Email Marketing

LOW Open Rate For Abandoned Cart Email Subject Lines? 9 Possible Reasons

9 most common mistakes stores make with abandoned cart subject lines + 52 fresh ideas to boost open rates.

LOW Open Rate For Abandoned Cart Email Subject Lines? 9 Possible Reasons

The average cart abandonment rate is nearly 70%. This means that most of us experience this problem. 

Most eCommerce founders try different techniques to combat this but one common approach is to send really good abandoned cart emails. 

Figuring out the right email to win back customers can be challenging. But subject lines get half the work done. 

So, in this article we cover the importance of getting subject lines right, what are you doing wrong, some actionable tips and 52 cart recovery subject lines that have driven massive open rates (and converted readers). 

Why should you care about the subject line

Subject lines in definition are the first touch point for an email recipient. We all know that it basically lets the reader know what the email will be about. 

But in the case of abandoned visitors, it does more than just that - it reminds them of what they left behind and rekindles their interest in your brand. 

Apart from this, your recipient is obviously loaded with a lot of emails throughout the day. Just like you, countless eCommerce brands (including your competitors) are reaching out to win them back. 

Subject lines help you stand out from the noise and grab their attention - or in other words, move it away from your competitors. In fact - Over a third of the recipients actually open an email just based on the subject line itself. 

Last, but not least, your potential customers form an opinion of your brand based on your subject lines - yes, it's your first impression. 

For instance, when they see their first name on the subject line or a cordial one liner that peaks their interest, they instantly form a positive perception of your brand and how you do business with customers. 

So, it's no secret that when it comes to drafting your cart recovery emails, it’s worth spending a lot of time on coming up with kickass subject lines. 

9 super common abandoned cart subject line mistakes

1. First name - is not personalization

It’s well known that personalization is the key to driving the most conversions in the eCommerce space.

But many stores don’t look beyond adding the first name and that's the challenge. Everyone does this and it doesn’t help you stand out anymore. 

Instead, focus on the visitors' behavior and navigation on your website. Where did they drop off? What product were they looking at? - lead with this information. 

To take things one step further, you can also look at a heatmap of each page and analyze where people click and when they drop off. You can gather an estimate of this information through the average scroll rate and clicks data. 

Check out this example by Zalando.

The subject line talks about one brand which the visitor was interested in. This way, even without addressing the recipient by name, they are able to keep the subject personal.

2. Emojis is cool - but it can get spammy quickly

A lot of brands use a lot of emojis in their subject lines and their emails because they believe that it makes the email more relatable to your potential customers. 

While that’s not wrong by any means, be very careful not to go overboard and use them every time. 

A study showed that emails with emojis in their subject lines saw a slightly lower than average open rate.

While this surely doesn’t imply that you stop using it all together, it means that you need to start adding them smartly and choose the right emojis. 

So, this is okay. It adds a bit of personality to the subject lines. 

But this might be too much. It makes your email look like spam and it really doesn’t relate much to your communication. 

When you’re choosing emojis, pick the one that actually relates to the topic - as seen in the first example. 

3. Free shipping? Old news

Everyone loves free stuff but free shipping is not rare anymore, all the big players offer it - many smaller brands do too these days. 

The average open rate for such cart recovery email subject lines is less than 39% which seems high but is actually below the standard. 

So, avoid leading with Free shipping in your subject lines and talk about other discounts as well. 

Here is an example that delivers a high perceived value to the reader. 

4. FOMO is good. Clickbait is not

Scarcity marketing has proven to drive massive sales for a lot of eCommerce stores. 

But a common mistake is when it is used for all of your products and campaigns - making it look like a faux. 

The same applies to your subject lines - creating a sense of FOMO will drive higher open rates but going overboard can make you look spammy. 

Another common mistake is when your subject line says “this product is almost gone” but the same isn’t reflected on your store - making the visitor doubt your integrity. 

So, while you win them back for the moment, they bounce off and never come back. 

5. Direct often gets boring

Curiosity always triggers a favorable response. So, in your cart recovery email subject lines, avoid being too direct.

Leave some for the imagination of the reader. 

But a lot of ecommerce stores run campaigns with subject lines like “Complete your checkout at [Brand]”.

Yes this gives clarity but it doesn’t entice the reader and they’ll overlook it.

6. Not testing on mobile

Nearly 70% of the viewers read emails on their mobile phones.

But most ecommerce founders only consider the readers on desktop when drafting their subject lines. 

The actual limit should be 43 characters to avoid being cut off on mobile devices.

Failing to follow this rule makes the subject line a lot less compelling. 

7. The same format for the entire list

The best way to find out what type of subject lines actually works for your audience is to A/B test each type for a certain number of readers. 

Instead, many just run their campaigns with one subject line and follow the same thing for future potential customers if it works. 

This approach surely fails considering the different demographics, geographies and type of shoppers you cater to - wasting all your efforts in winning back these customers. 

8. Dropping the "%" everywhere

Dollar based discounts, although have driven a lower CTR,  have proven to generate more revenue per recipient than % based discounts. 

Most ecommerce marketers and founders aren’t aware of this and hence work with flat 50% or 75% rather than $100 off.

From a psychological perspective, a dollar amount assures the recipient about the discount and hence performs better. 

9. A condescending tone

A lot of marketers try to be unique and use subject lines like “Is your Wi-Fi down?” or “why aren’t coming back?.” 

While it creates curiosity, this tone rubs off the wrong way to the recipient. 

It will be perceived as rude or condescending - tarnishing the equation you have with the reader. 

Instead, use a more conversational tone to grab the reader’s attention and maintain a good relationship. 

52 abandoned cart email subject lines that actually work

Taking the above points into consideration, we’ve created a long list of subject line ideas that have garnered actual sales

1. Subject lines that trigger curiosity

The most successful subject lines are the ones that make the reader go “Wait, what?” or “This seems interesting…”. 

Fun fact, “It looks like you left something behind” is the best performing subject line and the most popular one. 

It brings up a lot of questions in the mind of the reader. This is exactly what drives open rates. 

Here's another great example by Forever 21

You can build this curiosity through your subject lines by asking a question, or making an open ended statement that gets the reader to go “hmm… let me check this out”

Here are a couple of tried and tested curiosity building subject lines:

  • [First Name], Looks like you’ve forgotten something...
  • [First Name], You’ve forgotten this.
  • [First Name], Did you forget something?
  • [First Name], You left this behind!
  • [First Name], Heading out without finishing/completing it?
  • [First Name], not to sound salesy but…
  • Something caught your eye?
  • [First Name], Ready when you are

To be more personalized than just the first name, try adding the name of your product or service. Something on the lines of: 

  • [First Name], You forgot to pick up your [Product]
  • [First Name], Is this [Product] yours?
  • [First Name], Leaving without taking your [Product]
  • [First Name], [Products] are in right now!
  • [First Name], You know you want that [Product]

Brooklinen used this strategy to drive more visitors back to their website. Here’s how they did it. 

This kind of subject line immediately makes them think “but what?” and there is an unending itch to find out what the mail is all about. 

If you want to come up with your own unique subject lines, here are a few powerful words that you can start with:

  • Oops
  • Complete
  • Come back
  • Forget
  • Finish
  • Leave
  • Forgot
  • Left

By combining these kinds of words with ones that associate with your product or brand, you can get going with creating cart recovery subject lines that drive curiosity. 

2. Subject lines that use psychology

For your business, these types of subject lines focus on one of these situations:

  • Visitor has researched about the product on your site and left
  • They went through your eCommerce website and decided what they wanted but didn't buy
  • The committed by adding the product to the cart but bounced off

And sometimes all they need is a gentle nudge from your side to encourage them to buy. 

This isn’t just what we think - it is scientifically proven. An experiment by two psychologists showed that people are more motivated to complete something where there is already some progress. 

The idea is to create that sense among your readers.

Keeping this effect in mind, Hollister ran an email campaign with the following subject line. 


The beauty of this subject line is in how it was implemented. The emphasis on “so” adds to the compelling nature and also makes it more relatable. 

Here are a few subject lines that will help you get the win. 

  • [First Name], Just one step and the [Product] is yours!
  • [First Name], it's almost yours for the taking
  • [First Name], Why stop now? You’re almost done.
  • [First Name], Do you need help?
  • [First Name], 2 clicks and the [Product] comes to you.
  • [First Name], the [Product] will be shipped once this is done. 
  • [First Name], Complete the checkout in just one step. 
  • [First Name], Your [Product] is ready to order
  • You’ve come so far, [First Name], don’t give up!

3. Subject lines that induce FOMO, subtly

There are a couple of ways to trigger this effect - playing with cart expiry, a sale about to end or a product going out of stock. 

In the example above - Zalando plays with the products selling fast in order to trigger an immediate action from the reader. 

Here are a few other formats of urgency based cart abandonment email subject lines that play on the sale going to an end. 

Here are a few you can use for your store:

  • [First Name], the [Product] is almost gone!
  • [Product] is selling fast: Checkout now before it's gone.
  • Don’t miss out: Only [Number] [Product] left in stock.
  • [First Name], your cart is expiring soon
  • [First Name], just 4 hrs. left for the sale to end
  • [First Name], you’re almost too late!
  • [First Name], checkout soon to avail the offer
  • [First Name], we’ve held your cart for a limited time only.

4. Subject lines that get creative with the discount

This is probably the most popular way to win back customers. It's simple right? If they aren’t convinced to buy, just chuck in a flat 50% and it’s gone. 

While it’s not that simple with your email copy, the subject line can be the place to put this tactic to work. Let’s see how.

These subject lines find a compelling way to hook customers to your discounts:

  • [First Name], will a Flat $50 off help?
  • Here’s an exclusive offer, just for you [First Name]
  • Checkout now & get FREE shipping + $20 off on [Product]
  • Prices dropped on your [Product]
  • Prices have dropped but not for long...
  • [First Name], buy [Product] and get FREE stuff
  • Limited time offer on your [Product]

5. Subject lines that keep it personal

As per Experian, personalized subject lines drive 12% more open rates than those that lack personalization. 

The trick to standing out is to take a more behavior based approach. Focus on what products they checked - whether there are more options - better alternatives and find a way to work something out. 

It could also be due to an issue at the checkout page - lack of payment options, delivery dates etc. 

Here are few ideas that fall under this category:

  • [First Name], not happy with [Product]? - Here's a better option.
  • Hey, [product] has a lot more options than you think.
  • [Product] just got re-launched with more features
  • Massive sales on just [Product], come back and check it out
  • Hey, don’t worry, we can get the [product] to you faster
  • Payment an issue? Let’s work something out

6. Subject lines that tickle the funny bone

Half of the consumers from the U.S and Europe prefer marketing communications with a bit of humor. 

While it doesn’t entirely influence their buying decisions, having a humorous cart recovery subject line will peak their interest and put a smile on their face. 

Here are a few examples of humorous subject lines:

  • Abercrombie & Fitch: You’ve got this one in the bag (literally)
  • Shinesty: You left your stuff at our place…
  • Vinomofo: Wine abandonment cry for help
  • Poo-pourri: Oops, you forgot to flush!

7. Subject lines that butter them up

Everybody has a soft spot for flattery. So a great way to win them over is to offer a few compliments. 

Here are some ways to do so:

  • [First Name], this top would look great on you
  • [First Name], you deserve the best, so here you go
  • [First Name], this might suit your great taste
  • [First Name], you’ve got a good eye for this, go for it!
  • [First Name], this might suit your great taste

To sum up

Winning back your abandoned customers is influenced at each and every step - even something that has a momentary effect like a subject line. 

So, these tips and templates should help you boost your email metrics and revive some lost sales. 

Which of these subject lines worked best for you? Let us know in the comments below. 

And if you are looking for more actionable tips like these, get in touch with our email marketing experts. Sign up for a call today. 

You may also like

x
42 Irresistible Email CTAs for eCommerce Stores
Get the guide
Sent to your inbox
OK