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The Ultimate Guide to Writing Win-Back Email

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Karolina Petraškienė
Content Marketing Manager
Reading Time: 11 minutes

Marketers often focus on attracting new leads, but retaining your current customers can be even more important. Your online marketing strategy should involve doing everything possible to keep subscribers engaged with your brand.

This article will cover everything you need to know in order to develop effective win-back campaigns (one of the best examples of email marketing) and reduce unsubscribes. Re-engaging even a small percentage of users is one of the most powerful ways to increase average lifetime customer value.

Best Practices for Win-Back Emails

Every campaign has room for improvement, and the top marketers are constantly experimenting with new strategies and looking for ways to differentiate their brands from the competition. This section will cover a few of the most effective ways to optimize your win-back strategy.

Audience Segmentation

Audience segmentation is a crucial aspect of virtually every campaign, and it’s highly effective for re-engagement. Segmenting your email list gives you more in-depth control over your strategies and helps you provide more relevant content to each subscriber.

Just as each business has its own definition of an inactive lead, no two customers are exactly alike. Someone who typically makes a purchase every week needs to be targeted sooner than someone who occasionally visits your website. Similarly, your most loyal customers are worth pursuing for longer than those who have only made one or two purchases.

Email Segmentation by shopping behavior

Strong Subject Lines

The subject line is the first thing readers see when scrolling through their inboxes, and a great subject line can help you achieve a substantially better open rate. It’s arguably the most important element to consider when developing a win-back campaign.

Every subject line should get straight to the point and convince subscribers to open the email and learn more. It needs to stand out from the rest of the messages in their inbox and create a sense of urgency. If this is difficult for you, a specialist from Essay Tigers can help you do it as well as possible. Try to edit your subject lines down to 40 characters or fewer.

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If the win-back email includes a discount or other exclusive offer, this should be clearly communicated in the subject line. You can also add personalization by including the recipient’s name or addressing them directly—readers are much more likely to respond to targeted content.

Omnichannel Engagement

Some users will lose interest in your content, but others simply don’t want to engage with you via email. Subscribers are interacting with brands on more channels than ever, and it’s vital to provide a cohesive experience across multiple platforms. This is particularly relevant given that most inboxes are already overcrowded.

Instead of expecting readers to match your marketing practices, give them the option to engage with you on their terms. Businesses of all sizes should try to build a consistent web presence across as many channels as possible.

Start by performing customer research to determine the right platforms for your unique audience. Apart from having a website and offering email newsletters, you’ll probably want to consider SMS, push notifications, and social media.

3 omnichannel statistics

A/B Testing

Even the best online marketers can’t always predict which strategies will be successful, and A/B testing gives you the opportunity to identify your most effective tactics. Split tests should be a consistent part of your approach to digital marketing across all types of campaigns.

Win-back email subject lines are a perfect place to start split testing. They’re closely tied to your open rate, so stronger subject lines will almost always lead to better results. Increasing open rate puts your emails in front of more readers and gives you more chances to bring users back to your brand.

6 Win-Back Email Examples

win back email example

This win-back email uses a discount to incentivize users to stay on their list. Its visual design communicates a significant amount of information while making the message easy to scan. Quotes from customers give readers an additional reason to consider the offer.

Notice that the call to action includes a link to stay on the list along with one that allows users to manage their subscription preferences. While the unsubscribe option is still clearly displayed, it’s underneath the two desired actions in a much smaller font.

Starbucks win back email

This ad from Starbucks offers a no-strings-attached gift rather than a discount that has to be used on a larger order. Offering something for free is a useful strategy that’s much more likely to win-back users who have already disengaged.

Of course, subscribers will need to present either a Starbucks card or the mobile app in order to redeem their reward. Downloading the app or buying a gift card increases the chances that a customer will continue to interact with the brand and make purchases. One free item is a small price for Starbucks to pay to bring back a returning customer.

win back email saying welcome back

While this message doesn’t contain an exclusive offer, it still provides readers with a number of reasons to re-engage with Sears. After welcome back, the template focuses on three new benefits that the reader may not be aware of.

On the other hand, this win-back email has a relatively simple visual design compared to other examples, with almost everything in black, blue, or white. There are also several distracting elements at the top which draw the reader’s attention away from the call to action.

win back email asking is this the end

This example illustrates an effective unsubscribe warning that gives readers the option to opt back in. It’s primarily aimed at list cleanup, so it doesn’t contain the overt sales messaging you would expect earlier in a win-back campaign.

This message only includes a few sentences, since disengaged users don’t spend as much time reading emails. While all email content should be as concise as possible, this is especially important near the end of your re-engagement sequence.

Unfortunately, the message doesn’t tell recipients when they’ll be unsubscribed. Try to include a clear time frame so that readers know how much time they have to opt back into your newsletter.

This message from video creation app Animoto is another good example of a win-back email. It immediately points out that it’s been too long since the recipient last engaged with the brand and it asks the all important question directly: Do you still want to hear from us?

At a glance, customers who receive this email know immediately what it’s for. Additionally, the prominent button with a straightforward call to action makes it easy for them to respond. If this doesn’t work to win back customers, it will at least help clean up your subscriber list.

This one by Grammarly is an excellent example of a win-back email. Not only is it straightforward and concise, but it also introduces digital badges, which is a useful tool to boost engagement among digital audiences. Additionally, the badge awarded in the email is a reference to popular literature, so it is expected to resonate with the company’s audience of writers.

Although this email doesn’t offer any incentives to re-engage their users, it reminds its recipients of a time when the tool probably helped them, and it also provides an easy way to try the tool again. It also casually mentions that the premium version of their app is currently on sale, which further improves the likelihood of conversion.

What Are Win-Back Email Campaigns?

winback email

A customer win-back email is a message that’s designed to regain a subscriber’s interest after he or she has stopped opening or clicking through on your previous messages. Existing leads are incredibly valuable, and too many businesses let customers go rather than implementing a strategy to re-engage them before it’s too late.

An effective win-back campaign can substantially decrease your unsubscribe rate and turn lapsed readers back into loyal customers. Of course, the right tactics for your business depend on a variety of factors, including your typical sales cycle and your audience’s unique preferences.

Why Do Subscribers Stop Opening Emails?

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We all want to keep subscribers engaged, but some readers will inevitably lose interest in content you send over time. Understanding why your audience stops reading your messages will help you develop a more relevant win-back campaign and bring more customers back to your brand.

Frequency

Most users already receive more emails than they have time to read, and sending too often is one of the most common reasons why subscribers start to ignore newsletters. On the other hand, if you don’t send frequently enough, (or consistently) it can have a similar effect.

You can optimize email frequency by performing a few tests or asking subscribers how often they’d like to hear from you when they sign up.

Relevance

Users may also stop opening emails if they feel like your content is irrelevant. Every message you send should contain a unique value and offer a sense of urgency that makes readers want to learn more.

Fortunately, contemporary email marketing tools make it easier than ever to create relevant content that’s personalized for each subscriber, and so are better for customer conversion. Email marketing automation may sound generic, but it offers all the tools you need to build emails based on customer data.

As with email frequency, you can always ask new subscribers which types of content they’re interested in and how often you should send them. This gives readers more control over the emails they receive and helps you keep them engaged with more relevant messaging.

Deliverability

Some users will scroll past your emails, but others may not see them at all. Spam filters are more sophisticated than ever, and your messages may be filtered out before reaching the recipient’s inbox. Deliverability refers to the percentage of emails that make it through spam filters to the target inbox.

Filters can be triggered for a variety of reasons, including poor engagement, inactive recipient addresses, and a lack of permission to contact subscribers. While you should do everything you can to win-back disengaged users, deleting inactive subscribers from your list will increase both deliveries and opens.

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Developing a Win-Back Email Campaign

The ideal win-back campaign responds to customer concerns and gives readers a reason to re-engage with your content. You should target inactive customers with a sequence of several messages before deleting them from your list.

omnichannel marketing workflow (including email and sms channels)

First Steps

Some readers may still be interested in your content even though they haven’t been opening the emails you send. A quick notification is sometimes all it takes to remind customers why they subscribed to your newsletter in the first place.

The first email in your win-back campaign sequence should contain basic information about your brand along with some reasons to re-engage. You can also take this opportunity to highlight any changes or adjustments you’ve made in the last several months.

Readers who usually ignore your content probably don’t want to spend much time reading them, so try to edit out as much copy as possible. This message should only include the most relevant information, and it should be easy to skim through in just a few seconds.

Providing Motivation

After this reminder, the next step is to give subscribers an additional incentive to come back. Exclusive offers are often enough to win them over, and they’re a small price to pay for an ongoing customer.

Your incentive could be anything from a discount to free shipping or rewards points, as long as it’s enough to give readers fear of missing out. It’s better to re-engage customers without an offer whenever possible, so this win-back email shouldn’t be the first item in your sequence.

Keep in mind that conversion is more likely to happen when customers are faced with exclusive incentives that create a sense of urgency. Limited times and quantities, for example, make subscribers feel like they need to act now to benefit from the offer.

email reactivation example

Gathering Customer Data

Customers want to feel like they have a voice, and audience feedback can be incredibly valuable. Asking readers what you could improve is one of the most effective ways to identify weaknesses in your customer relationships.

Subscribers disengage when they feel like a company isn’t providing what they’re looking for. Without gathering feedback, you won’t be able to learn what’s driving your readers away. This win-back email also demonstrates that you take customer satisfaction seriously.

As with other emails in the sequence, you can generate better open and response rates by offering an incentive. That said, this message should be primarily focused on feedback rather than sales.

Marketers often ignore or delete disengaged leads, but subscribers can offer valuable information even if they never make another purchase. Don’t underestimate the impact a feedback email can have on your long-term marketing results.

Preparing to Unsubscribe

After three attempts, it’s time to start the unsubscribe sequence. Keeping inactive customers on your list can hurt both engagement and deliverability. The fourth message lets users know that they’ll be unsubscribed unless they ask to continue receiving emails.

A few readers may reconsider, so give them a week or two to rejoin your email list. That said, it’s better to have users opt back in rather than letting them opt out, since some won’t open the message.

While you can include a reminder of your newsletter’s benefits, this win-back email should be kept as short as possible. This is your last chance to win back users who have stopped opening or clicking through on your emails, so it needs to be one of your top priorities.

Unsubscribe Confirmation

Unfortunately, some users won’t respond to any email in your win-back campaign sequence. At this point, all you can do is let them know that they’ve been taken off your email list. Some readers may come back after seeing this email, but it shouldn’t contain any promotional materials.

Keep in mind that someone who unsubscribes now could come back later on. Include a link to resubscribe and ask for feedback in case they could provide any actionable information. If you have options for frequency or content type, remind them that they can adjust their preferences without unsubscribing.

It can be tempting to continue trying to send emails to re-engage inactive users, but they’re doing more harm than good by reducing the quality of your email list. Every user should be automatically unsubscribed if they’re still disengaged at the end of your sequence.

When Should I Send Win-Back Emails?

There’s no perfect definition of a lapsed lead, and the right time to target inactive users depends on your approach to sales. Understanding when to start your win-back sequence is critical for maximizing long-term engagement.

For example, you could measure subscriber engagement by monitoring opens, clicks, or purchases. If your website offers relatively affordable items that customers buy frequently, opens or clicks might not be enough to consider a lead active. On the other hand, blog owners may be satisfied when readers click through to read their content.

In general, subscribers who go more than three months without engaging based on your preferred metric are quickly becoming inactive. Six to nine months may be too long to wait as some readers will be completely disengaged. The longer you wait, the more time you give your audience to move on and forget about your brand.


It’s almost always cheaper to keep an existing lead than to find a new one, and win-back campaigns are the best way to re-engage inactive customers. These tips will help you craft more targeted win-back campaigns that respond to audience concerns and maximize lifetime customer value.

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Karolina Petraškienė

Karolina is a writer, content marketer, and email enthusiast at Omnisend. When she's not curating articles, you can find her in the woods challenging herself in hiking boots or off-roading her bike.