How to re-engage and win back lapsed customers


Salespeople often get caught up chasing new business, but customers are more likely to buy from companies that they know and trust will deliver.

Re-engaging lapsed customers is an easy way to increase growth. These customers are already in your database and have, at some point in the past, been convinced enough of your value to make a purchase.

They're perfect candidates to target, but it can be difficult to know how to reignite a conversation that's gone cold. We've outlined some customer reactivation strategies that will help you win back inactive customers. 

At the end of this article we've also curated a list of other pieces of content you might find interesting and useful.

Identify customers to target

Before you attempt to re-engage customers, you need to identify who to target. Use your email software or customer relationship management (CRM) system to highlight customers who haven’t interacted with your business for a certain period of time.

Be careful to not automatically assume a customer is lapsed though. Some customers might be big spenders but not purchase often, so won’t be suitable for a reactivation campaign. On the other hand, a customer who used to make small purchases every few days might be suitable for getting back in touch with. 

Knowing when a contact has gone dormant is key to running a successful customer reactivation campaign.

Use an email marketing campaign

To maximise the chances of winning back inactive customers, a series of emails is a good tactic. Most email marketing software has features that allow you to set up automated email campaigns.

Here’s an example of an email series you could use to engage lapsed customers:

  1. Remind people about your business. A short and simple ‘hello’ message will encourage some lapsed customers to start interacting with you again
  2. Offer an incentive. This is a good way to tempt people to do business with you again. Include a list of similar or related products or services they’ve bought before
  3. Ask for feedback. Many people like sharing their views, especially if they’re incentivised with an offer to something else. Even if they don’t make a purchase or sign up to your service, you’ll get valuable information to improve your future marketing
  4. Let them know it’s the last chance to stay in touch. Tell customers that they will be unsubscribed unless they reply to your email
  5. Unsubscribe. Remove the customer from mailing lists but remind them how they can re-subscribe if they decide to

Let’s now look at some of these emails in more detail, as well as other ideas for winning back inactive customers. 

Naomi, Reboot Online
Case Study.

Use new product innovation as a marketing tool to engage customers

Personalise your messages

Sending the same message isn’t the most effective way to win back inactive customers.

Think about how you can divide customers. For example:

  • Location
  • Preferences
  • Buying history
  • The last time they visited your website or opened an email

Segmenting customers by how much they’ve spent is a good idea too. If you’ve got some big spenders who have lapsed, they might be worth focusing on. 

If you use a CRM system, you should be able to segment customer data easily. 

You can then send a specific message to each group. This can help to establish a strong connection with the customer and make them more likely to respond.

If your business has a range of products, you could personalise the email by recommending similar or related products to ones they’ve bought before. Alternatively, if it’s a product that can be used again or topped up (for example, food or shaving products) ask if the customer needs more. 

If you’re a service-based business, you could use the message to check in on how things have gone since they used your service and whether they need to use it again. 

Ask for feedback

It’s useful to know why a customer has stopped interacting with your business, so ask. It’s possible their habits have changed or they’ve simply forgotten about your business. Send an email to remind them that you exist. 

Here’s how you can structure it.

Use a short subject line

It’s common for companies to use short and direct subject lines such as “we miss you”, “long time no see” or “have we done something wrong?” to re-engage old customers. Let them know that you’ve noticed that they’ve left.  

Include a survey

Include a short survey and give them options to tell you why they’ve stopped doing business with you. For example, they might have had a poor customer service experience or believe the product quality isn’t up to scratch.

Asking for their feedback will help to make old customers feel valued. You can also use what they tell you to inform your campaign strategy to win the customers back.

Nudge them to update email preferences

You might want to encourage inactive customers to update their preferences on your email list. Give them the opportunity to sign up to a more relevant topic or adjust the frequency of when they receive messages. 

Build stronger relationships with loyal customers

Keep your current customers happy with these five steps

Offer an incentive

Incentivising your survey is a good way to get people to fill in it. For example, a 20 per cent discount on their next purchase could encourage an old customer to become a returning customer. 

Adding a discount or another special offer can also be used in general emails to lapsed customers. Give them the offer using a special discount code so you can track purchases. 

Incentives don’t have to be discounts either. You could offer a special gift, free delivery or a free expert consultation. Giving people something tangible can be a strong hook. 

Send something useful

Rather than only sending sales-focused messages, use your email to provide something useful. Content that’s entertaining, informative or insightful can help to win back inactive customers.

If you’re running a gym for example, send some health and fitness tips that people can do at home. Or if you own a food-related company, recipes would be useful. 

These kinds of messages can also resonate well at various times of the year. You could tie them to New Year’s resolutions, current affairs or topical events.  

Shaun Bell, founder of Joshua James.jpg

“We’re always keen to support the needs of our long-standing customers, so we’ll assist collectors of a particular brand or collection. We keep a record of purchases, so we can make sure we’re leading them in the right direction when it comes to selecting a new item. This takes time, but we do it because it builds trust and shows we care.”

Shaun Bell, founder of Joshua James

Reach customers on third party websites

Another way to win back inactive customers is by using retargeting campaigns via online advertising services. 

Pixel tracking targets users who have visited your website, followed your brand on social media or engaged with you in another way.

You can then reach them with advertising on third party websites, which show relevant products and content based on what they’ve previously looked at or engaged with. 

For example, imagine a user clicks on a link to your website from one of your reactivation emails. You can then use retargeting to display messages from your brand when they visit another site like Facebook.

Measure what works and refine your approach

During your customer reactivation campaign, you should be monitoring and measuring what works and what doesn’t. 

Be aware of which emails and other activities perform the best and apply that to future campaigns. If a series of emails isn’t converting to sales, tweak it and try something else. 

What to do next?

We have a wide range of content dedicated to helping you solve crucial business challenges, but here are some suggestions:

Enjoyed this article?

Sign up to receive more advice and guidance-based content to help you improve your business.