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Win-back emails work!
- 45% of win-back email recipients make an effort to also read subsequent emails from the brand
- 75% of shoppers read a subsequent email within 89 days of receiving the first win-back email, and of this number 25% were still reading emails 300 days after
- Whenever subject lines have featured copy like “we miss you” in a win-back campaign, read rate has gone up by 13%
So here’s the thing:
Customers go away for valid reasons—and are happy to come back if you can craft a win-back campaign like a champ (no empty promises, only authentic messaging and some GREAT deals!)
And this is why, we’ll cover areas that’ll help you come with your own eCommerce win-back campaign:
11 great examples of win-back emails
Let's dive right in.
a. The “Customer Focus” win-back email (Free People)
Women’s clothing brand Free People is literally putting the ball of “becoming active” into the inactive customer’s court.
In this example, notice how there’s no pressure on the customer to do anything extra but to keep engaging with the brand.
The brand of course hopes that a customer receiving this will not only opt for continuing to receive emails, but also buy subsequently.
And how they hope to achieve that final outcome is by letting the customer decide.
Offering choice often makes customers feel like you don’t have an agenda—so offer choices that will make your inactive customers feel like they’re in control.
b. The “Discount Energizer” win-back email (Missguided)
75% of shoppers say they would like to receive emails on discounts & offers.
Everyone loves a good discount, especially those who might be doubtful about receiving a “good deal” from you.
What Missguided does here is announce a decently deep discount of 30% to win back customers.
The messaging is straightforward and the secondary hook (check micro copy) is a call-out to “scored some new.”
The general tone of this win-back email is peppy, avoiding the emotional route of “we miss you” that many other emails take.
Feature categories the inactive customer may have bought from before or shown interest in—related visual and CTA cues can take them right back to their earlier shopping experience(s)!
c. The “Storewide Discount” win-back email (Photojojo)
Now defunct, photography accessory & gifting eCommerce brand Photojojo shows us how powerful offering storewide buying choice can be.
This win-back email goes crisp on text but manages to win over hearts first—declaring a not-so-little discount through witty word play.
For a disengaged or inactive customer, this kind of an email can stir up multiple things:
- “That’s a cute way of saying, come back!”
- “Oh thank God! They’re not being pushy!”
- “Oh wait! It’s just for a day?!” (we bet you didn’t notice that too, but that’s why this email is so clever—this brand hides this significant information in the fineprint!)
Even a smaller discount can seem significant if your brand can make the customer feel like they can buy whatever they want with it—customers see choice as power.
d. The “Here’s What You’ve Been Missing” win-back email (Rockport)
56% of shoppers experience FOMO when they’re away from social media networks.
The good thing is: with effective win-back messaging, you can generate just the right amount of FOMO in your inactive customers.
Notice how Rockport does it—it’s subtle, non-pushy and calls attention to “what’s new” while updating on what has been.
Highlight what puts your brand in good light when you’re justifying that the customer has been missing out—if they don’t see the “what”, they may not want to come back.
e. The “Brand Benefits” win-back email (Chain Reaction Cycles)
There’s a popular saying:
Customers buy benefits, not products.
So, when you’re making your win-back pitch to customers who’ve slacked off, you’ll have to bring ‘em benefits out loud—PLUS an offer they can’t refuse.
Like Chain Reaction Cycles does.
Notice how the brand covers a number of key aspects that will make customers sit up and pay attention—from offers to competitions to BTS upgrades for a better customer experience.
Let your customers know you’re very confident about what you have to offer—in the example above, the brand states “we could think of 99 reasons why…”—and they’ll find a great reason to come back.
f. The “Emotional Nudge” win-back email (Bare Minerals)
Research has pointed out companies gaining huge traction the minute they emotionally connect with customers.
In this Bare Minerals win-back email, the brand takes the onus for “the beauty fix” the customer needs—and announces a decent discount to make it more available.
Fall back on emotional language to create the right hooks—observe how the above example uses words/phrases like “friends”, “miss you” and “a surprise present” to make the messaging more compelling.
g. The “Curiosity Generator” win-back email (SAKS)
Some brands would rather talk about the updates and upgrades they’ve been making and hope inactive customers make their way back.
Some others, like SAKS, generate curiosity in the customer and make them think.
The idea is to offer them a *hint* which will then drive them to click the CTA.
Justify what’s great about your brand and then bring in a question for the customer to ponder over & click—SAKS highlighting how they’re up to speed recreates confidence in a customer who may have bought before.
h. The “Understandably Demanding” win-back email (Birchbox)
Not for the weak hearted, a win-back email that drives at wanting the customer back (sub-text: at any cost) can be effective.
But only if: the customer in question has had a long history of engagement with the brand.
The tone that this Birchbox email takes can be overwhelming for someone who has barely bought from you—in fact it can come off as slightly fake.
Make a demand, yes, but back it up with an incentive that’s not seen as too “little” or “low”—and like SAKS drive that sense of urgency too.
i. The “Classic We Miss You'' win-back email—with a twist (JC Penney)
That’s the trend that JC Penney rides on, in this win-back email.
While customers may not be all that taken in by “we really miss you”—they’ll notice that the brand is extending the “no minimum purchase required” benefit to them.
Make your inactive customers feel like they matter—so if you’re a brand that usually does not extend free shipping, make an exception.
j. The “Decide fast! It’s limited time” win-back email (Crocs)
Sometimes the conditional win-back email like this one by Crocs makes a big impact.
They’re super smart about it, and don’t just offer a CTA to act on.
For extremely inactive customers, an offer is well worth it only if they’re even interested in engaging with the said brand.
Choose your CTA text carefully to create the desired response in the customer—and don’t hid the limited time factor in fine print.
k. The “Not-so-typical Feedback” win-back email (ASOS)
Along with getting customers to convert on an offer, a win-back email also should ideally glean some information on customer behavior.
Mammoth fashion brand ASOS shows us how:
They’ve created a multi-choice feedback survey that’ll let the brand know about the reasons behind customer inertia or disinterest.
Always make a feedback win-back email carry an incentive—this way, whether the customer takes the incentive immediately or not, they’ll see a good reason to offer feedback.
2. 5 win-back email templates that turn inactivity to inspired action
a. The “Birthday Discount” win-back template
This template works well for birthdays and anniversaries apart from other seasonal holidays—make sure to tweak with unique copy based on the event/holiday.
Subject Line: Hey <insert name>, can’t believe it’s that time of the year again!
Email Headline: Unlock 80% on your birthday (been a while but we remembered!)
Email Body: Hey <insert name>, while we haven’t met in some time, we thought it’s the perfect reason to send across a little something your way. We don’t usually announce such massive price drops but well, you know, you were with us for a while and we wanted to appreciate that!
*Note that this offer is available only until your birthday
CTA: Claim it right away
b. The “Limited Time Discount” win-back template
Everyone loves a good deal—and especially when the clock’s ticking away.
Keep the language crisp even if you’re making slight changes to suit your brand.
Subject Line: Hey <insert name>, time for a comeback? (Lasts ONLY until tomorrow)
Email Headline: This one’s on us, we swear!
Email Body: Aww, we know it’s been a while. But it doesn’t have to be that way anymore—shop anything @ an additional 15% off across the store. ONLY TILL TOMORROW.
CTA: Let’s Gooo!
c. The “Priority Access+Discount” win-back template
Ensure not to offer a whole lot of room for the customer to slip away when using this template—send the email a day or two before the launch event at max.
Subject Line: Hey <insert name>, ready to reconnect on *EXCLUSIVE* terms?
Email Headline: Exclusive discounted access to the <insert event name>—click & enjoy 30% off!
Email Body: Before we told them, we’re telling you. And that’s because we haven’t been in touch for a while. Get back on track with this special access & beat the heat.
CTA: Claim Now
d. The “Tell Us What’s Wrong” win-back template
This one’s where you need to be very clear about what kind of feedback you’re looking for when you make edits—and avoid becoming blame-y and heavy.
Subject Line: Hey <insert name>, want to tell us what’s wrong?
Email Headline: We’re pretty sure it’s us (we just need to know why)
Email Body: Hey <insert name>, we noticed that you’ve not been visiting us anymore and we wanted to know what would change that. Choose one option from below that best answers your problem—and take a discount of 20% till the coming weekend for doing us the favor.
Option 1: I’m not interested anymore
Option 2: The offers suck
Option 3: Keep seeing the same recommendations
Option 4: I want a call-back
CTA: Take this!
e. The “Final Chance” win-back template
Things have gone beyond repair, and as a business you need to act before your email list gets bloated—the final chance email needs to say things as they are (while saying there’s hope.)
Subject Line: Hey <insert name>, this is it—it’s now or NEVER!
Email Headline: This is your final chance
Email Body: We noticed it’s been a while since you came around. While we hope you still like us, it’s time for us to know whether you want to be on the list or not.
Primary CTA: Please keep me on the list
Secondary CTA: Nah! Take me off!
3. How is a win-back email different from a re-engagement email?
What’s primarily different between a win-back email and a re-engagement email is the kind of customer inaction each one targets.
Win-back emails work well for those who’ve not bought at all for a while.
So let’s say, you had a customer named Mary who’d purchase at least twice in three months—after engaging like this for about a year, she has suddenly vanished.
A win-back email carrying a tangible financial benefit is more likely to bring such a customer back.
They may also appreciate it more if you let this discount be applicable on new categories or some categories they’d shown interest in.
However, here’s a quick checklist of *other* benefits (apart from a % discount or code) that you can win them back with:
- Membership benefits
- Referral rewards
- Exclusive (read: gated) content (based on product preferences & browsing history)
- *Early bird* free samples (from a new launch)
- Discounted subscription offer (for example, for 1 year—only for today!)
- A limited time $ discount on items saved in the permanent cart
Re-engagement emails work better for customers who continue to engage but not purchase, but let’s say, if they were engaging at a 9 earlier on a scale of 0 to 10, now they’re at a 4.
So what a re-engagement email does is keep the potential customer interested in the brand—in the hopes that with a *little nudge* their engagement won’t just go up but they will ALSO start buying.
In reality, since this is rarely about just one customer, a re-engagement email campaign can work wonders in helping you retain existing customers (rather than running after acquiring new ones.)
4. Why is it important to initiate a win-back campaign?
The easiest thing to say would be: to convert dormant customers.
However, in reality, a win-back email campaign can do lots more in the long-term for your eCommerce business:
Leverage reconnection for retention
Top brands remain at the top because they have one thing in common: they have an average customer retention rate of 94%.
With the right messaging, offers and permissions (for opt-ins), your existing customers will give you more business than new ones.
Help analyze response rates
Customer retention isn’t a short-term goal.
So along with making inactive customers buy today, a great win-back campaign will ensure:
- You know their product preferences
- You know what kind of offers they’re actively going after
- You know the friction points that are making them drop off
All of the above can become your key in taking your retention strategy to the next level.
Create brand recall & awareness
Given that there are a plethora of brand and product options out there, every once in a way, customers can forget what your brand uniquely stands for.
A win-back email campaign can change that.
5. When should you start a win-back campaign?
That really depends on how you define your “inactivity threshold”.
Come to think about it, this is heavily industry-dependent.
While a customer buying skincare products regularly should not stay silent for over a month, another buying furniture is likely to go quiet more often (because of the nature of the products.)
Ideally, for your win-back strategy to be effective, you need to get hold of them in the early stages of waning interest.
If it’s for more perishable products like makeup, skincare and food, begin your win-back campaign 2 to 3 months from the date of last interaction—this timeframe isn’t too early or too late and won’t give customers the impression that you’re chasing them.
For more durable items, 6 to 8 months from the last purchase is a good timeframe to target.
Segment your inactive customers based on their previous purchase and engagement history.
This will help you talk to someone who has been inactive for 6 months differently than another who has not bought anything in a year.
6. What is a typical example of a win-back strategy?
The typical win-back strategy more or less covers the following flow:
Identify the right customers to win back
For this, define the amount of time customers should have been dormant (remember: to factor in industry, category and type of product.)
Segment and then personalize
For this ask some crucial questions:
What’s their customer lifetime value?
What’s their geographical location (& hence purchasing behavior?)
What did they buy before and how much?
How often did they buy before?
Create offers that make them go wow
This is the tough part but also the rewarding part—if you can do it well.
Look at your segmentation data to figure which customers would enjoy no-threshold free shipping, which ones would prefer a dollar discount and which would be happy to receive a surprise gift.
Make your messaging create a “response”
Think through what would motivate them first.
Have they engaged enough to be “turned on” by an early discounted access to a new launch?
Or would they happily lean into a 30% storewide discount—when you tell them a brand like yours thrives because of shoppers like them?
Define a window & create an email series
To get the timeframe right, make sure you have some answers:
What’s the average time a customer takes to become inactive?
How soon do customers open a win-back email or avail the offer or both?
What is the extent of inactivity?
For example, if the customer has just turned inactive a single win-back email may do the trick, while you may need a series of 3 to 4 if they’ve been lying low for over 6 months.
Study the results & reiterate
Take a good look at which segment, what kind of offer, what kind of messaging etc. seem to be really effective in the campaign (run A/B tests to make effective comparisons and prove hypotheses.)
You might like this: 20 email personalization templates (examples from great brands)
7. How many emails do you send in a win-back flow?
Is the campaign meant for a brand that sells skincare products for outdoorsy people?
Or is it to win back customers for a travel gear brand?
You get the hint: there’s no right or wrong answer.
However, here are a few relevant buckets that you can consider when you plan your flow:
The initial email
Sending just one of this kind is a good idea in most cases, because you’re trying to assess if they even want to engage back.
Offering an update on what’s new and what the brand has been up to, generally, works. A general storewide % discount can also be part of this.
The follow-up emails
The idea here would be for you to take firmer steps to engage them: send value-add content along with a discount code, feature social proof with a “just launched and here’s an exclusive offer of x% off”, display limited time offers etc.
The final email
We like to call it the last straw on the camel’s back.
This is what you send when you see all your win-back emails have gone unopened/ unclicked etc.
8. What does an effective win-back sequence look like?
Here’s a sequence that we’ve recommended to multiple clients:
This is to get the pulse of the customer—to make it easy, you can craft a multi-choice feedback email with four or five answers:
- I found a better alternative
- I would like better offers
- Send me more personalized recommendations, please
- Want to see new stuff
Reminder with incentive
“Still there? Since you wanted to see new stuff—here are TWO categories we launched in the last three months….and oh! Here’s a 20% discount you can use to buy off these categories!”
Reminder with anniversary sale offer
“We know we’ve not been in touch for a while but how about reconnecting over our massive 80% across-the-store anniversary sale? This comes just once a year, so why not stock up?”
Reminder with limited time offer
“It’s been raining offers at our site but this one’s just for you! Avail an additional 15% off across the store!”
Time to unsubscribe?
“Are you still enjoying receiving our emails? While we love seeing you have a good time with our offers, we wouldn’t want to be a bother!”
No matter what sequence you choose, pay special attention to the CTAs you introduce in each email—they will help you track the rate and quality of responses.
9. How to write a high-converting win-back email
While there are innumerable ways to write win-back emails, the best ones have a few things in common:
A clear, inspiring message
Why must they turn back and want to engage?
What will make them want to buy again?
Imagine their response when you write something like…
“Have you noticed our website experience has improved?”
“Will you tell us something?”
“Got a minute?”
“Where did you go away? We’re right here waiting”
…and then follow it up with updates on improvements, offers, new launches etc.
Microcopy that offers supportive information
Make it relevant, non-draggy and cut out the fluff.
Use bullets if you will, and highlight the numbers.
Something like: “We’d love to know you’re still thinking of us—let’s say cheers to this connect with a 20% discount from any category you choose to shop from. Offer lasts till 31/ 07/ 2023” is crisp and can prop up a nice, peppy headline.
A CTA that really drives action
Remember: they’ve seen enough of the “BUY NOWs” and “SHOP NOWs”.
To make your win-back email convert, your CTAs need to make them act—without thinking.
So text like…
“Let’s do this!”
“Go! Go! Go!”
“Get the deal”
…can work wonders.
A visual that’s relevant AND powerful
Fall back on the purpose of the email to introduce a visual—the truth is most of the time, shoppers aren’t opening emails to look at the visuals, but are taking them in anyway subconsciously—so if something’s off, they’ll close the email and walk away.
An offer that’s tough to refuse
Touch base with where customers are on their journey to create offers that are compelling AND immediately attractive—yes, that’s what you’re trying to drive: instant action!
10. What makes an amazing win-back subject line?
A win-back email subject line is effective ONLY if you’re able to do the following:
Don’t make it sound gimmicky
We know how they all say put emojis, put exclamations—but the truth is, there’s something way more compelling when you keep your win-back email subject lines clean and simple.
Use a familiar sender name (and sendee name)
Why use John Carter when you can say Vanity Planet?
As important is referring to the customer by their recognized name.
So something like this can be effective:
“Hey Rita! Come back to enjoy our freshly brewing coffees at Cafe Mixer”
Leave the empty promises behind
It’s tempting to say A LOT when you fear losing a customer who was adding big dollars to your bottom line, but avoid.
Instead focus on a new feature, a new launch, an unputdownable yearly sale…
Check this out: 20 High-converting examples of automated emails
11. 10 amazing win-back subject lines for instant inspiration
1. Ready for a comeback, <insert name>?
2. <insert name>, let’s catch you up on what you’ve been missing out!
3. Hi! <insert name> Where’d you go?
4. Dear <insert name>, here’s a little something to get back together
5. Hey <insert name>, did you go away just like that?
6. Dear <insert name>, blame it on us if you will!
7. We’d love to hear from you again, <insert name>!
8. Hey friend! Just wanted to say we *really miss* YOU!
9. Wherever you are, just come back!
10. Wait! We want to get back together with you, <insert name>!
BONUS: 10 killer win-back subject lines from the best eCommerce brands
1. We haven’t heard from you lately but we’d love to (Crocs)
2. We’ve reserved that last ticket for you (Myntra)
3. Hey, we need to talk! (Missguided)
4. Look at what you’re missing! (Boden)
5. We hate goodbyes. (So we’re emailing you one last time.) (John Paul Mitchell Systems)
6. You + Us We Miss That (GAP)
7. Is this the end? (Flamebridge)
8. Give us a second chance? (Dinnerly)
9. Hello Friend! It’s been awhile! (Land’s End)
10. We miss you at Spy (SPY)
12. How effective are win-back campaigns really?
Win-back emails are THE tactic that can do two things at the same time: retain those existing customers on your behalf and prevent you from spending hard-earned dollars on new but elusive customers.
If we go by research, the probability a brand has of selling to existing customers is 60% to 70%, while the number drastically changes to 5% to 20% for new customers.
So, businesses that create win-back campaigns with consistent value—whether it’s a limited time free upgrade or discounted early access to a flash sale—see massive results.
Transform Email Marketing Into A Revenue Machine
Most eCommerce store owners don’t see email as a serious revenue stream.
Ask them about the importance of email marketing, and you'll hear: “we don’t really have a major strategy,” “we mostly use generic templates,” or “we just send emails to people on our list.”
BUT AT THE SAME TIME:
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Engage can help you do the same - Book a free demo.
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