Retention Email Marketing: 10 Types of Emails to Guide Your Next Campaign

A high number of businesses prioritize customer acquisition over retention.

This is bewildering, considering that it costs 5 – 25 times more to attract a new customer than to retain an old one.

Consider, too, this bit of marketing intel by Marketing Metrics:

Your sales efforts have a success rate of 60 – 70 percent when selling to existing customers. That success rate drops to less than 20 percent when pushing your products to new customers.

These stats show why customer retention is important to a business. And email is by far the best medium.

Your business needs an intentional retention email marketing program to cultivate greater loyalty and trust from your existing customers.

When done right, as we will show in this post, retention emails will keep customers engaged with the business. It can even turn some of them into raving evangelists for your brand.

First, let’s get on the same page:

What is Retention Email Marketing?

Retention email marketing is the conscious practice of sniffing out opportunities where a thoughtful and timely email sent to a customer can:

  • Re-engage them
  • Help them get the best value from your product
  • Highlight their worth to your business

All in the hope of fostering loyalty and driving repeat sales.

This is why — even though it continues to evolve — email marketing has a through-the-roof ROI of 122 percent, higher than any channel, social and search included.

To grow sales and successfully scale your business, you need a calendar of customer retention emails that are triggered by specific events and customer behaviors.

But if retention marketing is so effective, why aren’t more businesses making it a cornerstone of their overall strategy?


What Makes it Such a Challenge to use Email Marketing for Existing Customers?

To be effective, any retention initiative must produce a customer that has a positive perception of your brand and is willing to continue purchasing from you.

But the challenge all retention marketing programs must overcome is that consumers can smell a disconnected brand from a mile away.

Making your task even harder, consumers are growing increasingly less trusting of businesses.

But if a customer has trusted you with their email address, you have permission to market to them in a gated space that your competitors likely have no access to. This is why the best customer loyalty programs have brand alignment and brand trust as a guiding principle.

With access to their inbox, you can shape your prospects’ journey right through the buying cycle. And importantly, once that sale is made, you can drive targeted messages that keep the customer engaged with the brand. That last part is the heart and soul of retention email marketing.

But for you to succeed at retention email marketing, you must know your customer on a deeper level.

Businesses that are killing it with this customer retention tactic have data mining and adaptive analytics systems that track prospects and collect data at every touch point through their customer journey. They then use insights from this data to craft targeted and relevant retention offers.

How to write a retention email that customers will engage with

Your retention emails have to be specific. They must reflect a deep knowledge of the customer, their pain points, and a clear desire to ensure their continued success.

Customers will not open your emails if they appear automated. Neither will they engage with them if their tone sounds impersonal and robotic.

Address your customers as if you were talking to them individually and face-to-face. One retention campaign best practice is to personalize your customers’ email marketing experience by:

  • Identifying yourself by name and company (people don’t open emails sent by total strangers)
  • Addressing them in subject lines by their names
  • Thoughtfully leveraging information on their browsing or shopping history in the body of the email itself

Your retention emails must show the customer you have taken time to understand their needs and journey with your product, and that you’re truly invested in their success.

Because they have to entice engagement, you have to take your time when crafting retention emails. Choose your subject lines carefully, making sure your message is clear while staying friendly and professional.

You can use a professional email template builder which will help you design your retention emails faster.

Now, let’s get to the primary business of this article:

10 Types of Retention Emails that Boost Customer Loyalty and Sales

Customer retention emails work so well because they are product-oriented, meaning they are based on the customer’s interaction with the product.

They are unlike acquisition emails, which have a distinctly marketing orientation and are sent in bulk, targeted primarily at people at the top of the funnel.

Below, we discuss 10 types of customer retention emails every business must use to ensure repeat purchases and boost profits. We also share customer retention email examples to inspire your next retention campaign.

#1: Use targeted onboarding emails to set new customers on their journey with your product

Onboarding emails are an opportunity to get new customers acquainted with the brand.

Not just that, onboarding emails are the perfect time to set expectations for this new relationship. These emails should briefly explain what you do and what the customer can expect going forward.

According to, you should not over-promise or mislead the prospect. By overselling you run the risk of the customer churning when they realize you are not what you made yourself out to be.

Inboxes are private spaces and the average customer will also appreciate you making and keeping a promise to not spam them.

If you have one, a link to your email preference center will give the new customer a chance to personalize their email experience with your brand, giving them a sense of freedom that reassures them immediately.

Here is an example of a perfectly crafted welcome email (first email of the onboarding emails) I got from BuiltVisible:


Why this email works

A well-crafted welcome email removes blocks from the onboarding process.

By asking for the customer’s feedback so early in the relationship, you come across as a caring brand that is interested in a long term association, not just that one sale. It also shows you want to help close the knowledge gap that usually exists between new and old customers so they can quickly get full value from the product.

#2: Use free training emails to educate your customers on your product’s features

A good product will not guarantee success at market, even with a sleek marketing campaign that attracts hordes of enthusiastic early fans.

To grow sales and scale the business, you must aim for repeat sales from these early adopters. The best way of doing this is by ensuring they derive the most value from the product.

You must educate your customers by sending them valuable and relevant content.

After a customer has been through the onboarding process and has used the product a bit, the next step is to get them to explore the peripheral features. Many customers never get to use these, and as a result, miss out on the really cool benefits.

Online visibility management platform, Semrush, invites users to dozens of free training webinars each year:


Source: Semrush

Offering free training courses and webinars also work well for this. Free training opportunities, especially for complex software products, will give users the chance to truly grasp the product’s features and get a good idea of what they can accomplish using it.

Another great example from Semrush:


Source: Semrush

Being on their free plan myself, I know they are angling for an upgrade. But I am happy to be courted this way and will stick with them because of all the free learning.

Why this email works

Providing free training is a great way to engage and get users on free plans to move to the paid plans. They won’t have much reason to if they don’t know what extra value they will get if they upgraded.

Besides, most people hate hard sales and tend to tune out relationships dominated by sales messages. Personally, I am OK with you taking a winding road on your way to pitching something.

Choose soft selling, which is about front-loading your pitch with some value. Free training offers show me you are prepared to give something up front.

#03: Recover lost sales by sending timely abandoned cart reminder emails

As much as 75 percent of all online shopping carts are abandoned midway. That’s a lot of sales falling through the cracks that businesses could recover.

But why are there so many shopping carts abandoned at check out?

There are many things that interrupt the conversion process. But the main one is that so many things are competing for our attention at any given time. A simple Facebook pop-up notification could be the reason you lose a sale.

If you don’t remind the customer of their abandoned cart, they may never come back to complete the purchase.

A timely email is often all it takes to recover sales from the many carts your customers abandon at checkout. Google Express sends this simple reminder:


Source: Google Express

Some shoppers abandon their carts because of sudden extra costs that show up at check out. Sending a reminder sweetened with a discount coupon may convince them to come back and finish checking out.

It’s not hard to design a cart abandonment email if you use some of the predesigned cart abandonment templates.

Why this email works

Abandoned cart reminders are technically not sales emails. You are not doing any selling. This customer is already sold and was probably just interrupted before they could complete the sale.

In fact, cart abandonment emails must be acknowledged for what they are — good, attentive customer service, which most customers would appreciate.

#04: Sending periodic activity emails to reflect your commitment to your customers’ success

The editing app, Grammarly, sends me a weekly email with a summary of my stats.

Among other statistics, it tells me how productive I was using the app the previous week. Actually, they tell me how productive I have been in comparison with other users of the app:


Source: Grammarly

The email goes on to tell me how accurate I was, as well as showing the total number of words it checked and the number of alerts the app showed me.

By tracking my activity over time, the app can also give me an idea of how productive I have been:


Of course, the fact I am on a free plan does not escape their attention.

Towards the end of the email they cheekily remind me of the other features I must still activate to ‘fully protect myself from writing mistakes’, a few of which are only accessible to people on the premium subscription plan:


Why this email works

Every product must prove its value if the customer is going to hazard a repeat purchase. If it doesn’t, they will likely try your competitor’s product.

By tracking your customers’ progress with your product, you are showing how much you are wanting them to succeed. That is an endearingly attractive quality in a service business.

#05: Leverage milestone emails to celebrate your customers’ successes

As you grow, projecting a human and authentic image of your business gets harder.

Another consequence of growth is that you stop caring about the little things. You easily forget to acknowledge your customers’ successes, especially the small, ‘insignificant’ ones.

For this, milestone emails, work a treat. Zillow knocks it out of the park with this one:


Source: Zillow

Why this email works

Milestone emails by their nature are highly personalized and, because they aren’t promotional, their open rates, engagements, and CTRs are usually high.

Because you have taken time to acknowledge your customer’s progress, you come off as thoughtful, which improves their perception of the business and keeps your brand top of mind.

#06: Re-engage dormant users with a witty ‘we have missed you’ email

You may have seen this email show up in your inbox with the subject line, ‘we have missed you’.

Here is one from Duolingo:


Source: Duolingo

This is a retention email that targets dormant users or ‘users in limbo’. These users have one big problem about them:

Even though they may have a paid-up subscription, the fact the customer is not using the service means it is going to be hard for them to justify renewal when the subscription finally expires. If they are on a free plan, getting them to upgrade will be just as difficult.

If you don’t realize a customer has slipped into limbo mode, you will eventually lose them. This is where re-engagement emails come in.

Windscribe asked me straight up,’ where have you been?’


Source: Windscribe

Why this email works

Most inactive users would re-engage if you made an effort to reconnect with them.

A good number slip into limbo mode because they have simply had too much to do. If you don’t nudge them with a friendly email to remind them of what they are missing, you could lose them.

#07: Kill two birds with one stone using referral emails

Asking for referrals from loyal users is a smart acquisition strategy. If you use it well it can also be very effective for customer engagement.

One of my favorite email templates is the Morning Brew:


Source: Morning Brew

Because this business email generates most of its revenue from the advertising they sell, its success hinges on how engaged their subscribers are.

Subscribers must read the email from top to bottom if they are going to click on the text ads they carry in every issue. The writers and copywriters ensure that with their witty writing style:


They also feature quizzes and business trivia that subscribers can look forward to every morning:


Source: Morning Brew

Sign up here to Morning brew

Importantly, though, the people behind the referral email also realize that while retaining the interest of old subscribers is important, they must keep attracting new ones. So they ask you to share the referral email to your network, offering some rewards for the effort.

The referral email also runs contests where names of people who have shared the email that week can win cool prizes:


Why this email works

Referral emails engage your users while leveraging their goodwill and loyalty to attract new customers. Referral programs are a type of loyalty program that leverages your current clientbase. It may also surprise you that some happy customers may also welcome the opportunity to evangelize your brand by referring their friends, even without the inducement of a reward.

#8: Revive the interest of fatigued users with feature announcement emails

Feature announcement emails are common and, quite frankly, a part of customer service. If you add a new feature to your product, you should want your customers to know about it.

Thrive themes probably sent the email below to hundreds of customers. But because the email addressed me in such personal detail, it sounds like it was written specifically for me. They even link to a video blog post that explains the key feature in great detail.


Source: Thrive theme

Used well, this email can help keep users excited about the product. For a product that hasn’t been updated in a while, this email can even reawaken the interest of fatigued users, which reduces churn and boosts revenue.

If you have users who have previously requested the feature, then you have an opportunity to target them with a personalized heads up.

The best features are usually those requested by the customers themselves. And good companies are always willing to augment their products based on customer feedback.

When you use feature announcements this way, be sure to specify to the customer they are receiving this notification because they have previously requested the particular feature.

Why this email works

Feature announcements are just good business sense, with the added advantage of keeping the user informed and engaged.

But the heads-up, ‘you spoke, we listened’ variation works even better. Knowing that someone has taken time to consider your views and has actually acted on them is always gratifying.

That approach shows product managers and marketers as customer-centric, fully invested in putting user benefit front and center.

Because the customer has specifically asked for the feature, you can be sure it addresses a pain point they are feeling. This can help you retain a customer you were on the verge of losing.

#9: Use reminder emails to convince customers on the verge of churning to stay

Reminder emails aren’t the easiest to write. After sending an email that the recipient has not responded to, you want to be careful not to come across as pushy.

The fact your previous message was ignored or that the customer has avoided taking a specific action may be a sign you are about to lose them.

It is critical that you send this reminder, that you are clear and concise with your message, and importantly, that you get the customer to engage with it.

In most of the instances, you are also sending these reminders to people who aren’t looking forward to receiving them. Because of this, you must nail the email, starting with the subject line itself.

If you manage to stay friendly and professional, you can even turn a difficult conversation into an opportunity to breathe life into a dying relationship.

Netflix, whose email marketing game is on point, succeeds in striking that delicate balance of remaining friendly and professional while communicating a difficult message:


Source: Netflix

The email even teases with a link to ‘more great TV shows and movies’, in case you hadn’t found time to sample their product.

If for some reason you are having issues with your free trial, they helpfully suggest you visit their help center. This is a perfect example of a reminder email that drives engagement and promotes retention.

Why this email works

Other than to say there is usually no way of getting around sending this email, you can use a reminder email to promote engagement with customers you will likely lose if you don’t reach out.

The email even teases with a link to ‘more great TV shows and movies’, in case you hadn’t found time to sample their product.

If for some reason you are having issues with your free trial, they helpfully suggest you visit their help center. This is a perfect example of a reminder email that drives engagement and promotes retention.

Why this email works

Other than to say there is usually no way of getting around sending this email, you can use a reminder email to promote engagement with customers you will likely lose if you don’t reach out.

#10: Appreciate your customers for their loyalty and continued custom with thank you emails

After every conversion — an email sign-up, download, survey response, or sale — you must acknowledge the customer’s action.

But you should not stop at thanking the customer. Use this email as an opportunity to keep the conversation going. Here is e-commerce monolith eBay thanking me for joining before quickly encouraging me to poke around the site. Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate what is a thank you and what is a welcome email because in this case it can be both.


Source: Ebay

They also take the opportunity to sell me on why I should shop with them. They want to engage me ‘right now’, so they include a ‘start exploring’ button. If I don’t check out the site now, I am may end up on Amazon and never come back.


Why this email works

Thanking your customers for a conversion is a decent thing to do and your customers expect you to do so. And because most customers love to be doted on, they will gladly let you hold their hand back to the site.

How Much Effort Are You Investing in Retention Marketing Campaigns?

There is always pressure to keep acquiring new customers.

While there is nothing wrong with canvassing for new leads, investing more of your attention in nurturing existing customers is more profitable. Old customers are easier to sell to and tend to buy more per transaction than new ones.

Use retention email marketing tactics and client retention email examples we have shared in this article to guide and inspire your next email marketing campaign and ensure your existing customers stay loyal and engaged with the business.

You can also use a professional email template builder to collaborate with your colleagues or clients on your design to improve your retention email production process. There are many free, predesigned templates that you can use for your next retention email campaign.