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Customer acquisition may be the goal of most marketing campaigns, but it's customer retention that really sets a successful brand or retailer apart.
After all, research from ecommerce tool SimplicityDX found that customer acquisition costs have increased by 222% since 2013. Considering this, it makes a lot of sense to prioritize satisfying the customers you already have.
Better customer retention means lower marketing costs and an increase in each customer’s lifetime value. Plus, if you go the extra mile to please your customers, you’ll turn them into advocates who may be more likely to recommend your business to their family and friends, helping you acquire new customers without spending more on them.
Here are 10 creative strategies for customer retention you can try to make existing customers excited to come back again and again.
Even the most standard loyalty program in which shoppers get points or deals after spending a certain amount is excellent for retaining customers.
However, most brands and retailers offer these kinds of loyalty programs, so they won’t always make you stand out. To go the extra mile, think of ways to make your loyalty program more unique or personalized. Consider giving a gift to members on their birthdays, for example, or offering personalized discounts based on past shopping behavior.
Any content that consumers get to interact with creates a memorable experience — especially if that interaction results in a deal.
Consider creating polls or quizzes that result in personalized product recommendations, developing advent calendar-type promotions that give customers a chance to win something every day, or sharing spin-to-win games where shoppers can earn a randomized deal or freebie. Anything that lets consumers perform an action to get a treat creates excitement around your brand.
You may even run a challenge where shoppers can do something creative and post their efforts to social media. This is a great way to keep shoppers engaged across channels, and it gives you user-generated content as a bonus.
Humans are communal creatures by nature, so anything that makes us feel like we’re part of an exclusive group is exciting. If you can make your customer base feel like a special club, you’ll engender long-term brand loyalty.
In part, this means creating a brand persona your shoppers will be eager to identify with. But you can go the extra mile by creating forums and other online community hubs for your shoppers. You can also make your loyalty program feel like a club by offering events or opportunities for connection.
Any time your shoppers feel like they’re getting a gift, their loyalty will grow — especially if it’s a surprise gift.
Consider giving unique rewards to loyal shoppers at unexpected times. These could include free gifts with their purchase, limited-time promotions to show appreciation for their business, or exclusive access to a new product line. The key is to give shoppers something special that makes them feel uniquely appreciated and to do so in a way that differentiates you from your competition.
Most shopper demographics are impressed with brands that take action on important causes. This is especially the case for younger shoppers. According to Apparel Resources, 80% of Gen Z and millennials are more likely to base their purchases on a brand’s mission.
To understand how impactful a brand’s mission can be, think of the stellar reputations brands like Patagonia and LEGO have built thanks to their sustainability efforts. Even among more everyday brands, McKinsey & Company and NielsenIQ found that products with ESG-related claims grew faster than those that didn’t, demonstrating that when you publicly throw your support behind a good cause, shoppers will feel more motivated to support you.
User-generated content (UGC) is an excellent strategy for customer retention that tells new consumers that people just like them buy and enjoy your product. It also sends a message to existing shoppers that they’re valued — so valued that you think they’re worth featuring on your social channels.
Reposting one-off instances of UGC is good, but a marketing campaign built around UCG is even better. It gives shoppers a chance to flex their creativity and builds the type of community that cultivates greater brand loyalty.
For a well-known example, consider the #EyesLipsFace campaign, in which beauty brand e.l.f. asked shoppers to show off their makeup in what became the most viral campaign in U.S. TikTok history, according to AdAge.
If you know of a non-competitor brand with a similar audience or values, that brand may become a potential collaboration partner. Collaborations are a source of excitement for many consumers, and the unique, limited-edition factor of many of them makes the resulting products must-have collectibles. This makes shoppers more willing to pay higher prices while reinvigorating their excitement for your brand.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when developing potential collaborations. One of the most memorable brand collaborations in history was an unlikely partnership between Oreo cookies and the hip-hop fashion line Supreme, which led to cookie packets selling for up to $92,000, according to Forbes.
Even someone in your loyalty program may grow bored of your brand over time. Gamifying your loyalty program to offer ever-increasing rewards can keep shoppers more engaged over the long haul.
Consider creating a tiered system for your loyalty program that makes shoppers feel increasingly valued the more they buy. You could offer better perks after a certain amount is spent, or make things more interesting with “challenges” that encourage people to hit spending goals in specified periods.
The types of gamified loyalty programs that work best will differ for each audience, so be sure to periodically assess your retention metrics, and don’t be afraid to try new things to see what boosts them.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) allow you to create out-of-the-box and off-the-screen shopping experiences. With these technologies, shoppers can “try out” your products even when shopping online.
Experiential shopping technologies are new enough that they create exciting and memorable experiences while also offering a level of convenience that customers appreciate. For example:
Sometimes, the simple things make for the most effective strategies for customer retention. Unique events and offerings will stay in shoppers’ memories, but they won't accomplish as much if your shopping experiences aren’t engaging on a normal day.
For optimal customer retention, ensure every moment of the customer experience is engaging. That means creating interesting, high-quality content for each product, developing attractive and easy-to-navigate product pages, and making sure it’s easy for shoppers to find all the product information they may need.
When it comes to long-term ecommerce success, little is more important than growing your retention metrics. Developing creative campaigns that surprise, excite, and engage will make shopping fun enough that your customers return often.
Many of the best strategies for customer retention are, at their core, omnichannel — they depend on keeping shoppers engaged across channels.
Nicole D’Angelo (she/her) is a freelance writer, editor, and content marketer with over eight years of experience creating content for a broad range of industries. Before launching her freelance business, she managed content production for business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) brands, including...
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