Winning back lapsed customers unfortunately has to be part of any CRM strategy. As incredible as your brand, service and comms might be, you’ll always lose customers – for reasons in and out of your control.
At the time of writing, the plan for easing lockdown restrictions across England has just been announced. For a lot of brands and retailers this will be welcome news – physical shops being able to open will unlock huge revenue streams that have been unavailable for so long. But will customers automatically come back? Will they have formed new habits and found brands that deliver a better service, or resonate with them more? For other retailers who have actually done well from the pandemic because of their online offering, will customers stick with them or go back to old habits? Will customers still feel the need to support challenger brands when the world is looking “normal”?
Whichever camp retailers sit in, they must carefully consider their CRM strategy during, and after, this transition period. But here we’ll take a look specifically at winning back lapsed customers.
First step, look at the data. Who do you want to win back? It may be surprising, but you might not want to win back all of your customers. Assess their value, check if they only ever shop during sales, think about whether they’re still your target market.
For those customers you decide you do want to win back, look at their past behaviour. When they were a regular customer, did they used to shop in store or online? Did they have products that were clearly their favourites? Did they always shop on a certain day of the week? Segment customers based on this behaviour and target your messages to show them you know them, and really do miss them.
A blanket “We’ve missed you!” message is unlikely to cut it but saying “We miss seeing you on a Saturday morning every couple of months for your regular hand cream purchase” will be so much more meaningful to the customer, and so much more impactful on your sales. With transactional data and some well-placed personalisation fields, that shouldn’t be too hard.
The other thing to look at data-wise, is your customer services data. Did the customer lapse because something went wrong? If so, be a human. Explain why it went wrong, apologise, and give them a reason to forgive you.
Use your lapsed customers as a learning opportunity. If the data doesn’t show you why they lapsed, ask them. What would it take for them to come back to you? What is it that they like and want? That way if they leave, you can use their less favourable experience to improve the experience for others. If the lapsed customer comes back, you can use what they’ve shared with you to personalise their experience and make it better second time round.
Getting through to these lapsed customers to have this dialogue is one of the toughest challenges. The key here is to catch them early, don’t let them get “too lapsed.” Recognising that their frequency has declined, their basket size has decreased or they’ve stopped engaging as much is important in catching them before it’s too late. Implementing some of the actions I’ve suggested at this point, will result in a lot more reengagements and considerable saved revenue than after they’ve been gone a few months.
If the customer has been gone a few months and they’ve disengaged from your brand, they’re unlikely to be reading your emails. But all is not lost - now is the time to try new channels. SMS can be a really effective way at getting more cut through if you have a short, sharp message, and is something I’ve effectively tested with brands in the past. Nowadays, a handwritten note would of course be my recommendation. What better way to be personalised, thoughtful and achieve cut through?!
Personalisation is key to give customers a good experience, so ultimately is the best way to win them back. But you shouldn’t forget your own brand when it comes to being personal. What have these past few months been like for you? Are there any personal stories you can tell to open their eyes to the human side of your business? Sharing your story will help customers resonate with you and want to give you their business.
Your customers should always “want” to shop with you, not just “need” your services. Create a real human connection and let that do the work.
Jeannine Rafferty (CCO - Chief Customer Officer)