4 Customer Winback Strategies for Your Subscription eCommerce Brand

Churn may be an inevitable part of subscriptions, but that doesn't mean these customers are a lost cause. Here are 4 customer winback strategies to prove it.

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    The harsh reality of starting a subscription eCommerce business is that sometimes customers pause or cancel their subscriptions. Churn happens to the best of us — even if you have an engaging subscription offering built to maximize customer lifetime value (LTV) and boost customer retention.

    The good news is that these churned or inactive subscribers aren’t a lost cause. In fact, there are specific tactics you can leverage known as customer winback strategies. When successful, winback campaigns have been found to recover 26% of lost customers (and the recovered subscribers are worth twice as much as new customers).

    We’re diving into the top 4 ways to win back your churned or inactive customers.

    What is Customer Winback?

    Customer winback refers to the re-engagement of customers who have unsubscribed or been otherwise inactive. Winback strategies usually involve email marketing that offers incentives like discounts, rewards, or some other special offer to get customers to come back to the brand.

    While these specific perks are highly useful, they’re not the only part of an effective winback strategy. In fact, customers often need more than one touchpoint to be won back. We’ll dig into this more in a bit.

    Why is Customer Winback Important for Subscription Brands?

    The key to subscription success is customer retention.

    Not only are customer acquisition costs (CAC) currently extremely high (it costs five to seven times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain existing customers), but repeat customers are also substantially more valuable than average customers. They spend 67% more than new customers, and if they grow especially close to your brand, loyal customers are actually worth a whopping 22x more than average customers.

    So what does this mean for disengaged or lost subscribers?

    They’re admittedly in a sort of gray area. They’re neither new nor are they existing customers. But here’s the good news — they’re already familiar with your brand, they’ve tried out your product, and they’re familiar with your messaging. Since you’re not starting from square one, you automatically have an advantage over a brand-new audience, making this a more cost-effective route.

    Plus, as we’ve mentioned, you stand to gain a lot if you’re successful. Recovered subscribers come in knowing what to expect and you get to start off with a stronger customer relationship, leading to them being more engaged and spending more money.

    Which Lapsed Customers Should You Target?

    Not all subscribers are equally valuable, and not all subscribers are worth trying to win back.

    For one, consider how long a customer has been subscribed. If they subscribed for a week just to get a discount on a one-time purchase, they’re probably not worth your time or money.

    However, if a subscriber stuck around for a little while — and especially if they deeply engaged with your brand by participating in a loyalty program, offering referrals, and buying one-time add-ons — they’re absolutely worth trying to get back.

    A good rule of thumb is to remember this: the more a subscriber was worth before they churned or paused their subscription, the greater the effort you should put into trying to win them back.

    Effective subscription analytics can help you organize and keep track of your customers, aiding you in understanding their engagement levels and their LTV before they churned/paused.

    4 Customer Winback Strategies

    Collect Invaluable Data With Pause & Cancel Reasons

    Customer Winback Cancel Reasons

    To kick things off, the best thing you can do to lay the framework for a strong winback strategy is to ask subscribers why they’re choosing to pause or cancel their subscriptions.

    For one, this gives you an opportunity to instantly provide a retention action to change their mind. For example, if they complain about the product being too expensive, offer them a discount to redeem on their next order. This method has been found to reduce churn rate for brands by 40 - 50%, reducing the need for a customer winback strategy in the first place.

    But even if the retention action doesn’t work in the moment, knowing why each subscriber chose to disengage will be instrumental to personalizing and targeting follow-up communication.

    A bonus perk to having a survey like this is you can help prevent future churn. If you learn to identify at-risk subscribers (like if they’ve skipped their order a few times in a row), you can proactively offer a discount to encourage customer retention.  

    Remind Former Customers of Your Subscription Perks

    As we mentioned, customer winback emails are typically one of the most impactful strategies to employ — and one of our favorites is to create a campaign around the benefits of your subscription offering. This is especially useful if a former subscriber comes back for a one-time purchase.

    Reaching out right after a customer buys from your brand again is a fantastic moment to capitalize on cancellation remorse by reminding your customers what they would’ve received if they were still subscribed. This can mean pointing out that, if they choose to subscribe again, they can get the same order automatically with the added bonus of a discount, free shipping, loyalty points, and more.

    Even if a former subscriber doesn’t return for a one-time purchase, you can still leverage this subscription-led re-engagement email to remind former customers what they’re missing out on. You can either send this a few days after a subscriber pauses or cancels as a way to ask them if they’re sure they want to go — or you can wait a couple of months or so as a way of checking back in. Test out which method is more effective for your particular audience.

    And whatever route you choose, be sure to pick an eye-catching and personalized subject line to give your email its best shot.

    Send A Brand Update With Info About New Products

    Your brand is always innovating and growing. If a customer has been inactive, they might not know about your latest updates — so weave them into your winback marketing strategy.

    Highlighting new products is one exceptional way to catch customers’ attention and entice them to come back. This is especially true if a subscriber left because your products weren’t precisely meeting their needs. In general, it’s always a good idea to analyze customer feedback and take suggestions seriously. By incorporating feedback from your audience, you can hope to address concerns from past customers and use that as a way to welcome them back in. Plus, when customers feel truly heard, it improves the customer experience overall.

    This is also a great opportunity to highlight other brand updates that you have to share. If you’re starting a new social impact initiative or beginning a new partnership, these are great tidbits to mention. Anything that can help humanize your brand and remind past customers why they used to subscribe will be helpful to reawaken their interest and sense of loyalty.

    As an added incentive, publicize a subscriber-exclusive product as a way to remind these past customers that being a subscriber comes with VIP treatment and exclusivity.

    This is a great email to send to customers who left due to complaints or feedback about your product offerings (we told you that cancellation survey would come in handy!).

    Send a Limited-Time Offer to Create a Sense of Urgency

    While perks shouldn’t be the only component of your winback marketing campaign, they sure are an effective strategy.

    We recommend offering lapsed customers a discount and/or loyalty points for reactivating their subscriptions. To make the offer even more tempting, pair it with an expiration. Creating a sense of urgency has been found to boost conversion rates, especially if you make the customers feel as though the discount or perk currently belongs to them and they’ll lose it if they don’t act.

    We as humans tend to value things more if we feel we already own them. By making customers feel like the discount, coupon, or loyalty points belong to them (with a CTA like “redeem your $20”), you subconsciously create a sense of protectiveness around this perk and increase the likelihood that the customer will want to cash in.

    This method is great for targeting churned or inactive subscribers who had previously left due to the cost of your products.

    Know When It’s Over

    This is less of a strategy and more of a suggestion, but an important component of creating your customer winback strategy is knowing when to let a subscriber go. If multiple touchpoints have proven ineffective, at a certain point it isn’t worth the time, money, or effort to keep trying. Instead, focus on nurturing the relationships with the subscribers you did successfully win back to ensure they’re satisfied, engaged, and never going to churn or pause again.

    We know customer churn is painful, but it’s important not to see it as flat-out rejection. With a well-thought-out customer winback strategy, you can bring back lost subscribers and foster stronger customer loyalty than ever before.

    And if you’re looking for a robust suite of tools to help create the kind of customer experience that promotes retention, get in touch below.

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