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Win back inactive subscribers with a re-engagement email campaign

· 16 min read · Email marketing · July 29, 2021

If subscribers are ghosting you, it doesn’t mean there’s no hope of salvaging the relationship! They might just need a little extra care and attention to get them re-engaged with your brand.

Over time some of your subscribers will become inactive. These subscribers are not only bad for business, but they can actually hurt your future email marketing performance.

But before you remove them from your list, try sending a win-back email campaign to remind them why they signed up in the first place.

Your subscribers gave you their email addresses because they liked something you had to offer. By reminding them of your value, and the relevant content you provide, you have a good chance of winning some of them back.

In this post, we'll explain why you don’t want inactive users on your list and teach you how to set up a winning re-engagement email campaign.

As the name suggests, a re-engagement email campaign is an email marketing campaign or an email workflow with the aim of bringing back inactive subscribers, boosting email engagement, and increasing subscriber retention. 

Subscribers can show less interest in your email campaigns over time, but re-engagement campaigns can make a difference and help to restore your engagement rates. 

Though a re-engagement strategy results in a more qualitative list and better email stats, surprisingly very few email marketers use these types of campaigns to their advantage. Let's change that! 

No matter how engaging your marketing emails are, there will always be people on your list who simply aren’t interested in interacting with you. It’s not necessarily something you are doing wrong—inactive email subscribers are an industry-wide problem. According to Marketing Sherpa, email marketing lists degrade by about 22% every year.

But the bad news doesn't end there. Inactive subscribers affect your sender reputation and email deliverability. A low sender score can cause more of your emails to land in the spam folder.

Inactive subscribers also skew your data, which causes you to make incorrect marketing decisions. For example, how can you identify why your open rates are low if your emails are being sent to both active and inactive subscribers?

The best way to keep your email list healthy with active subscribers is to clean your list.

But before you remove inactive customers, do everything in your power to find a way to reconnect. After all, they signed up with you for a reason.

A re-engagement campaign is your last chance to remind inactive subscribers of the value you add to their lives.

Here are some of the most effective types of re-engagement emails you can send, with examples from a number of well-known brands for inspiration.

Give discounts

Your inactive subscribers might just need a little more incentive to use your service. And depending on your profit margins, it might be better to give them a discount rather than lose them completely. You can opt for a discount or giveaway.

Skillshare adds an incentive to this "we missed you" email by throwing in a discount for inactive subscribers that come back.

Skillshare re engagement email example black and white with blue cta

Nordstrom Rack tries to reactivate its subscribers by saying they miss their company, offering a $20 discount on their next order.

Nordstrom Rack re-engagement campaign discount offer email

Remind subscribers why they signed up

Don’t rethink your whole value proposition just because you have inactive subscribers. The reality is that all subscribers get distracted. Their inboxes are flooded with dozens or perhaps hundreds of other emails and promotions.

With so many companies reaching out to them, they simply could have forgotten why they signed up for your email list in the first place.

Here's a re-engagement email example from Grammarly, which does a great job of reminding a subscriber of the reason they signed up.

Grammarly re engagement email campaign example

In this re-engagement campaign example, 9 Clouds starts with a sad dog (it's a thing) and then they list all the reasons why it's valuable for the reader to stay subscribed.

9 Clouds re-engagement email campaign example sad pug dog

Offer extra value that gains attention

Great re-engagement emails consider things from the subscriber's perspective. That means they don't just promote a service or product. They try to focus their win-back emails on how their subscribers can improve their lives.

Check out how Venmo shows how their service can improve the lives of their users in this re-engagement email.

Venmo re-engagement email campaign example extra value

Create your own re-engagement email!

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Show subscribers what they've missed

Give your subscribers FOMO (fear of missing out). Remind them of progress they've made so far and what's happening now.

With these types of emails, you're trying to build interest and give your subscribers more of an incentive to come back. We've all seen the email notifications from Facebook and Twitter that show us everything that's happened since we last logged in. These companies keep using them because they work.

Here's an example from Unsplash that perfectly captures how you can use FOMO in your re-engagement campaigns.

Unsplash fomo re-engagement email campaign example black and white

Another re-engagement email campaign example comes from Brooklinen, where this cute doggo and the playful copy try to re-engage customers. The company makes the inactive customer curious by stating that there are new items in their shop that they'll probably like.

Brooklinen re-engagement email campaign example we miss you with cute dog

In this example from Dropbox, they use the simple subject line “It’s been a while, here’s what’s new at Dropbox” followed by an update in the email body with a summary of the latest top features. 

dropbox re-engagement email example with new features - what's new

Let people decide on frequency and topic

One reason your subscribers haven't been engaging with your emails could be that you're sending too many—possibly about topics they no longer care about. Giving your subscribers the option to select a preference puts the control in their hands.

The team at Refind knows that people don't want a lot of emails on things they aren’t interested in so they give subscribers the option to customize interests to only receive relevant emails.

Refind retention re engagement email campaign example

Always follow up

Remember that your subscriber's inbox is usually crowded so your first re-engagement email might go unnoticed. In fact, an Experian report showed that e-commerce customers who receive multiple cart abandonment emails are 2.4x more likely to buy than those who receive only one email.

Your subscribers may not have seen your re-engagement email so try sending it again.

Remember 9 Clouds from earlier? The sad dog email wasn't the only email we received from them, they also sent the one below—which is totally different.

You can either follow-up with an email that refers to the previous one, or you can try a couple of approaches to see what catches the reader's eye.

9 Clouds follow-up re-engagement email campaign example - download report

Give subscribers a choice

Finally, give them the chance to leave. People change and a subscriber might've lost all interest in your emails. If that's the case, presenting them with a simple choice lets them think more about whether they want to keep receiving your emails or not.

Here's how we handled our re-engagement email newsletter campaign at MailerLite.

MailerLite re engagement email campaign example - hi stranger long time no see

Online clothing retailer Revolve takes a humorous approach using a trope we usually associate with personal relationships: “Was it something we said?” They follow this up with the option to unsubscribe or update their email preferences to receive only the types of emails that are useful to them.

revolve re-engagement campaign email example - update email preferences

Example of subject line email campaign to re engage inactive subscriber - MailerLite

Re-engagement email subject lines can wake up an inactive subscriber if done right. Remember, this is your last opportunity to breathe some life into the relationship, so don’t hold back. Experiment and try creative ideas to grab attention.

You want the re-engagement email subject line to be completely different from what you normally send so readers will do a double-take. Personalization can help with this!

Some fun examples could be:

  • Hey [name]! Is it us or is it you?

  • Be honest with us, we can handle it

  • Are you missing us? Let’s reconnect

  • We need to have THE TALK

  • Hey! Are you still here?

  • Are we breaking up?

  • Can we make up?

  • You've been missing out…

If fun, attention-grabbing subject lines don’t fit your brand or content, you can also go for a more straightforward approach or entice them with an offer:

  • It’s been a while

  • $xx off your next purchase

  • Please come back

  • We miss you, [name]

  • Is this goodbye?

  • Do you still want to hear from us?

  • Still want to receive my newsletter?

  • ✔✖ Is this your best email address?

  • Reason #1 to click: $20 OFF

Testing = knowing

It’s important to A/B test your subject lines until you find a few that work well for you. When you are happy with the subject line, it’s time to deliver value in your content.

1. Segment your inactive subscribers

The first step to any successful email reactivation strategy is segmentation. You have to group the subscribers who haven't engaged with your emails within a given time frame and place them on a separate email list. 

Now, depending on what you offer and how often you send your emails, "inactive" will mean different things to different businesses.

A simple way to segment inactive subscribers is to group them based on whether they've opened your emails or clicked on any of your offers in the last 6 months. Anyone that falls into that category is an inactive subscriber and needs to be part of your re-engagement list.

Inactive subscribers email segmentation question marks - MailerLite

2. Create your re-engagement email

Once you have your subscriber groups ready, it's time to get into action and start creating your re-engagement email template. It's important to create a new email that's tailored to the inactive group. Sending people a slightly different version of the emails you've been sending probably won't make much of a difference.

The goal of your re-engagement campaign is to grab subscribers’ attention and restate your value proposition (why they signed up in the first place). These people might not even remember signing up for your email list.

The call to action, or CTA, should be that they remain on your list or unsubscribe if they have no intention of engaging with your emails again—painful, but better for your costs and email statistics.

Think about what would really make inactive email subscribers re-engage. Remind people why your email content is valuable and make the CTA crystal clear ("Click here to stay subscribed" or "Click here to unsubscribe").

3. Automate your re-engagement emails 

While one win-back email might be enough to convince some people to re-engage, an effective re-engagement email campaign usually requires a few interactions to win back a subscriber. An efficient way to re-engage multiple times, while segmenting your active and inactive subscribers, is to set up an email series automation workflow. By using MailerLite's automation feature, you can send:

Response-based emails - A series of emails that automatically stop when the subscriber responds.

Create 3 different win-back emails that are automated to send every 7 days. If the subscriber interacts with an email, the automation stops and they are automatically put in an active group in your subscriber management. If a subscriber doesn’t interact after 3 emails, they are sent to an inactive segment group.

Behavior-based emails - Emails are sent to each individual subscriber at the right time based on behavior.

When an inactive user clicks on an offer highlighted in your re-engagement email, a link trigger automatically sends a follow-up email thanking them for reconnecting.

Interaction-based emails - Add subscribers to different groups based on their interactions.

You don't have to track every subscriber's actions. Email automation enables you to place subscribers into different groups based on their actions. If you send a re-engagement email asking people to choose their preferred frequency of emails, they are automatically moved to a subscriber group based on the action they take.

4. Analyze your campaign results

After you've sent out your re-engagement emails, it's time to analyze the results.

A successfully reactivated subscriber is usually determined by whether they:

  1. Opened your email

  2. Clicked on your offer

Your email marketing goals will ultimately determine how you qualify your subscribers, though the click-through rate (CTR) is a better measurement of actual engagement than the open rate.

You should then segment reactivated subscribers and nurture them to strengthen the relationship. 

The subscribers that don't engage with your campaign (no opens or clicks) need to be removed from your active list. Continuing to email them will only damage your sender reputation and skew your campaign data.

You'll know your re-engagement campaign is successful when your spam complaints decrease, deliverability rate increases and your overall email conversion rates improve.

Inactive subscribers are a reality for every email marketer. While a re-engagement campaign might leave you with a smaller list, the remaining active subscribers will be more engaged.

Stronger engagement increases the effectiveness of your email newsletter campaigns, improves your sender reputation, and leaves you with a more accurate view of what's working and what's not. That is where you want to be!

What’s the most creative re-engagement email campaign you’ve come across? Let us know in the comments below.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2018, but has been updated with new examples and tips.

Jonas Fischer
Jonas Fischer
I'm Jonas, Content Manager at MailerLite. I’m not the 4th Jonas Brother, but I do write content (which is similar to being a teen heartthrob). After writing for a bunch of companies over the years, I discovered my professional passion—helping add some humanity to B2B marketing. Email is the perfect place to start!
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