How 6 Top Retailers Use Email to Convert One-Off Purchasers into Repeat Customers

Posted by Hannah Stacey 24 Jul 15

shutterstock_204471325Back in January, we decided to embark upon a little research project into the lifecycle email marketing habits of 20 top online retailers.

We signed up to their newsletters, abandoned baskets, clicked through from emails, added items to wishlists, made purchases… you get the picture.

While you can read about much of what we found in our Email Marketing Playbook (click here to download), I wanted to post an update that takes a specific look at one of the major tasks in customer lifecycle marketing: turning one-off purchasers into repeat customers.

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that having a database of loyal, repeat customers is the ultimate dream for any ecommerce business. And the days and weeks following a first purchase are critical in deciding whether a one-off customer comes back to shop again or disappears off into the online shopping abyss.

So six months and over 6,000 emails later, we took a look at the efforts the retailers in our study went to re-engage us after we made our first purchase.

Here are six of the best.


Of the retailers we looked at, Adidas had the most concentrated post-purchase activation strategy. In the two months following our purchase, we were sent:

  1. A free shipping offer (4 days post-purchase)

  2. A review request, accompanied by a 10%-off voucher (9 days post-purchase)

  3. A 15%-off voucher (around 3 weeks post-purchase)

  4. A ‘save £15’ voucher (around 5 weeks post-purchase)

  5. A ‘save £40’ voucher code (around 2 months post-purchase)

Each email is accompanied by a reminder (usually a week later) if the offer hasn’t been claimed.

Admittedly, offering a series of progressively sweeter deals can be a risky strategy, as it can encourage people to hold out for a better offer. Nonetheless, Adidas appears to overcome this by spacing its emails out over a 2-month period.

Why we love it:

  • Strong brand tone of voice and images: Achieving brand buy-in is just important now as it is at the point of acquisition. Adidas’s emails are bold, eye-catching and completely in-keeping with the rest of the brand’s customer communications.

  • Product recommendations: Adidas uses data from your purchase to inform a ‘specially selected for you’ block in its emails, tempting you back on-site to buy more.

Fred Perry

Consumers may be wise to the realities of automated personalisation in email marketing, but using the personal touch by making customers feel special isn't a defunct tactic quite yet.

While many online retailers create the illusion of exclusivity in their marketing messages, Fred Perry keeps to its word in its email below, only sending it to customers (not subscribers who haven’t bought yet).

Why we love it

  • ExclusivityThe email makes it clear that you’re one of a select few recipients, creating an affinity between you and the brand.

  • Great copy: The email has clear, witty copy.

  • Urgency: Fred Perry introduces a sense of urgency by time-limiting the offer and including a strong ‘shop now’ CTA.

House of Fraser

Two weeks after we purchased a lovely t-shirt from House of Fraser, we received the email below offing us £10 off our next purchase over £50. Moreover, because we didn’t click through and buy, we got a cheeky reminder 12 days later.  

Why we love it

  • Reminders: with so many things jostling for our attention, it can be easy to forget about an offer even if we’re interested in it. Used wisely, sending a follow-up reminder to those that don’t respond the first time can be effective in upping conversion rates.

  • Online/offline: We really like how House of Fraser includes a voucher to use in-store instead, luring a new customer in for an in-store experience.


download Ometria's post-purchase email cheat sheet


Gaining customer feedback is also an important part of the post-purchase process, and some clever retailers like Schuh (and Adidas above) are combining review requests with an offer or discount for ultimate re-activation.

Why we love it

  • Two birds with one stone: Not only does this provide Schuh with valuable product feedback and powerful social proof, but it also incentivises a further purchase by offering a deal.

  • Clear CTA: The email has minimal fuss; it pictures our purchase and has a clear call to action - ‘leave a review’.


All of the emails that we’ve looked at so far were sent fairly early on in the wake of a purchase, aiming to get a speedy second purchase in.

Nonetheless, as time draws on and a customer looks at risk of not returning (in customer lifecycle marketing, we’d call these customers ‘at risk’ or ‘lapsed’), some retailers choose to use email to try and reactivate them.

After two months of no-show, JOY sends absent first-time purchasers the email below.

Why we love it:

  • Tone: the email isn’t pushy; it subtly nudges those that have gone AWOL back in the right direction.

  • Personalised recommendations: while admittedly the product mix isn’t completely spot on in this email, the fact that JOY includes both products that are ‘trending’ and also ‘personalised’ recommendations provides double the excuses to get back onto the shop to browse.


Continuing on the lapsing customer theme, we received the email below from Missguided when we hadn’t been spotted on-site for six months.

Why we love it

  • Branding: as with many of the other emails we’ve featured, this email gets top marks for being super engaging.

Key takeaways

  • Use the subtle touch: don't be too pushy - someone might not be ready to buy again yet. Make the tone of your emails helpful and friendly. 
  • Don’t rely on newsletters to bring first-time customers back for more: set up triggered drip campaigns targeted specifically at driving a quick next purchase.

  • Send reminders for non-openers: send a follow-up if someone hasn’t engaged with your first email.


Triggered email for retailers by Ometria - find out more

Topics: Ecommerce email marketing

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