Customer Retention Strategies: 16 Methods for Retaining Customers
Are you having trouble retaining customers? It’s a problem for many businesses, especially in competitive markets. People have a lot of options these days, so if you don’t have good customer retention strategies, your business won’t be as stable or profitable.
It costs five times as much to win a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. Customer retention is cheaper, more profitable, and in many ways easier than acquiring new customers.
In this post, we'll reveal why you should start focusing on customer retention and when. More importantly, we'll teach you how to retain customers with 16 powerful customer retention strategies, which are effective whether you own a SaaS company, e-commerce store, or freelance business.
Why Do Businesses Need to Focus on Customer Retention?
Client retention should be a top priority for any business, not just for growth but also for longevity. Without repeat customers, you'll find it hard to establish consistent revenue and work, not to mention long-term success.
Here are three reasons customer retention is crucial:
Lower cost – 82% of companies claim customer retention is significantly cheaper than customer acquisition. When you focus on keeping your existing customers happy, you’ll save money, as you won’t need to devote much time to acquiring new ones.
Increased average order value (AOV) – Loyal customers contribute to bigger sales volumes, as 57% of consumers spend more money on their favorite brands, compared to other businesses. In addition, according to Brandongaille, up to 70% of your business’s sales could be attributable to 15% of your customers — those most loyal to your brand.
Increased profits – As you take care of your customers, they keep coming back for more. Naturally, that loyalty and increased AOV trickle down to your bottom line. Studies show that increasing customer retention rates by 5% can increase your profits by 25% to 95%.
By embracing a focus on customer retention, you will nurture stronger relationships that fuel customer satisfaction and loyalty. Better yet, happy customers are more likely to refer your business to their family and friends, which helps promote your brand, grow your audience, and, of course, increase your revenue.
When you consider that word-of-mouth advertising generates five times more sales than paid advertising, it’s clear that any business that overlooks customer retention is leaving a lot on the table.
When Should Businesses Start to Focus on Retention?
If you’re unsure when to make customer retention a priority (or how much you should focus on it right now), you need to look at where your business is in its lifecycle.
For instance, a company operating for five years should invest more into customer retention than a startup that launched last week. As a new business, the initial goal is attracting your first customers so you can get off the ground. Focus on strategies to get customers.
When you have enough customers and generate sales, you can start implementing strategies to help you grow sales. Send retention emails at this stage to entice your existing customers to buy from you again.
After you've grown a sizable customer base and generate at least one sale per day, it's time to think more about how you can retain as many customers as possible. As your daily sales volumes grow, customer retention becomes equally important, if not more so, than customer acquisition.
16 Practical Customer Retention Strategies
Without a strategy, it can be hard to know if your efforts are working and what you need to change. When you have a strategy, you give your team the direction they need to make positive changes.
And so, here’s a rundown of tried-and-true customer retention strategies that will deliver fantastic results for e-commerce businesses and SaaS companies.
1. Provide Omnichannel Support
Clients value quality customer service. So much so, they expect businesses to provide fast, personalized support across multiple channels. Research from Business2Community reveals that 71% of customers want a consistent experience across all channels — but only 29% claim they get it from businesses.
While customer service is evolving rapidly, many businesses cannot provide the seamless omnichannel experience their customers want. The good news is, you can use JivoChat to offer the customer experience people expect and deserve.
With our omnichannel messenger, your customers can reach you on their preferred platforms, including social media, live chat, phone, email, and more. This holistic approach to customer service enables your team to respond to support tickets faster, thereby giving your customers one more reason to stick around.
- Respond Quickly to Issues
71% of consumers between age 16 and 24 say that a quick response can "drastically improve" the customer experience. One of the most effective ways to deliver a fast response is through live chat. And as 79% of customers prefer live chats to any other channel — including the phone — you’re losing out if you don’t offer this option.
With a live chat system, your team can respond to customers in real-time, making them feel appreciated. The ripple effect is that you can quickly win them over, so they become loyal brand advocates. Also, live chats help nurture proactive customer engagement, so you can help people with issues before more significant problems arise.
An agent’s view of JivoChat’s live chat dashboard. Source
3. Enable Customers to Self-Service
One of the best forms of customer support is a "hands-off" approach. By empowering your customers to take charge of solving their own problems, you remove the frustrations they might encounter when they contact your company for help.
Customer self-service allows your clients to find the information they need to sort out their issues without the help of a human agent. Some ways you can implement this approach include creating a knowledge base, how-to videos, or using automated chatbots.
These self-service options are omnipresent, enabling your customers to find answers to their problems at any time. By putting your customers in the driver’s seat, you make it easy for them to get help on their own terms.
In doing so, you improve the customer experience and increase customer satisfaction. This trend is growing, as 91% of consumers stated that they would use a self-service channel if it met their needs, and 84% said indicated that they had used a self-service channel in the last 12 months:
4. Create an Onboarding Program
Your efforts in retaining customers should begin from the moment you acquire them. Your onboarding process is crucial, as it will set the tone for how you do business with a new client or customer.
When done right, you can establish vital trust. But a poor onboarding experience can leave newly acquired clients reconsidering whether to do business with you before the ink has a chance to dry.
With a smooth and fully-supported onboarding process, you can build customer confidence, gather (and respond to) customers’ feedback, and meet their needs quickly.
When you meet your customers’ expectations, they’ll have a reason to buy from you again, so with an excellent onboarding process, you improve your chances of maximizing each customer’s lifetime value.
5. Fast Delivery and Easy Returns
92% of customers claim they will buy again from the same company — if the return process is easy.
Sometimes, customers aren’t sure what they want — or they need a chance to change their minds. If your business makes the return process difficult or expensive, prospects will leave to find a competitor that makes it easy.
Amazon has mastered online customer retention mainly because of its quick delivery and hassle-free returns system. People will return to buy from your business when they know you will deliver as quickly as possible. Moreover, if something doesn’t work out, they expect a painless process to correct the issue.
6. Close the Loop on Customer Feedback
Hearing your customers is just the start — you have to prove you understand and are taking action. This strategy is known as "closing the loop" and essentially boils down to how your business addresses complaints and concerns.
You can collect customer feedback with a survey or by conducting user testing and focus groups with your customers. When you act on feedback from your customers, they feel heard and are more likely to stick around. Conversely, people will quickly leave if they realize you don’t listen to them.
7. Educate Your Customers
Educational content increases the likelihood of customers buying by a remarkable 131%. People want to know how to get the most value from your products and services. If you show that you aren't just interested in taking their money but offering value and actionable advice that can benefit people, they will be more inclined to engage with you.
When you educate your customers, you’re giving them the information they need to make smart buying choices. Learning about the pros and cons of a product, for example, enables customers to know what to expect, which helps them make educated buying decisions.
You can educate your customer base with assets such as webinars, blog posts, and email sequences. An excellent example of educational content is Canva’s Design School, where Canva offers users how-to guides and step-by-step videos to help people improve their graphic design skills.
8. Set Up Triggered Emails
Just because a customer has gone AWOL doesn't mean they're gone forever. Triggered emails are great for engaging customers, especially those who haven’t bought anything or been active in your app for a long time.
These automated emails thrive on personalization, getting higher open rates and click-through rates than any other type of email. The best way to get the most out of your trigger emails is to create scarcity through limited availability.
Also, ensure your emails are concise and focused, as this approach will be more appealing to your recipients. Finally, include a clear call to action that brings people back to your app or store, strengthening that relationship with your brand.
An example of an email that uses scarcity to motivate the recipient. Source
9. Engage With In-App Messaging
In-app messaging gets content to users in an appealing fashion. Businesses that leverage in-app messaging increase their user retention by 3.5 times than those that don’t use this strategy.
Onboarding is one of the most effective ways you can use in-app messaging for customer retention. By sending messages during onboarding, you can quickly familiarize users with your product features through genuine communication and engagement. This approach can lead to successful promotions of your premium content.
Major League Baseball, Advanced Media (MLBAM), used in-app messaging as a content promotion tool by sending personalized messages to fans as soon as teams settled a 2015 playoff series. The messages congratulated fans on the playoff successes, then capitalized on the enthusiasm of the postseason by offering video subscription opportunities. This campaign led to a 43% overall increase in sales.
10. Use In-Moment Surveys
In-moment customer feedback allows you to gather insights from customers who are using your product or service in real-time. Engaging consumers at the exact moment they’re experiencing your product will enable you to collect natural, honest feedback.
Real-time surveys make it hard for customers to ignore your questions like they might with emails. Instead of coming across as disruptive, most customers view in-moment surveys as a natural step to start a dialogue about how they feel when interacting with your product.
To make the most out of this strategy, make sure to ask questions that generate honest opinions from consumers. For instance, ask them to identify areas that need improvement for your product or business approach.
In-moment surveys show users that their input is critical, which makes them feel valued. When done right, real-time surveys lead to a product customers can associate with, making them want to buy many times over.
11. Start a Customer Loyalty Program
Customer relationships thrive when both the seller and consumer feel they are benefitting. Clients support you when they buy your products and, in turn, get rewarded for purchasing from your brand.
Loyalty programs enable you to build a more engaging customer experience. With 95% of consumer choices happening subconsciously, and strongly influenced by experiences, starting a customer reward program holds great potential.
Apart from encouraging repeat purchases, loyalty programs spur customers to spend more, as people want to take full advantage of the reward programs. By including a multi-channel customer service system in your loyalty program, you can foster greater engagement by tuning into your customers’ needs.
Want some inspiration? One of the best loyalty programs is from sports giant Nike. The program has attracted over 100 million members — who typically spend three times more than guest customers.
Loyalty programs like Nike’s evoke a "sense of belonging" for your customers, which results in high customer retention.
Nike’s mobile interface for its loyalty program. Source
12. Build a Community Around Your Product
One of the most effective ways to nurture brand ambassadors and retain customers is to create a community around your product.
When one community member begins to lose interest, the community acts as an anchor or magnet, drawing the lost sheep back in and reminding them of their shared love for the company or product.
The sad truth is, nearly half of Americans feel isolated or alone. A community can be the remedy they’re looking for. You can start with a discussion board or a forum on your website, offering a medium for open conversation that makes customers feel a part of the larger community.
For instance, Gymshark, a fitness apparel company, unites its customer base through its how-to blog that serves as an online customer hub. Customers often find their way here after referrals from social media influencers who actively champion and promote the community.
Similarly, the Moz SEO platform has built an active user forum where members collaborate and answer questions about product and general SEO topics. Many of the threads also rank in the search results.
13. Use Gamification
Gamification is perfect for online customer retention. At its core, this strategy is an accelerated loyalty program that offers quick wins and dopamine hits for greater engagement with your brand. While anyone can walk away from the long-term journey to earn rewards in a traditional loyalty program, it's much harder when gamified elements engage them every day, bringing them closer to a 2,000-point milestone.
The outcomes are impressive. Around 30% of companies that implement gamification in their marketing strategies improve conversation rates by over 50%.
You can get started by providing your customers with a competition platform — a system where the best customers are featured on a leaderboard. Make sure you update your scores regularly to keep your customers engaged.
The design software company, Autodesk, implemented this strategy and discovered their free trials had a much higher probability of converting as their customers used the software more often.
14. Surprise Customers
Shoppers love surprises. When it comes to retaining customers, "surprise and delight" is an effective strategy to ensure your clients stick around.
So, once in a while, offer your customers something they don’t see coming. The beauty of surprises is that you don’t have to spend money or go through any hassle to enjoy the rewards. As they say, it’s the thought that counts.
Jawbone, for instance, sends a handwritten note to its customers. Subtle as it may be, customers appreciate it since it shows the brand values and cares about them.
And when you think about it, writing out notes to every one of your customers is time-consuming — meaning your genuine love for your customers shines through.
15. Acknowledge Your Mistakes
Mistakes are inevitable. When you make them, be ready to own up. While mistakes can ruin your brand's reputation, it’s how you deal with them that matters.
These days, authenticity in marketing goes a long way. 86% of customers state that authenticity is vital when deciding on what brands they support.
This honesty helps build deeper connections and win clients’ trust. The truth is, customers will believe that you're genuinely trying to fix a problem. Most importantly, letting them know what you're doing to resolve the mess will help build transparency — a key to retaining customers.
Once you've outed your mistakes publicly or privately, depending on the situation, you can use the experience to learn from and eventually teach others. After all, the best leaders are the guides and teachers who light the way only after they've carved out the treacherous path beforehand.
16. Keep Track of Retention Metrics
Tracking the rate of customer retention is the only way to know if your efforts are bearing fruit. The most important metrics to keep an eye on include attrition, repeat customer rate, and customer lifetime value (CLV).
By measuring these metrics, you can determine which strategies are working well and which ones need improvement. When you’re in charge of retention metrics, you can figure out how to keep your customers around.
Make sure to measure your retention metrics regularly to ensure you're on track. When you understand your customer base's wants, you can craft ways to serve them better, thereby boosting your retention rate.
Make Customer Retention a Priority
It’s no secret: Getting new customers is difficult. And so, you must do everything in your power to retain the customers you already have.
With the online customer retention strategies in this article, you have the tools to offer a superior brand experience that people won't want to part with anytime soon. Pick a few strategies to get started and track your efforts, making minor adjustments along the way to keep your customers happy at every touchpoint, from their first visit to conversion and beyond.
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