Every brand has lapsed customers — people who once bought from them, only to disappear off the face of the earth and never interact with the company again.
However, those inactive customers aren’t a lost cause.
While capturing new customers is an essential business practice, maintaining their loyalty is where the real value lies.
Winback campaigns help you reengage inactive or former customers. With the right messaging, you can reverse churn and bring customers back for good using email marketing.
What is a winback email campaign?
Winback email campaigns focus on reengaging inactive subscribers or customers.
Inactive subscribers or customers are people who previously engaged with your brand — such as purchased from your store, signed up for your email list, or interacted with your social media content — but haven’t been active for a certain span of time.
The time period to determine whether someone is “inactive” varies from brand to brand and industry to industry. An eCommerce brand that sells monthly subscription boxes will have a shorter inactivity time frame than one selling seasonal gifts, for example. This period of inactivity is known as customer churn.
Let’s talk about churn
Before we dive into the ins and outs of building a powerful winback campaign, let’s first talk about churn.
It’s natural to lose customers as a brand.
Customer churn, also known as churn rate or rate of attrition, is the rate at which people stop using a brand’s products or services during a particular time period.
You can calculate churn by dividing the number of customers lost during a specific time span by the number of customers you had at the start of that period.
Let’s say you had 500 customers at the start of a six-month time period, but only had 420 by the end of it. The churn rate would be 16%, meaning you lost 16% of your customers.
Why churn rate matters
Understanding your churn rates allows you to see how many customers your brand is losing. While there’s no golden rule for what makes a “good” churn rate, you want yours to be as close to 0% as possible.
Monitoring your churn rate will give you a good indication of the sales and acquisition targets you need to meet to maintain your customer base. Your churn rate can also offer insight into customer satisfaction; a high churn rate is a warning sign that your customers aren’t happy about something.
Minimizing churn can increase your profits as well. After all, customer retention is 5–25 times cheaper than acquiring new ones. Rather than investing all of your time and money into new customer acquisition, you can retain existing customers with a much lower overhead.
Focus on reverse churn
Rather than getting stuck on customer acquisition costs, we recommend you focus on reversing churn through customer lifetime value (LTV).
Customer LTV helps you understand how valuable each customer is throughout their entire relationship with your brand. It hones in on how much a customer spends with you over the duration of their interaction with your brand, rather than measuring this value on a purchase-by-purchase basis.
Keeping a close eye on your customer LTV lets you carefully balance customer acquisition costs with the potential LTV. This will help you avoid overspending on attracting new customers.
You can calculate customer LTV using a few methods. The most simple formula is to take your average revenue per user (ARP U) and multiply it by a customer’s average lifetime.
To illustrate this, an average annual revenue per user of $185 over a lifespan of three years would return a customer LTV of $555.
Concentrating on customer LTV will also help your brand reverse churn. When you prioritize customer LTV, you prioritize the customer experience and, naturally, boost retention.
Your winback email campaigns can be a powerful tactic to increase customer LTV and reverse churn.
5 Critical elements of an effective winback campaign
Anyone can write a winback email, but knowing how to structure a strong winback campaign is what will bring old customers back.
Here are five elements every successful winback email campaign should include.
1) Add some personality
A boring, formulaic email won’t convince someone to shop with you again. But an email oozing with personality just might.
Show you’re human by adding a touch of individuality to your winback emails. This could take the form of humor, being witty, or using lighthearted, colloquial language.
Being helpful, honest, and human is the foundation for writing winback emails that encourage people to return to your brand.
Google Maps isn’t afraid to show off some personality with their reengagement communication. Cute dog, short, snappy headline, conversational copy — Google Maps’ reengagement email ticks all the boxes for writing with personality.
2) Provide a tangible incentive
Simply telling people to come back is unlikely to persuade them. You need to give people a compelling reason to shop with you again.
You can do this by offering a too-good-to-miss exclusive discount code. However, incentives don’t always have to be money-off vouchers. Other options you could offer are:
- Bonus gift
- Free shipping
- Free upgrades
- Sweepstakes or prizes
- Increased reward points
Alternatively, you could use the incentive email as an opportunity to drum up FOMO (fear of missing out) by showing inactive buyers what they’re missing out on. This could be, for example, a recap of your store’s benefits and what they gain as a customer.
When adding an incentive to your email, focus on providing something your customers actually want. There’s no point offering a bonus tote bag if they’re uninterested in it. Your incentive needs to be good enough to encourage them to revisit your store and make a purchase.
Don’t forget to inject urgency into your incentive by including an end date with the offer. Someone is more likely to take action if they only have one week to spend an exclusive discount, compared to if they had one month to redeem it.
3) Personalize the email
You’re not a robot, so your emails shouldn’t sound like they’re written by one.
If someone has engaged with your brand in the past, use their customer data to tailor your winback email to their specific interests, behaviors, and needs. Was your customer a fan of your sneakers? Make sure your winback email features the latest styles they’re missing out on. Emailing a customer who previously bought some cosmetics? Drop them a winback email checking to see if they’re ready to repurchase.
Whatever you do, move away from boilerplate email templates and use real customer data to personalize your email content.
Harry’s personalizes their winback emails by including product details about the customer’s previous order. They take this one step further by swapping the fancy template for a plain-text email from a “real human” for a truly personal feel.
4) Don’t stop at one email
Some customers may need a little more convincing than others. So, don’t just send one email and hope everyone comes rushing back.
Brands with a strong winback strategy send their customers a series of well-thought-out communications. These emails are carefully designed to tap into various customer motivations and behaviors to nudge them gently towards reengaging.
Your winback email series should, at a minimum, contain an initial “we miss you” email followed by a reminder check-in, a clean-up email, and, eventually, a request to unsubscribe. The exact structure of the series changes from one brand to the next brand, allowing you to tailor your winback email campaigns to your customers.
5) Keep things simple
Effective winback email campaigns all have one thing in common: They keep things simple.
When writing your emails, remember, less is more. Keep your email copy short and to the point, and steer clear of overcrowded designs.
Essentially, your email campaign should use minimalist design techniques to draw readers’ attention to what matters — reengaging with your brand. In line with the “keep things simple” principle, stick to one call-to-action per email so you don’t overwhelm people with too much choice.
Duolingo does a great job of keeping its winback email simple by embracing white space, using a concise headline, and having a single CTA. They also use the email copy to ask a question and inspire action in just two sentences.
How to write winback emails that bring customers back
Now that you’re familiar with the key elements of a powerful winback campaign, let’s cover the tactics for writing emails that draw customers back in.
The rules governing your campaigns are just as important as the way your emails look. When devising winback emails, consider the following questions:
- What triggers will send someone a winback email?
- What should your winback emails say?
- How often should you send winback emails?
- How many emails should you send?
Answering these questions will help you determine your winback email sequence.
The trigger of your first winback email should relate to your average customer inactivity period.
Let’s say you calculate churn based on three months of customer inactivity. You could set up a rule where customers receive the first winback email if they haven’t made a purchase in three months.
You can be more strategic here and set up various rule-based triggers according to order frequency, recency, and value. You can then have numerous triggers to determine when a winback email is sent to someone based on whether they’re at a high risk of lapsing.
The copy is the meat of your winback email. Make use of the tips we’ve shared above and remember to tailor your winback email to your customers’ needs. It should focus on satisfying customers to keep their loyalty.
If your buyers value honesty and transparency, your winback emails have to communicate those values.
Similarly, if your customers find money-off vouchers enticing, consider including a monetary incentive in an emails.
Timing is everything with winback emails. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to sending them out. A general rule is to avoid bombarding people with emails or coming across as desperate.
To determine the ideal cadence for your winback emails, analyze the typical customer cycle.
Use this information to predict how often your customers would like to receive emails and what an optimal cadence would be to encourage engagement.
Number of emails
Similar to cadence, there’s no hard-and-fast rule for how many emails you should send as part of your winback campaign.
A report by Klaviyo revealed that eCommerce brands generated more revenue when they sent a series of two or three cart recovery emails. We recommend applying a similar rule to your winback email series.
Start with devising a series of five emails as we mentioned earlier.
These emails should cover:
- Initial reengagement – The first email in the series should be a simple reminder to check in with lapsed customers and encourage them to visit your shop.
- Incentive – After the initial communication, consider sending an incentive email to anyone who still hasn’t engaged. This incentive should be enticing enough to encourage them to shop with you again.
- Feedback request – For anyone who still hasn’t returned to your store, focus your third winback email on gaining customer feedback. This helps you support your buyers, solve any problems they might have, and improve LTV for other customers.
- Clean-up – If people still aren’t engaging, it could be time to clean up your emails. Use the fourth email to offer customers the chance to reduce their email frequency or to clean up the types of emails they receive from your brand.
- Unsubscribe – Finally, close out your winback email campaign by giving any lingering inactive customers the opportunity to unsubscribe from future communications. This lets you declutter your email list so you only contact customers who are still relevant and interested in your brand.
Above all else, test different email series and learn which format works best for your brand.
3 Email marketing tools to create winback campaigns
A quick online search will reveal several email marketing tools that can help you create awesome winback campaigns. Three of our favorites are Klaviyo, Campaign Monitor, and ActiveCampaign.
Klaviyo helps eCommerce brands get more out of email marketing with powerful targeting and automation options. You can set up seamless triggers to make sure your winback emails are delivered to the people who are most at risk of inactivity.
Their ready-to-use email automation capabilities and integration with other eCommerce tools allow you to develop strategic emails that convert customer data into higher customer LTV.
Campaign Monitor prides itself on being an easy-to-use email marketing platform for creating beautifully designed campaigns.
Their intuitive visual journey designer lets you craft timely emails personalized to your users.
If you want a powerful winback email campaign without spending hours designing a unique email sequence, ActiveCampaign has a free, pre-built winback email template you can use for your brand. All you have to do is log in, import the framework, and watch it work its magic.
ActiveCampaign’s email marketing platform has a whole host of features for eCommerce businesses. Along with their pre-built email template, you can use their email marketing tools to build personalized winback email funnels that reengage your inactive customers.
Wrapping up — Compose winback email campaigns that bear fruit
That’s it — you now have the knowledge and resources to create a winback email campaign your customers will love.
A good campaign, though, will need to be tweaked and adjusted as time goes by. Monitoring the success of your email campaigns and making informed changes based on user behavior, interests, and needs is a surefire way to make sure they always drive ROI for your brand.
Remember, your customers are human, so your emails should sound human. Use the tips in this article to construct a winback email campaign that builds trust and encourages inactive customers to return to the fold.