AtData logo

How To Increase Open Rates With Better Subject Lines

Mar 15, 2021   |   7 min read

Knowledge Center  ❯   Blog

man smiling laptop Email is the most effective way to reach visitors and convert them into customers. A report by Yes Lifecycle Marketing announced that:

browse abandon triggers with subject lines under 30 characters generated open rates of 35.5%, while those with subject lines over 30 characters drove open rates of 40.6%.”

There are four steps to a successful email campaign. We call this the OLA! method.

This blog post focuses on increasing the open rates for Abandoned Cart and Abandoned Product Browse Emails.

We assume that:

The abandoned cart email is the highest converting email campaign in your arsenal. It should drive >10% of your revenue.

Statistically, the more often a shopper sees a product they like, the likelihood of purchase increases.

They may be price shopping, but if you convince them to take another look, then you can increase the chances of getting your shoppers to come back. Encourage recipients to open emails, and you’ll increase the likelihood of purchase.

Guide for getting >40% Open Rates for Abandoned Cart Email

Ahhh the Pied Piper, playing such a magical tune that everyone wants to follow. You’re the piper now, so remember the PIPR strategy to increase your open rate.

You’re about to send a:

  • (P)ersonalized,
  • (I)ncentivized,
  • (P)roduct (R)eminder


In 2017, a report by Campaigner emphasized that personalization is the key to outreach, with 40% of respondents highlighting it as the sturdiest measure of success. The Yes Marketing Report, entitled “How Length and Personalization Impact Email Performance Across Message Type and Industry“, found that personalized subject lines increased open rates by 50%.

Non-personalized subject lines had open rates of 14.1% compared to 21.2% for email personalized with names and 22% for emails with another type of personalization.’

Assume that your target received 20 emails since the last time they discreetly snuck a look at their mobile inbox.

They’re about to delete 18 of them.

Your message needs to stand out. Combine technology and your audience understanding to catch their eye.

Technology – test the following creatively in your subject line:

  • Product Name (see Product Reminder below)
  • <FNAME>
  • Location – where were they when they last shopped? (hint: you’ve got their IP address and can geo-locate them)

Audience understanding:

Are Emoji appropriate for your audience or products? If you’re going to use them, follow Constant Contact’s Best Practices for Using Emoji in Email Subject Lines.


Purchase friction is real. Your recipient has already seen the product. They didn’t buy it. Yet.


  • FUD? (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt)
  • Price?
  • Perceived Value?
  • Product not in stock in their size / color preference?
  • Card not accepted on site?
  • Additional costs added at checkout?
  • Delivery options?

You’re not going to solve all of these with your subject line – but you can get the open with two words:

Incentive Included

Add those two words to your next subject line and watch the open rates soar. Vary them to suit your audience.

Note: you’ll need to follow up with an actual incentive in the email body. The value of your incentive to your audience will directly impact click through rates.

Other ways to incentivize the audience include:

  • “Act fast” – make them feel like it won’t be available forever
  • “Special: Complimentary shipping” (note: try not to use the word “free” in your email subject lines – it will increase your spam rating and decrease your deliverability. Run email templates through SpamAssassin before you finalize them.
  • xx% discount
  • <Subj line> – and get an <amazing thing> on us!

(P)roduct (R)eminder

Shoppers don’t care about their cart. They weren’t buying a cart. They care about the products IN THEIR CART. Stop saying “you forgot your cart” and start reminding them of a product they’re interested in.

Fields you can use to describe product in the subject line:

  • <Product Name>
  • <Product Size>
  • <Product Color>

34 Inspirational Subject Line Examples

  1. Hey <FNAME>, you forgot something!
  2. You’ve left something behind <FNAME>
  3. Your <item> would look so good on you
  4. What did that <Product Name> look like again?
  5. This <Product Name> has your name on it, <FNAME>
  6. <FNAME>, I think you forgot something???
  7. Don’t let your favorite items sell out
  8. <FNAME>, buy your <item> now and save 15%!
  9. Incentive included – (used before or after the subject line)
  10. Get it or Regret it!
  11. There are 3 <product name> in <size> still available
  12. Imagine the elegant <product name> in your wardrobe
  13. Remember your last vacation? <Destination> will make you smile.
  14. <Destination> now available – incentive included
  15. <Destination> now available, book today for 10% off
  16. Heard it’s snowing in <Location>, get <product name> to stay warm
  17. These would go great with your new <Product name>
  18. <FNAME>, your <product> is about to sell out!
  19. You still have a chance to get <product>!
  20. Surprise <FNAME>! Complete your order and get 15% off
  21. Heard you’re going to <Destination>. Tickets to <alternate destination nearby> are only <Price>!
  22. Since you liked <product>. Check out our other <product category> that are on sale
  23. Only 1 <Product name> in <product color> Left! Get it Now!
  24. Act Fast to Get 15% Off Your Cart!
  25. The price dropped for something in your cart
  26. <FNAME>, your cart is expiring in the next 24 hours!
  27. Remember your <product name>? It’s about to sell out…
  28. <FNAME>, subscribe today and get 20% off
  29. OMG <FNAME>! Your <product> is selling out!
  30. Wait <FNAME>. Did you mean to add these?
  31. <FNAME>, there’s a problem. You haven’t checked out your cart!
  32. Don’t miss out!
  33. Still thinking about it?
  34. Items in your cart are in high demand
  35. [URGENT] You’ve got ONE more day to purchase

Analysis of Abandoned Cart Email Campaigns

Here are some ACTUAL examples of abandoned cart emails and our analysis of each.

The Good

Subject Line: We’re still holding the Angus Queen Bed Gray for you. Act fast if you want it.


Why it works: It’s a simple email just stating the item and asking the shopper to “act fast”. It clearly describes the product and the color that the recipient was looking at. It adds a sense of urgency.

Subject Line: Lemme Teleport You Back To Your Cart. Free of Charge.


Why it works: Very informal and on brand for Chubbies. This abandoned cart email will stand out from other swim short companies, and resonate with their target audience. If your product and brand messaging has a specific tone to it, then make sure to leverage it in your abandoned cart emails.

Subject Line: Cute Puppies Want to Know…


Why it works: BalletBox is focused on a “cutesy” market for young girls. They use on-brand messaging that resonates with their audience. Plus, how can anyone say “no” to cute puppies?

Subject Line: -FNAME-, you want to make a deal?


Why it works: This abandoned cart email by Nomad uses personalization and an incentivized question to get shoppers to open. The body of the email then uses a discount code to drive the purchase.

The Bad

Subject Line: You left items in your cart


If this is your first abandoned cart email and you’re just trying to get anything out there, then ok, this is fine. It’s about as simple as you can get, and that could be ok. You can do better.

Subject Line: Eek – something you like is almost sold out!


If this is your first abandoned cart email and you’re just trying to get anything out there, then ok, this is fine. It’s about as simple as you can get, and that could be ok. You can do better.

Subject Line: WHERE’D YOU GO?!


Why I hate it: Personally – I think the ALL CAPS approach is garbage. It’s not personalized, it has no incentive, and it doesn’t tell me anything about my product.

They do use a cute puppy in the email – but people have to get past the subject line first.

At the end of the day …

Practice makes perfect. A/B test your subject lines. Aim for a >40% open rate on your abandoned cart and abandoned product browse emails.

To learn more about email retargeting campaigns, head to our Email Retargeting page.


Talk with an Email Expert