Happy customers are likely to become returning customers. And returning customers can help you boost revenue and meet your bottom line. That’s why customer retention strategies are so important.
In order to keep your customers happy, you need to go above and beyond their expectations. This is especially true now that competition online is so cutthroat. Every business knows that they can offer free shipping and special discounts. But that’s not always enough.
To survive in the digital age, companies need to supercharge their customer service offerings in order to make each buyer feel valued and understood.
Here are nine secrets to increasing customer retention.
1. Conduct Customer Surveys
One of the best ways to help customers feel heard—and incorporate their feedback into your business—is to conduct customer surveys. Instead of guessing what customers like or dislike about your products, just ask them. You can then take their responses and build even better services and experiences.
As Zendesk found, it’s important to keep your surveys short, rewarding, and interesting. For example, pare your list of 20 questions down to five. And offer your participants an incentive for completing the survey, such as a discount code or raffle prize.
Take shopping mall operator, Simon Property Group. They wanted to make it easier for mobile app users to deliver quality feedback. So they teamed up with SurveyMonkey to build a simple, in-app survey that consisted of four questions and one comment box for open-ended responses.
In just two months, Simon Property Group collected more than 200% of the responses they’d generated in the entire previous year. And they can use those insights to build a more engaging app for their customers.
2. Build a VIP Social Community
Building a solid social community helps you stay connected to your customers and give them updates, offers, and information in real time. It also helps your audience feel connected to your brand on a more personal level.
For example, you might launch a Facebook group exclusively for people who sign up for your newsletter. Or you might create a private Twitter handle that only your VIP social community can access.
Just look at Elizabeth DiAlto, author of Untame Yourself and creator of Wild Soul Movement, an online empowerment workshop for women. To keep her audience connected, she launched a private Facebook group called the Wild Soul Woman Tribe. With over 4,700 members, it’s meant to be a place where people can “come to connect, have conversations and explore in a safe and loving space.” At the same time, it helps DiAlto build her brand and remain in touch with her customers.
Once you build your community, just be sure to consistently deliver high-quality content and resources that deliver value. Otherwise, your customers might feel ignored and move onto a competitor.
3. Offer Special Perks
Loyal customers need to feel appreciated by your business. What better way to show you care than with a valuable perk or special offer?
Amazon, for example, promises two-day shipping for Amazon Prime members. Those customers can order from the comfort of their own homes without having to make the trip to a store or wait in lines at the register. And they know their item will be at their doorstep in less than 48 hours.
Starbucks also offers Rewards Cards for its loyal customers. Rewards Card members earn stars for every dollar they spend at Starbucks. The more stars they accumulate, the more perks they can enjoy. For instance, Green Level members get a free birthday treat and free in-store refills.
Starbucks is on the right track, too. According to a Nielsen study, 75% of customers worldwide said they preferred discounted or free products over all other incentives, including enhanced customer service, free shipping, and exclusive products or events.
4. Showcase User-Generated Content
Many brands don’t realize they have a built-in marketing resource at their disposal: their own customers. Equipped with smartphones and social media accounts, most customers can create compelling content with the click of a button.
Most importantly, other customers are listening. According to content platform Olapic, 47% of millennials trust user-generated content (UGC) more than they trust content from brands.
It’s no surprise, then, that companies like Wayfair, Netflix, and BMW are banking on UGC. Wayfair, for instance, invites customers to post their best Wayfair-inspired home designs on Instagram with the hashtag #WayfairAtHome. Wayfair then reposts select submissions on its own Instagram account, and links to featured products in its bio.
Take a lesson from Wayfair’s playbook. By empowering your customers to create and share their own content, you can increase your reach without increasing your budget and build brand affinity among your audience.
5. Share Testimonials on Your Site
According to SEO platform BrightLocal, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family. And 72% say positive reviews and testimonials help them trust a business more. Bazaarvoice’s Conversion Index also found that more reviews lead to higher conversion rates, better SEO, and helpful product insights.
That’s why it’s important to share testimonials on your site. You can easily showcase how other buyers have been satisfied with your products. In turn, they can inspire prospective customers to check out what you have to offer.
Website building platform Wix, for example, features video and social media testimonials from satisfied customers. Prospects can even search these testimonials by vertical, such as fashion & retail, food & drink, and photography & film.
It’s not hard to ask your customers to provide testimonials, either. Simply send a quick email to your loyal customers or use an automated tool like Shopify. You can also look out for glowing reviews on social media and blog comments, and ask the customer if you can feature their message on your website or social page.
6. Pick up the Phone and Call
Phone calls may seem old hat at this point, but it can still pay off to take the traditional route and speak to your customers one-on-one. This can help them feel respected and worthy of your time. After all, it’s easy to send a Tweet or an email, but how many people pick up the phone and make a personal connection in real-time?
After Ahmad Iqbal, founder of e-commerce platform, Scout, started calling his customers to simply say “Thank you,” he saw a huge change in his business.
“For one, I was making more money through upsells, but I was also building better relationships,” he wrote. “It’s important to really understand that the key here is calling your customers. Sending an auto thank you email on purchase doesn’t result in these benefits.”
As Iqbal proves, phone calls aren’t just for listening to customer complaints and resolving issues. They can also be used to check up on your buyers and ensure that they’re receiving the best experiences possible.
7. Deliver Superb Customer Service
Marketers have more channels than ever through which to provide exceptional customer service. There’s no excuse for leaving this strategy on the back-burner.
Spotify, for example, created a separate Twitter handle, @SpotifyCares for its customer service inquiries. The support team consistently answers customers’ questions quickly and efficiently. Just look at this recent interaction. Spotify responded within the hour, gave a helpful suggestion, and even offered to continue the conversation in private by using Twitter’s handy DM Prompt tool.
These distinctions are important. According to Twitter, 80% or more of social customer service requests happen on this social platform. And by using Twitter, brands have seen a 19% increase in customer satisfaction ratings and an 80% decrease in cost per resolution.
Businesses are also starting to deliver customer care through Facebook Messenger. Sephora even built a chatbot to provide automated customer service at scale.
Buyers can go from chatting with friends to shopping for makeup without ever leaving the Facebook Messenger app. With a few clicks, they can book a makeover, provide feedback, or receive personalized care. This helps differentiate Sephora from its competitors, who might be harder to reach and not as responsive.
8. Retarget Customers With Relevant Ads
Here’s a shocking stat: 72% of online buyers abandon their shopping carts before making a purchase. That’s where retargeting comes in. By delivering personalized ads to each of these customers, you can encourage them to finish their transactions and complete the sale.
On Facebook, for example, you can build Custom Audiences of people who have already visited your website or used your app. Reach them with ads that feature products they’ve looked at, or products that pair with something they’ve already bought.
You can also incorporate retargeted ads into your PPC strategy. You can set up remarketing lists on Google Analytics, for instance. Just define your audience of new users, returning users, or who completed a transaction.
Then, when a returning customer searches for a keyword related to your business, your ad will pop up. It will remind them that they already started looking at your products, and that they can continue shopping with just a click.
9. Measure Your Customer Lifetime Value
You can’t budget to engage repeat customers if you don’t understand the value of those repeat customers. That’s why it’s important to calculate the lifetime value (LTV) of your audience. For instance, if your LTV is $200 and you’re spending $250 per acquisition, you’re losing money. You’ll need to lower your cost per acquisition.
There are many ways to calculate your LTV. Entrepreneur provides this easy formula:
(Average Value of a Sale) X (Number of Repeat Transactions) X (Average Retention Time in Months or Years for a Typical Customer)
Customers don’t just want reasonable prices and a reliable service line. They want personalized experiences that cater to their individual interests and needs.
Brands that don’t deliver these experiences will only get left behind.
Thankfully, there are many new channels and strategies through which businesses can execute their customer retention strategies. It’s just important to find the ones that work best for your company and audience. Once you do, you’ll be primed to enjoy repeat purchases and a loyal base of customers.