Deep Dive into Creating High Performing Win-Back Campaigns

two women hugging, denoting an email win-back campaigns

What exactly is a win-back email? It’s an email sent to inactive subscribers — someone who has engaged with your company in the past (purchased, opened emails, etc.) but for some reason or another, have stopped doing so for a predetermined period of time.

If you’re not sending a win-back campaign than you’re leaving money on the table. Why do I say that? Because according to a 2017 benchmark report, companies with an average order size of $100 to $200 had an average revenue per recipient of $.84.

win-back campaign
So it goes to show you, sending a win-back email is worth it.

If you’ve never sent a win-back email then you might have some questions. Maybe you don’t know how to define a win-back customer for your business or what a good subject line looks like. I’m here to help.

We took a look at all our win-back emails sent in Q2 of 2017 and analyzed them to see what the best performing win-back campaigns were doing.

Before we get into breaking down the emails, let’s talk about how to define a win-back customer.

How to define a “win-back” customer

Like I said above, a win-back customer is someone who has engaged in the past but not for some time.

So, how long should you wait? Should the messaging differ from those who have purchased and those who simply clicked? All great questions.

And the answer— it depends.

Defining inactive customers depends on your industry and the types of products you sell. Are you selling beauty products, furniture, monthly subscriptions, or electronics? What you sell will determine what qualifies as inactive.

Start by defining your customer’s buyer cycle and determine the frequency at which you can expect customers to buy. For example, If you sell furniture, you’d expect customers to purchase a lot less frequently than a store that sells clothing.

If you’re just getting started with a win-back series, you might want to experiment with the amount of time you use as a threshold. To learn more, check out this great post on when to send your win-back series.

Now that you have an idea on when to send your win-back campaign, let’s take a look at constructing the email. Let’s start with subject lines.

Subject lines

Since these customers haven’t engaged with your company in a long time, you’re going to have a tougher time getting them to open.

To give you an idea of win-back open rates, our average open rate among all win-back campaigns in our 2017 Q2 dataset is 32.09%. This is a pretty good open rate considering they’re emails sent to unengaged subscribers.

At first look, I noticed that a lot of the top performers include “it’s been awhile” in their subject lines. So I did some digging and found that subjects lines that included “it’s been awhile” received an open rate of 35% (4% higher than our average).

Subject Line Open rate
It’s been awhile 35%
We miss you 30.29%
Discount included 27.90%

While the other two subject lines performed slightly below the average, anything above 20% I would consider a solid open rate. Picking a subject line should never be one and done. A/B testing your subject line is a smart idea to increase your open rates.

Now that you know what to say in your subject line, you might be wondering how many emails you should send.

Number of emails

One of the trickiest parts of a win-back campaign is the deciding how many emails to send. Because you’re sending to unengaged subscribers, you’ll want to be careful here. If you oversend to these subscribers, you risk hurting your sending reputation. If you’re having deliverability problems, here are 4 easy ways to improve your email deliverability.

When looking at our top 20 performers (based on revenue per recipient), 16 of them had 3 or fewer emails in their series. But is this just a coincidence?

I took a look at how many emails to send in your triggered emails and touched upon win-back series.

In short, to gain the most out of your win-back series without risking your sending reputation, I recommend sending 2-3 emails. Although you see open rates of over 20% in later emails, you’ll notice that your revenue per recipient takes a dip after 3 emails.

Ok, so you’ve decided to send 2-3 emails. Now what? Content, that’s what.


The main objective of the content of your win-back emails is to incentivize an inactive subscriber to return to your website and make a purchase.

Previously, we’ve taken a look at the 5 do’s and dont’s for your win-back series content. One of our main takeaways was that while many incentives come in the form of discounts, they don’t always have to. The copy alone can bring customers back to you site.

Headline: Let your customers know you’ve noticed they’ve been gone for awhile. Add a catchy headline like “We’ve missed you, Phil”.

Content: Update customers on what’s happened since they’ve last visited your site. Provide updates on new products, company policies, or any other important changes that have taken place. If your company offers promotions, this would be a good time to include an incentive. And because these recipients have been inactive for awhile, prompt them to unsubscribe or change their preferences if they no longer want to receive emails.

Final thoughts

There you have it, all you need to know to set up a winning win-back series.

Re-engaging your subscribers with a win-back series can be tricky. When to send, what subject lines to use, the number of emails to send, and the content in those emails are all questions that you should ask yourself when constructing your win-back campaign.

To learn more about win-back emails, check out these few pieces of content.


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