How to Win Back Inactive Customers

Often, ecommerce store owners’ primary focus is acquiring new customers. And why is this? Well, put simply, because new customers are sources of new revenue. But what about your existing customers? It’s tempting to latch onto something shiny and new. However, while new customers are indeed critical to any business, it’s actually more cost-effective to try to convince your existing customers who haven’t purchased in a while to return than it is to try to lure new subscribers towards their first purchase.

Think of it this way: inactive customers can be an untapped resource, a whole channel of potential revenue that you have access to. And the best part is, because they’ve purchased before, you probably already know a lot about them — all you have to do is put a little effort into winning them back.

Know Your Audience

As with any relationship, there’s a reason your inactive customers were drawn to you in the first place — and a reason they left, too. Both are important when formulating your win-back strategy. You need to leverage what brought them to you and remedy (or downplay) why they left. Of course, some of this is subject to speculation, which makes it a difficult exercise.

In general, inactive customers are going to fall somewhere on the spectrum between “lost causes” and “need a little attention.” Some reasons for inactivity might include:

  • A customer has purchased one of your products for a particular holiday or event
  • You rebranded or drastically changed your product selection, and they’re just not into it anymore (sorry)
  • They have changed drastically and they’re just not into it anymore
  • You did something to upset them, like botched their most recent order
  • Your emails are going to their spam folder
  • Your emails are going to their Promotions Tab, if they’re using Gmail (hint: there’s no rule that says you can’t ask your subscribers to move your emails into their primary inbox)

You can glean valuable information on which category inactive customers fall into by segmenting based on when their last purchase was. If their last purchase was on Black Friday, for example, it’s likely they were enticed by a special deal you were offering and fall into the “purchased for a particular holiday” category. If it was before a massive brand overhaul on your part, they might fall into the “not into it anymore” category.

If you send a post-purchase followup email, you can survey customers. By asking about their experience, you can ascertain any weaknesses in your shipping/delivery process, product quality, etc., which will allow you to handle the forth point.


In order to make your message as targeted as possible, you’re probably going to have to dive beyond the time of last purchase. A great way to further hone these categories is to segment based on frequency of purchases and amount of money spent. If a customer bought from you five times over the course of five months and stopped abruptly two months ago, for instance, there’s a good chance they can be won back. The same goes for someone who only purchased from you a couple of times, but spent a large sum of money each time — these are high-priority customers.

We also advise you to segment based on activity on your site. If you have web tracking set up, you are able to create segments based on certain pages customers have visited, or just whether or not they have visited your site in general. If an inactive customer has recently visited your site, it’s an indication that they’re still interested, so make sure to take advantage of this opportunity.


When we say prioritize, we essentially mean you should rank these tiers of inactive customers in order of how much effort you should put into winning them back. This translates to number of emails in the win-back flow and incentives. You shouldn’t send the same email to each tier — instead, you should tailor the message and timing of your win-back flows to each.

The most common way ecommerce store owners try to win back customers is by offering them special deals and promotions. This could mean free shipping, a percent discount, or some other incentive, depending on your business. Since they likely make up a small subset of your customer base, offer a larger percent discount or otherwise more enticing offer to your high-priority inactive customers.

Sephora Win-back

For customers who have visited your site since becoming inactive, include content that is relevant to the pages they visited. If they viewed a specific product, feature this product in the email and offer them a discount. I received the above email from Sephora because I was browsing through Bumble and Bumble hair products.

For customers who haven’t visited your site since becoming inactive, include some of your popular products, or any information they might have missed. The content of this sort of “While you were gone…” email can be adjusted based on how long a customer has been inactive for, too. Plain text emails can also be a great way to make your message feel sincere and personal.


Finally, you should make sure that each of these types of win-back emails is part of a flow, and not a standalone campaign. Regardless of the type, you should send at least one followup email after your initial win-back, if only to survey customers about why they left.

3 Ways to Target Facebook Ads

5 building blocks to create a high-performing email CTA

Automated Email Best Practices – Small Donor Reactivation

.yuzo_related_post img{width:260px !important; height:250px !important;}
.yuzo_related_post .relatedthumb{line-height:16px;background: !important;color:!important;}
.yuzo_related_post .relatedthumb:hover{background:#ffffff !important; -webkit-transition: background 0.2s linear; -moz-transition: background 0.2s linear; -o-transition: background 0.2s linear; transition: background 0.2s linear;;color:!important;}
.yuzo_related_post .relatedthumb a{color:#323b43!important;}
.yuzo_related_post .relatedthumb a:hover{ color:}!important;}
.yuzo_related_post .relatedthumb:hover a{ color:!important;}
.yuzo_related_post .yuzo_text {color:!important;}
.yuzo_related_post .relatedthumb:hover .yuzo_text {color:!important;}
.yuzo_related_post .relatedthumb{ margin: 0px 0px 0px 0px; padding: 5px 5px 5px 5px; }

jQuery(document).ready(function( $ ){
//jQuery(‘.yuzo_related_post’).equalizer({ overflow : ‘relatedthumb’ });
jQuery(‘.yuzo_related_post .yuzo_wraps’).equalizer({ columns : ‘> div’ });

Back to Blog Home
Get email marketing insights delivered straight to your inbox.