Cart Abandonment Emails: Compliance 101

May 29, 2015
Written by
SendGrid Team
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

Cart Abandonment Emails: Compliance 101

Abandoned cart sending is the practice of sending strategic follow-up emails to users who have added an item to their shopping cart, but failed to complete the transaction. The intent of the emails is to regain the potential revenue opportunity that was left on the table when the user didn’t complete their transaction.

Abandoned cart emails are an increasingly popular email marketing strategy, but to ensure that they’re effective, you need to make sure that you’re following email compliance best practices. Once you do, you open yourself up to some great opportunities to strengthen and grow your existing relationship with your subscribers.

In this post, I’ll cover the biggest compliance issue facing cart abandonment emails (permission) and the biggest opportunity that results from securing that permission (increased engagement).

Do You Have Permission?

It’s important to be cautious when engaging with cart abandonment recipients because they may not be receptive to your sending. While this segment of shoppers does possess potential for revenue, they represent a high risk for sending due to failed completion of direct opt-in to your brand.

Direct Opt-In

So what is direct opt-in? Simply put, did the person receiving your mail give you permission to send to them? You must establish clear consent from your recipients at the time you collect their information. By being direct with your intentions, you can easily prevent future complaints and delivery issues, but more importantly, you will build a strong and receptive email list that wants to hear from you.

So as with many other areas of email best practices, abandoned cart sending is best implemented by first ensuring direct opt-in has been received by your recipients. Some of the successful methods we have seen this achieved through are:
  • Previous purchases
  • Opt-in elsewhere to your brand, such as a newsletter or coupon sign-up
  • Completed creation of an account
It is important to note that first-time shoppers who abandoned their cart may not be included in any of these groups. As a trusted sender, these addresses also do not fall under sending to opt-in recipients only.


It’s even more important to adhere to only sending to opt-in recipients because in July 2014, Canada began to implement its new anti-spam law known as CASL. Part of this law addresses acquiring explicit consent for sending and the information that should be collected at time of opt-in. While your lists may contain only some, or no Canadian recipients, these guidelines are both a great tool to build your marketing program and are an indication of the direction law makers are taking towards marketing email. You can read more about CASL and its stages of implementation here.

Engaging with Abandoned Cart Shoppers

After obtaining a clear and direct opt-in, considering what you send to these recipients is your next important step. This can be an opportunity for re-engagement with these shoppers, but also carries potential for negative interaction with these recipients. It is important to remember that these individuals initially chose to leave a transaction with your brand incomplete, so it is best to engage these potential customers with a purpose.

Permission Reminders

To do so, it may be best to establish your reason for contacting them through a permission reminder. A permission reminder is a clear and identifiable reminder to the recipient of why they are receiving your email and how they came to be on your list. These are often at the top of your email and include a one-click unsubscribe along with it.


After establishing your reason for sending, work to provide incentive for this potential customer to re-engage with your brand. In this way, abandoned cart sending can be viewed as a specific type of win-back campaign to your recipients. Many of the same best practices apply—you can read some tips in this post.

Try to work towards sending a message that the recipient will want to see, and will be motivated to re-engage with your brand. This can often be:
  • Advertisement for the product that was abandoned, or a similar product
  • Announcement of sales or changes to products
  • Coupons or discounts
If you take the right compliance steps, cart abandonment emails can be an effective addition to your email arsenal. First and foremost, you have to ensure that your subscribers have provided direct opt-in. If they haven’t, they can feel bombarded by your emails and consequently take actions (like spam reports and mass unsubscribes) that hurt both your email reputation and your brand. But if the right steps are taken, you have the opportunity to enhance engagement with your subscribers.

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