28 Essential Ways The Top DTC Brands Are Winning Back Online Shoppers

Jake Abrams
E-Commerce Writer

The average e-commerce conversion rate is only 2.63%. 

And depending on your industry, it’s often much lower. For example, if you’re running an online fashion store, you should only count on converting 1.41% of the people who visit your site. 

For every 1000 people who come to your site, the rules say that only 15 -30 will actually buy the first time.

So what do you do to bring the rest of that group back to buy?

As frustrating as it can be, it’s not the end of the world. By combining SMS, email, and
retargeting, you can find ways to bring people back to your e-commerce site to buy.

Let’s look at the 28 top win-back plays that the top e-commerce brands are using across SMS, email, and retargeting to bring people back to their website and recover lost sales.


The tactics used for a multi-channel strategy typically consist of social media, email marketing, and live chat. However, there’s one tactic that too many brands aren’t focusing on: SMS.

SMS marketing uses the power of text to engage your customers on their phones.

Why Is SMS a Good Tool to Win Back Customers?

Many benefits come with adding SMS to your marketing arsenal.

Effective marketing is about being human. You don’t just want to reach out to customers as prospects — you want to treat them as human beings.

SMS works because it’s personal. Since customers are typically used to getting texts from friends and family, they almost always open texts from brands.

SMS is also practical because it’s a lightning-fast way to get your message across. Check out these numbers 😱:

  • Open rates for SMS are around 98% and 45% — compared to 20% and 6% for email
  • 78% of customers say that SMS is the fastest way to reach them

Need some ideas for inspiration? Here are great examples of brands using SMS to win back their customers:

Examples of E-Commerce Brands Bringing Back Customers with SMS

Apolis: Use Urgency to Your Advantage

Urgency is a powerful trigger when it comes to conversion. Customers are more likely to make a purchase when there’s limited time to take advantage of an offer.

You’ve already done the job getting prospects to opt-in to texts, but that’s only half the work. To activate those on the fence, don’t be afraid to sprinkle in a bit of scarcity. 

It’s something that
Apolis understands very well in their SMS campaigns. In this example, they’re using text to promote a limited edition of their bags:

Why it Works:
  • Notice how the text message starts by the person introducing themselves (Hey there, this is Carolyn from Apolis!). This helps create a more personal connection with the customer.
  • Here Apolis is not just releasing a new product. They are also motivating the customer to take action quickly due to limited quantities.
  • Effective SMS marketing needs to be permission-based. The text ends with “Let me know if you want me to stop texting you”, to give customers the possibility to opt-out at any time.

Legends: Send Abandoned Cart Text Messages

Abandoned carts are a pain for e-commerce stores. Nothing is more frustrating than a customer making it to the last step, only to leave your site on a whim.

If you’re struggling with cart abandonment, you’re not the only one. US customers only buy around 69.57% of items they add to their shopping cart.

That’s where SMS comes in. Whenever a customer drops their cart, you can send them a text message to recover the sale 💰. Here’s an example from one of our Tone customers, Legends:

What happened here? This customer added one of their hoodies to their cart, but was unsure if the color was the right fit. Legends sent them a text to solve their doubts and ended with a new sale.

Why it Works:
  • The key to successful SMS marketing is to make it as human as possible. The customer wants to feel like they’re talking to a real person, which Legends does well in this example.
  • Timing is everything when it comes to sending abandoned cart texts. Make sure to send your SMS within a couple of hours after the customer drops their cart.

Aeropostale: Get the Customer’s Attention With Coupons & Promotions

Coupons & promotions are a classic way to win back customers. A little extra value can go a long way towards converting someone who did not buy the first time around. Because 90% of texts are opened within 3 minutes, SMS is a great way to make sure your coupons are seen by as many people as possible.

Here’s how Aeropostale used SMS to promote their coupons:

Why it Works:

  • Make sure your coupon includes a valuable offer. In this promotion, customers don’t just save money on a single product. They get the opportunity to save around 20% on their entire purchase with the voucher. That’s a big deal!

Kylie Cosmetics: Offer Exclusive Offers During Special Events

Special events such as Memorial or Earth Day are great times to promote your business. You can use one-time offers to commemorate the event and win back lost shoppers.

It’s also an opportunity to boost your brand reputation. For example, if your company stands for sustainability, you can offer an exclusive coupon during Earth Day and send part of the proceeds to environmental charities.

Let’s take a look at an example from Kylie Cosmetics. Here’s how they used SMS during International Women’s Day to bring back static customers:

Why It Works:
  • Special events and holidays are perfect times to run limited-time offers. In this example, text subscribers can get $10 off on products during Women’s Day. 
  • Showcasing your social responsibility is a great way to gain the customer’s trust and loyalty. A portion of Kylie Cosmetics’ sales will go to Girls Inc, a charity that helps women navigate through gender and social barriers.
  • The promotion is relevant to their target audience, which mainly consists of millennial and gen Z women.


Email remains a core digital marketing strategy in 2020.  For every $1 spent, email marketing drives around $38 in ROI.

It’s worth noting that email and SMS work extremely well together. They are both permission-based and offer direct access to your audience.

Why is Email a Good Tool to Win Back Customers?

Done correctly, email marketing can be an effective way to win back lost sales. When customers abandon their cart or lose interest in your products, you can create win-back email campaigns to get their attention. Here are some examples to inspire you:

Examples of Brands Killing The Email Win-Back Game

INH: Send a Cart Abandonment Email When Customers Don’t Follow Through

One of the keys to sending a successful abandonment cart email is timing. You’ll want to send your abandoned cart email within a couple hours after the customer abandoned their cart.

You also need to be creative to stand out. You’re probably not the only online store where your customer is shopping. 

Here’s great example INH, who we work with here at Tone.

For their abandoned cart emails, INH combines a beautiful image with a can’t-miss offer.

Why it Works:

  • INH has a clear call-to-action, with a code that customers can use to redeem the discount. By making it as easy as possible for the customer to get to their order, they will be more likely to finish their checkout.
  • Notice the language they use (for example, “Hey babe”). They use natural, conversational language that makes it feel like they’re talking to one of their friends, not their customers. It’s great for personal connection.
  • Lastly, their email includes all of the products that the customer left on their cart. INH gives them a second chance to complete their purchase.

Everlane: Get Customers Excited Again With Free Shipping

Whether your store offers free shipping or not can be a deal-breaker for customers. 91% of them will bounce off your store if there’s no free shipping at checkout.

It can also have a drastic impact on sales. 90% of customers are more motivated to purchase when free shipping is involved, while 58% of customers add to their cart to qualify for free shipping.

A great tactic is to send free shipping promotions to your customers via email, just like in this example from Everlane. For Mother’s Day, they offered free 2-day shipping on any purchase from their store:

Why it Works:

  • Make sure to start your email by letting customers know how much time exactly they have left before the offer expires. In this example, customers have to make an order before the night ends to get two-day free shipping.
  • A little bit of creativity in your email goes a long way. Everlane includes a beautiful collage of moms’ pictures to fit the Mother Day’s theme.

Perigold: Showcase Product Recommendations in Your Email

Lots of customers leave your site simply because they couldn’t find the product that they were looking for.

To take your cart abandonment email strategy to the next level, you can also add extra products that might be of interest. By giving the customer more choice, they may be more likely to make a purchase. For an example, check out this abandoned cart email from luxury design company Perigold:

Why it Works:

  • To maximize the chances of winning back a sale, try testing this: include the original product that your customer abandoned and 10 – 15 other products that might interest them. In this example, Perigold not only follows up with the dropped item in the email…but also gives the customer 12 different products to choose from.

Frye: Use Email To Gather Customer Feedback

A different approach to bringing back lost customers is more research-driven. You can use emails and surveys to gather insights from customers to find out why they left in the first place.

By understanding what they dislike about your product or service, your store can find ways to improve. And if they don’t reply to your email, you can send them a follow-up text.

Frye has been a top brand in the footwear industry since 1863. Here’s an example of a customer survey email that they send to learn more about their audience’s needs and expectations:

Why it Works:

  • In exchange for answering the customer survey, customers can get a $50 gift card. It’s a win-win for everyone and gives them a reason to answer the survey.
  • When running customer survey emails, you need to make it easy for customers to share and spread the word. Frye’s email also includes a link at the bottom that customers can click to share the survey with their friends.

Bose: Leverage Urgency with “Last-Chance” Offers

No one wants to feel like they’re missing out on a sweet deal.

If you’re offering a special promotion and customers are still ignoring it, you can follow up with them by sending a “last-chance” email. It gives them an extra incentive to make a purchase.

“Last-chance” emails typically work the best during sales seasons or special holidays. Here’s a great example from Bose for their Black Friday Sale:

Why it Works:

  • The email includes social proof with a five-star rating and testimonial from one of their happy customers. It further convinces the customer that they’re missing out on something big.
  • It emphasizes how much exactly they can expect to save, which is $80 on the product. As the user scrolls down, they can also find other deals on various products Bose sells.

Paul Mitchell: Send Them a Break-Up Email

Even with all the tips above, it’s possible that the customer still doesn’t engage. When everything fails, it may be time to say goodbye and send a break-up email…

Not all customers are worth pursuing. A break-up email will let the prospect know that if they don’t click on the CTA to remain a subscriber, you’ll remove them from your list. Observe how Paul Mitchell does this in their email:

Why it Works:

  • By eliminating unengaged subscribers from your list, you’ll improve your email reputation. This will improve your open rates for the people that are actually interested in buying from your e-commerce store.
  • Paul Mitchell keeps it fun with playful language and imagery to make sure there’s no hard feelings between them and customers.
  • Make sure to mention what’s at stake if the customer unsubscribes. By unsubscribing from Paul Mitchell, the subscriber loses out on style inspiration, new product announcements, and upcoming events.


While not direct like email and SMS, retargeting is another way to bring back lost customers to your e-commerce store.

E-commerce stores generally run retargeting across multiple platforms, like:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Retargeting networks, like Criteo or AdRoll
  • Twitter

For now, we’re going to focus on Facebook and Instagram.

Why is Retargeting a Good Way to Win Back Lost Customers?

The average person spends around 135 minutes a day on social media. So…the audience is there. With retargeting, you’ll provide them with a second chance to make a purchase as they scroll their feed.

Facebook also makes it incredibly easy to segment out your different retargeting audiences.

Let’s look at how top brands are using retargeting to engage with customers and boost their sales on social:

How The Top E-Commerce Brands Are Winning Back Customers With Retargeting

Uplift: Showcase Social Proof with Customer Testimonials

You can’t deny the power of social proof. 91% of customers trust only reviews as much as their own friends and family

By using social proof in retargeting ads on Facebook, you build the prospect’s confidence that current customers are satisfied. This is a proven way to convert people who are on the fence about buying.

Check out how Uplift leverages social proof in this particular ad:

Why it Works:

  • If others have good things to say about the product, people believe that it will work well for them too. This ad starts off with a testimonial for one of their customers, which helps gain trust from the prospect.
  • What’s also great about this ad is that it uses a UGC photo. Consumers are 2.5x more likely to think that user-generated content is more authentic than branded content.

Finnish Design Shop: Retarget Your Customers With Special Offers

Let’s take a look at Finnish Design Shop, for another example. They’re a home design brand known for its functionality and simplicity, that frequently run ads on Facebook to promote special offers:

In this case, they’re offering 15% off all patio and garden products from their store. The customer has until the end of the weekend to take advantage of the offer.

Why it Works:
  • When running Facebook ads, the copy and visuals have to be closely aligned. Finnish Design Shop’s image not only corresponds with their offer, it’s also eye-catching and draws the attention of the customer.

Warby Parker: Run Customer Quizzes Through Retargeted Ads

To better understand what your customers are looking for, you can drive traffic to customer surveys. You’ll uncover insights that are going to help you better meet their needs.

In the example below, Warby Parker retargets potential customers by encouraging them to answer a quiz on what they’re looking for in new glasses:

Once they answer the quick questions, customers can try-on different pairs of glasses with Warby Parker’s virtual try-on app.

Why it Works:

  • Including video in your retargeting ad makes it more engaging than if it’s static. Warby Parker does this extremely well  by adding GIFs in their ads to show how their glasses look in-hand.

Pact Apparel: Offer Free Shipping in Your Social Ad

Similarly to email, you can use Facebook ads to retarget lost customers with free shipping offers.

Pact Apparel is a brand that sells sustainable clothing from organic fabrics. In the example below, they retarget customers with a coupon on their first order and highlight that they’ll get free shipping:

Why it Works:
  • Ad copy needs to be short with a clear CTA. The sentence “Get 20% off your first order + Free shipping” creates a sense of urgency and encourages users to click on the link.
  • A good tip when retargeting your customers on social media is to include different products in your ad. Pact Apparel’s ad follows a carousel format, making it simple to scroll through various of their products, each with their own link.


Thanks for sticking with us until the end of this lengthy post!

The lesson here is…you can’t rely on one channel only if you want to win back customers.

By leveraging a strategy across SMS, email, and retargeting, you’ll be able to reach your audience wherever they spend their time.

And you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are proven plays across each of these channels that you can lift and shift for your own e-commerce brand.

In the best-case scenario, only 2-3 out of every 10 people who visit your site will buy right away. So make sure to dedicate your time and attention to winning back the 7-8 people who leave! They can still become customers with the right win-back strategy.

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