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What is Lifecycle Email Marketing & How to Create Emails for Different Stages of Engagement

Prospects and customers travel through ongoing rising and declining stages of engagement right from the beginning of their very first contact. Because of this, marketers need to adopt data-driven approaches in email marketing instead of sending the same emails to every subscriber in their list. After subscribers enter and engage with a brand on some level, they will be overwhelmed and frustrated if a company sends a massive volume of generalized email blasts without any personalization or tailoring to their interests. When this happens, subscribers eventually lose interest and stop engaging with the brand, or worse, even unsubscribe. Having a lifecycle email marketing strategy can help your brand keep their audience engaged in various stages of customer journey.

But how to do you create lifecycle email marketing for all subscribers in diverse stages of the buyer’s journey?

Marketers today need to be sending the right message to the right person at the right time, and we do this effectively by understanding where our subscriber/customer is within the lifecycle curve at any point in time. Here are 9 lifecycle email campaigns we’ve created that you can use to maximize email ROI from new, existing, declining and lapsed customers.     

Entering Customer Base

New Subscriber Welcome Email Series

When customers give their email address they expect something in return. The something in return that is often the first point of contact with a new subscriber is the welcome email. A welcome email should get sent to a new subscriber immediately after they opt-in to your email list, but keep in mind this subscriber is not a customer yet.

Welcome emails are important for a number of reasons. They are the beginning of your email relationship with a potential customer, therefore, they are crucial in solidifying your reputation and setting the stage for a purchase. Welcome emails have a 42% higher read rate than any other type of email. With such high visibility for the first initial email, your company is in perfect position to introduce yourself and spark interest in your product or service from your new subscriber. But remember, not only is this a great way to interest a new subscriber in their first purchase, it’s also a great way to build initial trust in your brand. For this first email you not only will want to provide engaging, meaningful content, but you will also want to provide your new subscriber with an offer to increase the likelihood that they purchase.  

Cart Abandonment

We have a lot to say about cart abandonment email campaigns because they are highly effective campaigns that get your subscribers to finally buy. A great example of a cart abandonment campaign completely properly is Dreamworld “Buy 3 Get 1 Free” campaign wherein the offer is prominently displayed to encourage readers to click-through. The campaign also incorporated social media engagement by asking customers to “share your happiness,” thus, encouraging more engagement and brand awareness via all social channels.

Browse Abandonment

In an email, Autoplicity has shown an effective strategy by inviting this browsing customers to come back and become a “part of the Autoplicity family,” to make prospects feel like more than just a source of revenue. One of the biggest takeaways from the Litmus 2015 conference is that your customers are people, and they wanted to be treated like people versus just another purchase, conversion or sale.

Other reasons why this email if highly effective is that it offers a shipping discount, further enticing the customer to purchase, and also the call to action button can’t be missed. In addition, displaying Better Business Bureau accreditations and other security features give credibility to the company, increasing trust from potential customers.

Browse abandonment lifecycle emails are targeted to customers who have registered to your site through an email or newsletter. They have not added items to their cart but have expressed purchase intent. Purchase intent is the probability that a customer will purchase your product. It’s important that you define purchase intent as it relates to browse abandonment. You don’t want to miscategorize subscribers and then bombard them with irrelevant emails as this will frustrate your subscribers and potentially cause them to unsubscribe.

This type of lifecycle email allows you to target customers who are in the beginning stages of your purchasing funnel, yet are tracking behaviors that they will purchase in the near future. We recommend tailoring your browse abandonment emails to product categories and not specific products as it opens up a wider range of possibilities.

Keep in mind that the messaging within these emails is extremely important. Encourage the customer to pick up where they left off and remind them of all the great products they were browsing as well as benefits to the products. It goes without saying, but make sure the products you feature in your email are based off of the customer’s browsing history.

Browse abandonment emails are an important part of any lifecycle email campaign. We all know that over 60% of shopping carts are abandoned, but a larger number of shoppers don’t even make it to the cart. Browse abandonment emails are a great way to remind the customer of your brand, its products/services, and how those products/services solve an issue for the subscriber in their life.

New Customers

Welcome Email Series for First Purchase Customers

Welcome series emails should trigger immediately after the customer has made their first purchase and one way of doing that is inviting new customers to the family with a discount and a targeted message. Welcome series emails can be made up of one to multiple separate emails sent at different times. The first two emails may help introduce the brand, while the third email help motivate customers and prospects to make their second purchase.

1st email – A personalized welcome with a strong brand statement begins by telling the company’s history or story to establish credibility and trust. Links to social media–Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram– help to carry engagement over to other channels. More importantly, letting people know the story of your company makes them feel a part of something bigger and better – rather than thanking them for simply buying a product.

2nd email – It’s highly recommended that you send a second email in your Welcome Campaign, with the goal of the second email being that your customer can learn more about you and engage with the some of your already created content. Within the second email you can also ask them about their overall experience including browsing, purchasing, shipping, etc. Keep in mind that when asking for feedback you want to do so in a friendly, casual way. Getting feedback and testimonials back from your customer are huge, as they further solidify your brand reputation and can be used across many of your digital platforms from website to social and even in future content such as case studies and more.

3rd email – The third email is where the next discount will be offered. In our Rejoiner example we’ve been using, we have a 10% discount which gives the customer incentive to make their second purchase. Rejoiner has taken their email frequence a step further by utilizing past data and scheduling this email to be sent to the customer when (on average) customers usually make their second purchase after becoming a part of the Mossy Oak family.

Giving a discount is key in getting your customers to make a second purchase and turn them into a repeat customer. Note that you want to avoid placing the discount in the first email. This allows you to carefully craft your brand image and familiarize the customer with all the best aspects of your company before asking for a purchase. Customers shouldn’t expect an offer in every email, as this can get to be too ‘salesy’ and corrode initial trust they have in your brand. Protecting that trust is vital to covering the customer acquisition cost and moving them up the life cycle curve towards becoming a loyal VIP.

So now your customer has made the purchase and has bought your product. Congratulations! This is an important event. It demonstrates that your marketing tactics thus far are working and it also creates an opportunity to secure that second, third and fourth purchase.

Remember that a customer who has purchased recently will likely buy again in the near future as long as you continue to nurture them through your emails. If you can time the first purchase welcome series and trigger subsequent emails off of this event, you have a good chance of making the customer come back for their second purchase. Regarding purchase emails remember Rrecency, Frequency, and Monetary (RFM) – the recency of a first purchase is a massive moment to capitalize on and drive subsequent purchases.

Existing Customers

Feedback Request

An effective strategy is to send targeted Feedback Request emails which can be directed to customers to the web page where they can write a review. This strategy allows buyers to leave a review and providing valuable feedback points.

This type of campaign steers customers toward taking a survey that tells you what their buying experience is like. You can’t monitor a customer in real time as they’re purchasing and checking out on your site, so you must rely on customer feedback to let you know what’s going on.

Feedback regarding friction points are crucial to targeting your future marketing plans. The best qualitative data about your checkout process comes from customers who actually went through it, so be sure you don’t overlook this crucial email campaign.

Post-purchase emails asking customers for qualitative feedback via reply or survey on how their shopping experience was is the simplest and most effective way to get valuable data straight from your audience.

Wishlist Abandonment

This email from Rejoiner’s customer, Kayser Lingerie, asks the question “Why Wait,” to entice the shopper to go back to their wishlist and make that purchase. Customers in this email are reminded of the free shipping offer and given specific details of the products on their wishlist. An easy link for customer questions is highly visible within the email and a big pink CTA button makes it effortless for customers to make that final purchase.

A wishlist campaign is great remarketing tool, as it reminds customers of the products they went through and engaged with while usually giving them an offer that prompts them to finally buy. At this stage in the lifecycle, a customer has expressed purchase intent and has even went so far as to make a list of items they want to purchase or have in mind. Sometimes customers may forget that they have items on their wishlist so use this to your advantage and send them a reminder.

If you feel extra dedicated to this type of campaign you can send them a reminder as soon as the item is running low or perhaps when it’s on sale. Another technique may be to offer them a small discount or free shipping to get them to make that final purchase.

Lapsed Customers


Consumables–products that are used– need to be replenished at some point. Think food, household products, pet products, grooming, health and beauty products. The list goes on.

Replenishment emails are strategic because you already have valuable information about the customer. You know what they need and when they are going to need it. If the product is meant to last 30 days, a replenishment email is sent out 20 days post-purchase. If it’s a 60 day supply, an email is sent out on day 50. If the product you are selling is consumable in any way, shape or form, you want to make sure that you aren’t leaving any potential revenue untapped. Replenishment email campaigns provide a great source of recurring revenue if triggered at the right moment.

These campaigns work best with products that have very predictable usage patterns. Identify the consumable used and build campaigns that target the exact moment, or ideally a little bit before, the product is scheduled to run out.

Win-Back Campaigns

Below we have a personalized and targeted win-back email from VetRxDirect. This email does several things to re-engage a lapsed customer. Right away the customer knows they are sorely missed, so it provides some human connection and emotion with the customer. VetRxDirect also emphasizes their 5 star customer rating and makes some cute four legged friends the visual stars of the email. A discount is also offered to the lapsed customer along with a personalized offered narrative.

Sadly, we all know that customers go inactive for some reason or another. Win-back campaigns are crucial when this happens. They are designed to do exactly what they say – win back long-lost customers and motivate them to purchase again. Win back campaign emails trigger on a period of purchase inactivity or latency. Measure the length of latency, or time between purchases in order to segment customers into this category. If a customer has been latent for 35 days, send an email on day 36 that offers incentive to return. You’ll need to analyze your customer dataset to determine the average time between first and second purchases. Use this data to trigger the win back campaign so that it reaches the customer as they before they appear at risk for churning.

This is the most important post purchase campaign and for good reason. It costs more to obtain a new customer than it does to keep an existing one, so by reactivating old or latent customers you increase your ROI and make your email marketing budget more effective.

Customers are more likely to purchase again if there’s something in it for them. This could be a discount, a coupon, free shipping or a free gift. Make sure you convey urgency in your offer and let them know that their deal has an expiration date. As we’ve said before, this type of campaign is extremely important in winning back lapsed customers and keeping them happy. You’ll want to have perfected emails in this campaign, ensuring that visuals are eye catching, offers are enticing and copy is on point. Once a customer decides to leave you for good, it can be nearly impossible to get them back.

Final words

Non-targeted batch and blast email sending is not an effective email marketing strategy and can even hurt both your reputation and bottom line. Marketers who send these generic, mass emails are no doubt seeing their ROI from email either stagnate or decrease.

After sending millions of emails, we’ve found that targeted emails based on where a customer is on the life cycle curve gets better results and increases ROI. Lifecycle email campaigns drive customer retention and spark quality engagement with new and potential customers. Given all the data on the success of lifecycle emails, it’s surprising to learn that they still only make up a small percentage of eCommerce emails. Turn your email marketing program around and implement one (or many) of the above email campaigns in order to make your email marketing program more impactful and boost ROI.