How to Keep Your Existing Customers in Good and Bad Times: 6 (Easy) Customer Retention Strategies

Find out Which Strategies Help Your Business Driving Customer Loyalty

Claudia Scharf
Tim Nicholson

Written by Claudia Scharf & Tim Nicholson

May 06, 2020 | Reading Time: 25 Minutes

How to Keep Your Existing Customers in Good and Bad Times: 6 (Easy) Customer Retention Strategies

Table of Contents

6 (Easy) Customer Retention Strategies

  1. Customer Onboarding, Education and Inspiration
    Ensure Your Customers Get the Most out of Your Product and Fall in Love With Your Brand
  2. Customer Feedback
    Become the Best by Asking Your Customers About Areas for Improvement
  3. Communication
    Stay in the Forefront of Your Customers’ Minds (And Close to Their Hearts) by Engaging With Them in a Relevant Manner
  4. Personalization
    Make Your Offer and Communication Relevant for Your Individual Customers
  5. Surprise & Delight
    Give a Boost to Customer Satisfaction and Set Yourself Apart From Competition
  6. Loyalty Programs
    Combine All of the Above and More With a State-Of-The-Art Loyalty Program

Most of us are saturated with news about Covid-19. On a personal level it has hit us all hard (some harder than others), dramatically re-shaping the way in which we work and, most likely, causing anxiety about the future of this work. For businesses, customer acquisition and retention are always a priority, but crises necessitate a re-focus and new strategies to ensure their survival.

We are grateful, because we can work from home, but many shops and restaurants as well as production lines are closed. Everything is slowing down, and whilst some may relish the opportunity for more time with their families or reinvigorating their exercise routine, right now most of us (us included) are quite rightly concerned about the negative consequences for the economy.

The planet may be regenerating as human interference is restricted, but the economy is slowing down, and this will have far reaching impact. Past crises – including the 2008 financial crash and 9/11 in the US – give us some idea of the potential economic backlash. Consumer confidence has already dropped. Cash flow and high stock levels will become all-encompassing concerns.

In economically difficult times individuals and companies tend to focus on the status quo – do what needs to be done, but nothing more. Consumers and businesses tend to spend less and put new projects on hold – that new kitchen or ERP system can wait.

Consequently, many industries see their sales pipelines shrinking. E-commerce and some other industries might be better positioned but acquiring new customers in times of uncertainty is unlikely. Arguably, marketing is your most valuable asset in times of crisis, however, when feeling the pinch, companies are forced to take the decision to reduce or stop their acquisition strategies entirely.

As a result, existing loyal customers will become the main source of revenue.

Why Is Customer Retention More Important Than Ever?

In the current market customer loyalty is especially important, but even without an economic downturn, focusing on retention is a wise thing to do.

  • According to Harvard Business Review it costs 5 times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one.
  • RJMetrics puts the likelihood of an ecommerce customer making a second purchase at 30%, however following the second purchase, the likelihood of a third jumps past 50%.
  • Marketing Metrics is even more optimistic, putting the success rate of selling to an existing customer at 60-70%, while the success rate of selling to a new customer is only 5-20%. The reason behind it is simple: existing customers have purchased from you already. If they had a good experience, they will buy from you again. You have established trust and customers know their way around your store, on your ecommerce site or B2B ordering platform. So, it is no secret that you will see better conversion rates with existing customers than with new ones.
  • RJ Metrics also identified that top customers spend three times more than the rest of your customer base. Additionally, existing customers are usually less price sensitive. Discounts and offers are mainly required to lure in new or disloyal customers.
  • This is also proven by the latest study of KMPG, where 52% of the consumers surveyed say they will buy their favorite brand even if it is cheaper and more convenient to buy a rival product.

All of this, AND an additional positive side effect, that of free advertising from your loyal, satisfied customers. Word of mouth is one of the best marketing tools out there, so long as your customer experience is good, and that is one quick win in a time of reduced marketing spend.

So, where to begin?

6 (Easy) Customer Retention Strategies

Deciding on, and investing in, a customer retention strategy can feel overwhelming, especially when companies are trying to maintain operating ‘business as usual’ in a most unusual time.

The basis for retention will always be a great product or service offering that meets a customer’s needs at the right price. Below are an additional six easily implemented customer retention strategies, many of which you may have already established, or at least researched, but could definitely benefit from a review to reflect the changing market. Your aim is to get your customers so hooked on your product or service that they are not swayed by any newcomer to the scene, no matter what tempting offer they might display. They know you, they trust you, you give them what they need and they feel valued.

  1. Customer Onboarding, Education and Inspiration
  2. Customer Feedback
  3. Communication
  4. Personalization
  5. Surprise & Delight
  6. Loyalty Programs

1. Customer Onboarding, Education and Inspiration

Ensure Your Customers Get the Most out of Your Product and Fall in Love With Your Brand

For anyone to fully buy in to a product or service they need to reap the full benefits of it and therefore they need to understand it, in depth.

Whenever you acquire a new customer make sure they know how to make use of your product or service in the best possible way. In B2B, self-service material and trainings are already essential to onboard and educate customers, but this is equally key for B2C. Customers are even more discerning when spending their own money on a product or service and they want their bang for buck.

Give them the tips and tricks of the trade – let them utilize your offering to the max. Not only will they feel great satisfaction from getting value for money, but it will stimulate your business to go to the next level of development, constantly evolving your product or service and making customers hungry for the next release.

Customers also like to feel that they ‘know’ their brands – where you came from and what makes you tick. Talking about the reason your company came into existence can be advantageous: customers start seeing more than just your product or service, they start understanding your motivation and values. If done right, it can foster an emotional bond with customers who share similar values and best-case scenario – you have grown some loyal brand advocates giving you that precious positive word of mouth.

Overall, if customers get the most out of your offering as well as understand and value the story behind it, they will be more reluctant to leave.

Examples:

Oatly (B2C)

Onboarding & Customer Education Programs Example Oatly (B2C)

Oatly is a vegan food brand producing alternatives to dairy products from oats. They do a great job at informing customers about their products, ingredients used as well as pros and cons on their website and the product itself. They make sure customers know everything they need to know about oat milk. Their product descriptions are honest and authentic conveying a positive brand image. Reading the information, it becomes clear that Oatly is genuinely interested in their customers’ well-being.

Apple (B2C)

Onboarding & Customer Education Programs Example Apple (B2C)

Apple – the American technology company – educates their customers about the usage of the iPhone. Via the pre-installed “tips app” customers can get to know the latest features and many useful tricks to get the most out of their iPhone experience.

Salesforce (B2B)

Onboarding & Customer Education Programs Example Salesforce (B2B)

Salesforce – the American cloud-based software company – created the “trailhead” which is a fun and engaging online training platform to learn more about Salesforce, its features and how to use and manage it. They also added some gamification elements so that users can earn badges whenever they complete a level.

Your Super Food

Onboarding & Customer Education Programs Example Your Super Food

Your Super Food – a producer of smoothie mixes – goes to great lengths to share their story with customers via videos and newsletters: Michael one of the founders was diagnosed with cancer. His girlfriend and co-founder Kristel started making superfood mixes for him to get his immune system up and running after the cancer treatment. Making these mixes on her own was very time-consuming so they started producing them professionally and sharing it with everyone via Your Super Food.

2. Customer Feedback

Become the Best by Asking Your Customers About Areas for Improvement

Just because they chose you once, does not mean they will choose you again. UNLESS, you are still relevant for them. Never stop trying to improve. Ask customers how you can serve them better. As a result, they will feel valued, listened to and in control.

Surveys and feedback forms do not have to be long – utilize social media for quick polls, with the option to give more feedback. Everyone is busy, but although it might seem controversial to ask customers to spend their precious time answering your survey, most people love to give their opinions – especially if it might bring about a new development that benefits them.

Customer feedback is a valuable source for identifying required product or service enhancements. This insight can help to improve the overall customer experience and drive you forwards as the best in your industry.

Examples:

Netflix (B2C)

Customer Feedback Example Netflix (B2C)

The customer survey feedback form of Netflix the American streaming service provider and production company.

Various (B2C and B2B)

Customer Feedback Example Various (B2C and B2B)

According to Fred Reichheld from Bain & Company, “thousands of innovative companies … adopted NPS [the net promoter score]” as a measure to survey their customers and ask for feedback (see a selection of companies pictured above). This unique way of listening to customers has helped many companies to optimize their offering and become the very best version of themselves.

3. Communication

Stay in the Forefront of Your Customers’ Minds (And Close to Their Hearts) by Engaging With Them in a Relevant Manner

Proactively engage with your customers through their preferred means of communication.  You have so many tools at your fingertips – email, phone, personal interaction via customer service, advertisements, social media.

Communication done well reaps huge rewards, but it can just as easily turn a relationship sour, so this is another reason that genuinely listening to customer feedback is key. If you continue to offer relevant content and information, you build a trusting relationship and, as a result, the next time a purchasing decision is around the corner, you are much more likely to be remembered and chosen by your engaged customers.

Communication in the digital age is two-way: on the one hand you can share useful information, product and service updates with your customers. On the other hand, you can listen, collect feedback and better understand their points of view.

If a customer has opted in, a newsletter is a great way to start – ideally as personalized as possible. The supermarket Kroger was one of the first ones to send out individual e-mails. Each e-mail is highly personalized based on past purchase behavior, and customers are rewarded with coupons for their favorite products

Additionally, there might be many other reasons to communicate and demonstrate your brand positioning and values. The current crisis has given us great examples of company communication.

The golden rule to remember for your communication strategy: Be customer-centric! Your communication needs to appeal to the target audience i.e. be of relevance and value to them (e.g. of informative, inspiring, entertaining or monetary value). Also, your customers should neither be overloaded with communication nor should they hear from you too sporadically.

Examples:

Kroger (B2C)

Communication Example Kroger (B2C)

A typical mailing of Kroger the American retail company.

Lufthansa (B2C)

Communication Example Lufthansa (B2C)

Lufthansa – a German airline company – communicates well, even in times of crisis with most of their planes grounded. They informed customers about the „return flights” they were operating to make sure tourists can get back to Germany after being stranded on for instance New Zealand amid Covid-19. The staff accompanying the flights were mostly volunteers truly caring about their passengers and fellow citizens.

Hahnemuehle Fineart (B2B)

Communication Example Hahnemuehle Fineart (B2B)

Hahnemuehle Fineart – a German paper manufacturing company – switched most of its production line to help deliver paper-based test strips for Covid-19. In April managing director Jan Woelfle (pictured above) confirmed the monthly production of 20 million test kits. Although Hahnemuehle itself is rather modest and reserved in their communication, they benefited from local and regional newspapers spreading the good news.

Under Armour (B2C)

Communication Example Under Armour (B2C)

Under Armour – the sports footwear and apparel brand – wants to help its customers to stay active even though being at home during the Covid-19 lockdown. They started a 30-days challenge in which members must log 12 20-minutes workouts. If they do so Under Armour will donate to Good Sports, an organization providing sports equipment to kids in need. Under Armour’s engagement did not stay unnoticed – press and social media picked up on it and reported about the challenge.

wiiv program (B2C)

Communication Example wiiv program (B2C)

wiiv – a multi-partner loyalty program in Mauritius – wanted to delight their members over the Easter weekend by sending tips and ideas: “What to do at home during the Covid-19 lockdown”. They completely stopped their commercial communication and advertisement but instead focused on what people might need right now and provided information and further content in a very charming and soothing way.

4. Personalization

Make Your Offer and Communication Relevant for Your Individual Customers

Many studies prove that customers request personalization whilst at the same time, being reluctant to share too much personal information. Companies can easily overcome this reluctance by building trust.

  • As KPMG puts it: “Truly personalized offers can cut through the clutter. In this context, relevance drives revenue.”
  • According to Gartner, personalization can help increase ecommerce profits by 15%.
  • A recent study by Twilio confirms that 75% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a company that knows their name and purchase history and recommends products based on their preferences.

You can start with personalization easily by addressing your customers by name and using demographic criteria available to you (age, gender, …). Ideally over the time you can also add behavioral buying data (frequency, products bought, basket size …).

Additionally, whenever asking customers for information make sure to use these for segmentation later. Customers will become dissatisfied if they provide information that is then not reflected in their product recommendations.

So, who is getting personalization right so far? Amazon and Netflix are doing a good job, but there are others making use of the power of personalization.

Examples:

Very (B2C)

Personalization Example Very (B2C)

The UK retailer Very displays fashion to logged-in members based on previous actions on their site. Additionally, promotions are weather-sensitive, if it is sunny lighter clothes are promoted compared to warmer clothes during rainy and cold weather.

Citrix (B2B)

Personalization Example Citrix (B2B)

Citrix – an American software company – uses IP data from website visitors to adapt visuals on their website. Depending on the industry or company you are working with, Citrix for example, adapts the homepage header displayed to you.

Computer Science Corporation (B2B)

Personalization Example Computer Science Corporation (B2B)

The IT service company Computer Science Corporation provides infrastructure and consulting for clients across the globe. With the help of reverse-IP engineering CSC addresses named accounts with dedicated ad campaigns and custom content across multiple channels.

The Expert Institute (B2B)

Personalization Example The Expert Institute (B2B)

The legal service platform the Expert Institute matches experts in their database with investment firms and attorneys seeking support. They started easy with a one-to-one email campaign addressing prospects by their names. Further down the line they segmented customers based on their engagement with the Expert Institute and personalized communication based on relevant needs.

5. Surprise & Delight

Give a Boost to Customer Satisfaction and Set Yourself Apart From Competition

“Surprise & delight” are excellent mechanisms to get your customers excited and give a boost to positive word of mouth. Who does not love to receive something of value when you are not expecting it? The well-known customer satisfaction formula expresses this as:

Customer satisfaction = Perception – Expectation

Whenever individuals or businesses make a purchase or sign a contract, they usually have a certain expectation of how the product or service will be based on commercials or the contract itself. If a company manages to exceed these expectations, it boosts customer satisfaction and lays the foundation for a loyal customer.

A freebie on the marketing front is that, thanks to digitalization, you do not even need to worry about surprising all of your customers. If the surprise is great, the internet and social media will spread the word for you. Just make sure to find good criteria for selecting customers so that no one feels left out and come up with a strategy that supports creating a social media buzz.

Examples:

Kleenex (B2C)

Surprise & Delight Example Kleenex (B2C)

Kleenex – a facial tissue company – went to great lengths to surprise customers and prospects. The marketing team scanned Facebook for people feeling not well. Kleenex got in contact with their friends and families to organize the surprise and ship a Kleenex Kit filled with get-well items to their homes within hours. The campaign not only delighted the customers who received a surprise, but also generated a lot of word of mouth and a positive brand image effect which was successfully multiplied via digital media.

Zappos (B2C)

Surprise & Delight Example Zappos (B2C)

The customer service team of the online fashion retailer Zappos created the genie circle who surprises customers and VIP members with special gifts. They featured a story about Susan who plans a trip to Hawaii. The team surprised her with a go-pro to take on her trip. Another customer received a hand-written welcome note to the Zappos VIP Club. Zappos also, of course, successfully spreads these surprise & delight treats as positive brand image campaigns.

Another way to leverage surprise and delight are loyalty program mechanisms. Giving extra rewards or surprise gifts to members is common among B2C loyalty programs. This paves the way for our last and, in our eyes, most effective option for customer retention and loyalty.

6. Loyalty Programs

Combine All of the Above and More With a State-Of-The-Art Loyalty Program

We saved the best for last. Loyalty programs are a great tool to say thank you to your customers and elevate your customer retention strategy into the “premier league”. In fact, before demanding loyalty from your customers, loyalty programs can help demonstrate your loyalty to your customers.

Additionally, loyalty programs provide some further benefits over other customer retention strategies:

Loyalty Programs Help You to UNDERSTAND Your Customers.

Loyalty Programs are the only tool to collect all relevant customer data. When customers identify as members online or at the point of sale their transaction data can be captured (even if they pay with cash!) and cumulated into a holistic transactional view. This can be enriched by insights into their reactions to and interactions with your marketing communication. Apart from that, members can share additional information via their member profile or when being asked and rewarded for it with points or other gifts.

The key here is customer consent into data collection and usage. With a loyalty program, customers are much more likely to give you relevant opt-ins as you offer them great loyalty program benefits in return.

Now just imagine how you could boost your customer segmentation, marketing, retention and personalization strategy by knowing just a little bit more about your customers and hence understanding them better. According to Monetate, 93% of businesses with advanced personalization strategies experienced revenue growth in 2018.

And the benefits of a holistic data-driven view on your customers go further: you can use it to optimize your complete business offering: from pricing to product to customer service and business innovation.

Loyalty Programs Provide a Reason to CONNECT With Your Customers.

Instead of sending standard marketing messages you can talk about the loyalty program, for instance, informing customers about new ways to earn and redeem. Chances are that many customers will opt-in to communication as they like to know what is happening with the program, how they can collect more points or enjoy the great experiences you are offering.

With a loyalty program you will always have a personal and mutually beneficial reason to communicate with your customers (and the relevant opt-ins and customer data to do so) – your marketing team will love this!

Loyalty Programs Help You to RETAIN Your Customers – Sustainably.

If done right, customers will experience a true value exchange: they remain loyal in return for great gifts and benefits – this can be discounts, experiences, appreciation, or recognition.

The latter, in particular, is becoming more and more important. Discounts are nice, but if you feel special, due to being treated in a superior and relevant way as a reward for your loyalty, we doubt that you would leave this company behind.

Loyalty Programs Help You GROW Your Business.

Various promotional methods can be used to incentivize the behavior you like to see in your customers. They might come more often, refer a friend, leave a product review or simply spend more when shopping with you.

According to a study done by KMPG, 76% of consumers surveyed, confirm they increase their spend when being part of a company’s loyalty program.

According to Rare, 80% of Generation K, 43% of Millennials, 76% of Generation X and 53% of Baby Boomers say that due to a loyalty program they increase the frequency with which they buy from this brand.

Loyalty Program Can SET YOU APART.

Last but not least, a loyalty program can set you apart and might be the reason why buyers choose you over your competition.

This is especially important when your product offers are very comparable or interchangeable with those of the competition. In such a case, a loyalty program can help you establish a truly effective USP.

Now, if you are considering stepping into the world of loyalty programs, first establish which would work best for your company.

Most typical are points-based programs, where members earn points for transactions and non-transactions and can redeem these for discounts and benefits.

Next, are frequent flyer programs or hotel loyalty programs, which usually work with points and status levels. Based on the number of earned points members reach a certain status level which entitles them to extra services and benefits (e.g. lounge access, early boarding, late check-out, free breakfast etc.).

Number three on the hit list are subscription-based programs (paid loyalty programs), where members have to pay a monthly or annual fee to get immediate access to benefits.

There are other program types apart from these three. But they are a good start when looking into loyalty programs for the first time.

Examples of successful loyalty programs

Examples of companies running points-based, status-level based or subscription-based loyalty programs.

No Matter How Busy You Are, Focusing on Customer Retention Is Not Optional

In a period of uncertainty and change, redesigning your customer retention strategy might seem overwhelming. Our advice would be to explore the retention strategies outlined above and see what is feasible for you as a company. Doing nothing, especially in times of crisis, can be dangerous. Your existing customers need you right now.

Therefore: Get out there, engage with your customers and make sure to test the one or other retention strategy. You need to stay relevant – now, more than ever. If you have tried and tested some of the above, or other customer retention strategies, why not get in touch and share your experiences with us?

References

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About The authors

Claudia Scharf

Claudia Scharf

Director Customer Success | Loyalty Prime

Claudia loves and breathes customer success – she connects with our customers whenever possible and gets excited about their business models and loyalty strategies. As a former consultant she is keen on finding solutions to challenges and likes to constantly improve our customers’ loyalty programs using our SaaS-platform Prime Cloud. Claudia is a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional (CLMP) always on the hunt for loyalty best practices and trends.

Tim Nicholson

Tim Nicholson

Director Solution Consulting | Loyalty Prime

Our Director of Solution Consulting, Tim, is an expert in outstanding loyalty program delivery, both from a business and technical perspective. With his in-depth (14+ years) customer loyalty experience across industries, he is passionate about driving insight and growth for Loyalty Prime’s new and existing clients.