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How to Win Back Your Lapsed Customers

If given the option to choose, would you prefer to pay $1, $5, or $25 for a single item? Obviously, no one likes to pay more for something than they have to. However, in today’s competitive eCommerce landscape, marketing experts explain that customer acquisition rates cost 5 to 25 times more than customer retention. So, how can you make the most effective use of your resources to retain more shoppers while increasing your bottom line? Today, we’ll discuss how to win back your lapsed customers, and learn why it’s essential you do so.    

Who are Your Lapsed Customers?

Before learning how to win back lapsed customers, it’s important to properly identify them. By the most basic definitions, a lapsed customer (sometimes referred to as “inactive”) is someone who hasn’t engaged with your brand or made a purchase within an expected timeframe. 


When analyzing your audience, keep in mind that different businesses will have very different timelines for classifying customers as active or otherwise. Take a look at your customer journey to properly assess an appropriate amount of time in which your customers should shop again. 


Pay extra attention to niche-related cycles (like the timeline for the replacement of skincare items) and seasonality (like a snowboarding shop in an area that experiences all four weather seasons). Next, balance those factors with other brand goals, like add-on purchases or customer engagement. Then, once you’ve properly identified a group of customers who have lapsed in all pertinent areas, you’ll be in the best position to retarget and win them back.

How to Win Back Lapsed Customers

  1. Increase Personalization
  2. Trigger Reminders
  3. Vary Your Approach
  4. Incentivize Purchases
  5. Ask for Feedback
  6. Touch Their Emotions
  7. Provide Value

Let’s discuss!

1. Increase Personalization

When you’re actively retargeting consumers, they expect an additional level of custom-tailored service. Plus, since lapsed customers, at some point in time, made a purchase you have more data on them than newer members of your audience. 


So, where allowed, use that data to increase the personalization of your marketing copy. Beyond using a simple name in the email subject, try implementing product recommendations based on a customer’s shopping history or browsing data. Consider sending annual event messages on important dates you’ve captured, such as anniversaries. You’re in the powerful position of knowing what made your customer convert the first time; don’t waste the opportunity to show them how you can provide a similar experience once again.    

2. Trigger Reminders

Sometimes customers just need a little nudge to come back and shop again. More than simply asking them to return, try sending persuasive reminders to replace or replenish their items before they have the chance to shop from a competitor. Be sure, when possible, to include easy-to-find links that direct the customer to the exact items! 


Two very effective reminders are back-in-stock notifications and replenishment suggestions. If a customer previously purchased or looked at something that quickly went out of stock, they may be tempted to purchase promptly before the item sells out again. On the other hand, reminding customers to stock up on items that need repeated replenishment may prevent them from shopping elsewhere out of ease or convenience.        

3. Vary Your Approach

Considering the abundance of marketing communications we receive each day, it’s easy to pass over something that doesn’t immediately catch your eye mid-scroll. Break out of your traditional marketing pattern and implement something new to recapture lapsed customers’ attention. Here are some ideas:

  • Increase your messaging frequency for short periods of time
  • Reach out to customers via alternate methods (like sending an SMS instead of email)
  • Resend emails to chronic non-openers
  • Vary your message delivery time and day
  • A/B test different subject headlines to find better performing verbiage  

4. Incentivize Purchases

Some customers only prefer to shop when they know they can get the best deal possible; others prefer to shop if it benefits them in the long run. To win back both sets of lapsed customers, try segmenting your audience and implementing appropriate incentives. 


For discount-motivated shoppers (those who have a pattern of coupon use on your site), send special offers with limited-time saving opportunities. If you’re worried about narrowing profits, consider some creative ways to offer a reduction in price. Bundle sales (BOGO 30% off) or total-purchase thresholds (save 20% when you spend $100+) are a great way to provide customers a discount without dangerously undercutting your margins.


Long-term lapsed customers are a bit different, and, statistically, they tend to be more loyal shoppers. To win back their business for good, remind these lapsed customers of your loyalty program. If you haven’t yet instated one, now is a good time to do so (check out #6 on this list to learn how.) Let customers know, if applicable, that they can apply their past purchase to the loyalty program if they sign up, and the benefits of making any new purchases, too. 

5. Ask for Feedback

You can’t fix something that you don’t know is broken. So, if you have a lot of one-time purchasers who have now become inactive, consider asking for their feedback. Taking this proactive approach can not only help you win back some customers who honestly just forgot about your store but, more importantly, can help prevent future customers from lapsing in the first place.


Here’s an effective way to structure your feedback request to gain the most benefit from it:

  1. Marketing best practices always recommend being brief and direct — so, keep your email to the point.
  2. In one sentence or less, remind the customer of your brand mantra or purpose.
  3. Assure the customer that your survey won’t take long, citing the estimated time length or question amount, if possible.
  4. Humanize your company by mentioning the importance of this feedback. 
  5. Incentivize their time and effort. 
  6. Include a direct, easy-to-see call to action link (like a button, if possible).  

For example: “Hi, Bob. Thanks for shopping with Veggie Juice, the sustainable, good-for-you beverage company. If you have a minute, could you share with me why you decided not to shop again with us? Click here to take a quick, 5-question survey. Your feedback is very valuable. As a token of thanks, we have included a 15% discount code after completion of the survey. We appreciate your response and strive to continually serve you and your family with juices that are as healthy as they are good for the environment. Thanks!” 

6. Touch Their Emotions

To create long-term, loyal customers, you need to connect with them on a deeper level. So, when crafting your win-back campaign emails, pay special attention to the language you use. A simple, “We missed you, [customer name]” in the subject line is a good start, but a well-crafted email body really makes the difference. 


Consider showing the email recipient why they connected with your brand in the first place with relevant, custom-tailored images and text (again, your saved customer data will come in handy). Restate your brand morals to touch the customers’ emotions and draw them back in. If you’re unsure about the message and tone that your verbiage sends, have a trusted third-party associate or friend read the email and describe back to you how it made them feel. 

7. Provide Value

Sometimes, winning back a lapsed customer involves more than just selling something to them. Shoppers will come when needs arise, but loyal customers stay for the value you provide. For that reason, it’s important to carefully garnish marketing campaigns with appropriate practical and helpful resources. 


Depending on your niche, products, or services, what you provide to customers may vary greatly. However, here are some basic resource ideas that can add value to your content, which helps foster loyalty and win back a lapsed customer:


  • Educational content
  • Blog posts
  • Tips and tricks
  • Assembly instructions
  • Wear and tear/care guide 
  • Related products
  • Styling ideas
  • Social proof and reviews
  • FAQs and help

Winning Back More than Just a Lapsed Customer

When you win back a lapsed customer, you’re doing more than just adding a name back to your “active” list — you’re creating a relationship that can stand the test of time. Loyal customers are the backbone of commerce, and, with a massive squad of unofficial brand advocates standing firmly behind you, the growth of your business will truly be unlimited. 


Once you’ve won back a customer, it’s important to retain them. Check out our updated guide to learn the best ways to retain eCommerce customers in 2022 and beyond