We’ve all heard the statistic that acquiring a new customer can cost up to five times as much as retaining one – and most businesses know the value of hanging onto their customers. But when it comes to email marketing, how can you retain your customers? How can you re-engage lapsed customers, and reinvigorate their interest in your brand, products, and services?
Win-back emails – that’s how.
So below, we’re explaining exactly what win-back emails are, and what makes a good one. Then, we’re listing out our top nine win-back email examples from brands you know and love. These win-back email campaigns use complex sets of strategies to captivate their audience – then compel them to convert.
Ready to get inspired, and start crafting your own win-back emails? Let’s dive in!
Win-back emails are a way of reaching out to lapsed or inactive customers and encouraging them to re-engage with your business. Win-back emails target customers who have interacted with your products and services before – just not for a while.
Good win-back emails reignite the recipient’s interest in your brand, and – often through tailored, targeted deals and discounts – invite them to make a purchase. This way, win-back emails can reduce your churn rate, boost sales and revenue, and increase customer loyalty, retention, and affinity with your brand.
Looking to craft a win-back email that’ll win the hearts and minds of your audience – and keep them coming back for more? All effective win-back emails share these features in common:
- Catchy subject lines: writing a compelling email subject line is vital – it is, after all, the first thing your customer will see. So make it captivating and pique their curiosity!
- Personalization: address your recipient by name, and – if possible – tailor the email’s content to the specific products or niches they’ve expressed interest in while browsing your website previously.
- Acknowledging past engagement: showing the recipient that you remember and value their previous interactions with your brand will make them feel recognized and appreciated.
- Incentives or promotions: provide exclusive incentives – for example, discounts, free shipping, or customer-specific offers – that are too good to refuse.
- A sense of urgency: showcasing limited-time offers or the limited availability of stock can impel the user to click – and avoid missing out on an amazing deal!
- A clear call-to-action (CTA): your email’s CTA should leave no uncertainty about what you want the recipient to do after reading it. Buy a product? Claim a discount? Visit your website? Whatever it is, let them know with compelling copy and large, clickable, colorful buttons.
When it comes to crafting your own win-back emails, there’s no better place to start than the brilliant businesses already killing it in the win-back email game.
So read on for our top nine win-back email examples – from some of the world’s biggest brands.
“Where’ve you been?” Sephora’s win-back email asks, approaching its recipient in the conversational, convivial manner of an old friend. “We’ve missed you!”
Sephora lands in its customer’s inbox not only like a childhood chum (rather than a business) but also bearing gifts – 15% off the customer’s next purchase. Plus, the beauty brand’s marketing team has clearly been doing its research into the win-back email best practices we outlined above, because the email also has:
- Urgency (the deal was only relevant until a particular time)
- Not one, but two CTAs (the recipient is invited to “print ticket”, or simply “shop online”)
- An acknowledgment of the user’s previous engagement with the brand
The email is extremely easy on the eye, too – with striking, sensuous close-up images of the brand’s makeup overlaid alongside the text.
Our favorite of Airbnb’s superb suite of win-back emails opts for a different tack, and it’s a tried-and-tested one – showing customers exactly what they’re missing.
This Airbnb email highlights to hosts how much they’ve earned so far through Airbnb – $0 – and uses local suburb data to show how much they could be earning through the platform. The email is packed full of compelling copy that speaks to the benefits of hosting through Airbnb (“paying bills, funding dreams, saving for the future”) and concludes with a CTA prompting the host to “finish [their] listing”.
Duolingo’s win-back email is simple and stripped-back – and that’s precisely what makes it so powerful. Unlike the above examples from Sephora and Airbnb, Duoling doesn’t rely on discounts or data – just a couple of lines of copy, a vivid CTA button, and a design language centered around Duo, the green owl who serves as the brand’s mascot.
This win-back email from Duolingo also tugs on the heartstrings, with Duo’s tearful visage constituting a soft guilt trip encouraging lapsed customers to “get back on track”.
4. Google Local Guides
Like Duolingo, Google Local Guides knows that animals – particularly ones that look sad – tap into the deepest wells of the human psyche. But it’s not just a full-width image of a doleful pug that makes this win-back email example so effective – it’s the compelling CTA just below.
Here, Google uses positive, imperative language (“add a photo today”; “contribute now”) to make its CTA actionable and intuitive, while a big, blue button simply screams – ”click me!”
5. Kenneth Cole
Kenneth Cole pushes the boundaries with an edgy, effective win-back email that makes no apologies. Brusque, compelling copy tells the recipient: “You left something behind. Time to make it right”. It’s a cool, commanding tone that gels seamlessly with the images of well-dressed models, all chiseled jaws and high cheekbones, staring aloofly into the distance.
Like the splendid Sephora win-back email we explored above, Kenneth Cole also utilizes the urgency and exclusivity of a discount to entice lapsed customers back into its ecosystem.
We think it does a pretty good job – do you agree?
Popular home decor and furniture brand Anthropologie opts for an approach that mixes the familiar with the unfamiliar – and the results are striking.
The familiar? Offering customers 20% off their next purchase, along with a deadline to convey immediacy and urgency. It’s more subtle, but the copy – ”Redeem your promo code” – also feels personal and tailored since the promo code is for the individual recipient, and them alone.
The less familiar? Anthropologie’s win-back email requests the customer’s feedback on the recent changes it’s been making to its website and catalog. This way, the brand isn’t simply treating the email recipient as a customer, but as a partner – showing them that they value and appreciate their opinion and that their feedback will be cherished and considered.
On top of this, Anthropologie also gains important insights to help them refine and reinvigorate their approach. It’s an email that kills multiple birds with one proverbial stone – and a win-win situation for all parties involved!
7. Urban Outfitters
Urban Outfitters demonstrates why win-back email effectiveness isn’t just about what you write, but how you write it – and how it looks.
This email is a triumph of design – with an endearing, cartoon-like mockup of an iPhone conversation. Through the email – which Urban Outfitters sends when a customer opts out of its mailing address – the brand asks its customer a series of questions:
- Are we seriously breaking up?!
- This sucks! We LOVE you!
- Can we please stay together forever?
It runs the risk of being a little OTT, but the clever, campy design – and the fact that this email never takes itself too seriously – means the campaign just gets away with it!
After the loud, colorful vibrancy of that Urban Outfitters example, Netflix’s win-back email might come across as a bit bland in comparison. But actually, this email is an instructive lesson as to why less is, more often than not, more – and how a no-frills, no-nonsense design can actually be a more effective approach.
In Netflix’s case, this is by simply restating the benefits of being a subscriber – to quote: “watch what you want, when you want, on any device you want”. By stripping the email of any other disruptions (except a small image), Netflix keeps the focus on what they want the recipient to do.
Reinforcing this? A bold, unmissable CTA button, in the classic Netflix red, with a straightforward directive – ”Rejoin Today”.
Alright, Netflix. You’ve got us!
In 2023, collecting and maintaining accurate customer data and records is vital in business. After all, relevant demographics help you understand how to segment your mailing list, tailor your messaging, and target customers with the most effective communications and incentives.
But how do you go about encouraging customers to give you those details? The short answer is: incentivize them. And Starbucks provides some handy inspiration!
The coffee giant’s win-back email reminds customers that it’d hate to miss their birthday – and that a free treat awaits them when they next turn a year older. The only caveat? The customer needs to enter their birthday first. Fortunately, it’s something they can do right here, right now, via a link in the email to update their account.
A good win-back email benefits both the sender and the recipient – and this one does both. The customer scores a freebie on their birthday. While Starbucks benefits from more accurate records, enabling them to tailor and target further marketing communications.
So there you have it – nine of the best win-back email examples we’ve seen, produced by some of the biggest, most successful brands in history, to help you build your own win back email template.
But simply writing and designing a beautiful, strategic win-back email is only half the battle – because you still need people to send it to! To this end, don’t neglect to build your email lists for marketing purposes – something using well-placed forms, social ads, and referral bonuses can all help with.
To see win-back email success, you’ll also need to be using the best email marketing tools – so go check out our guide to the top tools to find out what makes these services so special.
Good luck putting your business’ winning suite of win-back emails together – and don’t forget to tell us all about it in the comments when you do!
For a closer look at the best time to send an email, explore our dedicated guide to the topic.
For more detailed advice, check out our guide to how to increase your email open rates.