Email Marketing
Shopping experience

How to use post-purchase emails for customer retention

Post-purchase email campaigns are relatively easy and inexpensive to target, and as they gain traction, you will acquire still more data. The phrase “snowballing success” might as well have been invented to describe this strategy.

In email marketing for ecommerce, the focus is most often on new customer acquisition. The rationale is that the more new people come to your website, the more will convert. However, while essentially sound, this rationale has its limits. There is a lot of evidence that emails aimed at retaining your existing customers can actually serve you better.

This category of email marketing is referred to as post-purchase emails, because they are directed at contacts who have already bought something from your business. There are five main types of post-purchase emails you can send to your customers:

  1. Receipt and order confirmation
  2. Feedback and information gathering
  3. Cross-sell and upsell
  4. Help and FAQ (post-purchase care)
  5. Reminders for resupply

You don’t have to give up email marketing aimed at attracting brand new customers, and post-purchase emails are by no means a substitute for new customer acquisition. Especially when you first start your business, acquiring new customers is the only way to increase revenue. However, sooner or later, you will hit a hard limit. Although your conversion may remain the same, the cost of acquisition will grow with each new customer and ultimately, there are only so many people who may be interested in your product.

Once you reach this ceiling, growing your business by attracting and acquiring new customers becomes harder and more costly. So how do you continue unimpeded growth? Turn to the people that you already know the best: your existing customers.

Previous customers have already bought into your message and established a sufficient amount of trust to actually dish out money for your products. On top of that, you have already paid acquisition costs for these customers and have an insight into their buying patterns.

All these factors present a brilliant opportunity to make your offers more personalized and market your products to current customers. Unlike other forms of customer acquisition, email allows you to address your customers directly with an offer that fits their unique circumstances. Post-purchase email campaigns are relatively easy and inexpensive to target, and as they gain traction, you will acquire still more data. The phrase “snowballing success” might as well have been invented to describe this strategy.

Receipt and order confirmation

Once your customer purchases a product, they will expect to receive a receipt. In a traditional brick-and-mortar store, you get a receipt handed to you after purchase. An ecommerce store delivers this through email, in keeping with the spirit of the media. The receipt must contain information on what your customer bought, how much it cost, and when the customer can expect it to be shipped and delivered.

Thanks to this obligatory information, customers are highly motivated to open these messages. Receipt and order confirmation emails receive astounding open rates of 70% on average.

A widely established fact is that customers who have already made a purchase have a 60 to 70% higher likelihood of purchasing and spend 33% more. Plus, each percent increase of customer retention lowers the cost by 5%.

With stats like these, it’s no surprise that research indicates over 80% of all ecommerce businesses rely on email for customer retention. Receipt and confirmation emails are one of the best tools to retain customers, so let’s examine several examples.


Chewy confirmation email

As you can see, Chewy’s receipt email contains only the basic elements: It shows the customer the price per item, the total cost broken down with shipping and tax, plus the total item cost. It also lets the recipient track the shipment and contact the company.

This straightforward email helps increase customer trust and sets a good foundation for future emails. The customer knows they can rely upon you to provide accurate and up to date information.

However, this email lacks any element to induce the customer to come back to the website. Adding related products or the option to refer a friend would make it much more likely the customer would visit your website again.


Zully’s confirmation email

The confirmation email from Zully contains the list of items bought, as well as a tracking button, however it lacks the total price customer paid. On the other hand, there are “New today,” “Trending picks,” and “Last chance” links to the website, so customers can check out other items they may have missed. 

These links increase the likelihood the customer would visit the site again and possibly buy some more items. The link to the app is also useful, especially if the customer has opened the email on their mobile phone (and 46% of customers will).


Toms receipt email

Toms sends a receipt and in the bottom section reminds customers how part of the money they have spent goes to social causes. This helps customers feel they are doing something good not just for themselves but also for society.

Feedback and information gathering

Once your customer has bought a product, you can use the opportunity to get information and feedback. To achieve this you can conduct customer surveys, invite customers to provide a review of your product or service, and provide a trust indicator for your prospects.

Using surveys, you can identify problems your customers have with your website and how to make improvements. For example, you can ask your customers what obstacles they had to overcome to make a purchase. You can also use this opportunity to find out more about your customers and ask questions about their demographics.

Demographic data can allow you to make your future communication with customers more personalized. It can also help you create customer personas by matching the demographic data with visitor groups.

Additionally, when you ask customers for their opinion, they will feel valued and if they see that their opinions are being used, they will be more willing to help you in the future.


Biscuiteers sends a post-purchase email with an invitation to write a review. 

Biscuiteers invitation to write a review

The email is very clear and asks the customer to provide a review in order to get better service and improve the website. The copy also tells customers the company would love to hear their opinion, making customers feel appreciated. With a clear action button to write a review, it is very likely many customers will actually respond.


Casper is a well-known mattress retailer famous for its customer relations as well as high-quality mattresses. In an effort to get even better, they send their customers an email to ask what they think of their purchase.

Casper’s customer feedback email

The email asks customers how they slept on their new Casper products. The call to action (CTA) button provides an element of personalization by directly referring to the exact products customers have bought.

In Casper’s case, there is an additional “refer a friend” CTA complete with an incentive to receive $50 off their orders. 

Combining two tactics to foster customer loyalty in one email, like Casper, greatly increases the likelihood that at least one of the CTAs will succeed.


Revolution sells fresh drinks and uses post-purchase emails to survey its visitors. Their tactic offers a 10% discount for customers who elect to fill out the survey.

Revolution post-purchase survey email

This achieves two goals: to get information about the customer and to get them to purchase again. In effect, Revolution’s survey email converts visitors into repeat customers. 

A survey like this can reveal important information about your customers, such as whether they would recommend your company to their friends, or if there is a part of your website or service they do not like. Properly structured surveys can help make your website better or reangle your marketing effort. Responses can even help you make your copy better by using the customers’ own words to promote your products.

Cross-sell and upsell

Cross-selling and upselling refers to the tactics of offering other products to your customers, or giving customers the chance to buy upgrades and increase the usability of a product they have already bought. Upsells typically come into play during the checkout process, especially if the sold product is customizable, while cross-sell offers take place after the customer completes the checkout.

To increase the likelihood your customers will return, you can use email to send customers an offer to make the product they bought even better. Email is best when it takes some time for a customer to understand the limitations of the product and reach the point where they want to expand its features.

For example, if your company sells laptops, you can send new customers an offer to upgrade the memory or increase the storage size. You can observe the behavior of your average customers and schedule upsell emails to coincide with the average customer's behavior.

Cross-sells can be especially effective if you sell seasonal goods. For example, if a customer purchased summer clothes, you can email them an offer for winter clothes when the season changes. In cases like this, you can deduce a lot of information about your customer as they purchase your goods, and use this data to make your offer more personalized.


For example, Sambag sends an email to offer customers a new product that matches their previous purchase.

Sambag cross-sell email

By saying “We love your recent purchase,” Sambag makes the customer feel appreciated and self confident so they will be more likely to purchase again.

Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club is a subscription business selling shaving goods for men. While you are subscribed, you receive a monthly delivery of products such as razors or shaving cream. Occasionally, you will receive an email offering an upsell for your subscription plan.

Dollar Shave Club upsell email

They offer to put additional items into your monthly shipment, such as shaving cream and similar items.


When you buy an item from Walmart, they will send you an email offer to buy additional items that are related to the one you just bought. In their case, the cross-sell is combined with a purchase receipt, in order to make a customer more susceptible to the offer.

Walmart digital receipt with a cross-sell offer

In this case, the customer has bought a student desk and Walmart offers a selection of swivel chairs to go with it.

Help and FAQ

Sometimes, the products you sell can be complicated to use and understand. Maybe customers need to follow a series of steps to get the product to perform, or some functionalities are not immediately visible. If this is the case, you can initiate an email that will help your customers understand how to put the products to best use.

By educating your customers, you decrease the load on your customer support and also show your customers that you care. Help customers to succeed in their goals and use your products in the proper manner, or enable them to care for the product properly and extend its usable life. 

These emails essentially function like a targeted FAQ section that will strengthen the trust customers have towards your brand.


Framebridge customer education email

Framebridge sells picture frames online. One of the emails they send to customers contains handy tips on how to hang a picture frame. The complete guide helps customers put their products to better use and creates a bond of trust between them and the company. If they know you will help them use the product they have bought, they will be more likely to purchase another of your products.

Many brands combine their educational emails with blog content, sending their customers links to blog posts relevant to the products they have bought.

Reminders for resupply

Finally, a good way to maintain your relationship with customers after a purchase is to communicate with them and offer resupply. While this tactic is most apparently useful for products that run out of supplies (such as printers for example), or products that are depleted on a regular basis (like cosmetics), it can also be applied with variations to products that have limited lifetime (such as underwear, socks, and other clothing).

You can enhance the effect of these emails by tracking the behavior of customers and matching orders for resupply to the frequency of purchases. This makes mailing list segmentation easy, as you only need to record the item your customer bought and the purchase date, then coordinate your email with the expected lifetime of the product or approximate length of time before it will need to be replenished. 

Send your customer the email with an offer to buy a resupply at the proper moment, just as your customer needs a refill. 


Cosmetics brand Sephora uses replenishment emails to entice their customers to purchase more products. 

Sephora replenishment email

This email contains efficient copy inviting customers to restock their stash. Based on the previous purchases, Sephora is able to estimate when customers will run out of the product they have bought. There is a single, prominent CTA: “Restock now,” accompanied by an image of the product.


Purina sells various food items for dogs and cats. One of the services they offer is a custom mixed blend of various types of dog food that you can personalize for your dog. Accompanying this option is the email you receive whenever your supply is about to run out.

Purina replenishment email

Purina uses various personalization techniques, such as the pet’s name and how much the pet eats, to suggest a custom blend. In addition to ordering a restock of the food, you can create a new blend if your pet is no longer happy with it. The email also contains support links and a contact phone number.


Harrod sells garden and home improvement products including seasonal items customers may need every year at specific times.

Harrod replenishment email

The email has a clear message alerting customers that it is time to consider buying slug killer since it is the season when slugs are becoming active. The email contains the product image as well as an image of a clock, to increase the sense of urgency.


Post-purchase emails are vital to increasing and maintaining customer lifetime value. To recap, the five major types of post-purchase emails are: 

  1. Receipt and order confirmation
  2. Feedback and information gathering
  3. Cross-sell and upsell
  4. Help and FAQ (post-purchase care)
  5. Reminders for resupply

Of course, you can combine multiple post-purchase emails into one package, such as adding up-sell and cross-sell offers to a receipt. On the other hand, you may find that every post-purchase element can stand on its own in a series of separate emails, each of which will generate results and boost your bottom line.

Make your post-purchase emails ultra efficient by incorporating customer preferences and gauging the lifecycle of your products in order to send relevant offers at the proper times. 

By sending customers post-purchase emails providing accurate information about products they have bought, you will instill trust and foster brand loyalty. These key messages will make customers better identify with your company, increasing the likelihood visitors will come back again and again to buy products from you.

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