11 min read

Retention Emails

Jan 24, 2022 12:59:29 PM

Marketing is not just about gaining a new audience or prospective customers. It’s also about holding onto the current fan base, the ones showing loyalty to your company. In fact, it can cost up to 16 times more to actively market to new customers than to hold onto current ones.

If retention isn’t already built into your marketing strategy, it’s a good idea to prioritize it now. Nearly 68% of new customers come from word-of-mouth, not from your attempt to acquire new leads.

Let’s continue and immerse ourselves in the power of retention emails.

What Is a Retention Email?

In marketing, retention translates to loyalty or lifecycle marketing. Think about it, when reaching out to your target audience, what is your strategy? Are you looking for a one-hit-wonder for a customer? Or are you looking to engage with them, forming a relationship that could last a lifetime?

Our guess is the latter. Customer service strategies are built into our marketing plans with a goal of keeping our audience happy. Why? Because when a customer is satisfied with a product or service, they are likely to recommend it to friends and family or to continue to keep your brand top of mind.

A retention email is designed to increase customer satisfaction and deliver to an existing audience. The intent is to feel appreciated and continue to come back for more. Fun fact, three-quarters of repeat purchases are placed through eCommerce stores. Let that sink in.

When does the retention start? It starts when someone clicks the link or option to sign-up on your website, subscribe to your newsletters, download content, or make an initial purchase. 

Email Retention Rates

Are you keeping track of the percentage of email subscribers you hold onto? It’s a great metric to analyze, giving you insight into how well you are optimizing content and engaging your audience. 

Here’s how you can calculate the email retention rate:

  1. Write down the number of subscribers you had at the beginning of a period, and at the end of a period.
  2. Divide the number of subscribers at the end of a period by those at the beginning.
  3. Multiply the result by 100

And voila, you have your percentage rate!

The higher the percentage, the more loyal your customers are. A low percentage means you may need to revise your marketing plan, and you’re probably spending a lot of money focusing on adding new subscribers.

Focus on keeping your rate as high as possible to establish a healthy relationship with your fans and keep them away from churning.

The Many Faces of Retention Emails - When To Use What

Your audience is segmented into different types of groups based on criteria determined by you. This could be based on their demographics, interests, purchase history, income, etc. The choice is yours, but keep this in the back of your mind when building your email groups.

For example, if you base your email groups on your audience’s behavior, you may have a group for your most loyal fans, a secondary group for those that are more intermittent in their engagements, and a third for those that have become dormant.

Don’t let the dormant group churn. This group may no longer feel that there is value in your product or service, turning the other way, which is one reason why retention emails are important in keeping subscribers interested and engaged. 

There are many different types of retention emails, which we will take you through next.

Welcome Aboard

When a customer clicks the button to subscribe or completes the online form to sign-up for an account with your website, it’s only polite to welcome them with an onboarding email. Introduce your company and show them your appreciation for joining the team. 

Help your customer feel connected with your brand. The email should be short and sweet, setting the foundation for your upcoming relationship. First impressions are huge, even in the virtual universe, so make your welcoming email count. Include:

  • A personalized greeting
  • Definition of your brand - what makes it stand out and how it benefits the customer
  • Next steps, what the customer can expect with regards to email frequency
  • Customer service availability

Customer Appreciation

It’s human nature - people like to feel included and appreciated. What better way to show appreciation to a targeted group in a personalized manner but through a customer appreciation email?

At the time of sign-up, customers provide personal information such as their birth date, interest, etc. They create a snapshot of who they are to your benefit so that you can interact with them and personalize content in their favor! This is where you swoop in and build the connection, letting them know that you care.

An appreciated customer leads to a happy customer. A happy customer is beneficial, promoting the level of service, products, and more of what your company has to offer. Focus on the goals of why you are sending the email. Let’s look at some examples of goals:

  • Strengthen the customer’s confidence in the brand.
  • Convert them! A new subscriber can move to a first-time buyer and have a long-lasting relationship when trusting a brand.
  • Reduce the first-time buyer anxiety that may arise, especially if your name isn’t well-known (yet).
  • Now that they opted-in encourage subscribers to join a membership or loyalty program. Spill the beans here and tell them what they are missing!

Want some ideas on when you can send customer appreciation emails? Here are a few examples:

  • Wish your customer a Happy Birthday. It’s their day to celebrate. Add value with a token of appreciation, such as a percentage of their order.
  • Anniversary. Recognize customers for their years of subscription and loyalty.
  • Holiday. Provide special offers during the holiday season, or send them a letter treasuring their contributions to your company’s products and services.
  • Exclusive Offer or Special Events. Giving subscriber’s exclusive access, especially to popular items, keeps you top of mind.
  • Thank You. A simple thanks goes a long way.

Did You Forget Something?

Everyone is guilty at some point or another for leaving an item in their shopping cart online? Are we right? Listen, life happens. Don’t let cart abandonment let you down. Send your customers a reminder to try and win back the sale.

A cart abandonment email softly lets the customer know they left something behind. Here are some ideas of what you can include in your message:

  • An image of the item that was left behind, giving the customer a visual reminder too. 
  • A level of urgency. Let customers know that the item can sell out, especially if it is a popular one.
  • Reduce the price, add a coupon, or give free shipping to entice them to check out.
  • Offer similar products in case something else stands out to them.
  • Give the customer a way to contact you, in case they have questions.

However, you decide to build your email, make sure that it relates to your company’s mission and vision. Keep the message consistent with your brand, focused, and to the point. 


Who doesn’t need a reminder every now and then? People get busy, and businesses know that. You may have an upcoming sale or event that customers shouldn’t miss but guess what? Life sometimes has the upper hand. That’s why reminder emails are useful! 

Use reminder emails to point out:

  • Approaching events or sale dates
  • Policy changes
  • Expiration dates, such as with membership or with loyalty rewards
  • Inactivity. Let your subscribers know that you are paying attention and check in on them.

Don’t let your reminder emails drag on. Write a catchy subject line, let them know the purpose of your email, and include a call-to-action (CTA).

Win-Back Emails

Don’t you just love it when someone calls or texts you out of the blue that you haven’t heard from in years? That’s similar to what email marketers do with win-back emails.

Companies want to win back their customers who, for whatever reason, have lapsed in their subscription or have become inactive. So can you bring them back through the door? Here are some examples:

  • Tell customers what they’ve been missing out on. Bring them up to speed with new product lines, etc., and give them a reason to return.
  • Don’t give up. Sometimes you have to try and try again before succeeding.
  • Give them a laugh by adding humor to your message. Being intelligent about the design and subject header could be enough to get your email opened and read.
  • Offer an incentive as a last resort.
  • Let them know they have options. Perhaps you offer a monthly subscription that they are welcome to pause or cancel at any time.
  • Provide a comparison to other products. Disclose the value in both text and image.

Report or Summary

After an entire year goes by, show your customer a report of the company’s accomplishments, or show them what they saved through your loyalty program (if you have one), etc. A well-thought-out report visually shows the customer how their devotion impacts the company.

Requesting Feedback or Reviews

Don’t hesitate to ask your customers to provide feedback and reviews. People prefer to read comments or hear about others' interactions, if possible, before deciding to proceed with a purchase. Let this lead to new customers and more conversions.

How else do reviews help you? They:

  • Improve your SEO (search engine optimization) ratings. When people are searching for products, they typically include its name plus the word “review.”
  • Bind your relationship with the customer. Asking for feedback is one way of telling the customer you care. Why else would you want to inquire about their experience?
  • Provide information you need to improve a product or service. 

When asking for feedback, encourage your customers to be honest and true. And, don’t get angry when a negative review comes in. Nothing is perfect. Actually, perfection could lead to suspicion in a customer’s view. 

Providing Social Proof

Piggybacking off the previous point, requesting feedback proves that customers can trust your product or service. Customers want acceptance, and thanks to social media, they use that outlook to find it.

You are already requesting feedback, asking your customers to do the talking, so what else can you do to provide social proof and keep customers wanting more? 

  • Broadcast your numbers. Let people know how many people have opted-in, are using a popular service you offer, or are following you on social media. Include snippets of reviews your subscribers left in addition to your announcement.
  • Tell customers what their peers are purchasing.
  • Boast a little. Talk about a well-known individual that may be sponsoring your product or service to peak customer interest.
  • Share your story that is posted in the media. This opens the door to credibility with your customers.

Email Etiquette - Keeping Your Audience Engaged

Retentional emails shouldn’t be sloppy. Keep them specific, grounded to the message you want to convey. Most importantly, design them with the customer in mind, having a high open-rate.

Retention emails don’t matter if they aren’t opened, so don’t give them a look or feel of an automated message. Tailor the subject line to speak directly to the customer, as if it is written to speak with them face-to-face.

Within the email, you should convey to the customer that you acknowledge them. For example:

  • Identify yourself. Include the company’s name, image, and address to authenticate that yourself. People hesitate to open emails today when they are received from strangers.
  • Include information relevant to their browsing or purchasing history in the body of the email.
  • Use the opportunity of sending a retention email to win over their hearts, not just their purchase. Build an emotional connection with your customers now with the intent that they’ll continue to support you later.

How Do You Measure Customer Value?

Measuring the value of new customers is a breeze compared to measuring the value of repeat customers. For example, a new customer value is calculated by taking the total amount of their first purchase and dividing it by the costs expended to acquire them on your bandwagon. 

Existing customers are measured through their customer lifetime value (CLV). The concept is the same as a new customer, except there is a straightforward way to calculate it and a more complex way. 

Simply put, you’ll need to total the customer's historical sales and compare it to the cost of acquiring them as a customer. 

Sure, measuring the value can be difficult - especially if you don’t have the proper tools and resources, such as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) or customer relationship management (CRM) system; if you can calculate it, great! It has its advantages, including retention.

Now let’s consider email subscribers. A similar calculation is computed an email subscriber lifetime value. This one’s a little easier. You’ll need three components: 

  1. The revenue generated by the campaign
  2. Total number of active subscribers
  3. The average lifetime of your subscribers

Don’t Let Subscriber’s Churn

Whether voluntary or involuntary, the goal should be to retain the customer, not to let them churn. To churn means to leave or unsubscribe.

Voluntary churn begins with the subscriber. They decide to click on the unsubscribe link embedded in your email. It’s your responsibility to try and determine the why. Perhaps emails were being sent too frequently, or they lost interest in the material.

Involuntary churn begins with you, the company. Subscribers may not be aware that they are being terminated, so it’s your job to use those retention emails to remind them. 

An example of an involuntary churn is when a subscriber’s monthly or annual payment is declined, both on the first and second attempt.

Ready, Set, Go! Keep Your Customers Wanting More!

There is not enough focus on retention, but there should be. Retaining customers costs less overall and builds your company’s reputation. There’s more stability in a company that can hold its customers versus one that consistently needs to update its marketing strategy and target new customers.

Add retention email templates to your marketing plan and give your subscribers a reason to keep returning. Content customers lead to new customers; that’s a given fact and at little to no cost to you. Word-of-mouth still travels fast, even in today’s digital realm.

Ready to engage with your customers and boost traffic to your website? We’d love to help you design an email marketing strategy that will meet your business and your customer’s needs. 

Visit QuaGrowth to learn more about email marketing automation.


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The Anatomy of a Perfect Retention Email

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What Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) Is & How to Calculate It | NetSuite

Written by Jason Boehle