’s in it for them? Remember the selfish benefit. All of us have one thing in mind: “What’s in it for me?”

Make people like you and your brand by being authentic and focusing on your brand’s USPs. 

Take Dyson for example. Their cart abandonment includes a small section in the footer of the email simply titles “Reasons to shop at Dyson”

Don’t overcomplicate it. What are the reasons people should buy from you?

Something to think about.

Split your emails based on cart value

We’re getting into more advanced territory here, but you should always consider your profitability when it comes to Abandoned Cart strategies. 

Sending incentives or discounts is great, but always keep in mind your AOV (average order value) 

Your average order value (AOV) tracks the average dollar amount spent each time a customer places an order on your website. To calculate your company's average order value, simply divide total revenue by the number of orders.

You do not want to slowly decrease your AOV with dozens (if not hundreds) of discounts being sent each month to abandon carts. 

A simple way to ensure your AOV is protected is to offer discounts based on cart value. 

For example: 

Let’s say your AOV = $50. 

Split your abandoned cart emails into 2 paths. 

  1. Cart value is equal or greater than $50 -> 10% discount code
  2. Cart value is smaller than $50 -> no discount code

This is often Email 3 of your abandoned cart sequence. That’s when you want to hit your subscribers with an incentive.

Go for the hard sale at the end

The hard sale happens in Email 4. Personally, I only send the fourth email to everyone who already got a discount. (and by default had a higher cart value). 

Of course, you can choose to follow up with a fourth email to everyone. However, I’ve found from experience that if someone hasn’t converted by that point, without an incentive, the fourth email won’t do much more to get them over the line.

This is the email where you want to bring in the big guns. Add urgency and scarcity elements to try and get the purchase.

What Content Should You Include In Each Email (and when should you sent them)

Email 1 - 1 hour after

Your first email should go out 1 hour after they abandoned their cart. You’ve probably seen this email 1,000 times. The one that usually has a subject line similar to, “Did you forget something?” (but honestly, you can do better).

This is an opportunity for you to stand out, to make people like your brand by being authentic and focusing on customer service. 

You can see an example below on this email I created for one of my clients: Beija.London

Email 2 - 24 hours after

Your second email will have very similar content to the first email in your series (and will have the same goal). The only difference is that you want to add a bit more urgency and include a couple of unique selling points. (example: did you know you get free shipping with this order?)

Don’t give any discounts yet. The added urgency might just be enough to seal the deal.

For your USPs, you might choose to add social proof, educate the shopper about your brand, or offer credibility. 

Email 3 - 48 hours after

Your third email is where things get more advanced. Here is where we will introduce a discount to seal the deal. However, we only want to send the discount to one set of subscribers: the ones who have a high cart value.

The simplest way to determine the ideal cart value is by looking at your AOV (average order value). If, for example, your AOV is approx. $50, then users who have a cart value higher than $50 will receive a discount, the others won’t.

I strongly recommend using this tactic to preserve your AOV and keep high profitability!

Email 4 - 72 hours after

This last email is for people that are a bit harder to sell than you had originally thought. NOTE: We’re only sending the last email to everyone who received a discount in Email 3-A. 

The reason you’re emailing is to remind them their discount will expire soon. Yes, it’s that straightforward. 

This will most likely be your third best performing email within the sequence, so don’t think it’s impossible to convert at this point.

Some cool resources for you👇

Learn the best practices behind an effective email flows strategy for eCommerce stores!

Download my free swipe file here.

Discover the abandoned cart strategy behind today’s fastest-growing 7-figure eCommerce stores!