Marketers spend a lot of time and money trying to find new customers to replace ones they lose. The average company loses between 20 and 40 percent of its customers every year.

So, why do customers lapse? And what can you do to reignite their interest in your brand, so that they stay and continue to purchase from you?

In this blog post, we take a look at the smart way marketers can use email marketing and personalisation to retain customers for longer.

1. Ask customers about their preferences

People often leave because they feel your brand is no longer relevant to them.

When a prospective customer signs up to your email programme it’s important to ask a few questions so you can keep your communications relevant.

An email preference centre is a simple way to gather this information and makes sure your communications stay closely connected to what they want to hear about.

This example from Selfridges shows how you can capture a customer’s interests when they sign up for your mailing list.

Selfridges email preferences

2. Hold a conversation

People don’t want to be shouted at—they want a two-way conversation.

Make sure the majority of your email marketing is a one-to-one dialogue which is relevant and unique to the recipient, preferably triggered by their behaviour.

Manage your email marketing using email automations that can be personalised to the customer’s latest action to keep the conversation going, like this browser abandonment email from the Dollar Shave Club.

Dollar shave club lapsed customer email

3. Get personal

Don’t make it hard to shop with you. Make it easier for people to find what they’re looking for by presenting personalised content both on your emails and your website.

Use behavioural targeting software to show them items they might like based on what they’ve bought or browsed in the past or recommend crowdsourced best-sellers. It’ll save them time and reduce the risk of them looking at competitors to find what they want.

This email from Banana Republic highlights their best-selling jeans, keeping them top of mind.

Banana republic best sellers email

4. Prompt a purchase

Waiting for a customer to purchase can be a dangerous game—they forget, get distracted, and lapse.

If you notice a decline in open and click-through rates then do everything you can to incentivise and convert a lapsed customer into an active buyer by reaching out to them to tempt them to back.

This re-engagement email from Not On The High Street offers sleeping subscribers a discount to entice them to shop again.

Not on the high street re-engagement email

5. Lay off the hard sell

Sometimes people just don’t want to buy—they want to be entertained, informed, or helped. This means sending emails that might not result in a short-term sale but focus on building long-term custom.

Friendly advice, helpful suggestions, and content that’s relevant to current events all go a long way to building-up a rapport and keeping customers engaged in your content, even if they’re not ready to buy just yet.

This email from Handy is a good example of these softer selling tactics in action.

Handy product suggestions email

6. Send timely reminders

Make it simpler to buy again from you than to wait and shop around.

This is easy to do by sending customers timely and helpful replenishment emails reminding them to stock up on a previous purchase before it runs out. Or send them email alerts when items they’ve browsed are included in a promotion or back in-stock.

Emails like these remind them to come back and shop before they’re distracted by a competitor. Here’s a strong example from Rockin’ Wellness.

Rockin Wellness refill reminder email

7. Reward customer loyalty

Show customers some appreciation—send them a birthday message with an exclusive offer or congratulate them on the anniversary of their first purchase and provide them with promotions to reward their loyalty.

Remember it’s six times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an old one, so it’s worth making the investment by offering existing customers more.

This birthday greeting from Cusp is an example of how to grab the customer’s attention with a colourful celebratory email in the hope of re-engaging them.

Cusp happy birthday email

8. Ask for customer feedback

The most important customer feedback is the negative stuff—the things you might not want to hear but will enable you to improve your service and products, so that you can build a better customer experience.

Always send an email asking customers to rate and review their latest purchase or last visit to your store. Doing so will alert you to issues you might not know you have before it starts to cause problems. This creative review request from Artifact Uprising shows how you can do this in style.

Artifact Uprising feedback email

9. Create re-engagement campaigns

If you haven’t seen a customer for a long time then send them a reminder of what they’re missing.

Don’t leave it too late—create automated win-back campaigns which are sent to customers once they’ve not shopped after you’d normally expect them to. And remember: the longer you leave a customer to lapse the more unlikely they’ll return.

This re-engagement email from Boden makes use of an eye-catching GIF to show customers what they’re missing.

Boden re-engagement email

10. Let customers adjust email frequency

Being too keen can be a real turn-off. If you bombard people they’ll start to ignore you.

Instead, let people adjust the frequency of the emails they receive. This keeps the customer in control and engaged.

Avoid losing them for good by presenting them with more options than just unsubscribing completely. This example from jetBlue shows how you can do this playfully, without coming on too strong.

JetBlue email preferences

11. Know when to let customers go

If despite your best efforts customers just don’t return, always ask them if they want to unsubscribe.

Continuing to send to inactive recipients will get you a repetition as a spammer and email providers such as Gmail and Outlook will eventually block you from sending to their users.

It’s far better to send a last-ditch, respectful, and humorous farewell that might prompt a response. This email from Urban Outfitters is a fun example of this tactic in action.

Urban outfitters unsubscribe email


Next time you’re looking to build your customer numbers, look at who your customers are already. Are there people who’ve not heard from you in a while and who are at risk of dropping off the radar?

With a few strategic tweaks and the right tools, you can look at why customers are lapsing and rekindle the relationship.

Download the Best Practice Guide to Re-engagement