The Retention Email: Why You Need It and How To Improve Customer Retention

Melanie Balke
January 4, 2022

When you’re working on your email marketing, it’s fairly easy to pop over to Google and type in a few basic searches.

“Why emails should I be sending?”

“What types of email marketing do I need to know about?”

“How do I find amazing marketing agencies?”

Once you hit that enter button, you’ll be met with plenty of results. You’ll find umpteen different blogs about customer acquisition, customer satisfaction, email marketing, subject lines, and more. You may have even found this blog post through a handy Google search!

Regardless of how you happened to find this post, it’s safe to say that you’re looking into email marketing. You’re trying to find strategies for acquiring new customers, and you’re looking for ways to amplify your email marketing.

A photo of San Diego, California. Overlaid header text reads, “The Retention Email: Why You Need It and How to Improve Customer Retention.”

However, before you spend too much time scouting out new customers, take a look at your current customers! These folks are your fanbase, and you need to pay attention to them if you want to engage in cost-effective marketing.

That’s why today’s post will be dedicated to retention emails!

If you’re ready to learn about how to use these essential tools to reduce churn and engage with your loyal users, then keep on reading!

Scroll ahead, and let’s get this lesson started!

What Is Customer Retention?

And why should you care about it?

These are important questions, and I need to answer them before we can really take a nice bite out of the main topic.

An aerial photo of the Santa Monica pier in Los Angeles, California. Overlaid header text says, “What Is Customer Retention?”

The bottom line is that customer retention is a business strategy that focuses on engaging current customers and preventing them from losing interest in your brand. Think of it as a customer relationship strategy. It’s a literal interest game, and your ultimate goal is to prevent any given existing customer from moving away from your brand.

The Benefits of Customer Retention Emails

From a business perspective, it may seem odd to invest too much effort in reducing churned customers.

After all, a new customer pays the same amount as an old one. They’re contributing to your business growth, and plenty of new buyers are a sign of success, right?

Well, yes. New customers are great, but old customers are just as valuable. Your existing customers are your loyal fanbase, and they’re worth paying attention to as you create a marketing plan. Most marketers know this, and that’s why there’s so much interest in increasing your brand’s customer lifetime value.

To put things shortly, a proper retention strategy can yield results like:

  • The ability to create rich referral programs
  • A better and deeper understanding of your customers
  • Increased ability to deliver truly relevant content
  • Offering a rapidly accessible litmus test for how happy customers are
  • Plenty of customer loyalty
  • Reduced customer acquisition costs
  • Revenue from repeat purchases

Customer Retention and the 80/20 Rule

Still not convinced?

A shareable infographic with a colorized photo of Los Angeles, California. The image has overlaid text. The header reads, “Marketing Sayings: The 80/20 Rule.” Beneath this are two paragraphs of smaller body text. The first paragraph is, “‘80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers.’ That's the 80/20 rule, and it's the core ethos of customer retention.” Several spaces below this is the second paragraph: “You want to serve your most loyal customers. To do that, you need to employ a variety of strategies, and one of them is the retention email.”

Let me introduce you to my friend, the 80/20 rule. This is a business saying, and it proposes that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers.

In other words, your most important customers are the ones you already have. Think of the old scout saying: “make new friends but keep the old.” That’s retention, and it’s what I’m about to launch into!

So, enough beating around the bush! Let’s get going!

Getting Started: What Goes Into a Good Customer Retention Strategy?

A photo of someone pinning a notice to a whiteboard. Overlaid header text says, “What Goes Into a Good Customer Retention Strategy?”

I’ll open this lesson by pointing out that I will not be going over every single thing that can go into a plan to increase your retention rate. That’s just too much information for a single blog post! Instead, we’ll be focusing all of our attention on the ways that email marketing can contribute to your retention plans.

For Starters… You Probably Already Have the Basics!

If you have any email campaigns running, then you already have a starting point for your customer retention plan! Even something as simple as a basic drip campaign can play a role in retaining existing customers. After all, you’re already making an effort to improve the customer experience, and that goes a long way in the digital marketing world.

However, just telling you that you probably already have a basic retention program running isn’t very helpful, is it?

It’s All About Segmentation

The key to any good retention strategy is a bit of robust segmentation.

In fact, all of your retention campaigns will utilize segmentation. Regardless of how broad a campaign’s focus may be, at the end of the day, it will always be reliant upon good segments.

For retention emails, you’ll be focusing on a few key groups…

The Loyalists

Your first major audience will be your loyal customers.

These users open the most emails, engage with most of your content, and keep a close eye on your business. They’re your most fervent supporters, and making sure they’re happy is essential. Remember the 80/20 rule!

The Fans

Your fans can be considered your “every-now-and-then” buyers.

This segment will include the folks who buy your products and engage with your content, but they aren’t exactly loyal. Think of them as your average customer. They may have an affinity for your brand, but they aren’t constantly interacting with your email marketing campaigns.

Many customers will fall into this segment, so be sure to leave plenty of space for growth in this group!

The Ghosts

Finally, we have the most dreaded group of customers. Users who have not engaged with your content or purchased an item within a certain time period are ghost customers. They are ambivalent toward your brand, and regaining their support is important.

These users will often be double-targeted. Many of your re-engagement campaigns and win-back emails fall into their laps, so take great care when you’re setting up campaigns for this particular group. There’s a thin line between re-engaging a customer and spamming them into revulsion!

What Are Customer Retention Emails?


A photo of a keyboard with overlaid header text, “What Are Retention Emails?”

Now that we’ve outlined the basic groups, what do we do with them?

Obviously, it’s hard to wine and dine with customers via email. You’ll need to dig into a category of marketing known as retention emails.

The Simple Definition

These are targeted messages aimed at one of the three aforementioned groups. Their content will vary widely, but the ultimate goal will always be the same. Retention emails are meant to draw customers back into your fold and get them excited about your product.

Personalized Emails to the Rescue!

It’s not a new feature, so it shouldn’t be a foreign concept, but I can’t pass over the topic!

You should always be including a bit of personalization in your email marketing. Regardless of the type of campaign, your messages should always have a touch of individual attention. At the bare minimum, you should be trying to include the customer’s name in every email.

In more elaborate examples, companies may create unique campaigns that deliver personalized reports to customers. This is an extremely involved process, though, so don’t feel pressured to get too fancy!

Different Types of Retention Emails

Finally! It’s time for my favorite part of every blog post!

A photo of someone writing in a notebook with overlaid header text: “Different Types of Retention Emails.”

It’s time for us to pull out some examples, check out some retention messaging, and see what these emails are all about. If you’re looking for great customer retention emails that will send your click-through rates and conversions soaring, this is the place to be!

Get hype!

We’re going to be shining a light on how to retain customers and get every customer engaged in your campaigns. We’ll also be looking at some fantastic customer retention email examples!

Customer Appreciation Emails

When you’re trying to think of an idea for a retention-centric email marketing campaign, one of your top picks will be a customer appreciation series.

These emails remind customers that your brand cares and appreciates their patronage. They’re fairly simple, and they don’t need to have any special discount or promotional code attached.

Output, a music production company, produced a stellar example of a customer appreciation email.

A sample email from Output. The header reads, “Happy Holidays From Output.” The CTA is, “Warm Fuzzies Here.”

This is a seasonally appropriate greeting, and it’s the perfect way to thank every paying customer. There are no frills, no extraneous add-ons, just a warm and gracious message.

Now, when you’re crafting an appreciation series, take some time to think about your tone.

If your brand is a bit sarcastic, then it’s best to leave some wry humor in your copy. Otherwise, the message may come off as patronizing! If your brand is more sincere, however, then adding a bit of humor to your message may come off as irreverent.

Customer Feedback Email Campaigns

Sometimes, you’re fishing for information.

When you’re trying to plan for the future and decide where your company should focus its efforts, you need to consult with your customers and your internal team. Speaking to your staff is simple. Just call up a meeting and get to work!

But how do you gather data from your customers?

It may not seem like it, but survey and feedback emails are firmly within the retention marketing category. These messages provide brands with data that can be used to enhance user experience and improve satisfaction.

An example of a post-purchase email from Netflix, which encourages users to take a survey. The subject line reads, “Netflix Values Your Opinion.”

Whenever you send out this type of retention email campaign, you obviously want to receive positive feedback. However, that’s not always the case. While you’ll probably have plenty of happy customers, you’ll always have a few with complaints. To handle these unhappy campers, be sure to include bold links to your customer service department!

Engagement and Content Emails

If you’re looking for ways to uplift your marketing, then it may be time to look into a social proof email campaign.

These emails present customers with a call to action. Namely, they encourage users to create content about your brand’s service. Ultimately, the goal is to generate plenty of usable content, which your marketing team can implement in future campaigns.

This category of retention email marketing can be a bit sticky. There are a few different legal requirements that you need to meet if you want to publicly use any of this content in your advertising. You’ll also want to find a way to encourage interaction without begging.

A good subject line is essential for any campaign, but it’s one of the core values of this email campaign. Without a concise subject line, users may be left confused or uninterested in your social proof push.

Reminder Emails

If you’re looking for a way to convince customers to return to your brand, then the classic reminder email is one of your best bets.

Reminder email campaigns are one of the many customer retention strategies aimed at inactive users. These messages are meant to gently encourage your customers to take certain steps or visit specific landing pages.

An example email campaign from Delta Airlines. The header reads, “We've Got You Covered.” The CTA is, “Preparing for Your Trip.”

In this retention email campaign, which was from Delta Airlines, customers were encouraged to visit a designated webpage. It expertly zeroes in on preparation — one of the biggest pain points of travel — and uses that emotion to promote its travel planning service.

What’s particularly cool about this example is its place within the company’s flow. Yes, it’s a reminder email. However, it also serves as part of the onboarding process. This lightly personalized email campaign perfectly exemplifies the importance of sending the right message at the right time.

Remember: email marketing is all about timing.

Don’t send out too many reminder emails, but don’t sleep on them, either! These automated emails are essential tools, and utilizing them properly requires plenty of planning mixed with a bit of finesse.

Welcome Emails

One of the most well-known examples of retention emails is the welcome email. These messages are exactly what it says on the box, and having a few for your onboarding emails is essential. They're how you turn a new customer into a huge fan of your brand.

Win-Back Emails

Finally, we have the important win-back campaign.

This is a message intended for paying customers who have not purchased an item in some time. Win-back emails are meant to tempt customers back into your store, and the main goal is to set customers up for their next purchase.

Skillshare has a great example of an effective campaign.

An example email from Skillshare. The subject line reads, “We've Missed You!”

This is a simple email campaign, and its main focus is highlighting the benefits of re-subscribing to the service. It knows its audience, and it caters to those individuals.

For maximum impact, be sure to personalize these messages. This is a great place to segment based on data about past purchases.

You’ll also want to have clear and concise subject lines, which will boost the click-through rate. Find common paint points, emphasize them, and bring attention to a particular feature of your product that will help with that issue.

Maximize Your Marketing

This is a lot of information.

If you want to rake in a repeat purchase from a customer, you have to work for it. You need to know your audience and build every retention email campaign around that data.

It’s hard, and trying to do it all on your own is a recipe for disaster.

Instead, I will always endorse marketing firms.

Every business should invest in an amazing marketing team. These experts — like the ones you’ll find at The Email Marketers — will make your retention email marketing shine.

If you’re looking for a new marketing partner or you want more tips on email marketing, then give me a call! You can also find plenty of tips, tricks, and new features on my blog!