When compared to its sporting goods rivals Adidas has a rather lacklustre ecommerce site.

There’s a lack of personalisation, there are no multichannel return options, delivery options are non-existent and the free delivery minimum spend is exceptionally high. All this plus a rather clunkily designed site mean that Adidas needs to up its game when it comes to ecommerce.

That being said, since exploring the site one week ago, I’ve found that Adidas is doing excellent work in the field of email marketing, in particular basket abandonment emails. Let’s take a little journey into my inbox…


As I revealed in a study on basket abandonment emails I carried out in September, out of 45 shopping baskets I filled then abandoned on UK and US ecommerce sites, only three stores sent me basket abandonment emails.

Adidas can join that small group of top ecommerce sites carrying out this important method of retargeting.

I added a pair of shoes to my shopping cart on 15 October. Since that date I’ve received three basket abandonment emails, dated 15, 16 and 22 Oct…

Each has a different subject line, each offers an increasingly tempting message. The first email I received came within hours of leaving the Adidas site without purchasing the shoes. The second arrived the next day, the third and final one arrived five days later.

Obviously the first two are to capitalise on the customer’s initial intent, however Adidas has done the wise thing and left the customer alone for a short while after the second one was sent. It’s realised that if the customer hasn’t responded to these first two emails, they probably won’t with any more.

Unless of course they are tempted with a discount offer.

Cleverly Adidas hasn’t offered the 10% off promo too early in the proceedings, it’s waited five days. If offered right from the start, Adidas wouldn’t have known whether the discount was needed or not. The customer may have paid full price anyway, and you needlessly lost some profit.

Almost a week later, if the customer hasn’t come back to the cart they probably never will, so you might as well offer a discount.

The trouble is there’s a chance you might end up training your customers to do this all the time, if they’re always going to receive a discount code after five days anyway.

However the discount on offer is available only on the next purchase, so if the marketing here works, Adidas may bag itself two separate sales, which wouldn’t have happened in the first place.

Perhaps the second best thing here is that after the third email, Adidas have wisely left me alone.

Subject lines

There’s lots of really good information on the blog about the importance of subject lines so do read further for more general guidance. 

As for Adidas, its subject lines are absolutely top.

They’re direct, simple, short and they describe exactly what will be featured in the content.

The first subject line ‘forget something, click to buy’, directly relates to my activity so I know this isn’t just spammy marketing. It also makes clear how easy it is to go straight into the check out from the email without having to leave my inbox and find its store again.

The second subject line ‘Free returns on all orders’ lets me know something that I might have missed during checkout, it also subtly says “go on, give them a try, you can always send them back”.

The third subject line ‘Your last chance’ adds urgency, and of course with the ‘10% off’ offer adds temptation. Although discount offers that are sent in general email marketing can be regarded as a turn-off, here I feel it works because it directly relates to a product that I may actually buy.

The other important thing here is that every subject is different. It’s vital that your messages should offer variation or your recipients will just get bored of them and mark you as spam.

Here are 45 other things to avoid in your email subject lines.


The content in Adidas’s emails tick all the right boxes for me.

This is its first email (please note this is just above the fold):

It’s made clear that this email was triggered directly from my activity, with added urgency thanks to the ‘get it before it’s gone’ message. There are also plenty of links for help and customer services throughout the email.

Most importantly though, as we scroll to the bottom of the email…

…we can see that my exact item is featured, with a large image, full description and a direct link to ‘view my bag’, which indeed links directly to my shopping cart where the item still waits.

There are a few negative points with the email unfortunately. The major one is that it’s unresponsive, therefore it’s impossible to read on my smartphone.

Adidas should include the price of the shoe here, with total including delivery, just for transparency.

Also, I’m not entirely convinced that those products at the bottom of the email really have been ‘especially selected’ for me.

These are minor niggles though. Here’s a look at Adidas’s second email…

This is where Adidas reveals all of its added value services, free returns, free postage (over £100) and fairly speedy delivery. Although there’s a case to be made that all of this info should have been in the first email.

Here’s the third and final email…

It’s the same as the second email, except with the major addition of an incentive. (It should be noted with the above two emails, if you scroll below the fold they contain the same product image and ‘view bag’ button as the first.)

It’s all strong stuff, with clear messaging, a good frequency of delivery, working links (you’ll be surprised at how many email links lead to dead-ends) and all personalised to my own customer journey. 

Further reading…

For more on basket abandonment emails from the blog, check-out:

Our Festival of Marketing event in November is a two-day celebration of the modern marketing industry, featuring speakers from brands including LEGO, Tesco, Barclays, FT.com and more.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 27 October, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (9)

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Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Good looking emails - I like the 10% off the *next* order assuming you complete this one.

Just the preheaders could do with a tweak. For example this sounds a teeny bit like a nagging child: "FREE Returns on All Orders - FREE Returns on Items in your Bag | FREE Returns On"

Here are 10 more examples of great cart abandonment emails:

almost 4 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

I like this article, and the recent articles along similar lines. Here are 3 points that may/may not be useful.

1. It seems to have been 6 days between their 2nd & 3rd emails. You say they've left you alone after the 3rd, but it had only been 5 days between that & this post.
2. There aren't any stats here, and therefore I suppose we don't really know that these emails perform well.
3. The 10% thing is a bit of a double-edged sword. It works well, but there's a risk of training customers that you'll give them 10% off simply to delay their purchase for a week. Worth testing.

On the second point, I think this probably does perform well - they're following a pattern that works well elsewhere. (I don't think they're using SaleCycle, but the email design here is along the lines SaleCycle used to recommend after a whole bunch of testinng). Still worth caveating that this looks good, rather than necessarily performs well I suppose.


almost 4 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

@dan - cheers, dan... on your 1st point, I've still yet to receive anything further. On your 2nd point, yes this is more of 'good example' post so I probably should have caveated that more clearly.

The 10% thing is really interesting... we were talking the other day how we're all trained never to pay full price at a certain pizza restaurant because there are so many voucher codes available.

almost 4 years ago


Emma Mitra, Digital Engagement & CRM Manager at STA Travel

Really interesting to see what a major brand is doing in this area, thanks Christopher. Just wondered if you'd explicitly opted in to receive marketing emails from Adidas in order to receive the cart abandonment email, or are they just using the info you entered before you abandoned in order to retarget ?

almost 4 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

@Emma - Nope, I hadn't opted in to recieve emails, it's just using my info.

almost 4 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

@Emma: many online retailers have a statement/link on the form where you enter your email address while buying.

This says e.g. you're agreeing their terms&conditions and they'll use your email address to contact you if there are problems, or to tell you about how your order is progressing.

It's not a legal requirement for transactional emails, more a courtesy, and Adidas don't seem to do this as far as I can see from their site.

almost 4 years ago


Tom C

Regarding the 10%, you could set a rule to say "only offer this to one email address ever", or base it via cookies/IP. Alternatively, you could say "only offer it to this email address/cookie/IP once every 3 months". At least that way the customer cannot come to expect it.

almost 4 years ago


Jamie Pierre

These emails were utilised off of the work we did with Reebok. It's good to see that they took the learning from Ve Interactive on this, but I agree with you they should be responsive to cater to their mobile market.

Crazy to think you tested so many ecommerce sites and only a few are taking advantage of a key failure metric.

almost 4 years ago


Frank Sullivan, Software Tester at SU53


Well I think they still have some way to go with my experience.

I ordered items to the value of £56.00, received prompt e-mail stating items expected to be delivered within 3-4 business days.

I check today and see I have an e-mail stating 'the items you added to my shopping bag are sold out'.
Am I missing something here? Why the hell let me add them if you don't have them in stock? Appalling and amateurish e-commerce system, I'm not a product specialist but the basics surely are: -
customer selects item
is it in stock
yes - put temp hold on item, tell customer they have 15/30 mins before item is moved out of basket
no - tell customer sorry but sold out. Don't tell me 1 day after you've accepted my order that you can't honour the contract.

about 3 years ago

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