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September 1, 2022

The Ultimate Guide To Retargeting Email Automation (Turn Your Store Into A Mousetrap)

If your idea of email retargeting is the tired old “left something on your cart” email… block out some time and keep reading.

Bringing new traffic to your website costs a lot. But what if I told you that with an (almost) 0$ budget you can bring the same users back? Time and time again, until they buy?

Keep reading and I’ll show you how to transform your website into a mousetrap.

Some of the things you’ll learn:

  • A simple email marketing strategy to bring users back to your website without spending any budget on paid ads. 
  • How to identify your users’ level of buying intent just by knowing the pages they visited on your site.
  • What are the exact benefits of implementing a strategic email retargeting flow.
  • A step-by-step guide with tips and notes on how to set up a full email retargeting flow that will attract and convert users like a mousetrap.

Here’s a common scenario in e-commerce:

Prospects come to your site to check your products. They might visit a couple of pages and then…

…their phone rings.

…or the internet is down.

…or someone speaks to them.

Life gets in the way. So they dump your website and go on with their lives. 

Besides that, only a few people are ready to buy when they first visit your shop. They might come and go several times without buying. 

So the crucial question is… how will you bring those potential customers back cost-effectively?

Ads cost a lot. We all know that. And though ads have their place, there’s a more efficient way to bring potential customers back. 

It’s called automated retargeting email. 

Automated marketing emails are sent to remind prospects of the products you offer. Encouraging them to come back and take another look. 

For example, most marketers are aware of cart abandonment emails. A cart abandonment email is a form of retargeting email automation. But it’s only one layer of the strategy you’ll learn in this guide. 

Retargeting email automation is a vital tool that can bring more money into your pockets — converting prospects interested in your products to buyers, at scale, practically for free.

So, let’s get down to the brass tacks. Let’s look into the strategy and techniques behind high-converting retargeting email flows. 

When you finish reading, you’ll know how to turn your e-commerce website into a mousetrap.

Your Website Is Like A Funnel. Depending On Where They Exit, Users Have Different Levels Of Buying Intent.

This means every website ‘exit’ path deserves its own email automation. And on top of that, each of these email automation requires different messaging. 

Let’s make this really concrete for you.

Where Users Left

Buying Intent

Triggered Automation

Buying intent is hot.

These users are very likely to buy. So if you remind them that they haven’t finished their purchase, or if you offer an incentive, there’s a high chance that they will buy.

If they abandon a Product page

Buying intent is warm.

They are considering your products or doing general market research. Perhaps they plan to buy in the future.

Enable Browse Abandonment automation flow

If they abandon your Home or a Category page

Buying intent is cold.

They probably just come in to check what your brand is about.

Enable Site Abandonment automation flow

Perhaps you’ve noticed how I didn’t mention cart abandonment. That’s because cart abandonment is actually a misnomer. When people say cart abandonment, they usually refer to checkout abandonment.

(There is, of course, a way to retarget people who exit during the cart page. Here’s a simple, low-tech guide to building that automation through Klaviyo and Shopify.)

But the bottom line is simple. You need new email automation for the exit paths of your website. The further down the exit path funnel (homepage, category, product, cart, and checkout page) the user is, the higher their buying intent. 

Therefore, each of these email automation requires custom messaging.

How to turn them into customers in the first place?

Everything starts with a strong welcome flow. Here is a free step-by-step guide on how to build high-converting welcome flow automation.

The Marketing Strategy Behind Retargeting Email Flows

What makes retargeting emails so significant? Well, here are some reasons:

  • They are (almost) free (so they’re a very efficient way to ramp up conversions)
  • They can bring subscribers back to your site, no matter where they left off
  • They are automated (so they keep bringing users back into your website even when you sleep)
  • They’re an almost costless way to gain mindshare
  • They’re also useful as a user research tool (you can deploy surveys, at scale, to people who didn’t buy after all)

So, Let Me Take You Through 4 Major Tactics Behind Successful Retargeting Email Campaigns

We’ll discuss in detail about:

  • How to use discount ladders wisely to increase conversions
  • In which cases, personalization will make a real difference in your retargeting efforts
  • How to increase message granularity according to users’ on-site behavior
  • Valuable user research opportunities within retargeting flows

After that, I will show you in detail how to build the 3 most useful retargeting flows, step-by-step, with checklists and visual examples. 

If you are tired of baffling how-to guides, keep reading. We have done our best to create a complete and clear guide that spells out everything you need to know about retargeting emails.

The Discount Ladder Tactic

The discount ladder is an advanced marketing technique that fits perfectly into retargeting email strategies.

The idea behind discount-ladder is that you offer a series of increasing discounts until users actually make the decision to buy.

Let me give you an example of it:

Discount ladder step 1: You begin with an email that offers an extra -10% discount on a product/ cart value.

If the user doesn’t make a purchase after (x) days…

Discount ladder step 2: You send a 2nd email with a bigger discount e.g. -15%. 

If the user still hasn’t placed an order after (x) days…

Discount ladder step 3: You can go on by emailing an even bigger offer such as -20%. It practically works as a decision-driving purchase incentive. 

Obviously, this only makes sense if your margins can afford it. Use common sense. 

Discount ladder tactic
Example of the discount ladder tactic

Keep in mind that discount ladders are not only about discounts.

You can also offer free shipping, a gift-with-purchase, samples, or any other incentive that can go along with your products. 

The main point is to keep increasing the perceived offer until the shopper decides to make a purchase. Every step of the ladder should contain a better deal than the previous one.

The moment a user places an order, they “fall off the ladder,” which means that they stop receiving those discount emails, as they have already accomplished our goal.

It may take several tests on various levels and timings of the ladder to find the perfect fit for your shoppers before optimizing the process. But the main goal is to offer the ideal discount at the right time, to lead your customers to purchase while maintaining maximum margin. 

Note: Remember to deactivate or at least adapt these discount emails during seasonal sales. For instance, during the Black Friday period. Offering a 30% discount sitewide & then doubling down with offer-ladder emails is excessive and gives off mixed signals.

What is even better about the discount ladder is that it can also be successfully used in encouraging user behavior outside of retargeting flows. 

For instance, for driving retention. 

When a user’s activity decreases, you can target them with another discount ladder in order to lead their next purchase and drive up revenue. 

Content Differentiation According To Shopper’s Purchase History

Not all users who abandoned your website are the same.

Some might be newbies that just heard about your brand and are thinking about placing their first order.

Some might be loyal shoppers that came back to take another look at your products and, maybe, prepare themselves for their next purchase.

So you shouldn’t treat them the same. Depending on their purchase history, you can divide them into 3 groups:

Flirting (1st time Buyers)
Dating(2nd-3rd time buyers)
Married(Usually 4+ Purchases)

And deliver custom messaging and discounts when they enter your retargeting flows.

For example, you can offer an expiring coupon as an incentive to a 1st-time buyer. But if you keep doing this to people who have already bought, they will simply wait for the coupon to make their next purchase.

So, when you build the strategy behind retargeting emails, keep in mind that you shouldn’t treat all users the same. 

Levels Of Messaging Granularity

Delivering highly relevant content is key to bringing users back to your shop.

A powerful tactic to increase messaging relevance is delivering personalized emails based on the products users viewed or added to their cart or started to checkout with. 

Let me explain.

Let’s say you sell sports equipment and a user viewed a pair of running shoes. You can deliver an email that will remind them of the special features of these specific shoes that will upgrade their running performance. 

And here is how you can do that: You can build custom retargeting emails that remind users of the benefits of the products they viewed or were interested in buying. 

Of course, it’s not efficient to granularly create a different email journey for each one of the thousands of products you sell. 

A best practice is to create custom product-benefit retargeting emails only for your top sellers. Another option is to create a differentiated email journey for each product category ( = meaningfully different use case) you offer.

Users who abandon a top-seller product will receive content that reminds them exactly what is so special about it. And it would be more likely for them to come back and buy.
Users who didn’t pick top sellers will still receive a relevant email with more generic content about the category of the product they were about to buy.

User Research Opportunities On Retargeting Flows

If your retargeting efforts haven’t converted the user even after a series of personalized emails and purchase incentives (e.g. limited-time discounts), don’t miss the chance to ask them why.

Understanding your customers’ decision drivers and pain points is the best way to increase empathy and improve the whole experience you offer them.

So, you can create an automated feedback loop by sending a survey email and asking shoppers why they hesitate to try your products.

Based on these data, you can once in a while tweak your segmentation and email content delivery to create an overall better experience for your audience.

Now you are familiar with the main tactics that form a successful retargeting strategy. 

So, let’s go to the nuts and bolts of building the 3 retargeting flows that will turn your shop into a mousetrap:

#1 Checkout Abandonment Flow 

#2 Browse Abandonment Flow 

#3 Site Abandonment Flow

#1 Checkout Abandonment Email Flow

When a user has products on the cart and begins the checkout process but leaves before purchasing, we have a checkout abandonment.

As we mentioned before, the reasons for abandoning the checkout process may vary. So, it’s very likely for those users to come back and complete their purchase if we remind them about it. 

Let’s check how to set up this flow.

Here is an example of a checkout abandonment marketing automation setup.

According to the setup in the picture, users will enter this flow if they begin the checkout process and abandon it. 

In order for this flow to be more efficient, we set up a couple of filters. Only users who: 

  • Haven’t purchased since starting this flow
  • Haven’t entered this flow within the last week, will receive our emails.

People will enter this flow when they Checkout Started.


Placed Order zero times since starting this flow


Has not been in the flow the last 7 days

Building a high-converting relevant content flow for checkout abandonment users

Here is a graph with all the details you need to keep in mind when creating content for users who abandoned their checkout.

User buying intent‎‎‎‎‎    ‎‎‎‎  🠲

Hard selling language   ‎‎‎‎  🠲

Volume of discounts   ‎‎‎‎  🠲

Number of reminders   ‎‎‎‎  🠲

Up to 6

In this flow, you are about to target people who are very likely to buy. So, a hard-selling language would be more efficient in driving purchases.

To increase the chance of a purchase, you should send at least 3 retargeting emails within 24 hours of checkout abandonment.

Now, let’s go through the details of the 6 must-have emails for this flow. 

Checkout Abandonment Flow Email 1: 

The one with the classic “You left smth on your cart” reminder

Content checklist: 

  • Demonstrate the products people had on their carts
  • Include support details in case the user needs help to complete their purchase or encounters an issue
  • Include a clear CTA to buy now

Technical setup: 

  • Send within 60 mins after checkout abandonment. Time here is key. Consider testing different timeframes to find the perfect fit for your shoppers. We’ve seen success with sending the first email just 7 minutes after checkout abandonment
  • Send to all users who left during checkout
Checkout Abandonment Email Example

Checkout Abandonment Flow Email 2:

The one that points out the key benefits of the best-selling product or the product category users chose to buy.

Content checklist:

  • Create emails with the key benefits of your top sellers
  • Also, create emails with general information about each product category you sell 

Technical setup:

  • If a user abandoned a best seller, deliver them dynamic content about it
  • If the user abandoned any other product, deliver content about the category of the product
Dollar Shave Club Checkout Abandonment Email

Checkout Abandonment Flow Emails 3-5:

The ones in which we use the discount ladder tactic.

Content checklist: 

  • Create a series of emails with increasing discount offers on a total cart value
  • Deliver unique expiring one-time-offer coupons 
  • Escalate discount (or other) offers email by email
  • Insert a personalized tone to create the feeling that this discount is specifically made for them
  • You can offer discounts/ free shipping/ a gift with purchase, or any other incentive

Increasing discounts example: 

Email 3: Discount x (e.g. -10%) 

Email 4: Discount x reminder 

Email 5: Discount x plus (e.g. -15%)

Tip: Take into consideration your margin to offer the maximum possible discount without annihilating your profits. 

Consider not sending these emails to people who’ve already purchased once through a discount. We don’t want to train people to shop only through discounts.  

Technical setup: 

  • Send only to users who have ordered 0 times since the beginning of the flow 
  • If a user purchases, they will not keep receiving increasing discounts
  • Create automated single-use coupons with an expiring date
Example of a Checkout Abandonment Email

Checkout Abandonment Flow Email 6: 

The one with the survey about why users didn’t buy.

It’s a smart way to create an instant feedback loop from users that began their checkout process but never went back to finish it. 

This feedback can be useful in understanding which of their expectations weren’t met and what are their decision drivers.

Content checklist: 

  • Create a short survey that includes questions meant to discover shopping frictions, user objections, and misalignments between the company and user journey

Technical setup: 

  • This email should only be sent to customers who’ve placed an order 0 times since starting the flow

#2 Browse Abandonment Flow

When users view and abandon a product page, they enter the browse abandonment flow.

In this case, users’ buying intention isn’t strong. 

Yet, it’s important to maintain the products on top of their minds and make them come back to take another look 

Let’s see how to set up this flow. 

Let’s take a look at a browse abandonment flow setup example.

So, this flow is triggered when users view a product page and then leave.

As you can see, there are 4 activated filters. In order for a user to enter this flow, they should: 

  • Have not started the checkout process yet
  • Have not completed any purchases during the last 4 days 
  • Have not been in this flow for 14 days.

If any of the above conditions change, then the user exits the flow.

For example, if a user visits a product page of the website but has already completed a purchase 2 days ago, they will not enter this flow. 


People will enter this flow when they Viewed Product.


Started Checkout zero times since starting this flow


Placed Order zero times since starting this flow


Has not been in flow in the last 14 days


Placed Order zero times in the last 4 days

These filters are the key to reassuring that your marketing emails will not tire users. That last filter, in particular, is especially important. When people shop online, they often revisit a product page in the days after their purchase. Which would normally place them in the flow again. But thanks to our last filter, this won’t happen.

Now that we have set up the flow triggers and filters, let’s move on to content creation. 

How to create a relevant content flow for browse abandonment users

In the graph below, you will find all the details you need to remember for this flow.

User buying intent‎‎‎‎‎    ‎‎‎‎  🠲

Hard selling language   ‎‎‎‎  🠲

Volume of discounts   ‎‎‎‎  🠲

Number of reminders   ‎‎‎‎  🠲

Up to 3

You are about to target people with lower buying intent. So, it’s better to avoid a salesy tone of voice.

Yet, the goal is still one: to remind them about your brand and the products they were looking at, bring them back to your website, and have them buy.

Here is the complete checklist on what emails to include:

Browse Abandonment Flow Email 1: 

The one with the reminder about the product users were looking at.

Content checklist: 

  • Demonstrate the exact product they were looking at before leaving

An advanced technique to increase the relevance of your browse abandonment retargeting is to customize the email content based on the number of products each user has viewed.

Users who viewed many products

If a user viewed more than 4-5 products, it probably means that they are just taking a look around, but they haven’t decided which products they are interested in.

We will respond to that by sending them an email about our best sellers or about the top-selling products of the category they were looking at.
Users who viewed one product

If they just took a look at 1-2 products, they probably have a more specific need. So, guess what. We will focus our messaging too. Therefore:

We will deliver them a focused email about the last product they viewed.
Browse abandonment (viewed many products) example
Browse abandonment (viewed one product) example

Technical setup:

  • Send 30 minutes to 4 hours after the user viewed product
  • Send only to people who have ordered 0 times since entering the flow

Browse Abandonment Flow Email 2:

The one about the key benefits of the product/ product category users abandoned.

Content checklist:

  • Underline what makes this product unique
  • Explain how it will make a difference in their lives
  • In the case of a top-seller, mention that this product sells fast, so they need to hurry to get it
  • Include user reviews

Technical setup:

  • Send 4-24 hours after the user viewed product
  • Send to people who have placed an order 0 times since the beginning of this flow
Browse Abandonment Flow Email Example

Browse Abandonment Flow Email 3:

The one with the purchase incentive.

Content checklist: 

  • Deliver a limited-time offer with a unique coupon code 
  • Contain a clear CTA to use the incentive
  • Create urgency, underline when the coupon expires 

Technical setup: 

  • Send to people who have placed an order 0 times since the beginning of this flow
  • Send 24-48 hours after email 2
Example of Browse Abandonment Email

Browse Abandonment Flow Email 4:

The one with the reminder of the discount coupon. 

Content checklist: 

  • Increase urgency, remind that the discount coupon will expire soon
  • Demonstrate a clear CTA to use the discount

Technical setup:

  • Send (X) hours after email 3 – usually 4 hours before the incentive expires
  • Send only to users who have purchased 0 times after entering this flow
Browse Abandonment Reminder Email

#3 Site Abandonment Flow

Last but not least, you can retarget users that just jumped into your shop and left in order to bring them back.

Site abandonment flow is activated when a user visits a category page or the homepage of your shop and then leaves. 

Let’s see the details behind setting it up. 

Here is an example of a site abandonment flow setup.

Users will enter this flow if they were active on site and left.

Filters here help us make sure that we will exclude users who have already entered other retargeting flows. 

So, only users who: 

  • Haven’t viewed any product
  • Haven’t started the checkout
  • Haven’t purchased yet

Will enter this flow.

Plus, we will only target users who have not been in this flow for at least 4 days.

Now that you know how to set up the flow, let’s move on to the content. 


People will enter this flow when they Active on Site.


Viewed Product zero times since starting this flow


Started Checkout zero times since starting this flow


Placed Order zero times since starting this flow


Has not been in the flow in the last 4 days

What Kind Of Emails To Create For Users Who Jumped In And Out?

Users in this flow have a low buying intent. They just came into our website and left quite early without any further interaction. 

Our main goal here is to incite behaviour that will add them to one of our other flows. 

So, with these emails, we aim to lead users back to our shop and make them visit a specific product page. If they do so, they will enter the browse abandonment flow.

And how will you achieve that? 

By showing off your most loved products and reminding shoppers why people love your brand. 

Let’s take a closer look at the particulars behind the content in this flow:

Site Abandonment Flow Email 1: 

The one where you demonstrate your best-sellers. 

Content checklist: 

  • Demonstrate the hero products that best match users’ preferences set on welcome flow. More on how to do that, here
  • Point out what makes your best-sellers, your best sellers
  • Insert social proof, user reviews, celebrity recommendations, or user-generated content

Technical setup:

  • Send 4-24 hours after site abandonment 
Site Abandonment Email Example

Site Abandonment Flow Email 2: 

The one about the values and differentiators of your company + featured popular products.

Content checklist: 

  • Underline what makes your brand unique and why people choose you
  • Spotlight the benefits of shopping from you
  • Show unique quality standards that apply to your products
  • Demonstrate your top-sellers

Technical setup:

  • Send 24-72 hours after entering the flow
Example of Site Abandonment Flow Email

Retargeting Flows Are Not Just About Conversions

Every time users receive your email in their inbox, they practically get a reminder about the existence of your brand. Even if they don’t open all your messages, you gain mindshare. 

With every email you send, there is a series of micro-conversions users go through until they finally land on your website again. 

  • They notice the email 
  • They read the email subject
  • They click to read the content
  • They click the CTA button 
  • They land on your website, e.t.c.

So, even if users don’t open all of your retargeting emails, they get a constant reminder that your products are there waiting for them.

Every email is an opportunity to push them down the funnel and bring them one step closer to purchase. 

Now You Have The Full Guide To Build Your Own Automation Flow And Turn Your Store Into A Mousetrap.

The truth is that setting up the process we described in this post can be highly complex and technical. It’s very common that most marketers are not familiar with such perplexing automation flows. 

So, use all the above guidelines to improve the automation you already own at the level you can. 

And if you need extra support to create even more advanced retargeting flows, consider hiring an experienced email marketing agency like us to support you.

If you found this post interesting or worth reading, spread the word. 

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