Extending the lifetime value of your customers is vital for survival and success in the eCommerce world, but looking at retention from the bird’s-eye view can get overwhelming fast. So how do you work toward long-lasting, meaningful relationships? Retention emails.
Or, in simpler terms, communication. The ways that you communicate with your customers are incredibly important and have a huge impact on their experience with your brand.
Building up a retention email plan is key to building long-term engagement and the best possible customer experience that you can provide.
Let’s reimagine some of the emails that your business is (probably) already sending and explore the ways you can use them to craft your retention funnel.
We’ll pull examples from some of the biggest names in the eCommerce game to take your retention emails to the next level.
1. Onboarding Emails
Generally, when we talk about onboarding (or welcome emails), we’re talking about setting expectations.
For a subscription box or subscribe and save program, your onboarding gives customers a sense of what they’ll receive and when they’ll receive it, while allowing room for your business to wow them by going above and beyond.
Your onboarding shapes the customer experience from the first email through to their final shipment, so it’s important to get these messages right.
First up, these emails need to help customers understand what they’ve signed up for and how that will play out over time.
When will customers receive their shipments, and when is payment due? Can they skip boxes? What are the next steps on their end to keep the relationship going?
From here, you can tie your customers in closer to your brand. Encourage them to connect with you on social media and engage with your content and the broader community around your brand.
Finally, you’ll want to hit on the aspirational, lifestyle elements of your products. What is the broader goal or need that your products meet? Yoga Club, for example, consistently uses their communications to explore the elements of a more calm and yoga-centered lifestyle.
Let’s take a look at a great onboarding example from MeUndies. Their welcome email starts with the broadest value proposition (“your top drawer is about to get a makeover”), then goes into order details.
It’s a good start, but what puts this email over the top is the way that it breaks down exactly what a membership includes and directs any questions to their Help Center.
Short, sharp, and to the point.
2. New Products and Upsells
Once your new customers are on board, you can dig into some of the most exciting retention emails you’ll send. New product announcements and upsells are a chance to show off your killer product line and dig into your passion for the things you sell.
These emails are vital to keeping your relationship to your customers fresh and growing.
After all, exciting new products are a great incentive to take another look at a store. Keep these emails fun and engaging and use a lot of images to showcase your items in their absolute best light.
Let’s focus on upselling for a moment, because it requires a little extra tact in your approach. Make sure to tailor your offers to the specific needs of the customer you’re upselling to based on their past orders, and only once they’ve been with you for at least a couple months.
After all, customers that have only just signed up probably won’t respond as positively to an upsell.
Part of what makes these retention emails particularly fun is that they’re going to customers that already know (and enjoy) your brand. You have a lot of freedom to speak directly to your existing audience, as in this great example from Chubbies.
Not only is this email hilarious and eye-catching, it’s also an incredibly quick, easy read that still nails all the important elements of a new product announcement. It gives a strong value proposition (“v. dope and v. warm for fall”), showcases variants (navy and teal), and links directly to the product page.
The message also includes links to similar items and ends with a convincing offer: free shipping and free exchanges in the US.
3. Payment Recovery Emails
Passive (or involuntary) churn happens when a payment fails and a customer is dropped from a service. It’s a huge revenue-drain, and it can absolutely wreck your bottom line if you don’t have a plan in place.
So how important is dealing with passive churn for your business?
Think about it this way: 5%-20% of credit card payments fail every month.
It can happen for a huge range of reasons, and only a fraction of those are customers that actually want to unsubscribe.
Let’s look at it another way: acquiring new customers is up to 25 times more expensive than holding onto the customers your already have.
One more: increasing your retention rate by 5% can increase profits anywhere from 25-95%.
Thing is, the customers you’re losing to passive churn have a huge impact on your revenue, but creating a strong recovery campaign is deceptively simple. Great dunning doesn’t even need to interrupt the customer experience.
First up, you’ll need custom retry schedules that can attempt payment a couple times before your team ever reaches out to the customer.
On average, one-in-five failed payments can be recovered before you send a single email.
Your first goal should be NOT to send a dunning email when you don’t have to.
When you do reach out, make sure your emails are clearly branded and sent from a recognizable address on your domain.
Pro tip: Switch up the email content and subject lines to encourage deeper brand connections AND improve recovery rates. Plus, if all of your dunning emails use the same subject line, they can become all threaded into one, making it even easier for your customer to miss.
Take a look at how Dropps leans into their brand voice when writing these subject lines.
Next, keep your card update forms simple, and remember that you’ll get your best response rate if you don’t require customers to log in to input their information.
Finally, you need strong back-end analytics so you can see where revenue is still leaking out.
4. Abandoned Cart Emails
We tend to window shop a lot when we’re online, and our cart is often more of a catch-all to hold items we’re interested in than a stepping stone to checkout.
The beauty of abandoned cart emails is that they can help your business recapture the attention of potential customers and remind them of the different items that caught their eye.
One of the best uses of abandoned cart emails is to build up FOMO. Nudge customers toward completing a purchase with reminders of what they’ll miss out on if they decide not to buy.
These messages can also be a great tool for educating consumers about your products and their value. Consider including a quick reminder of the different uses and features of the items in their cart.
Four Sigmatic has one of my favorite ones out there:
Make sure to strike while the iron is hot. Ideally, you’ll want to send your abandoned cart emails within an hour of the customer clicking away from your site.
5. Community Engaging Emails
It’s tempting to treat every email we send as a marketing or direct sales message, but taking a break from talking about your products can be a great way to demonstrate your authority in the area and engage them on another level.
Fun and exciting content in your emails encourages higher open rates and creates a broader brand experience. So bring in community questions and discussion points and showcase the successes and stories of your customers.
Explore important questions and ideas that relate to your niche. After all, your customers come to you based on a set of needs and interests. Your content can preemptively address their questions and concerns.
Harry’s, for example, recognizes that grooming is part of a broader routine and interrelates with multiple parts of a man’s lifestyle. In doing so, they’ve found a range of ways to connect their brand to more than just the items they sell.
By broadening the focus of their emails from shaving and grooming products to include style tips, a monthly playlist, and more, they’ve turned their newsletter into a valuable one-stop-shop for information on a range of topics.
Similarly, CBD store Sunday Scaries looks to the lifestyles of their customers for inspiration. From work hacks to viewing recommendations, they approach both work and pleasure in their newsletter for useful, engaging content that’s genuinely enjoyable to read.
Retention Emails Built to Last
Like any aspect of your business, your retention emails should change and develop over time.
The great thing about email is the constant feedback loop with your customers- after all, between open rates, clicks, and direct responses, you can consistently learn more about what works and what doesn’t.
Make sure you’re tracking the different retention emails you send, but think big-picture as well. It’s easy to focus on a few value propositions again and again.
Be on the lookout for elements of your business that feel underrepresented in your communications.
Play with A/B testing and segmenting customers by interest. Experiment with different kinds of emails and formats over time and continually refine the messages you send most consistently- i.e. your transactional messages, abandoned cart emails, etc.
Each of these messages is key to growing and scaling your eCommerce business over time, and we’ve got so, so much more if you’re ready to take your messaging to the next level.
I’ve put together a master-class in customer retention emails. We look at everything we’ve explored here in more depth, with a ton more examples from the biggest players in the eCommerce world, along with helpful templates and video guides. Even better, it’s absolutely free.