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What is a Winback Campaign?

A winback campaign refers to targeted and personalized messages that are aimed at lapsed customers, with the goal of reigniting their engagement. A successful winback campaign nurtures and rebuilds relationships with customers who haven’t been engaging with your brand as much as they once did.

How are Winback Campaigns and Re-Engagement Campaigns Different?

Both winback campaigns and re-engagement campaigns are aimed at increasing lapsed engagement. But these marketing terms aren’t interchangeable.

Re-engagement campaigns tend to be centered on a single marketing channel—say, sending a personalized, targeted email to re-engage customers who once reliably opened emails, but no longer do. A winback campaign, on the other hand, tends to take a more holistic approach to the customer-brand relationship. The goal is less focused on a particular marketing channel and more on increasing overall engagement across all channels, to support the intention of increasing customer lifetime value.

Keep in mind, winback campaigns don’t always target customers who have unsubscribed from a brand’s marketing messages or stopped interacting with the brand entirely. These campaigns can also be aimed at customers who are still somewhat engaged, but at far lower rates than they once were.

How do Winback Campaigns Impact Customer Churn?

Every business deals with customer churn. Even if a company’s overall number of customers stays relatively steady over time, marketers tend to keep a close eye on customer churn rate—the percentage of customers who stop utilizing a service within a specific time period. That’s because finding and acquiring new customers tends to be far more costly than retaining existing customers. So, high customer churn can take a serious bite out of the bottom line.

Keeping customers happy is obviously important for high customer retention and low customer churn—but so is winning back customers who have become more dormant. Lapsed customers have already demonstrated an interest in, and affinity towards, the brand, and because they’ve engaged in the past, your brand likely has past data to draw on that can make future marketing efforts more successful.

Consider the data you have on a churned customer. You know what actions they’ve taken in the past, what channels they prefer to engage with, what time of day they like to receive messages, what incentives spark them to action, how their current engagement compares to their historic peak, and more. Plus, you can also see if there are similar customers that have hit lulls in the past that have been won back. That’s powerful information. Strengthening a brand relationship with this audience is far less resource-intensive than starting afresh and trying to get net-new customers.

Tips for Building Successful Winback Campaigns

Not every customer who has hit a lull can be made into a brand enthusiast. But there are best practices that help marketers target their efforts and maximize returns.

  • Clearly define the target audience: Will you focus on long-term customers whose purchase patterns have dipped more than one month in a row? Customers who showed high levels of activity on the site before finally making a first purchase, but haven’t been back since? Every brand will have its own definition of what they consider a churned customer, and setting a clear target for the winback campaign is foundational to its success.
  • Leverage the intel you have: This isn’t a mystery shopper, it’s a customer you already interacted with. All of the data you have about how and when they engaged with the brand in the past puts you at a powerful advantage to rebuild that brand connection. Cast a wide net when it comes to this intel, compiling insights on everything from marketing channel to timing of communications, friend referrals to customer complaints.
  • Consider where the customer is now: If someone has largely stopped engaging with the brand because they feel inundated with generic emails, sending another message to their inbox could be the final straw that loses that customer for good. That’s why it’s so important to look at a churned customer’s current behavior. Have they stopped engaging on certain platforms, but are still active on others? Does engagement tend to bump up when they receive promotional texts or emailed coupons? Are they still shopping in-store, even as their online engagement has hit a lull? Harness that data to power the next steps in the winback campaign.
  • Make it personal: Customers can feel when marketers pick up a bullhorn and blast out the same message to everyone on their list. No surprise, that sort of broad-strokes approach is more likely to turn off customers that have drifted away than welcome them back into the fold. Leaning into personalization sends a signal that you know this customer. You know which platform to reach out on, what type of message to send them, which promotions they like, and exactly when the message should hit their phone or inbox. When customers feel seen, they feel connected. The more personalization that can be integrated into the winback campaign, the more effective it can be at turning those churned customers back into loyal ones.

It’s important to develop a dedicated strategy for winning back lapsed customers, using their own preferred channels and types of content to re-engage them with relevant and personalized messaging.

Still want more winback info? Learn more about how to build a successful winback campaign.

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