What is customer retention?
Customer retention refers to all the practices a business implements to keep clients coming back for their products or services. Companies commonly use loyalty programs, promotions, lead nurture email campaigns, and other such methods to keep people interested in their brand. Retention strategies usually involve using key metrics — including customer churn rate, retention rate, and customer lifetime value — which are continuously monitored to discover shortcomings in customer service and ultimately improve the customer experience.
Use the following content to learn more about customer retention strategies and the tools you can use to measure and improve retention within your organization.
Why is customer retention important?
According to statistics from Small Business Trends, the likelihood of selling to a new customer is between 5% and 20%, while those odds skyrocket to between 60% and 70% for an existing customer. Additionally, the Harvard Business Review has reported that it is 5 to 25 times more costly to obtain a new customer than to retain one. For most companies, the bulk of profits come from the customers with whom they’ve built trust and nurtured over time, which makes customer retention an invaluable practice for financial stability.
Modern consumers expect brands to be highly engaged and provide personalized experiences. So, if companies don’t make any effort to retain customers, they may easily be lured away by more competitive offers and better experiences.
As a result, many businesses are shifting their efforts from acquisition to retention with a customer-focused approach.
Customer retention benefits
As mentioned previously, loyal customers are a larger and more consistent source of revenue, and it’s more cost-effective to retain them than to find new customers. However, you may not know that customer retention also yields highly actionable feedback.
When you build customer loyalty, those happy customers are likely to recommend your products and services to others you may not have reached otherwise. This word-of-mouth communication can, in turn, lead to increased customer acquisition, as these prospects are introduced to your brand and convert to paying customers. Loyal customers become force multipliers for your brand, as advocates and influencers, to widen your acquisition reach.
Learn more: Happy customers buy more
Helps your company stand out:
Prospects are often deluged with information from brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce platforms, or social media channels. Brands need to differentiate in order to be seen and remembered by consumers. One approach is to have clear marketing messaging that emphasizes deeper and longer-term customer engagement, rather than a one-time transaction.
Leaves more room for mistakes and experimentation:
Consumers will take their business elsewhere after a bad customer experience. Conversely, loyal customers who know your brand and trust your employees are likely to stay with you even after a misstep.
Makes life better for employees:
Your employees will enjoy their jobs more and experience less stress when they have solid relationships with repeat customers based on trust. Creating a happier workplace can also contribute to increased productivity and better customer engagement overall.
Customer retention metrics
Customer retention is measured using several metrics. You can measure as many as you’d like to capture a broad range of insights that guide your company goals and retention efforts.
What It Measures
The rate at which businesses retain customers over a specific time period
Annual retention rate = (# customers at end of year - new customers gained) / # customers at start of year
Customer churn rate
The rate at which customers cease doing business with your company
Annual churn rate = (# customers at start of year - # customers at end of year) / # customers at start of year
Revenue churn rate
The rate at which businesses lose revenue from current customers
Revenue churn rate = (churned monthly recurring revenue) / (monthly recurring revenue at the beginning of the period)
Customer lifetime value
Total revenue from an individual customer
Customer lifetime value = Value of customer* customer's average lifespan Value of customer purchase value
Loyal customer rate
Total number of customers repeating a purchase over a set time period
Loyal customer rate = # repeat customers/ total # customers
Repeat purchase ratio
The rate at which customers return for an additional purchase
Repeat purchase ratio = # returning customers / total # customers
Time between purchases
The amount of time it takes, on average, for a customer to make another purchase
Time between purchases = sum of purchase rates / # repeat customers
Existing customer revenue growth rate
The rate at which a company is growing as a result of purchases from existing customers
Existing customer revenue (growth rate = end monthly recurring revenue - beginning monthly recurring revenue) / beginning monthly recurring revenue
How to measure your customer retention rate
Your customer retention rate (CRR) is the most important retention figure for your company, representing a percentage based on how many customers you’ve retained over a set period of time. The variables include:
(S): The number of customers at the start of the predetermined time frame
(E): The number of customers at the end of the predetermined time frame
(N): The number of customers acquired throughout the predetermined time frame
The formula is as follows:
Here is an example of how this formula is calculated:
Let’s say your business starts with 150 clients at the beginning of the month. Over the course of the month, you lose 10 customers, but you acquire 30 new customers.
The solution indicates you have a 93% retention rate. Most businesses strive for a retention rate of 85% or more. In general, the higher the retention goal, the better — as long as you have a plan in place for achieving it. Listed below are some ways you can achieve high retention rates.
How to increase customer retention
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make is using a one-size-fits-all approach to customer retention strategies. The purpose of retention marketing is — and has always been — to keep your current customers interested and engaged with your brand. These days, technology is heightening consumer expectations further. Customers now want their interactions to be fast, useful, and personal. Here are a few ways you can start meeting customer expectations and earning a higher retention rate.
1. Tell a compelling brand story
Earning loyal customers entails much more than providing quality products or services. To gain trust, brands should have an inspiring brand story and mission statement that captures the hearts of consumers and makes them fall in love with your company. When you convey your company values to your customers and prove your devotion to those values, it helps them better understand what you’re all about and develop a sense of brand loyalty to your business.
Learn more: The 3 habits of highly authentic brands
2. Utilize social media channels
When companies listen to what their customers are saying about them across social media channels, they can gain important insights about what customers want and don’t want, which will help with retention efforts. What’s more, when customers contact a business through social media, they expect an immediate response and a personalized experience. Response time is a huge factor in retention rates, and social media gives businesses the tools to meet consumers where they are and provide instant resolutions to their concerns.
3. Improve the onboarding process
Onboarding is the perfect time to inform customers about all the product or service features and benefits. If customers don’t get this information upfront in its entirety, it may lead to higher churn rates. Consider providing additional training to give people the information and tools they need to reduce churn and improve customer satisfaction.
4. Allow customers to provide feedback
If you’re struggling with customer retention, gathering feedback is the best way to improve. Listening to your customers through surveys or reviews allows them to tell you exactly why they decided to stop giving you their business, so you don’t repeat the same mistakes in the future. Surveys can be as general or specific as you want, but you’ll probably extract more useful data from detailed questions. More specifically, you should ask about the customer’s experience with your team, services, or product, and about their preferred method of communication. This can tell you how customers prefer to receive solutions to their problems.
5. Follow up after a purchase
A company’s work isn’t finished just because a customer has completed a transaction. Suppose you want to keep people in the sales funnel and turn them into repeat customers. In that case, follow up with them to offer assistance, provide additional information regarding the product or service, thank them for their purchase, or ask them about their buying experience.
6. Gain a clearer understanding of the customer journey
If you don’t know why a customer engages with and purchases from your brand, providing a better user experience for retention purposes may be difficult. Many businesses map the customer journey by tracking customer interactions with their company across all platforms and touchpoints leading up to a purchase. Brands tend to find that this journey is nonlinear, and knowing the twists and turns in the buying journey often gives them information about buyer decisions. This data can help them shorten the path to conversion, customize the experience to the individual, and keep customers coming back for a seamless, personalized brand experience.
Consider the following questions to help you better understand the current customer journey:
How are people finding your business?
Are they coming predominantly from referrals?
Are they social media followers?
Are they using Google to find your services, or are customers finding you through blog posts?
7. Reward customers for their loyalty
Customers tend to be loyal to brands offering discounts and rewards for repeat purchases. Incorporating a customer retention program that includes incentives such as discount codes, loyalty programs, and promotional offers will give them a reason to continue making purchases from your company. You can offer your loyalty program through a tiered reward program or a point-accrual system. But the loyalty program needs to recognize that not all customers are the same. Make sure you customize it to the customer and their values by allowing them to select from a variety of options when claiming their rewards. These reward programs do more than just reward the customer; they also offer a customized experience necessary for retention.
8. Utilize customer feedback for product and service improvements and developments
It’s easy for product or service providers to get attached to what they’ve pioneered. They might feel hesitant to change it. You may have created a revolutionary product, but it will not sell well unless it fills a hole in the market and benefits the target customer. Use surveys, customer reviews, and social media to find out what people are saying, what they need, and their pain points with your brand. Once you understand the customer’s needs better, use that information to tweak your offerings and influence new product development. You’ll retain more customers and increase your odds of repeat purchases and upselling by listening to and implementing customer requests.
9. Offer regular updates on news and industry updates
Consider keeping your customers in the loop on current company happenings, upcoming initiatives, and industry news through a recurring newsletter. It makes your client base feel close and connected to your business and shows the value of your offerings.
10. Show an interest in educating your customers
Education is another great way to retain customers. An evergreen educational content hub on your company website can help build trust. Investing in your customers, while establishing yourself as a trusted expert, makes a customer-centric organization.
Simplify Customer Retention With Sprinklr
Sprinklr’s unified customer experience management platform takes the guesswork out of what your customers want. Leverage our industry-leading AI to gain deeper insights into the experience you’re providing and what you could be doing to retain more people. Request a demo today to see how Sprinklr can empower you to meet the demands of your customers.
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