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6 Dos and Don’ts of Winback Campaigns

It’s a marketer’s worst nightmare: For whatever reason, a one-time repeat customer has stopped engaging with your brand entirely. Now, they’ve fallen into the dreaded category of “inactive subscriber.”

Regardless of whether they’ve been away for six months or more than a year, the relationship has gone cold and you weren’t able to save it—or worse, you didn’t even realize it needed saving.

But there’s still hope! When executed well, winback campaigns are proven to not only capture your idle customers’ attention, but can also encourage them to start shopping again. In fact, one study revealed that 45 percent of customers who receive a winback email end up opening a subsequent message from the brand.

How can you craft a winback campaign that addresses your customers’ individual needs? Focus on these six dos and don’ts of winback email campaigns to help you successfully re-engage your inactive customers. Soon, you’ll be welcoming them back into the fold as newly engaged email subscribers, with higher open and click-through rates to prove it.

Do: Segment your customers to find out who falls into the winback category

While the timing will vary based on how long your buying cycle is, typically a customer is considered at-risk if they haven’t engaged with your brand in 30 days or more. Time to panic, right? Wrong! Don’t freak out just yet. Once that customer hits the 90 day-mark, they’re officially in need of a delightful winback campaign they won’t be able to ignore.

What does a great winback email look like? Well, when this winback email from the folks at Grammarly showed up in our inbox, we immediately forgot how ashamed we were that we hadn’t been taking advantage of their handy product. The email was just too inviting to not feel like we’d been missing out on something special. With the push of a button, we were back to being loyal and engaged users.

While you’d ideally be reaching out during the “at-risk” stage rather than waiting until the customer goes completely cold and is considered a lost cause, it’s never too late; you can always try to win back customers.

The moral of the story is this: When you dynamically segment customers based on their level of engagement, you can more accurately determine who to reach out to and in what context.

Do: Ask how you can improve

When all else fails, just ask! Using language in a winback campaign like “What happened?” or “How can we do better?” invites your customers to reply with any reasons they may have had for leaving your business. (Pro tip: Including a survey is a great way to do this.) In turn, this will help you better know how to solve those issues that caused them to disengage and ultimately turn them into a positive.

Not only will you be showing customers that their satisfaction is your top priority, but also you’ll be able to more directly uncover key insights in order to focus on re-engagement.

Let’s take a look at this example from the marketing team at Anthropologie. First, they want you to know they’re listening to your concerns (empathy always goes a long way in these sorts of interactions).

Then, they  make the ask: “Have you seen improvement?” No doubt the responses will help them make more informed decisions in the future. The icing on the cake is the discount code they offer at the end. It’s a perfect way to engage and incentivize customers who, up until then, were only passive receivers of their emails.

Don’t: Treat them like any other customer

When customers haven’t engaged with your brand in over a year, your relationship is basically non-existent. It’s hard to swallow, but it might be time to face the fact that they may just not be that into you. Because of this, you might be tempted to treat them like a new customer and send a generic promotion.

However, the key difference here is that when you’re trying to use email marketing to win over an old customer, you’re reaching out to someone who already has a history with your brand, however short that history may be.

Because you already possess existing behavioral customer data on your previous shoppers, you have a unique opportunity to personalize your messaging and deliver campaigns that are directly targeted to what they’re interested in. If they previously bought from a specific product line, share a message about a new product available from that line. This is a far more effective way to engage them—and ultimately win them back.

Do: Consider reaching out on other channels

If the majority of your campaigns are being delivered via email but customers aren’t responding, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re uninterested. It might just signal the medium you’re using to win them back isn’t where they’re spending their time.

Let’s face it—eventually we all reach our saturation point with our inboxes. No one likes having to comb through their inbox looking for the emails that actually matter. Some of your winback emails are bound to be ignored (or at the very least be lost forever in the vacuum that is your Promotions tab), so engaging customers on other channels is critical.

That customer who routinely ignores your email marketing? They’ve been hanging out on Google and Facebook instead. Consider creating a targeted paid ad campaign on those channels and other sites to re-engage your customers who are using multiple channels and devices to shop.

You can even personalize these campaigns using dynamic segmentation to ensure your customers are more likely to click. This Facebook ad from West Elm is a great example of a campaign that showcases items a customer is more likely to be drawn to based on their historical purchase behavior.

Don’t: Wait until it’s too late to re-engage customers who’ve churned

Only one in 26 unhappy customers—or about 4 percent—actually take the time to complain about a bad experience. The rest simply churn without ever interacting with your brand again.

If you wait for customers to reach out with negative feedback, you’re going to miss the vast majority of them who won’t even bother. That’s why you should absolutely stay on top of your churn rate by implementing winback campaigns sooner rather than later. Chances are you’ll end up learning more about what went wrong based on the number of customers who end up in the winback email list—customers who probably wouldn’t have told you otherwise.

The best way to do this? Set up an automatically triggered campaign after a certain period of disengagement to get them back. Figure out when your buyers are most likely to respond based on your historical customer data, then send them a campaign at that exact moment. If they’re completely disengaged after 90 days, for example, your trigger should be well before then.

Do: Incentivize the decision to return with a discount or offer

Even if it’s not the best method at all times, offering customers something in return for revisiting your website works in both the short-term and the long-term. First and foremost, it encourages them to make another purchase. But on a more human level, it lets them know your ecommerce brand cares about their relationship with you, like Skillshare demonstrates here.

Sometimes you have to pull out all the stops to keep customers in your pipeline, even if offering a discount as an incentive might be something you have to grin and bear. It’s worth it if you’re able to save your relationship with a valuable customer.

To recap, winback campaigns need to directly address what went wrong with the relationship, while at the same time incentivizing a customer’s return. The more you can directly address the elephant in the room (the fact that your customer stopped shopping with you) in a winback campaign, the better you can understand how to re-engage them.

Don’t forget, you have the huge advantage of knowing these customers have shopped with you before. Not only that, but also you have historical purchase and browsing data you can use to personalize your winback campaign based on what you already know about them.

When done in the right way, it’s possible to deliver effective campaigns that resonate with even the coldest customers who’ve been MIA for months on end.

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