Get Old Customers Back with Win-Back Emails

We’ve all heard that it’s five times more expensive to bring in a new customer than it is to keep an existing one. Yet for some reason, so many e-commerce companies are leaving huge customer re-engagement opportunities on the e-table. They may have a big, beautiful list of email addresses, but only use them for stale newsletters or the occasional generic sale announcement.

But what if your email list was the golden ticket to surpassing your monthly, quarterly, or annual sales numbers? What if it was the key to meeting the traffic and click-through goals that keep you up late at night, racking your brain for ideas?

That’s where win-back email series comes in. If you’re not familiar, it’s exactly what it sounds like: win your old customers back through a series of targeted, personalized emails. Let’s dive in.

Why Bring Back Old Customers?

There’s a practically endless amount of data that points to how efficient and lucrative it can be to charm your past customers. According to an online marketing report from Adobe Digital Index, 41% of revenue in the U.S. comes from repeat or returning customers, even though these customers represent just 8% of all visitors.

marketing report

The report also found that the conversion rate of previous buyers is nine times higher than that of consumers who haven’t made a purchase. To put it simply: If you have the right approach, bringing back old customers can result in a higher ROI from your marketing efforts.

You can spend less time and resources while increasing your visitor engagement and revenue, all while building stronger relationships and customer loyalty that will keep them coming back for more. So how to do you do it?

I’m glad you asked.

How to Create an Effective Win-Back Email Campaign (in 5 Steps)

This article is quite in-depth. To make life easier, I’ve broken each step down in more detail. Click a link below to jump to a particular section of interest.

1. Identify Lapsed Customers in Your List & Segment Them

2. Send Re-Permission Emails to Really Old Addresses

3. Build Win-Back Offers

4. Think of Subject Lines

5. Take Action & A/B Test Results

Let’s look at each step in more detail.

Step #1: Identify Lapsed Customers in Your List & Segment Them

Ideally, your win-back series will consist of several emails that cater to the customer’s demographics, interests, and past behaviors and purchases. To do this, you’ll need to dig deep into your existing data to identify and segment them into groups based on these details.

For the basics, you’ll want to know three main details:

  • When a particular customer’s last purchase was made
  • How many times a year they used to purchase from you
  • Their average order value for each past purchase

You can think of these three elements as the ultimate formula for identifying and segmenting the customers who might be most valuable to your win-back campaign.

For example, I recommend homing in on every customer who hasn’t made a purchase in six months to a year. If it’s been longer than a year, look for the customers who used to purchase regularly (more than five times in a year) and/or had high order values compared to other customers.

You can also create deeper levels of segmentation, like groups based on the types of items they purchased, the time of day they typically shop, items they put in their cart and abandoned, and so on.

While it’s possible to make these calculations on your own, it can be a complex process. The right platforms will often have simple, clear-cut options to create subscriber segments so you can target the right ones with a few clicks.

Step #2: Send Re-Permission Emails to Really Old Addresses

For customers who haven’t engaged in more than a year, you can test the water by sending a re-permission email. This email essentially asks the customer permission to still receive emails from your brand. You can send this email either in the earlier or later stages of your win-back series.

There are two approaches:

1. A “soft” re-permission email, where you keep the customer on your email list unless they click a button or link inside the email to opt-out. Ideal for earlier stages.

2. A “hard” re-permission email, where you automatically remove the customer from your list unless they click a button or link to stay opted-in. Ideal for later stages.

It’s recommended to send hard emails in the later stages because it often takes a few emails to get some engagement during a win-back campaign.

A study by MarketingProfs showed that 76% of customers who opened a second or third email in a win-back series didn’t even open the initial email. This suggests that you shouldn’t be too quick to trim down your email list until you have a good idea of your engagement rates for the long-term.

Think of the re-permission email as testing the water.

Re-Permission Emails

Women’s clothing and lifestyle company Free People does this well by combining the two tactics, giving users the option to opt-in and opt-out in the same email. It’s a double-win when users opt-in, which shows that they’re optimally engaged with the brand’s emails.

Step #3: Build Win-Back Offers

Your win-back series should contain some sort of special offer, which usually takes the form of a discount. After all, 80% of people who sign up for email lists are in it for the discounts. Give the people what they want.

You can also try other enticing offers like free or discounted shipping, buy-one-get-one deals, or extra loyalty points (if there is an existing loyalty program and they are a member). By all means, get creative with your offers. Your only limits are in your ingenuity and attention to detail.

Depending on the nature of the brand and the engagement levels of the customers in question, you might choose to go straight in for the offer or start with a simple “We miss you” email. UK clothing company Boden sends a nudge to lapsed customers, putting the company back in the customer’s top-of-mind and enticing them to browse their store and see what’s new.