how to write abandoned cart subject lines

How to Write Abandoned Cart Subject Lines + 50 Free Examples

Abandoned carts are the bane of online retailers the world over. The stats behind the issue are truly phenomenal. 

For every customer who makes a purchase online, an average of two people are adding products to their cart but never checking out. This 2:1 ratio leaves literally trillions of dollars worth of merchandise left sitting in online shopping carts every year.

Thankfully, a sizeable portion (roughly a third) of these lost sales is recoverable with automated abandoned cart emails

However, these emails are only effective if people are actually opening and reading them. 

As any good email marketer knows, one of the biggest factors influencing your open rate is your subject line. 

In fact, for a third of your email list, your subject line is the determining factor in whether they open your email or not. 

So with abandoned cart emails being so important at recovering lost sales and their subject line being crucial to their open rate, choosing a good subject line is vital.

That’s why in this article we’ll take you through:

  • What elements go into a great subject line
  • Strategies when writing subject lines for abandoned cart emails
  • Examples of abandoned cart subject lines that you can use yourself 

Elements that go into a great subject line

Regardless of whether you’re coming up with a subject line for your abandoned cart emails, a welcome email subject line, or simply one for your latest newsletter, there are certain features that they all share that’ll entice subscribers to click on them.

These are:

  • Clarity 
  • Personalization 
  • Brevity 

Clarity 

It’s easy for us email marketers to get carried away trying to write a unique, interesting subject line that’ll pique our subscribers’ interest. 

However, it’s important to remember that the entire point of subject lines is to let subscribers know what the email is about. 

With stats showing that more descriptive subject lines enjoy a higher open rate, you’ll want to avoid making your subject lines vague in the hope of people clicking through just to see what you’re on about.

For abandoned cart emails, this means you should make it clear that you’re sending an email reminder for someone to checkout or that you’re providing a special offer to encourage them to come back. 

Personalization

Personalized emails result in over a 50% increase in customer satisfaction and receive a 30% higher open rate on average. And personalization is just as much about your subject lines as it is your email content. 

The most obvious way to personalize subject lines is to include the name of your subscriber if you know it. For abandoned cart emails in particular, the other great and easy way is to include the name of the product they’ve abandoned. 

A personalized abandoned cart subject line could then look something like: 

Hey {{NAME}}, it looks like you forget about your new {{PRODUCT}}.

Commerce-focused email apps like SmartrMail will let you include these merge tags in your subject lines which makes it super easy to personalize them. 

Brevity

When writing subject lines, you only have a small amount of space to work with before email clients will start cutting off your message. 

This is especially true now that most emails are being read on mobile devices. Just take a look at how subject lines are being cut off below. 

screenshot of subject lines in an inbox

It turns out that subscribers tend to prefer shorter subject lines as well. 

A Litmus study found that having between 4 and 15 characters achieves the highest open rates. Whereas having over 50 characters results in the worst number of opens.

So keeping your abandoned cart subject lines short like “Hey {{NAME}}, don’t forget your {{PRODUCT}}” is a good way to go. 


If you want to dive even deeper into what separates great subject lines from mediocre ones, check out our article on writing the best subject lines.

Abandoned cart email subject line strategies

Now that you have a decent understanding of what makes for good subject lines, it’s worthwhile looking at some proper strategies that are unique to abandoned cart emails. 

These strategies complement your broader abandoned cart email strategy by matching the different goals of which email in your cart abandonment series.

As a quick recap, the ideal sequence of abandoned cart emails is to first send a simple reminder. If that initial email is unsuccessful, you then send a couple of follow-up emails that provide an offer to entice the cart abandoner to come back and check out. 

If you feel like you would benefit from a refresher, check out our in-depth guide on abandoned cart email strategy.

Otherwise, we can jump into going through subject line strategies for each email in your abandoned cart series below. 

Email 1: The simple reminder email

Seeing as one of the most common reasons for cart abandonment is people forgetting about their cart, your first email should simply remind people about their cart. 

For this email in your series, your subject line only needs to highlight the fact that your shopper has left something behind in their cart. Good examples of subject lines that do this well include:

  • Hey {{NAME}}, it looks like you forgot your {{PRODUCT}}
  • Aren’t you forgetting something, {{NAME}}?
  • Should we hold {{PRODUCT}} for you, {{NAME}}?
  • Don’t worry – we’ve saved {{PRODUCT}} for you! 
  • Don’t forget about your {{PRODUCT}} before it’s gone

As you can tell from the examples above, in addition to simply reminding your shopper of their cart, you can also add some FOMO to help get people to take action. 

FOMO (or fear of missing out) is a powerful marketing strategy that often works well with abandoned cart subject lines. 

To play on people’s FOMO even further, you could combine it with a sense of urgency and scarcity as well. Some examples of subject lines that do this are: 

  • We can only hold your {{PRODUCT}} for another 12 hours
  • We can’t keep {{PRODUCT}} on hold for you much longer
  • Not to worry: your {{PRODUCT}} is reserved for 2 hours
  • We’re down to our last few {{PRODUCT}} remaining! 
  • {{PRODUCT}} is getting snapped up fast! 

Asking a question in your subject line is also a great way to pique someone’s interest and get them to open your email. Some examples that you can use include:

  • Aren’t you forgetting something, {{NAME}}?
  • Should we hold {{PRODUCT}} for you, {{NAME}}?
  • Heading out without checking out, {{NAME}}?
  • Still thinking it over, {{NAME}}?
  • Ready to buy? Complete your purchase now.

One of the best examples of this we’ve seen from an actual brand is with Harry’s abandoned cart email. 

cart recovery email example

The subject line “What’s holding you back?” does an excellent job of capturing people’s interest and enticing them to open the email. 

Email 2: The simple offer email

As your abandoned cart email strategy evolves with the second email in your series, so too should your subject line. 

Seeing as we typically recommend including a small offer in your second abandoned cart email, such as free shipping if you don’t already offer it, your subject line should contain details about your offer. 

For instance, if you’re offering free shipping, your subject line could be along the lines of:

  • Enjoy free shipping on {{PRODUCT}} 
  • Check out {{PRODUCT}} now to receive free shipping
  • Limited time only: free shipping on {{PRODUCT}}
  • A free shipping code has been applied to your cart! 
  • Purchase {{PRODUCT}} now to enjoy free shipping

Again, phrasing your subject line as a question can help improve your open rate, just as Sierra Trading Post has down. 

example of a cart abandoned email

Notice how they’ve doubled down on this strategy by also using a question in the preview text. 

If you already offer free shipping, or you can’t offer it as an incentive in your abandoned cart series, then your subject line should simply reflect whatever offer you’re able to provide. 

Some examples of these subject lines like this include: 

  • Hey {{NAME}}, here’s a X% discount on your cart
  • An item in your cart is now X% off! 
  • Here’s X% off if you complete your order 
  • Here’s a X% coupon for {{PRODUCT}}
  • Get {{PRODUCT}} for X% off now!

Email 3: Your best offer email

If neither a simple reminder nor a small offer did the trick, your third cart recovery email follow-up should pull out the big guns with the best offer you can give.

This is also the time to up the ante with elements like eliciting FOMO and creating a sense of urgency. Just as in the example subject lines below. 

  • X% off {{PRODUCT}}. Expires in 24 hours! 
  • Today only: X% off {{PRODUCT}}
  • Our final offer: Free shipping + X% off {{PRODUCT}}
  • At X% Off, {{PRODUCT}} Won’t Last Long
  • X% off exclusively for you, {{NAME}}

Obviously, these subject lines will perform better when the offer is actually greater than what your second follow-up email contained. 

The email below from PetFlow is a good example of this.

example of an abandoned cart email

The countdown timer within the email reinforces the sense of urgency and FOMO further as well, helping with conversion rates. 

Examples of abandoned cart email subject lines

Now that we’ve been through how to approach your subject lines for each email in your abandoned cart series, here is a list of subject lines you can use yourself with your own cart abandonment campaigns.

Simple reminder subject lines

  • Hey {{NAME}}, it looks like you forgot your {{PRODUCT}}
  • Aren’t you forgetting something, {{NAME}}?
  • Should we hold {{PRODUCT}} for you, {{NAME}}?
  • Don’t worry – we’ve saved {{PRODUCT}} for you!
  • Don’t forget about your {{PRODUCT}} before it’s gone
  • Your {{PRODUCT}} is reserved for 2 hours
  • We can only hold your {{PRODUCT}} for another 12 hours
  • We can’t keep {{PRODUCT}} on hold for you much longer
  • We’re down to our last few {{PRODUCT}} remaining! 
  • {{PRODUCT}} is getting snapped up fast! 
  • Oops, you forgot something, {{NAME}}
  • Heading out without checking out, {{NAME}}?
  • Still thinking it over, {{NAME}}?
  • Psst… you’ve left {{PRODUCT}} behind
  • Ready to buy? Complete your purchase now.
  • You left without saying goodbye
  • Your {{PRODUCT}} is one step away from being yours!
  • {{PRODUCT}} is selling out fast! 

Subject lines containing an emoji

  • {{NAME}}, you’ve left something in your cart 🛒
  • Looks like you forgot about your cart, {{NAME}} 😢
  • Time is running out to save X% on {{PRODUCT}} ⏰
  • We can’t save your cart forever ⏱
  • Purchase {{PRODUCT}} now to enjoy free shipping  🚢
  • Your {{PRODUCT}} is packed and ready to go 📦
  • Don’t forget about your {{PRODUCT}} 😱
  • Don’t let this offer on your cart go to waste 💸
  • 🚨 Your cart is about to expire 🚨
  • One more thing and {{PRODUCT}} is on its way 🚚

Mentioning free shipping

  • Enjoy free shipping on {{PRODUCT}} 
  • Check out {{PRODUCT}} now to receive free shipping
  • Limited time only: free shipping on {{PRODUCT}}
  • A free shipping code has been applied to your cart! 
  • Purchase {{PRODUCT}} now to enjoy free shipping
  • Today only: {{PRODUCT}} ships free
  • {{NAME}}, get your cart shipped free, today only! 

Simple offer

  • Hey {{NAME}}, here’s a X% discount on your cart
  • An item in your cart is now X% off! 
  • Here’s X% off if you complete your order 
  • Here’s a X% coupon for {{PRODUCT}}
  • Get {{PRODUCT}} for X% off now!
  • A special offer has been applied to your cart
  • Come back and check out {{PRODUCT}} for a special offer
  • A discount has been applied to your cart while you’ve been gone

Final offer

  • X% off {{PRODUCT}}. Expires in 24 hours! 
  • Today only: X% off {{PRODUCT}}
  • Our final offer: Free shipping + X% off {{PRODUCT}}
  • At X% Off, {{PRODUCT}} Won’t Last Long
  • X% off exclusively for you, {{NAME}}
  • Free Shipping + X% = Empty Cart
  • Free Shipping + X% = Our Best Offer Ever

Your broader abandoned cart email campaign strategy

Now that you have all the insights and examples you need to create compelling cart abandonment subject lines, it’s important not to neglect the rest of your abandoned cart email campaign. 

After all, getting someone to open your email is only half the challenge. Getting them to click through and complete their purchase is the much more challenging half. 

To actually start improving your conversion rate and cover lost sales, you need to have a proper abandoned cart strategy in place. 

Whether you’re not sure what the best practices with these emails are, how you should schedule follow-up emails to send, or if you just want a refresher, check out our comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about abandoned cart emails

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