‘Win-back’ email campaigns can be effective in encouraging engagement from lapsed customers, according to a new report.

Win-back emails are those that try to rekindle relationships with recipients that haven’t opened a brand’s marketing messages for a sustained period of time.

Personally I can’t recall ever having received an email from a brand that was specifically trying to ‘reactivate’ me, and the Return Path report does concede that win-back campaigns aren’t all that common.

In fact Return Path could only identify 33 retailers that implemented win-back campaigns between 1 April 2013 and 31 January 2014.

However there are certainly benefits to running this type of email campaigns, not least that it helps to maintain a clean email list.

Major mailbox providers such as Gmail and Outlook commonly use engagement metrics to decide whether or not a particular sender should be considered as a spammer.

Furthermore, if a former user hasn’t logged into their mailbox for an extended period of time then providers sometimes turn them into ‘spam traps’.

If marketers consistently send messages to spam traps then it’s a sign they aren’t cleaning their email list, which is another warning signal that they might be a spammer.

In order to avoid being incorrectly labelled as an evil spammer, marketers should consider using win-back email campaigns on lapsed subscribers before ultimately scratching them from their database for good.

But do people actually engage with these kind of emails? Read on to find out, or for more information on this topic download the Econsultancy Email Marketing Industry Census 2014.

Win-back email success

Data taken from the 33 retailers that conducted win-back campaigns shows that the average read rate was just 12%.

This obviously isn’t hugely encouraging, though it is still a relatively good response if you take into account the fact that the recipients had all been identified as inactive customers.

Read rates from win-back campaigns

Also, there appears to be a positive knock-on effect in that 45% of recipients who received win-back emails then read subsequent marketing email from that brand, even though only a quarter of them (24%) engaged with the initial win-back message.

But just to confuse matters further, it turns out that the average length of time between when people received a win-back email and when they read a subsequent message was 57 days.

As such it’s difficult to draw any hard conclusions as to whether the win-back email directly influenced the future engagement.

In conclusion...

Ultimately it seems that brands shouldn’t immediately remove people from their email list if they fail to respond to a win-back campaign.

Recipients were still re-engaging with the retailers’ marketing messages up to 300 days after they received the initial win-back email, so brands shouldn’t be too quick to slash inactive subscribers from their lists.

Instead a wiser approach would be to send a series of short, simple win-back emails before culling inactive recipients.

Return Path also came up with several useful tips to help optimise  campaigns:

  • To encourage engagement use a shorter template and subject lines, such as “We miss you,” or “Was it something we said?” 
    Reactivation emails with the words “miss you” in their subject lines achieved a 13% read rate, and messages with the words “come back” in their subject lines achieved a 12.7% read rate.
  • Focus on one clear call-to-action rather than muddling the message with different offers.
  • If providing an incentive, test different offers. According to Return Path’s research, money off incentives performed better than a percentage off.

Click here to download the full report from Return Path

David Moth

Published 12 May, 2014 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (1)


Bill Kaplan, CEO at FreshAddress, Inc.

Nice overview. Win-back email campaigns definitely help reactivate lapsed customers while helping companies clean their lists of email addresses people are no longer using. Inactives typically comprise 25% to 50+% of a file. Continually messaging these email addresses costs money and hurts overall deliverability.

As David suggests, your first line of defense is a re-engagement campaign, preferably with an attractive offer to get these customers re-engaged. This may or may not be successful, depending upon the percentage of these email addresses that are still active accounts. Of course, some individuals might re-engage with you in-store or through your call centers so it's critical to monitor re-engagement through all channels before seeking alternative methods to reconnect with these lost connections.

From our experience at FreshAddress working with 25% of the Fortune 100 and many other leading marketers and nonprofits, the majority of the inactives in a marketer's file are the result of sending emails to dormant accounts… like the ones Yahoo purged over a year ago. Sending emails to these dormant accounts might not cost much but it’s not going to drive engagement or revenues because no one’s reading these emails anymore. And eventually, some of these addresses will be turned into spamtraps.

If your re-engagement program does not bring specific customers back, marketers should remove the remaining inactives from their files and run them through an ECOA (Email Change of Address) service to re-engage these customers at their current preferred addresses. While new lead generation is sexier and typically garners the majority of a marketer's budget, the cost to reacquire a former customer is a fraction of the cost acquiring a new customer. And what’s the benefit of developing the perfect creative, promotions, and campaigns if your emails are not being read?

For further details on how leading marketers are reconnecting with customers lost to inactive or bouncing email addresses, see http://www.freshaddress.com/services/email-change-of-address-ecoa

almost 4 years ago

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