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If you keep just one statistic about ecommerce tucked away in your subconscious to help focus your marketing strategy, this should probably be the one: It is five times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one.

“Lapsed” ecommerce buyers are people who have purchased from your business but have not made a subsequent purchase within a certain period.

Past purchasers should be viewed as the low-hanging fruit of your ecommerce marketing tactics.

You’ve already invested in this customer group, which more likely than not includes customers in your desired target audience. And if your business has been doing things right, you’ve already done a few things to make each of them feel special and valued.

These are visitors to your website who have already bought from you once. That means you have access to some purchase preference and buying habit data. And you also have direct access to them, either via email or mobile phone number. That means you don’t have to spend precious marketing dollars on lead generation.

Plus, you can customize promotional offers to them based on that past data.

If you’re not using your email and marketing campaigns to reach out to them—to customize offers for them based on past purchase behavior and buying data—you’re leaving revenue on the table.

We share a seven-step re-engagement email strategy to help your ecommerce business re-engage and convert past purchasers—and make them repeat customers.

1. Identify customers who are candidates for re-engagement emails.

Retention and re-engagement are different.

You use customer retention techniques on buyers who have done business with you more than once. You use re-engagement strategies on customers whose business you’ve lost—after they did business with you only once.

Will you target only those customers who bought from you within the past month? The past six months? The past year?

The first decision to make is about the appropriate time frame to target. It might depend on the size of the re-engagement pool, or it might depend on looking at more specific profile data and segmenting out the buyers your active customer data suggests convert most frequently.

One important thing to know is that it makes sense to stay within a 12-month window of customers who have opened and clicked your email. Why? There is typically a lower deliverability risk for email re-engagement campaigns using time frames of less than a year; you’ll get fewer bounces because former customers have changed their email addresses.

Re-engagement Email Tip: Test your reconnect email’s subject line.

Re-engaging subscribers and lapsed customers starts with your email subject lines. Consider A/B testing different options, perhaps trying out a heartfelt “we miss you” approach, to find out what works best to get your customers to click.

Find inspiration from real-world sample emails to win back old customers in our blog “How to Run an Effective Re-Engagement Campaign.

2. Understand why lost customers have not been sources of repeat ecommerce business.

You will need to know the “why” of inactivity to devise the “how” of your re-engagement strategy.

Reach out to your inactive customers and give them an incentivized survey about their inactivity, just like the one used by Rite Aid below:

It’s not always immediately obvious why customers have stopped doing business with you, which is why asking them for feedback is valuable. Here are just a few possibilities:

  • Maybe they left because of your product pricing
  • Maybe they aren’t fans of your current product selection
  • Maybe your newsletters are too promotional or salesy

When asking for feedback, you have the opportunity to win back business by making a compelling offer for filling out your survey. Here’s the approach that Anthropologie took:

While you’re working on getting answers to why customers aren’t making repeat purchases, you also should look at the overall churn rate of your ecommerce business. Some churn is both expected and acceptable.

But it’s important to discover the percentage of users who are turning over and to use that information as part of your re-engagement and retention strategies to build brand loyalty. (Churn is just one of “4 Small Business Performance Metrics Every Owner Needs to Know” to keep ecommerce marketing on track.)

Re-engagement Email Tip: Add original content in your messaging that provides value to your customers.

Want more info about newsletters and how content builds loyalty with customers? We share how ecommerce businesses use this e-marketing content strategy in “Your Guide to Cultivating Loyal Readers with Your Email Newsletter.

3. Identify the secondary goals of your re-engagement email.

The most obvious and tangible goal of a re-engagement strategy is to drive conversion—additional sales that boost your ecommerce business’s revenue.

But your goals need to include specifics about how you plan to increase sales.

You will want to pinpoint this because it will help define the email content that you’ll send to your inactive customers.

Depending on your goals, you could use any of the following strategies to help re-engage and reactivate past customers:

Reintroduce a past product offer: An effective email subject would be “Come Back and See What You Missed: Receive a $10 Coupon.”

According to Experian Marketing Services, email campaigns that used a subject line of this nature saw up to a 66% increase in revenue.

Adding a time limit to your offer can create a sense of urgency and prompt inactive customers to check out your deal, as this Groupon offer does:

Offer upgrades to a previously bought product: If this is your purpose, you can use the data on past purchase history to serve your customers personalized and targeted offers tied to their initial purchases.

An email subject such as “We Miss You! Upgrade Your Subscription and Get 50% Off!” can encourage customers to consider your offer.

Additionally, you can use this approach to convert them from free users to premium customers, like Spotify does in this email:

4. Emphasize to your past customers why you are interacting with them.

Take a look at your inbox. It’s a noisy place. Your customers’ inboxes are no different.

In a digital world where customers are bombarded with discount deals and product offers, an ecommerce business can stand out when it creates meaningful engagement.

That starts with giving your emails to lapsed customers strong and compelling subject lines.

But don’t stop at the subject line. You’ll need actionable content as well.

Here are a few suggestions to make your content likely to drive click-throughs by your former customers:

Offer discount codes: When sending discount codes via email, you need to show your past purchasers that you understand them. Use past purchase behavior—or recency, frequency, monetary (RFM) data—to pinpoint the products to include in your offer.

Here’s the way that ShoeMint implemented this tactic:

While this approach may give you high click-through rates and convince past purchasers to do business with you again, it may not successfully convert bargain hunters into full-price buyers.

Invite them to change their email preferences: A direct ask such as “Do you want to be taken off the list?” can shock past purchasers into taking the necessary action to keep receiving your emails or newsletters.

It’s often an unexpected question that may cause them to say to themselves, “Wait, I like receiving product information from this company.”

Often, past purchasers will still want to receive your emails, but perhaps not as frequently. When that’s the case, you can encourage them to update their email preferences.

You can also try an approach where you decrease the frequency of emails to inactive customers. For instance, if you send emails weekly, try moving to a monthly email with a strong and most compelling offer.

Send life cycle-oriented messages: Try a “trigger” tied to an occasion and based on your customers’ past purchase histories.

For example, if a customer bought a product from you as a holiday gift, there’s an increased possibility that he or she might buy from you again for the same reason.

Go ahead, make them feel special and send that customized email offer to help them make their holiday buying easier:

Give relevant updates: These emails can include educational content. They engage your target customers from a thought leadership perspective and showcase your business as more than just a seller, like this “Did you know?” email from Pinterest:

Ask your former customers for their opinions on product development: Make sure to give them some type of incentive for responding. This tactic says that you value them and want them to be part of your business’s community.

5. Make it easy for your inactive customers to re-engage with your ecommerce site.

Whether you want lapsed customers to check out your ecommerce store, complete a survey, provide updated account details, or make a purchase, be sure to remove any friction and allow them to access their information easily.

For example, if you want them to access a forgotten account, make it easy for them to create new usernames and passwords.

If you want them to share your emails with other potential customers, include easy-to-find and clickable sharing buttons throughout your content.

If you give them a discount coupon, prominently display it within the email and give clear instructions on how to use it and where to enter the code on your site.

As much as possible, remove any potential customer frustration points (an aim for all your customer interactions, frankly) and make it convenient for them to do business with you online.

6. If your emails garner no response from former customers, consider other communication channels.

If 75% of shoppers looking for customer service online went to another channel when a brand’s website disappointed them, it makes sense for you to consider interacting with your lost customers via another channel too.

One possibility is to re-engage with your former customers by phone. Typically, you will have buyers’ phone numbers with their order information. A crucial point: Don’t make a direct sales pitch. Instead, offer them help, perhaps information related to a previous purchase.

Another possible channel is Twitter. Interacting on this social platform will depend on your brand’s customer demographics, but the possibility of achieving match rates between Twitter and your company’s email list is between 9% and 18%. It might make sense for your business to target your inactive customers there by engaging them with targeted thought leadership content or special offers.

7. Finally, try direct mail to reach inactive customers and prompt them to visit your ecommerce storefront.

Reach out to your former customers directly through postal mail. Because of their past purchase, you have a shipping address. The use of a postcard with a tantalizing offer is a visual way to remind your customers why they bought from your ecommerce business in the first place.

It’s an approach that worked for NatureBox, which saw a 35% increase in orders per customer and a net revenue boost of nearly 60% per customer for inactive buyers who received its postcards in their mailboxes.

Additionally, this tactic frees you from any concerns about sending consistent emails to invalid addresses, which can give you a negative email sending reputation. (If that has already happened to your business, here are pointers on how to restore your email sending reputation.)

Wrap up

Given the cost of acquiring new customers and the possibility of boosting your ecommerce store’s revenue, reactivating lost customers should be a priority.

A progressive re-engagement strategy by your ecommerce business will help you continually perfect your customer engagement tactics. It also will help you maximize your customer lifetime value—the potential revenue that each customer brings to your business.

Here’s a quick recap of the seven steps of a successful customer re-engagement strategy:

  • Identify customers who are candidates for re-engagement emails.
  • Understand why lost customers have not been sources of repeat ecommerce business.
  • Identify the secondary business goals—beyond revenue—of your re-engagement strategy.
  • Emphasize to your past customers why you are interacting with them.
  • Make it easy for inactive customers to re-engage with your ecommerce site.
  • If your emails garner no response from former customers, consider other communication channels.
  • Finally, use direct mail to reach inactive customers and prompt them to visit your ecommerce storefront.

From welcome emails to re-engagement campaigns and beyond, we seamlessly integrate with your ecommerce platforms—Magento, Shopify, and WooCommerce—so you’ll have all the features you need to exceed your goals.

CM Commerce features

  • Pre-made conversion campaigns to recover revenue from abandoned carts
  • Follow-up segmented and personalized emails for cross-selling
  • Product reviews that spotlight your happy customers and build trust (and sales)
  • Automated feedback to increase repeat revenue
  • Ready-to-go receipt templates or custom versions, coupons, and rewards with your branding
This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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