The Complete Guide to Re-Engagement Emails

Re-engagement emails are a crucial tool for recovering lost customers and increasing retention. This comprehensive guide will teach you how to craft effective re-engagement campaigns to win back subscribers and get them to purchase again.


Table of Contents

What are Re-Engagement Emails?

Re-engagement emails target subscribers who have been inactive for a period of time in an attempt to re-start their engagement with your brand.

The goals of re-engagement campaigns are to:

  • Remind inactive users about your brand
  • Incentivize them to make another purchase
  • Regain their loyalty as an active subscriber

Without proactive efforts to re-engage them, inactive subscribers are likely to churn and never return. That represents lost revenue for your business. Well-executed re-engagement emails can turn subscribers from one-time buyers into repeat, lifelong customers.

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Why are Re-Engagement Emails Important?

Re-engagement campaigns serve several crucial functions:

Increase Customer Lifetime Value

It costs 5-25x more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Re-engaging inactive users is far easier and more cost effective than constantly having to replace churned users with brand new ones.

Loyal, repeat customers also spend more money over their lifetime compared to one-time buyers or sporadic purchasers. Persuading subscribed users to stay actively engaged with your brand and purchase again significantly increases their customer lifetime value. Even if you spend money on incentives to re-engage them, recovering an existing customer almost always costs less than acquiring a brand new one.


Improve Email Metrics and Deliverability

Inactive email subscribers hurt your key email metrics like open and clickthrough rates. Low engagement levels also damage your sender reputation and deliverability rates over time. Removing or re-engaging inactive subscribers through targeted campaigns can boost your open and clickthrough rates as well as improve overall deliverability.


Maximize Revenue Potential

Every inactive user represents lost revenue potential from their lack of engagement. Effective re-engagement campaigns can maximize revenue by driving reactivations and additional purchases from subscribers who otherwise may have eventually churned. Even if you offer discounts or other incentives, recovering revenue from existing subscribers is typically easier than trying to continually find brand new customers.


Strengthen Brand Loyalty and Affinity

Customers are much more likely to recommend brands they feel an ongoing loyalty and affinity towards. Successful re-engagement campaigns remind inactive users why they originally liked your brand and turn them into vocal promoters and advocates. They also help strengthen the perceived bond between you and the customer, which pays dividends long term.


Optimize Marketing Spend

Marketing dollars are best spent on engaged, high-value customers. Re-engagement emails optimize that spend by doubling down on subscribers you already have a relationship with vs. trying to build relationships with brand new, unknown users. And the longer a subscriber stays inactive, the less likely they are to ever re-engage or purchase again. That makes regularly scheduled re-engagement campaigns essential for maximizing the value of existing subscribers.


When Should You Send Re-Engagement Emails?

The ideal timing and frequency of your re-engagement campaigns depends on your business model. Here are some best practices:

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After 30 Days of Inactivity

Sending re-engagement emails after 30 days of inactivity is a good starting point for most businesses. Short enough that the user still recalls your brand, but long enough that they clearly need a nudge.

Transactional businesses may want to re-engage sooner than 30 days. SaaS companies with monthly subscriptions should re-engage before the next billing cycle.


Every 1-3 Months After That

The first 30 days are critical. Follow up the initial re-engagement email with additional messages every 1-3 months for persistent non-responders.

Spreading out your campaigns prevents overwhelming users with constant emails. Adjust frequency based on your average customer lifecycle.


On Milestone Dates

Send re-engagement emails on dates meaningful to the subscriber, like:

  • Anniversary of their first purchase
  • Date they last logged in
  • Annual subscription renewal date
  • Birthday or other personal milestones

Tying your message to important dates makes it more personally relevant.


During Key Events

Holidays, new product launches, promotions, and other events are opportune times to re-engage inactive users with time-sensitive offers.

Match the tone and offer to the event without appearing insensitive. Avoid re-engaging at times of crisis or tragedy.


Re-Engagement Email Best Practices

Follow these essential best practices to maximize the impact of your re-engagement campaigns:

Send Personalized Messages

Segment inactive subscribers using criteria like:

  • Length of inactivity
  • Date of last purchase
  • Customer persona
  • Purchase history

Craft targeted messages and offers tailored to each group. Personalization boosts open and click rates enormously.


Use a Welcoming Tone

Avoid an accusatory or urgent tone. Be warm and excited to see them again. Jog their memory about who you are and add value.

Thank them for being a customer. Emphasize that you want to reconnect, not chase them down.


Remind Them Why They Signed Up

Refresh their memory on what originally attracted them to your brand. Highlight key features, products, or content they used to engage with. Give them a reason to reactivate.


Provide an Incentive to Return

The “what’s in it for me?” factor is key. Relevance and sentimentality alone won’t cut it. Include special offers like:

  • Discounts for first purchase after re-engaging
  • Free shipping
  • Exclusive early access to new products
  • Entry into a giveaway
  • Loyalty rewards

Make the incentive enticing enough to get them active again. Limit it to encourage urgent action, and only for re-engaged users.


Give Recommendations

Don’t just tell them to visit your site or make a generic purchase. Give specific recommendations of relevant products or content tailored to their interests.

“You used to buy hiking boots. Check out our new waterproof boot line!”


Make it Easy to Resubscribe

Include simple, one click options to re-subscribe, update preferences, or request assistance. Hassle-free options for requesting help also work.

Removing friction increases the chance of re-engagement.

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Test and Iterate

Not all inactive users are identical. Test different messaging, offers, timing, and design variants to find the optimal approach for each segment.

Analyze results and continuously refine your campaigns. Don’t get stuck just copying the same ineffective email.


Automate for Consistency

Re-engagement requires a sustained effort over time. Using automation ensures you execute campaigns consistently without fail.

Automate scheduling, segmentation, personalization, send-outs, and reporting. Many email service providers have re-engagement automations built-in.


Re-Engagement Emails vs. Winback Campaigns

Re-engagement and winback campaigns serve similar functions, but winbacks target a more dire scenario:

Re-Engagement Emails

  • For inactive subscribers
  • Goal is to reactivate them

Winback Campaigns

  • For churned/cancelled subscribers
  • Goal is to outright win them back

With winbacks, subscribers have taken the more final step of unsubscribing, cancelling their account, or requesting to be deleted. More dramatic action is needed to win them back compared to inactive users.

That said, the messaging principles remain similar. Winbacks also aim to remind, incentivize, and regain loyalty using personalization.

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8 Types of Re-Engagement Email Campaigns

Re-engagement and winback campaigns come in many forms. Choose strategies suiting your business needs and subscribers.

1. Cart Abandonment

Triggered when a customer adds items to their cart but doesn’t complete checkout. Remind them of the items left behind and offer a discount code or free shipping to complete their purchase.

Works best for ecommerce companies. Time it soon after abandonment while memory of the cart is still fresh.


2. Browse Abandonment

Sends an email after a customer has visited your site but left without any defined action like adding to a cart. Recommend products browsed and offer incentives to re-engage.

Helps ecommerce companies recapture window shoppers. Use page visit tracking and on-site behavior data to tailor recommendations.


3. Profile Update

Asks subscribers to update their email preferences and profile information. Offer an incentive in exchange for them providing up-to-date details.

Helps re-permission inactive subscribers by ensuring you have their latest contact details and preferences. Avoid overusing this tactic.


4. Satisfaction Survey

Checks in to see how satisfied inactive customers were with your brand. Ask for feedback through a survey or questionnaire. Offer an incentive for participating.

Opportunity to learn why subscribers became inactive and improve your products and services. Be prepared to follow up on feedback received.


5. Limited Time Offers

Promotes special offers like discounts, giveaways, early access, and more that are available for a limited time only. Drives urgency to take advantage of the deal.

Works for any industry. Sweeten the deal for targeted inactive segments vs general subscribers. Limit to create excitement.


6. Loyalty Rewards

Reminds inactive subscribers of loyalty perks and rewards they’re missing out on. Position renewing their membership as reactivating their benefits.

Works for membership based businesses with strong loyalty programs like airlines, hotels, and credit cards. Highlight elite status benefits.

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7. Replenishment Reminders

Nudges subscribers on replenishment purchase cycles to reorder items they regularly buy from you like skincare products, office supplies, groceries, etc.

Good for consumables businesses. Remind when to replenish based on past order frequency and volume. Offer discounts or bundling.


8. FOMO Campaigns

Plays up “fear of missing out” by highlighting popular products, content, events, or experiences inactive subscribers are missing by being disengaged.

Works across industries by leveraging trending items, social proof, and exclusivity. Avoid being too promotional.

Get creative with the format and incentives you use to design the perfect re-engagement flow for your business.


5 Keys to Re-Engagement Email Copywriting

Master these copywriting strategies in your re-engagement emails for maximum impact:

1. Strategic Subject Lines

Given how disconnected inactive users likely feel, generic subject lines like “We Miss You” or “Come Back” will be ignored as promotional. Get specific and personalized.

Some great options:

  • “John, your __ membership reactivates these benefits”
  • “Sarah, here’s 25% off your abandoned cart from REI”
  • “James, our hiking boots are now waterproof!”

Subject lines should reflect the personalized content within the email.


2. Remind Them of Who You Are

Don’t assume existing subscribers remember your brand clearly, especially if they’ve been inactive for months. Re-introduce yourself.

“Hi [Name], this is Amy from Acme Co. We make those blue widgets you bought 6 months ago. Just wanted to check in!”

Refresh their memory on who you are and their past relationship with your brand.

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3. Open With a Warm, Non-Salesy Tone

Avoid sounding desperate to win them back or pushy with your offers. Keep the language casual, sincere and subtle.

“We noticed you haven’t ordered from us in a while. No worries! We’re always here if you ever need [widgets] again. Here’s a little something for being a past customer…”

Be helpful and non-accusatory. This opens the door to re-engagement.


4. Make the Offer Clear

After warming them up again, make the incentive prominent. Clarity is key – there should be zero confusion over what the offer is and how to redeem it.

“Get 25% off your next order with us”

is much clearer than

“Special savings for you!”

Spell out the entire offer in concrete terms.


5. Include a Clear Call-to-Action

Don’t just state the offer and end the email. Guide them on next steps to ensure they act on it.

  • Visit online store
  • Click to redeem
  • Use coupon code
  • Call toll-free number
  • Start free trial

Remove all friction and uncertainty around how to re-engage.

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Tips for Designing Re-Engagement Emails

Design your re-engagement emails for maximum clarity and impact:

Keep the Layout Simple

Stick to a clean, basic email layout. Inactive users are already reluctant to engage, so avoid extra clutter that distracts from your message.

Use clear headings, generous white space between elements, and well-defined sections.


Refresh Branding Elements

Update design elements like logo, font, and color scheme if your brand identity has changed since they engaged last. You want assets they recognize.

Keep branding consistent across other marketing touchpoints like your website and social media.


Highlight the Offer Visually

Make the incentive the graphical hero of your email. Give it prominence with large font, contrasting colors, white space around it, etc.

Avoid burying it within dense paragraphs. The offer should jump out immediately when they open the email.


Use Tone-Relevant Visuals

Select images that reinforce the desired tone you want to achieve. Friendly pictures remind them of who you are. Avoid overly promotional stock photos.

Humorous, nostalgic, or popupar culture imagery also helps connect depending on your brand voice.


Prominently Feature the CTA Button

Place your Call to Action button in a hard-to-miss spot like centered below the incentive. Use contrasting colors from the background to draw attention.

CTAs buttons above the fold have higher click rates. Prioritize this key conversion goal.

With a balance of brevity, personalization, and design simplicity, your re-engagement emails will stand out.


Measuring the Effectiveness of Re-Engagement Campaigns

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Define, track, and optimize success metrics for your campaigns:

Open and Clickthrough Rates

The industry averages for re-engagement emails are:

  • Open Rates: 17.46%
  • Clickthrough Rates: 5.36%

Benchmark your campaigns against those averages and previous results. Improving both consistently signifies your messages are resonating.


Conversion Rates

The true test is conversions from the email. Monitor:

  • Purchases
  • Leads
  • Downloads
  • Account reactivations
  • Survey participation

This proves the tangible business impact of bringing subscribers back into the fold.


Subscriber Re-Engagement

Beyond conversion metrics, analyze the broader re-engagement your campaigns generate:

  • Email opens/clicks from newly reactivated users after the message
  • Increased on-site visits, page views, engagement after being reactivated
  • Long-term lift in email open and clickthrough rates

This shows your emails created lasting re-engagement, not one-off responses.


Email List Health

Measure how re-engagement campaigns affect:

  • Overall email subscriber counts
  • New vs. reactivated subscribers
  • Unsubscribe rates
  • Bounce rates

This indicates your success at subscriber retention and list growth efforts.

Continuously refine every part of your re-engagement process based on these metrics – from targeting and messaging to design and send timing. This ensures future campaigns drive even better results.


Re-Engagement Emails: Final Takeaways

  • Well-executed re-engagement email campaigns play a pivotal role in recovering inactive subscribers before they churn.
  • Personalized and well-timed messages are essential to remind disconnected users about your brand and provide incentives to re-activate.
  • Monitor subscriber engagement over time and send re-engagement emails at least every 1-3 months for sustained impact.
  • Test offers, segments, timing and creative to find the optimal approach for winning back each group of inactive users.

Re-engagement is one of the highest leverage activities for maximizing subscriber lifetime value. Dedicate the time needed to craft campaigns that delight inactive subscribers and turn them into happy, long term customers once again.


Frequently Asked Questions About Re-Engagement Emails

How do you identify inactive email subscribers?

Analyze your list to segment users by criteria like:

  • No email opens for X days
  • No clicks for X days
  • No purchases for X months
  • Email marked as spam
  • Email bounced

30-90 days of no activity is a good starting point to qualify subscribers as inactive.

What is the difference between inactive and unsubscribed users?

  • Inactive users have gone quiet and ignored emails but remain subscribed.
  • Unsubscribed users have taken the additional step to formally opt out of your list.

Both groups need re-engagement, but unsubscribers require greater effort to win back. Avoid sending normal broadcast emails to unsubscribed addresses.

When should you remove inactive subscribers from your list?

If emails continuously bounce or get marked as spam, remove them between 3-6 months of inactivity.

But keep segmenting inactive subscribers for re-engagement campaigns unless they formally unsubscribe or request removal.

What metrics are most important for re-engagement emails?

  • Open and clickthrough rates
  • Conversion rates from desired actions
  • Long term re-engagement outside the emails
  • Impact on overall list engagement and health

Optimize all parts of your re-engagement process based on these key metrics.

How can you automate re-engagement campaigns?

Many email service providers have automation tools to schedule sends, segment subscribers, customize messages, A/B test, and remove unengaged users.

This ensures consistent and scalable re-engagement campaigns without manual effort.

How do you write subject lines for re-engagement emails?

Use personalized and specific language that speaks to that individual. Avoid generic phrases like “We Want You Back” that will be ignored.

For example: “[Name], here’s 25% off shoes you left in your cart” or “[Name], your Gold status membership reactivates these perks.”

What incentives work best to re-engage subscribers?

Discounts, limited-time offers, loyalty rewards, early access, free gifts and giveaways tend to work across all industries.

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