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How To Create Irresistible Win-back Email Campaigns

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Like every business owner, you probably spend a significant amount of time and effort building your customer list, so you really want to get as much value from those customers as possible.

However, what happens when a customer ghosts on your online store and hasn’t ordered in awhile?

That customer is inactive or “lapsed,” and you should consider sending them a win-back email campaign.

So, what is a win-back email campaign, and how can you create an irresistible one?

You can find answers to these questions in this article. Let’s explore!

What is a win-back email campaign?

A win-back email campaign includes a series of highly personalized and targeted emails to reach out to inactive customers. They might be people who have engaged with your business in the past (e.g., they’ve made a purchase, opened your emails, visited your website, etc.), but for some reason, they have stopped doing so for a certain amount of time.

What is a win-back email campaign?
What is a win-back email campaign?

The purpose of win-back email campaigns is to win those customers back by getting them to interact with your curated emails, CTAs (calls-to-action), and other communications.

Why does a win-back email campaign matter a lot?

If you are not sending dedicated winback campaigns, you could be ignoring potential customers and missing out on sales. On the flip side, if you are sending the same messages to your entire list without segmenting your customers based on inactivity, that could negatively impact your email deliverability.

In addition, the major advantage of win-back email campaigns is that they encourage customers to make repeat purchases. Think about it: If someone makes a purchase and never makes one again, or they used to frequently purchase but stopped, there must be a reason.

No matter if they stopped buying because they preferred your competitor’s products, or just stopped using it altogether, or another reason, a win-back email campaign can help you directly speak to some of these concerns.

As a matter of fact, it costs 5 times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one, which just goes to show that win-back email campaigns are essential for your business.

6 strategies to create irresistible win-back email campaigns

Once you’ve identified a win-back email campaign as a vital part of your marketing strategy, the question is: Where should you start in creating an effective one?

Below are 6 strategies you can use to create an irresistible win-back email campaign.

1. Identify inactive customers

Before you can send a win-back email campaign, the first step is to identify who should receive it. You need to determine what you consider an inactive customer. They are the only ones that should receive your win-back campaign.

It is difficult to give you a hard figure here because it is vastly different for every company. But there are several things you should consider:

  • How often do you typically send emails?
  • How often do your customers buy products online?
  • What are the types of products you sell?

For example, if you sell a 30-day supply of coffee, it is reasonable to expect customers to buy every month. They might buy late or even skip a month, but you should consider them inactive customers after three months. But suppose you sell a one-year membership to a training program, trying to win customers back after three months doesn’t make much sense, as they don’t have any reason to buy again.

Additionally, if you don’t send emails often (perhaps you’ve just begun to take email marketing seriously), your customers have not been prompted to engage with your brand. Ask yourself: Are your customers not buying because they have become truly inactive, or have they just not heard from you often enough to become active customers?

Once you’ve decided who you consider inactive, segment them from the rest of your subscribers. That is just a starting point, though, and you can edit that rule to suit your specific business needs.

2. Craft compelling win-back subject lines

Like any type of email campaign, win-back subject lines are considered the gatekeepers to your emails. But because your inactive subscribers have developed a habit of ignoring your messages, your subject lines need to be really compelling.

Don’t be afraid to acknowledge their poor engagement. Use emotionally charged language. Don’t blame them, of course, but it is fine to say something like:

  • “We miss you”
  • “Did you forget about us?”
  • “Where have you been, [recipient’s name]?”
  • “Hoping to reconnect”
  • “It’s been a while…”
  • “Don’t be a stranger”
  • “Breaking up is hard to do (so let’s not)”

We love this subject line from Hunker that says, “We’ve both been so busy.” It communicates the same sentiment as traditional win-back subject lines while feeling like a message from a friend we haven’t heard from in a while.

Picking an email subject line should never be one and done. A/B test your win-back email subject line in order to get a better understanding of what resonates with your audience and ultimately, increase your open rates.

3. Pay attention to your email content

Here is the big question: What goes into a win-back email campaign?

The purpose of your win-back campaign is to incentivize inactive subscribers to return to re-engage with your brand. Ideally, it means making a purchase, but it could also be as simple as opening your email or visiting your website.

Below are some examples of different things you can write about:

i. Problems and solutions

People do not disengage without reason, as we said above.

That said, you need to identify the problem of each subscriber. Use this opportunity to send a survey to know how you could improve your email marketing strategy.

Take a look at the email from Proven for inspiration:

While this was delivered as an abandoned cart email, it shares a lot of qualities with what you think of as a win-back email: a customer loved your brand, but something stopped them from fully engaging and completing a purchase.

This email gives a number of legitimate reasons that may have stopped customers from checking out. This kind of email quickly makes customers feel heard and appreciated, especially when they can voice their questions or problems directly. The feeling of being valued may be enough for them to engage with your brand once more.

ii. Incentives

Giving incentives to win subscribers back doesn’t have to be your first or only option, but adding the right ones to your email sequence can tempt back a price-conscious shopper.

The skincare brand Tula leads with a 15% off discount in its win-back email, which ensures recipients that the offer isn’t something they hand out often.

The brand also pairs this incentive with other win-back strategies to make the email truly irresistible. By highlighting customer favorites, the brand makes it easy for readers to re-familiarize themselves with its products without immediately clicking through to the website.

The fact that these best-sellers alone are enough to create intrigue, but Tula pairs each product with an outstanding review from a customer to create credibility with recipients who may be on the fence.

iii. Updates and new offerings

If your products/ services have evolved over the past year, you could give inactive customers an update. Provide information about your new updates or how you have improved your store experience.

For instance, Path shows its new features through great visuals. The brand also has an “Update Now” button to display it clearly.

iv. Social proof

Social proof is the idea that we often have more faith in things that have been experienced and enjoyed by others, and it can be communicated in several ways. Think reviews, testimonials, ratings, endorsements, you name it.

The online prescription glasses store, Warby Parker, fills its email with tweets from satisfied customers.

Competing against well-established brands comes with many challenges, but the brand uses these Twitter testimonials as social proof of its high-quality products/ services that rival any competitors.

It’d be one thing to list off these benefits themselves, but having their customers say it for them can pack a much bigger punch. For inactive subscribers, learning that other users think highly of a brand to leave a review or write a tweet may just tip the scales enough for them to open your emails and see what you are all about.

v. Last chance

The fear of losing something is sometimes much more powerful than the prospect of gaining something. This is called loss aversion in psychological terms.

Here is the scenario: your emails have been arriving in your recipient’s inbox, only for them to look at them and think “maybe later.” This happens again and again, until one day, an email arrives announcing to them that if they don’t click through, they will be unsubscribed in 30 days.

This is the last-chance win-back email, and its advantages are twofold. Firstly, anyone that is afraid of losing your presence in their inbox will click to remain subscribed, and you’ll have another chance to engage them with a catchy campaign. Secondly, if they really want to end the relationship, you can clean your email list of an inactive subscriber.

This win-back email from Tattly is an excellent example of how to formulate a last-chance email:

With a sense of humor and Halloween spirit, Tattly succinctly spells out the situation as well as what to do to fix it. It is simple, easy to understand, and likable enough to encourage its subscribers to click that big red button.

4. Add converting CTAs

The success of your win-back email campaign depends on your click-through rate.

You need to motivate people to click the button and act. You just don’t want to seem too annoying or promotional, so it’s better to place only one CTA. Additionally, inactive subscribers will not quickly make a purchase. Thus, the CTA of your win-back email could be browsing your website or adjusting email preferences.

Below are some brands with converting CTAs:

Jet places a big blue-green CTA button, which stands out from the email’s all-violet layout. It also offers free shipping on orders above $35, along with free returns within 30 days. Even those who don’t often buy will think twice before clicking the back button.

Paul Mitchell, on the other hand, begins its email with a heart-wrenching “We hate goodbyes.” It’s followed by a big sad face made up of its own products and a simple but hard-to-miss CTA.

Read more: How to Write a Converting Call to Action

5. Use great design

Design can actually impact the viewer’s perception of your win-back email.

Let’s look at the great design from Urban Outfitters. It definitely stands out from other marketing emails that you often receive. The copy also includes a mix of humor and emotional appeal, which allows it to connect with its young audience.

For more useful tips on designing your email, you should read our topic named 11 Email Design Best Practices for Marketers.

6. Know when to give up

Sometimes a breakup is necessary, no matter what you do. That said - you want to gracefully cut ties and end the relationship on good terms.

Bonobos created its final email with a simple goodbye and a basic CTA for customers who would like to subscribe again.

If the end result is losing a subscriber, that’s okay.

It’s better to have customers that communicate and engage with your brand, instead of those that ignore it. Plus, if you continue to keep uninterested subscribers, your email marketing results might not portray accurately the effectiveness of your strategy. To make the situation worse, some inactive subscribers even mark you as spam.

The bottom line is knowing when to say goodbye. And don’t be so clingy.

6 examples of irresistible win-back email campaigns

In this section, let’s look at a few win-back emails from brands to better understand what a successful campaign looks like.

1. Penguin Random House

The cheeky “u up?” email subject line from Penguin Random House - a publishing company - is sure to catch the attention of its subscribers, and the rest of the email is just as fun.

The email content plays on the idea of a text message that is suggested in the email subject line, and looks like a conversation you would find on your phone from a friend.

In addition, the email features content from its blog and highlights 21 of its books. This is an excellent example of how a brand can use content creatively without including a discount in a winback email. And with a CTA that says “Rekindle your love of books,” it is clear that this win-back email campaign is created with the reader in mind.

2. Asics

Recommending products to subscribers is also a great way to win them back. There are many ways to do so, including seasonal gift guides, or personalized recommendations based on their recent browsing - or click-history.

You can think a little outside the box, as Asics does:

Finding which shoes are suitable for which activities can be quite difficult. That’s why Asics develops a quiz that customers can use to exactly find out which shoes suit their needs best.

This way, the brand is not overloading the email with shoes for different scenarios but putting the power into the subscriber’s hands. By including this in its win-back email, Asics is acknowledging subscribers’ problems and providing an easy solution, one that clears the road to make their buying journey easier and more efficient.

3. RuffleButts

RuffleButts - a children’s apparel brand - reminds its customers that they have a coupon for 20% off their next purchase and free shipping if they shop with the brand again in the win-back email.

But that’s not all. RuffleButts does a great job of making it easy for customers to shop again with two CTAs to shop either the boys’ or girls’ collections.

Besides, the brand features 4 other collections, including swimwear, gifts, best sellers, and signature rufflebutts with related imagery to show customers what they are missing.

4. Girlfriend

Girlfriend - a women’s activewear brand - keeps its subject line simple and straightforward with, “We miss you. Here’s $20.” It immediately tells recipients that there is an incentive to buy.

The email is directly addressed to the recipient and the messaging sounds like they are talking directly to you. In other words, the email doesn’t seem like it is going to 1,000 other people, even if it is.

The tone is casual, conversational, and inviting. The brand encourages the reader to check out its new products and browse around the website but it isn’t too pushy. The P.S. at the bottom communicates that the discount code only lasts for 30 days, creating a sense of urgency to encourage recipients to quickly act instead of waiting to buy and possibly forgetting.

5. Shhhowercap

This email from Shhhowercap is visually stunning, using imagery of the main products along with different patterns throughout to highlight the offer.

The brand offers a 20% off discount, but we love how it communicates the benefits of the product in its copy. Instead of just showing only pictures, it also mentions how its shower caps are differentiated from similar products by including descriptive details like “breathable,” “water repellent,” “anti-microbial,” and “machine washable.”

At last, it promotes its Instagram account, which is a good move to encourage recipients to follow the brand on social media. Engaging with customers on different channels helps build their following.

6. BetaList

An unsubscribe email can recapture the attention of your recipients if they are on the fence, so your unsubscribe message is the last chance to make that happen.

Let’s see how BetaList does:

So, what lessons you can learn from this email:

  • Give customers the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes unsubscribes are just an accident. BetaList includes a CTA to resubscribe… just in case.

  • Give customers options. Perhaps customers want your emails, but not so many. If your customer can subscribe to another list and receive emails less frequently, let them know.

  • Keep the door open. Maybe customers had a major life change and you don’t fit into their life right now. They might plan to return when things have settled down. They won’t if you make their unsubscribe experience unpleasant.

Create win-back emails with AVADA Marketing Automation

If you want to create an awesome win-back email, AVADA Marketing Automation can help!

So, why should you choose our app for your win-back emails?

  • It’s so simple and straightforward to create a win-back workflow with AVADA
  • You can edit the workflow according to your preferences
  • The app offers a number of elements to strengthen your email
  • You can take advantage of our ready-made email content or create your own
  • Our customer support team is friendly, professional, and knowledgeable
  • It offers a free plan for you to start

Let’s see an example of a win-back automation workflow created with the app:

You can read more right here.


It’s your turn…

Winning back inactive subscribers is not an easy task. It requires a significant amount of creativity and perseverance, and even then, you can rarely even win over anyone.

However, with the right strategies, you can save prospects from moving on from your brand and even generate more sales. We hope this guide has helped you guys a lot. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any concerns about this topic! And thanks for reading!

Sam Nguyen is the CEO and founder of Avada Commerce, an e-commerce solution provider headquartered in Singapore. He is an expert on the Shopify e-commerce platform for online stores and retail point-of-sale systems. Sam loves talking about e-commerce and he aims to help over a million online businesses grow and thrive.