Slick Strategies

Successful Winback Campaigns: 7 Email Examples and Expert Tips

  Gregg Blanchard     April 25, 2023    

Repeat customers are crucial for the success of your business. But what do you do when your customers stop engaging with your brand or become inactive? Winback emails are a powerful tool for re-engaging and converting inactive customers. It's one of the reasons we designed SendView to be able to search and group email campaigns by their tactics, because we wanted marketers to be able to flag campaigns like winback emails to have them ready at a moment's notice during that next brainstorming meeting.

A winback email is sent to customers who have previously made a purchase when they have not returned to make another purchase or opened emails in a while. The goal of a winback campaign is to turn disengaged subscribers into loyal customers who haven’t made a purchase in a while.

In this blog post, we'll explore the art of crafting effective winback emails to re-engage your customers and boost your bottom line. From examples to tips, we'll cover everything you need to know to create successful winback campaigns. So let's dive in!

What is a winback email campaign?

A winback email campaign encourages inactive or lapsed customers to come back and make a purchase. Sometimes these emails are also called a “comeback email” or re-engagement email.” The goal is to "win back" their business. Winback email campaigns are essential for ecommerce brands, subscription-based companies, and online service providers. Retention of existing customers is more profitable than converting new customers.

For example, let's say that you're a retail brand that sells socks. Last year you had 10,000 customers buy socks and 1,000 of those have already bought socks again this year. Those other 9,000 customers clearly thought enough of your brand to buy something but they may not have returned for a variety of reasons. A winback campaign is designed to get those folks back on you site shopping again. The same could be true of a SaaS company. Maybe you had 25,000 people start a free trial last year but not convert. They are clearly a close enough fit that they'd start a trial, so a winback campaign might simple be designed to get them to give it another try in the hopes that this time it'll stick.

Common Winback Tactics:

  • special promotions like discount codes or free shipping,
  • new product or service highlights
  • personalized messages

What does a winback email say?

The contents of a winback email will depend on the company that’s sending it and their product. No matter what’s included in the winback email, it's essential to make it feel personalized and relevant to the recipient to increase the likelihood of a response. If you’re having trouble composing your winback email campaign, try using a template from your email marketing platform.

A winback email may include:

  • An attention-grabbing subject line
  • An acknowledgment of the customer's previous purchase
  • A reminder of the benefits of the product or service
  • A personalized offer, such as a discount or free shipping
  • A sense of urgency or deadline
  • A single, clear call to action

What are the benefits of a winback email?

A winback email series is a cost-effective way to make sales. They pitch an offer to someone who’s already been converted – making it likely to re-engage the customer for very little cost. Acquiring new customers is five times more expensive than retaining existing ones.

There are several benefits of a winback email, including:

  • Reducing customer churn
  • Increasing the lifetime value of a customer
  • Improving customer loyalty and engagement
  • Gaining customer feedback
  • Re-engaging inactive customers

When to send a winback email

There’s no standard answer for when you should send a winback email. The truth is it depends on your company, your email strategy, and your customers. Generally, when a subscriber becomes inactive or when they abandon their cart, they’re good candidates for a winback campaign. But there are other scenarios where this strategy can be effective, too.

You might send a winback email in the following scenarios:

  • When a customer hasn't made a purchase in six to twelve months.
  • When a customer unsubscribes from your email list.
  • When a customer abandons their cart.
  • When a customer's subscription or membership is about to expire.
  • When a customer hasn't engaged with your brand's emails in six to twelve months.

How to tell if an email subscriber is inactive

Most major email marketing software has built-in mechanisms for identifying inactive subscribers. Inactive subscribers have low open rates, low click-through rates, high bounce rates, or long periods of inactivity. This data can help identify which subscribers are good candidates for a winback email campaign.

Winback Email Tips

Here are five tips to help you create the best winback email series possible. These aren’t tactics, these are strategies and tips that aid with copy and optimization.

1. Focus on them, not you.

Rather than saying something like, “We miss you!” focus on them. Try something like “You’re missing out!” or “Here’s a deal just for you.” Find every instance of the word “We” in your copy, go back and change it to “You,” and then edit it to make sense.

2. Use the Rule of 100

Dr. Jonah Berger’s rule of 100 can make a big impact on how effective your promotional offer is. You may want to offer a discount in your winback campaign. The type of discount matters. “The Rule of 100 says that under $100, percentage discounts seem larger than absolute ones. But over $100, things reverse. Over $100, absolute discounts seem larger than percentage ones,” Dr. Berger says.

3. Use humor.

As long as you keep your brand’s personality and niche in mind when you use humor in your email copy, it can be highly effective. Humor humanizes a brand, makes copy more attention-grabbing, and can result in higher levels of recall. If you aren’t already using humor, be sure to A/B test your jokes before adding them to your marketing automations for long-term distribution.

4. Dig into your data.

Take the time to go through the data within your email marketing software before you create the marketing strategy for your winback campaigns. Notice where click-through rates and open rates are less than ideal. Identify which campaigns have the best conversion rates.

Check the data for any current abandoned cart, subscription renewal, or other current winback campaigns, too. Your customers tell you a lot through their actions, and your software tracks all of that for you. Use it to your advantage when planning a winback campaign!

5. Test.

No matter what you choose to include in your winback campaign, take the time to conduct a few A/B tests. Testing ensures that your campaign, which you can automate and implement long-term, is as effective as possible.

Here’s what you should test in your winback campaign:

  • subject lines
  • calls to action
  • humor
  • promotion options
  • promotion durations

7 Winback Email Examples

Here are seven examples of winback email subject lines and emails. The best winback emails use one clear CTA, a compelling subject line, and a winback tactic to bring back disengaged customers.

1. Abandoned Cart Email Example

Away nails the abandoned cart email with a short message and a cute quip. They only offer one CTA, which makes it easy to purchase.

screenshot of abandoned cart email from away

2. Free Shipping Winback Email Example

Specialized uses its follow-up abandoned cart email to offer the customer a free shipping coupon in hopes of securing a deal. They maintain a sense of urgency by letting customers know their cart won’t be safe forever.

screenshot of specialized bicycles winback email

3. Humorous Winback Email

Who Gives a Crap created a great winback email. It’s long, humorous, and targets customers who ended their subscriptions when they had more toilet paper than they needed. This email effectively uses humor to reduce its bounce rate by leading the recipient to scroll to the bottom of the email.

who gives a crap winback email screenshot

4. Seasonal Campaign Email

Warby Parker uses new seasonal offers to entice previous customers. They make the winback email more compelling with personalization options based on horoscopes.

warby parker seasonal winback email screenshot

5. Promotional Winback Email

Busuu combines a limited-time offer with a discount to create a winning combo that entices lost customers. With just one straightforward CTA and a short message, they make it quick and easy for their recipient to upgrade.

busuu promotional winback email screenshot

6. Urgent Winback Email

Venmo’s incentive email uses a combination of urgency and an enticing promotion to winback customers. With a deadline and a limited quantity offer, Venmo doubles the urgency.

venmo winback email example with incentives

7. Straightforward Winback Email

YoutubeTV keeps it simple and straightforward in their winback email. With one clear CTA, the recipient knows what to do if they’re interested. They list their top three features to make the offer more enticing.

youtube winback email example

Any company can run a winback campaign

Yes, the most apparent companies this applies to are retail brands simply because their customers are buying stuff from them on the regular. But if you swap "buy" with "engage", suddenly you have lots of new ways to apply the princples of a winback campaign to your brand.

SaaS with a long sales cycle? Win them back for another demo or webinar. Non-profit? Win them back for another donation.

The idea is simple: find the people who used to spend time with your brand and find new ways to bring them back.