Customer service and customer experience advocate, Bill Quiseng, once said, “Work as hard to keep a customer as you do to find a new one.”

You might prefer to focus on increasing your customer base, but it’s also important to sustain the interest of your current customers.

After all, most of your sales come from your past customers.

ThinkJar found that it’s six to seven times more expensive to attract a new customer than it is to retain a current one. A similar study found that the success rate of selling to current customers is 60-70%, while the success rate of selling to a new customer is 5-20%.

Meanwhile, Marketing Metrics found that the probability of selling to an existing customer is 14 times higher than the probability of selling to a new customer.

Of course, new customers are a lot harder to convince than past customers. They don’t have any experience with using your products so you’ll need an effective marketing funnel to get one purchase. Compare this to customers who’ve already shopped from your store. If they like your product, there’s nothing stopping them from buying more.

Despite these numbers, Invesp found that 44% of companies admit to concentrating on acquisition instead of retention, and only 18% claim to focus more on retention.

This is troubling because the customers you have now, won’t be customers forever. To increase your customer lifetime value (CLV), you’ll need to develop your relationship, upsell and cross-sell.

Fortunately, you can improve customer retention and improve customer relationships with email marketing.

How can you get started? How do you make sure that your customers stay as customers? Here’s what you need to know:

1. Give Subscribers More Control

Ever heard of email marketing fatigue? Customers love your brand, but they don’t want to receive promotional emails several times a week – so they unsubscribe.

You can avoid this scenario by letting customers set their email preferences. Give them the chance to determine the types and frequency of emails that they will receive.

For example, Old Navy lets subscribers determine how often they want to engage with the brand.

Remember, your customers’ interest will change over time and they may opt to become more or less engaged with your marketing campaigns. As such, give them the power to choose their email preferences and how they want to communicate with your brand.

2. Create Valuable Content and Interesting Stories

Customer retention involves nurturing your relationships.

In terms of email marketing, you can build relationships by providing something valuable to your audience. This can be in the form of case studies, interviews, blog posts that provide knowledge and inspiration to your readers.

The Muse – an online career platform – attracts users by helping them solve problems instead of churning out promotional content. Their soft sell approach uses expert advice to attract potential users. Here’s a look at their newsletters:

You’ll see job interview tips, networking, goal setting tips and more.

Let’s take a look at the email titled “Are You Ready to Ace Your Next Job Interview?” Here’s how it looks:

The email includes a nice intro that encourages interviewers to keep calm because they’ve got the best advice for acing a job interview. This is followed by a section of articles that are solely dedicated to job interview tips.

At the bottom of the email, they have a list of companies that are hiring and links to their open positions.

This how soft sales work. Instead of promotional emails, The Muse builds relationships by identifying the problems faced by job seekers and providing advice to help them ace their career. In most cases, their loyal subscribers are able to get their dream job and find solutions to their career struggles.

Another way to engage with customers is to share stories. Ask for success stories from people that have used your product or service. Identify a common frustration in your niche and talk about how you solved the problem.

Pocket – a mobile app for saving stories – sends newsletters with links to articles that are most read by their users. Not only does the email contain interesting reads, but it also gives users an opportunity to use the app to save their content.

3. Use Re-Engagement Email Campaigns

Sometimes you and your customers grow apart.

They’ve lost the habit of interacting with your business and they no longer check your emails. This could be due to various reasons such as changing interests, work or personal life.

Whatever the case, it’s a red flag.

Before brands are labeled as spammers by Gmail and Yahoo! they check the engagement of their subscribers. How often do they open their emails or get marked as spam? How often are their emails deleted?

If a good chunk of subscribers ignores your messages altogether, you might be labeled as a spammer.

One way to avoid this is to send re-engagement emails that prevent customers from going completely off the grid.

A study by Return Path found that utilizing re-engagement campaigns led to a 92% inbox-placement rate. A similar study found that overall read rates also increased by 14%. To be more specific, a recorded 23% was found for AOL users, 15% for Yahoo subscribers and 16% for Gmail users.

Not sure how to write your re-engagement email? Here are a few ideas:

i. Benefits

Remind inactive users of the value or benefits they can get from your business. This could include products, services, blog posts, and potential perks.

Here’s an example from Skillshare:

Skillshare reminds customers about their premium features such as 8,000+ classes, offline access, and ad-free viewing. The most effective re-engagement emails offer discounts or free subscriptions in exchange for becoming a customer again so Skillshare offers $0.99 per month.

ii. Problems and Solutions

Customers don’t disengage out of the blue.

They may have grown irritated from your many emails or they’re waiting for a better deal. Whatever the case, you need to determine the problem.

Mini, an automotive marque, asks disengaged subscribers a silly group of questions to find out why they don’t open their emails. This is followed by links to pages with possible solutions. While not all options should be taken seriously, customers will be tempted to click those links and re-engage with the brand.

iii. Updates and Offerings

If you’re offering new services or you’ve upgraded your product, you could give disengaged users a reason to return.

Path uses high-quality visuals to show how they’ve improved their user experience. They also have a compelling “Update Now” button so that interested customers can easily try it out.

Don’t forget to provide details about the product or services’ new benefits or features.

4. Segment and Personalize

How often do you buy from brands with generic marketing emails? I bet it’s not that often.

The data shows that personalizing your emails can boost sales. In fact, Adage found that 33% of marketers believed that personalization will be the most important marketing capability in the future. Similarly, Aberdeen found that personalized emails can improve click-through rates  (CTR) by an average of 14% and conversions by 10%.

These results prove that customers prefer to receive personal and intimate messages.

While you can’t afford to make and each and every email unique, you can send automated personal messages by segmenting customers based on their gender, products purchased, engagement level and location. It also helps if you address them with their first name.

Here’s an example from Spotify:

You can use tools like MailJet to create personalized messages and facilitate customer segmentation.

5. Offer a Discount or Credit to Return

I’m sure you don’t want to give too many discounts. When you keep giving discounts and lowering your prices, you’re decreasing your profit margin and entering a race to the bottom.

But next purchase discounts can be worth it! It can help customers get into the habit of buying from your store and encourage them to keep coming back.

For example, True Citrus encourages first-time customers through a 25% off discount code.

Market Wired found that 20%+ discounts are more effective and lead to a 54% chance for a second purchase. It’s a small investment to boost your customer retention and foster customer loyalty. You can also opt to experiment with various offers like giving $5 off for a future purchase vs. a 10% off discount.

As thanks for a past purchase, Etsy gives customers $2 off for their next purchase.

You can also make discounts available for a limited-time use to encourage customers to buy again more quickly.

Ready to Use Email Marketing to Improve Customer Retention?

Emails can significantly improve your relationships with your customers.

Personalized emails, discounts and valuable content can certainly sustain a user’s interest with your brand. But be sure to send emails with valuable stories, instead of promotional content.

How will you use email marketing to improve customer retention? Let us know in the comments below.

Emil Kristensen

Emil Kristensen


Emil Kristensen is the CMO and co-founder of Sleeknote.