A version of this article originally appeared in 60 Second Marketer.
Loyal customers are the lifeblood of your business.
Rather than constantly looking for new business, it’s both easier and far more profitable to keep your loyal customers happy. They purchase from you regularly, they open your emails, they engage with you on social media, and maybe they even encourage their friends and family to shop with you.
Then one day you realize that they’ve gone dark. They don’t like your posts on Instagram anymore, they don’t open your emails, and they haven’t purchased from you in a long time. You panic that you’re about to lose a loyal customer.
So what can you do to win them back?
Below we’ll go into the steps you need to take to re-engage customers with your brand, as well as when it’s time to give up on them.
How do I know when loyal customers are at risk?
If you want to better understand when you’re about to lose a loyal customer, you need to set up an “at-risk” segment. This is a segment where you automatically put customers when they haven’t engaged with your business in any way for a set amount of time.
At-risk customers look different for each B2C brand. For some businesses, the trigger to put a customer in the at-risk segment may be when they haven’t engaged with you in the last 30 days. For other companies with a longer purchase cycle, this can be as long as a year. The required behavior may differ, but the concept is the same.
How do I re-engage loyal customers?
Once you’ve realized that you may be about to lose a loyal customer, there are a number of steps you can go through to try to re-engage this shopper. There is no one-size-fits-all process, so for each step, it’s about testing your approach to find out which flow or messages work best to win your customers back.
Step 1: Use your data
The first step is to try to figure out what went wrong. Use the data you already collected on these buyers to work out if something happened to annoy them or put them off. Did they complain about your delivery times on social media? Or did they contact your customer service department because the product was faulty when it arrived? Did they have a poor checkout experience?
Once you know what the problem is, you can tailor your response to address the problem. If they had a problem with delivery, offer them free delivery on their next order at a time that suits them. Or if they received a faulty product, offer them 20% off their next order. It all comes back to having accurate data on your customers across channels, or you won’t be able to get a full picture of their interactions with your brand.
Step 2: Remind them about you
Once you understand what may have driven this customer away, you need to try different techniques to win them back. Don’t immediately rush into sending them discount codes — instead start with simple emails reminding them about what you do and why they shopped with you in the first place. That might be all it takes to remind them that they need a new pair of boots to go on that hike next weekend, for example.
One example of this approach is online form building company Typeform, which sends unengaged customers a quirky email reminding them of the benefits of its products.
Step 3: Try other channels
If you’re only sending your customer emails, you’re may be missing out on an opportunity to reach them. The inbox is incredibly crowded, and it’s possible that your buyers are just missing your emails entirely.
If your emails aren’t connecting with certain buyers, you have to think outside the box — outside the inbox in fact. If people aren’t opening your emails at all, try targeting them with paid ads on Facebook, Instagram, or Google. You can even go the extra mile and try out web or mobile push to see if that catches their attention. By coordinating social, search, push, and email marketing, your buyers will be far more likely to engage with you.
Step 4: Offer an incentive
If your emails or text messages reminding them about your brand haven’t worked, then you can move on to offering them an incentive through a winback campaign. Use the data you’ve collected like purchase history to work out what matters to them most: is it free delivery, or a discount, or an exciting new product line?
Also, take this as an opportunity to test different messages and coupons across channels to see which they respond to best. This could be a discount through a paid ad, a push notification message telling them about items on sale or a free delivery email.
Step 5: Talk to your customers
If you’ve tested different incentives and that still isn’t enough to make them come back, then it’s time to talk to your customers directly. Send out a customer survey or a feedback form asking them what the problem is and what you can do to make them consider shopping with you again.
Sometimes, talking to a customer directly is the best option available. Make sure you offer them an incentive to fill out the survey to reward them for taking the time to give you more information. You should also follow up to show them that you are committed to providing the best customer experience possible and, hopefully, retain loyal customers just like them.
Step 6: Cut them loose
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you just won’t be able to win every loyal customer back. Instead of continuing to bombard them with emails or paid ads (which may annoy them even more), you need to know when to leave them alone.
There can be any number of reasons why they aren’t shopping with you anymore. Maybe they’ve broken their leg and can’t go on their annual ski holiday, which means they don’t need to buy any more gear. Maybe they’ve moved to a smaller house or apartment and can’t buy any more furniture. If you cut them loose, they may come back to you eventually, or they may not, but don’t continue to waste your time and money if they aren’t responding to your messages.
As a final step, you can send them an email letting your customers know that you’re removing them from your email list, and offering them one last chance to stay subscribed. This is exactly what custom framing company Framebridge does to its unengaged customers.
Sometimes, loyal customers will go dark for no reason, but sometimes there will be a reason that either you haven’t picked up on or failed to address. That’s why it’s key to never take your loyal customers for granted. By offering them regular incentives to continue to shop with you, you may be able to resolve problems long before you’re at risk to lose a loyal customer.