How to
By -

If you read the first installment in our recovery series, your emails should be designed to perfection: minimalist design, a killer call to action, and product images to boot. Now what? Execution. When to send the emails, how many to send, and what about that all-important subject line?

Following best practices when it comes to sending recovery emails can help boost conversions, send your open rates through the roof and deliver the ROI of your dreams. Don’t spend hours perfecting your email creative only to leave execution as an afterthought! Here’s how to deploy recovery emails that yield results:

Timing: It’s a science!

When we talk about sending recovery emails, we talk about timing – it’s everything. Most best practice guidance will tell you that 90% of your leads go cold within the hour. A Salecycle survey of 200 global brands corroborates this advice, revealing that recovery emails sent within 20 to 60 minutes of an abandoned cart yield more conversions than those sent between 1 and 42 hours later. However, what these conversion figures don’t tell you is the number of shoppers who would have returned to the checkout on their own accord – in other words, the natural return rate of an eCommerce site. Sending a recovery email quicker isn’t always better; there are some products and services that simply demand more time to mull over the purchase.

Before blasting that recovery email hot on the trail of an abandoned cart, consider the type of product or service that you’re selling: it it expensive? Is it complicated? Does it require extensive research? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may want to adjust the timeframe in which you deploy your first recovery email—your cart abandoners likely haven’t forgotten about a big ticket purchase within an hour of leaving it behind, they just need more time to think (about whether they want to eat ramen noodles for the next 3 months).


When does speed matter?

Quicken the pace of your recovery emails for less costly transactions and frivolous, impulse buys—like a pair of shoes that you love but don’t really need. In cases like this, sending a recovery email at lightning speed can really tip the scale for your cart/browse abandonners, particularly when there’s a little incentive (like free shipping) in tow. Wait longer than 60 minutes and you’re giving your shoppers too much time to scour the web for a better deal on a competitor’s website.

Create a recovery campaign.

Single email sends don’t have much traction in today’s competitive eCommerce market. We’re huge advocates of the drip campaign and its ability to attract, engage and convert prospective customers. Sending a series of triggered emails has proven to boost your chances of a successful conversion. While it’s up to you to determine how soon to send that first recovery email, we advise that you send each email that follows at least 24 hours later. As for the number of emails in your campaign, 3 is the sweet spot and 4 should be the absolute maximum.

Here’s an example of a 3-series recovery campaign:

Email #1: Hey, you forgot something!

Email #2: Free shipping on your next order! (Offer a small incentive)

Email #3: Come back and get 10% off!  (Offer a bigger incentive)

If you’re not willing to shell out incentives in the second email, try a 4-email drip like this one:

Email #1: Hey, you forgot something!

Email #2: Your items are waiting…and they won’t last long!

Email #3: Here’s an incentive to complete your order!

Email #4: Here’s a more awesome incentive to complete your order! Act now or we’ll clear your cart.

Segment your shoppers.

Segmentation allows you to set up more targeted drips based on an individual shopper’s interactions with your recovery emails. The practice makes it easy for you to place different customer segments (say, shoppers who don’t open your email versus shoppers who open and click) on more personalized nurture tracks that respond directly to their level of engagement with your communications.

Perfect your subject lines.

How do you create a subject line that’s personalized, with a strong CTA and a bit of humor thrown in for good measure? It’s no easy feat, but when you consider that a third of recipients open emails based solely on the subject line, it pays to take the time to get them right.

Re-engagement subject lines run the gamut of fun and playful to direct and urgent. Only you know what will elicit the best response from your audience. In our experience, subject lines that include a level of personalization—such as the recipient’s name or specific product details—deliver some of the highest open rates. But when in doubt: test, test, test!

Here are some subject lines that stood out in our inbox:

“Paul, Your Shopping Bag Has Abandonment Issues” (Funny and personalized)

“Thanks for Your Interest In: Superman Cape Backpack” (Specific product info is always a nice touch)

“3 Days Left: Save 15% on Your Order + Free Shipping” (Urgency and incentive)

“Paul, we want you back!”



“Special offer + your picks!”

“Warning: Unattended items in your may be eaten by gnomes” (Ha!)

And what about the pre-header?

We’re so glad you asked. Think of the pre-header text as an extension of your subject line. Although they rarely get the love they deserve, pre-headers can get you better open rates by including any juicy details that the subject line just couldn’t fit.

Pre-headers are especially important for emails read on mobile, where even more snippet text can be seen in the inbox or push notification; in fact, as many as three lines of pre-header text can be visible on mobile, making this element equally (if not more!) important as your subject line.

Now start sending!

While there’s no fail-safe recipe for deploying cart/browse recovery emails, these tips are designed to reduce the amount of time it takes you to find that winning formula. The rules for executing a successful re-engagement campaign depend largely on your brand, your buyers and what they’re buying. Running split tests to gauge which tactics succeed is your best bet to honing in on a recovery strategy that works for your business.