Top Tips for Writing Customer Retention Emails with Examples

Top Tips for Writing Customer Retention Emails with Examples
29 November, 2023 • ... • 621 views
Daria Zhuravleva
by Daria Zhuravleva

Constantly growing your subscriber base is important but it’s not enough for effective email marketing. You need to keep these contacts alive, thriving, and interested in your brand. Otherwise, it’s like planting numerous seeds without watering them or fertilizing the soil — don’t be surprised if nothing grows!

Customer retention emails are like a “fertilizer” for customer loyalty. Keep reading to learn about retention email campaigns and how to make them work for your subscriber base.

What is a retention email?

Retention emails are email campaigns aimed at existing customers to keep them around, increase their brand loyalty, and motivate them to buy from you again. While these emails may directly sell your product or service, it’s not always the case. Retention emails have one of these two purposes:

  • Engagement maintenance of loyal subscribers. Such campaigns are pretty similar to exchanging memes in a chat with your long-distance or overly busy friend. They don’t oblige your customers to anything, just show you’re still there and care about them. One great example of such retention emails is birthday and anniversary emails. Even if your customers don’t use their birthday offers, they will still be happy to get a holiday card — and they’ll remember your business for it.
  • Churn risk management. Before your disengaged subscribers click the opt-out link, you still have a chance to win them back. This can take many forms. For example, you can segment a list, create a group of subscribers that have been ignoring your emails for a month or more, and send out an email campaign with an irresistible offer or suggest support.

Here’s an example of the latter. This email from Captions targets potentially churning users who haven’t used the app for a while. It lists all the awesome new features and encourages customers wanting to churn to test them out by offering a 7-day free trial.

Why use retention emails in marketing campaigns?

Retention emails have one of these two purposes:

  • Engagement maintenance of loyal subscribers. Such campaigns are pretty similar to exchanging memes in a chat with your long-distance or overly busy friend. They don’t oblige your customers to anything, just show you’re still there and care about them. One great example of such retention emails is birthday and anniversary emails. Even if your customers don’t use their birthday offers, they will still be happy to get a holiday card — and they’ll remember your business for it.
  • Churn risk management. Before your disengaged subscribers click the opt-out link, you still have a chance to win them back. This can take many forms. For example, you can segment a list, create a group of subscribers that have been ignoring your emails for a month or more, and send out an email campaign with an irresistible offer or suggest support. 

If your customers already lost interest, why send them emails in the first place? And if they didn’t, why flood them with even more emails? Isn’t it intrusive?

Although these concerns are valid, the situation is more nuanced. Here are three reasons why investing in retention is a good idea.

Attracting customers is more expensive than retaining

The cost of paid customer acquisition, depending on the industry, can exceed $600 for B2C and reach $2,000 for B2B. However, attracting new customers lies beyond paid ads — and “organic” methods cost money too. For example, running a blog requires paying for web hosting, SEO tools, hiring a team of authors and editors — and this is just one channel!

Retention is not free either. However, automating a re-engagement email series, for example, only requires an email marketing tool and a couple of hours to set up a workflow, which is drastically fewer resources compared to acquisition. Sometimes, you don’t even have to invest money in it. For example, Selzy offers a generous free plan with 15,000 emails a month sent to 1,000 contacts — automation included!

Retention works for brand awareness

There is at least one brand that got viral thanks to the well-crafted retention strategy — of course, we’re talking about Duolingo. Its persistent and lowkey manipulative emails and push notifications became infamous online and gave birth to thousands of memes about the owl not being happy with another ruined streak of yours. Look at him, how dare you make this poor bird cry?

Retention email from Duolingo with the crying green owl
Source: Zapier

Duolingo’s case shows that great retention content can make you popular online, memes and jokes will make your business more recognizable — and bring you new customers over time. By the second quarter of 2023, the language learning app had more than 20 million daily active users. These striking results can be attributed to the retention strategy — at least partially.

Repeat purchases are a better revenue source during a recession

Motivating customers to purchase can be a little tricky these days. According to NielsenIQ’s 2023 Consumer Outlook report, 39% of survey participants around the world have become “cautious” spenders by January 2023, and 22% have identified themselves as financial strugglers.

The current economic situation led to wallet shifts, according to the same report. In the CPG sector, consumers spend less on eating out, out-of-home entertainment, and other non-essential categories. So, if you’re running an e-commerce business, it’s a lot harder to convince new customers to buy something from you — but what about your existing customers?

According to Yotpo’s report on customer retention, 82.5% of consumers around the world will buy from a brand again if they feel like the brand knows them. Here’s what “knowing” consists of:

  • The brand recommends products based on previous purchases — 53.9%.
  • The brand emails a customer when products are back in stock — 45.2%.
  • The brand uses a customer’s name in emails and texts — 37.7%.
  • The brand knows my size, dietary preferences, etc. — 36.7%.

So, in the current situation, existing and loyal customers are more likely to buy from you — if you maintain close relationships with them. And, by sending personalized retention messages, you can achieve this.

Now that you know why investing in customer retention emails is an awesome strategy, let’s talk about how to make such campaigns work.

The secret spice of a great retention email

Retention emails only work with proper strategy management — otherwise, you might actually annoy and repel your customers. Here’s what not to do, according to Yotpo’s report we mentioned:

  • Send too many messages — 56.2% of consumers find it annoying.
  • Send irrelevant product recommendations — 42.3%.
  • Ignore previous purchases — 30.4%.

This implies that personalization is the most important ingredient of a great retention email. If anything, 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a brand that offers personalized communication — and are 3 times more likely to buy from such companies again. So don’t sleep on using email personalization techniques if you want loyal customers!

Examples of customer retention emails

Retention emails come in many shapes and sizes but all of them are important and fulfill different goals. Let’s take a closer look at each type and discover some notable examples.

Welcome emails

A welcome email is the first email your customers receive after subscribing to your newsletter or creating an account. Such emails usually consist of a warm hello, a short guide on using the product or the website content, or a brief description of what your emails have to offer. 

Here’s a classic example from Feeld. The app has unique mechanics and funky terminology — why do they call cities cores? Offering support by describing and explaining terms to newbies in a welcome email is a great strategy that will keep new users active.

“Are welcome emails really a part of the retention strategy though?”, you may ask. The email from Feeld shows that they are. New users may find these terms alienating and end up not using the app at all — why bother if even filling in the profile is so confusing? This is how welcome emails retain customers — they guide confused novices through your product or service, so it’s easier to accept your offer. For example, if they read an explanation of the “Cores” feature, they’re more likely to check it out.

Promotional offers

Deals and discounts are a great way to motivate your customers to purchase from you again — especially considering the current economic situation. As we mentioned, people have become cautious spenders. So, in many cases, the price can be the only obstacle between them and adding your product to the cart.

Promotional emails are usually simple in structure — you briefly describe the offer and maybe add some cool visuals to make it more enticing. Here’s a very basic example from Copper Cow Coffee.

One effective way to boost conversions of your promotional emails is using a sense of urgency — check out our blog and learn how to write a last chance email that will skyrocket your sales.

Abandoned cart emails

According to the Baymard Institute, the average cart abandonment rate is 70.19%. That’s why ignoring abandoned cart emails is a missed opportunity — you can drastically increase your revenue by retaining customers at this stage of the sales funnel.

Here’s a classic example of an abandoned cart email from Rudy’s:

Many cart abandonment emails offer an extra benefit to motivate customers for a purchase — in this case, it’s free shipping. This is an especially smart strategy since, according to Baymard Institute, too many extra costs are the most common reason to abandon a cart.

Newsletters

Newsletters don’t sell anything directly or ask subscribers to stay. They offer interesting, entertaining, useful, or otherwise valuable content that keeps your customers engaged. The content doesn’t even have to do anything with your product or industry directly. Here’s a great example from Wonder Valley. The brand’s monthly digest has no mentions of haircare or skincare products. Instead, these immaculately designed newsletters offer all at once, from weather forecasts and moon calendars to playlists, interesting short articles, and more.

Thank-you emails

A third of consumers won’t come back to you again after one bad interaction. That’s why post-purchase experience management is crucial when it comes to retention — one wrong move and you’ll get no one to retain in the first place. Sending transactional emails with important order information is a vital component of good checkout but there’s more to it. 

To create an emotional connection, you can additionally thank customers for purchasing from you. Here’s a textbook example of a thank-you email inviting customers to use the chat feature on the website:

Reminders

Sometimes customers churn not because they don’t like your product or service — most of them are probably busy people with cluttered inboxes. That’s why they ignored a delicious offer or didn’t renew a subscription. The good news: the thought-out management of such situations can decrease the churn rate. In this case, reminder emails are a great way to prevent forgetful customers from leaving. For example, here’s a great reminder email from Grammarly: 

One great thing about this email is that reminding subscribers about automated transactions is compliant with GDPR. To learn more about GDPR email marketing, check out our blog.

Special occasion emails

Emails are more than just a vehicle to deliver promo codes — non-salesy messages are just as important for retention. For example, celebrating milestones and sending holiday postcards is a great way to show your subscribers that you care. That’s why special occasion emails exist. These include official and non-official holidays, your company’s or your customers’ milestones and anniversaries, and anything you find important. Here’s a great example of a Product Hunt launch announcement email from Niice:

By the way, we’re not hinting at anything but Selzy has launched on Product Hunt too! Follow our page, leave reviews, and show us some love ❤️

Birthday emails

Birthday offers like gifts or discounts do a great job of increasing sales but there’s more to it. Wishing your customers a happy birthday is a sign that you care about them — and you will be remembered for that. It’s also another opportunity to express your brand’s voice and entertain your subscribers. 

Here’s a fun example from Pizza Hut. The interactive nature of this email combined with a fun “Good job being born” subject line makes a remarkable impression — even if your birthday wish had nothing to do with cinnamon sticks.

Product or service update announcements

Updates are an awesome reason to reach out to your customers. Announcements can spike interest in your subscribers, especially those who haven’t gotten in touch with your business for a while. These emails are especially important for software. New product features can be a bit confusing, so they require some onboarding even for experienced users. 

Here’s a solid example from Google. This email briefly describes what’s so cool about the new Bard model and other features, provides tips on using Bard more effectively, and encourages users to test all these updates out.

Re-engagement emails

Re-engagement emails or win-back emails are the first thing that comes to mind when you think of retention emails. This type of retention campaign is aimed at the customers who grew colder over time — haven’t shopped at your store for a while, aren’t engaging with your emails or using your app. Re-engagement emails perform two functions:

  • Reconciling with cold customers. It’s a lot like reaching out to a friend who got wrapped up in personal stuff and hasn’t seen you for months. If you remind these customers of your business as a part of churn risk management, you have a chance to warm them up and increase your sales.
  • Offering a way out. Some of your potentially churning subscribers may have lost interest in your product or service but keep forgetting to opt out of your emails. They turn into the dead weight of your contact list and may lower your deliverability in the future. In this case, re-engagement emails remind them to unsubscribe from your newsletter, so you can focus on the audience that is actually interested in your business.

Here’s a great example from 1973 Ltd. Notice the visible unsubscribe button that gives customers a sense of control and makes them feel safer.

Tips on creating emails for customer retention

We’ve already learned why retention emails are important for every business and what kinds of retention campaigns exist. Now, let’s discuss how to craft a retention campaign that works.

Segment your customers

List segmentation is the practice of dividing subscribers into groups based on certain characteristics and then sending them targeted emails. By doing this, you share more relevant content and deals with your subscribers, which will increase email engagement and conversions. Since retention emails aim at maintaining or increasing engagement, segmentation is vital — especially if you automate these campaigns. 

Segmentation criteria may vary a lot, depending on which customer data you have on your hands and which objectives you pursue. Here are some segmentation criteria ideas specifically for retention emails:

  • Email engagement. For example, you can automate a win-back campaign for those customers who haven’t opened your emails for over a month. Other criteria include the date of the last click, reply, or purchase via links from emails.
  • Product engagement. Remember the Duolingo example? This is a well-implemented case of segmentation based on product engagement. This is a broad family of metrics including several parameters. Depending on the task, you can segment your subscribers using average session length, last sign-up time, the number of weekly sessions, and more.
  • Website behavior. If you use a CRM with email marketing integration for sending emails, you can get access to your subscribers’ website behavior. The metrics to use for segmentations are last purchase time, visited pages, session length, last visit time, and more.

Create the right subject line

The subject line, along with the preheader, makes or breaks the first impression of your email. That’s why it’s crucial to pay extra attention to email subjects when you’re running a retention campaign. In this case, you literally can’t afford to miss — retention emails should look attention-grabbing even in the most cluttered inbox ever. 

There’s no foolproof way to get all of your potentially churning subscribers to open retention emails. You can’t escape A/B testing to find out what works. However, it’s not like looking for a black cat in a dark room. Here are some tips to make your customer retention email subject lines stand out:

  • Personalize. According to recent data, personalized subject lines decrease open rates. However, if your email content is also personalized, it can work. Pro tip: don’t stick to first name merge tags alone — use other subscriber data.
  • Give a sneak peek. Your subscribers don’t have time for yet another email. So, to get them enticed enough to open, offer something valuable in the subject line. However, don’t give away too much detail — keep the intrigue and reveal it in the email copy.
  • Get emotional. Coming back to Duolingo’s retention emails, subject lines like “You made Duo sad” work because they almost guilt-trip subscribers into starting language classes again. Although this particular example is a little overboard and won’t work for all brands, you can use a milder version of the same thing. For example, something like “Please don’t leave us” or a self-deprecating joke can be great attention grabbers.
  • Offer help. Show some empathy for customers’ pains and frustrations — and suggest help with resolving these issues. It depends on the funnel stage, though. For example, if your customer turned cold during onboarding, you can send them an extra email with a subject like “We get it, new things are hard”. And for cart abandonment, reassuring subject lines like “You have great taste” or “You deserve a little spree” can improve open rates a lot.

Focus on the value of the product or service

When you’re encouraging customers to purchase from you again, give them a reminder that your product is cool and it solves their problems. It’s the baseline principle of follow-up emails — you need to explain the value from a slightly different point of view since the previous one didn’t work. 

You don’t even need a large email copy to do this! Here’s a great example from Canopy. As you can see, it doesn’t contain walls of text but still works — it even resolves pain points like an excruciating installation process in advance.

Create a positive feedback loop

A feedback loop is the practice of using the previous outcome for future behavior. There are two types of feedback loops you can use in marketing:

  • Negative feedback loop — improvement based on negative feedback. For example, you stop posting memes on social media when you see numerous comments calling them cringe. Or you listen to customer complaints and change something in the product.
  • Positive feedback loop — improvement based on positive feedback. For example, you looked into analytics and saw that certain blog posts get more clicks, so you changed the content plan for the next month to include more similar topics.

But this is about you correcting marketing efforts — what about you correcting customers’ actions? You can create positive feedback loops for them. For example, adding loyalty program points for each purchase counts as a positive response to spending. Customers will see it and come back for more. The more they spend, the more they get in return. Even better, you can send retention emails notifying them about extra loyalty points. Customers will feel like they achieved something by purchasing your product and keep coming back for more. This is how retention marketing works.

Loyalty programs are just an example, and straight-up financial profits are not the only way to create positive feedback for your customers. One example is showing progress and statistics — like Spotify. Each year, the company makes Spotify Wrapped, which is a rundown of each user’s year of listening to music. And it’s not just a list of top songs and artists. Audio auras, listening personality types, and other creative ways to present statistics to subscribers — no year is the same. Users know that if they keep listening to music on Spotify, they’ll receive a fun new thing along with their top 100 tracks at the end of the year. This is how positive feedback loops work.

Spotify Wrapped email announcement that encourages users to listen to more music to get access to the statistics
And, before the release, Spotify encourages users to listen to more music so they can get their statistics presented in a fun way. Source: Inbox Flows

Conclusion

Retention emails help you increase revenue via existing customers instead of spending a marketing budget on the acquisition and raising brand awareness. They come in many forms, from welcome to win-back, but they only work if done right — here’s how to ace your retention marketing strategy:

  • Segment your customers — send customers retention emails that they need.
  • Create the right subject line — so you stand out in the cluttered inboxes.
  • Focus on the value — remind your potentially churning customers that your product is cool and solves their problems.
  • Create a positive feedback loop — give your customers something valuable (not necessarily discounts or anything money-related) as a reward for the desired actions.

By the way, you can set up welcome, win-back, and other retention campaigns for free in Selzy. The best part is, once you set it up, it will keep running automatically — Selzy will retain and warm the hearts of cold customers while you do more interesting and labor-intensive stuff. Start for free to boost your customer loyalty — no credit card required!

29 November, 2023
Article by
Daria Zhuravleva
I'm a writer with 3 years of experience, knowledge and interest in all things IT and marketing, and a passion for the English language. As a staff author at Selzy, I see my mission as an educator who makes your life easier by explaining complex topics in a digestible and somewhat entertaining way. Hobbies include birdwatching, all things music and art, writing freeform poetry, and hiding in the woods.
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