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6 Reliable Customer Retention Strategies for Your Online Business

Which do you tend to focus on more: acquiring new customers or maintaining your existing ones?

Both are important for developing a thriving business, but retaining customers offers significant benefits. Not only does retention require less legwork, it also maximizes ROI and costs 5-25x less than attracting a new customer.

But how do you go about maintaining your customers’ commitment to your brand so they stick around?

The key to retaining customers is relationships. Engaged customers who have a relationship with your business and feel valued as your customer are more likely to stay with your brand for the long run.

There’s no shortcut to building relationships, but there are concrete steps you can take to foster a better connection. Read on for six strategies on how you can cultivate relationships to increase customer retention for your online business.

Engage the customer with emails

Email marketing is an essential part of building relationships with your customers. If you’re only showing up at the moment your customer makes a purchase and then disappearing immediately after, you’re missing out on major relationship-building opportunities.

Email is still one of the primary communication channels customers prefer for receiving messages from a business. It also has a high ROI. For every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $42. Plus, 49% of consumers say they’d like to receive promotional emails from their favorite brands on a weekly basis. So it’s well worth your time to invest in creating engaging emails to continue the relationship with your customers beyond their moment of purchase.

Make sure that every email you send adds value to the customer. Make it worth their time to open your messages. Below are a few email ideas to get you started:

  • Offer a new product.
  • Highlight an upcoming sale or discount.
  • Give a behind-the-scenes look at your business.
  • Demonstrate a how-to for your product or service.
  • Feature a blog, podcast, infographic, video, or other resource created by your business.
  • Describe a lesser-known use for your product or service.
  • Share user-generated content.
  • Show a relevant before/after story.

Send the customer an unexpected “thank you”

We all like to feel appreciated, customers included. But your “thank you” means even more when it comes out-of-the-blue.

Sending a present around a gift-giving holiday like Christmas or a birthday is predictable. Customers expect to receive goodies from friends, family, and businesses around these times. Sending a gift at an expected time like this means you get lost in the noise. Your gift loses its impact.

But send a thoughtful gift around an unexpected time? Now you’ve got the customer’s attention. You’ve surprised and delighted them. You made them feel special, which is a big deal. Here are a few important aspects of gift-giving:

  • Make sure it’s meaningful. Is it something the customer would actually want or use?
  • Personalize it for the individual. Don’t send something generic.
  • Always include a handwritten note. Thank them for being a customer and make a genuine, human-to-human connection with them. Even if you don’t have a gift budget, sending a thoughtful handwritten note alone is impactful.

Build a feedback loop

You can’t fix the problems you aren’t aware of. The best way to find out if your customers are running into problems you don’t know about is to ask them. Find out what they think about your business. Gathering consistent feedback from customers will help you determine what you’re doing well and which areas you could improve.

Creating a feedback process can help you analyze a customer’s experience throughout the customer lifecycle. Below are a few ways you could collect feedback:

  • Ask a new customer to leave a review within a few days of their purchase.
  • Send a survey to all existing customers.
  • Reach out to any dissatisfied customers to get more details and make things right for them if possible.

The trick is to find a balance for your feedback solicitations. Send too many surveys and your customers will likely feel overwhelmed. Instead, find a happy medium that makes sense for your business, helps your customers feel appreciated (not bombarded), and gives you the insight you need to improve.

Build a referral or loyalty program

Your most loyal customers are an indispensable resource for your business. Brand advocates are likely to recommend your company to their spheres of influence because they have a deep connection with you and want others to have the same positive experience with your business that they’ve had. 92% of people trust brand advocates over other forms of advertising. Word-of-mouth marketing from your advocates is priceless for your business.

You can help cultivate brand advocates by creating incentives for your customers to share your business. One way to do this is by building a referral program that rewards customers for referring others. Referred customers are 16% more valuable because they stay longer and spend more than non-referred customers. Plus, referred customers are 4-5x more likely to refer other people, which creates an ever-increasing network of loyal customers for your business.

Another option is to create a loyalty program to encourage existing customers to stick around. If your customers know they’ll be rewarded for continuing to purchase from you, they’ll feel more compelled to do so. In fact, loyalty program members actually spend between 12-18% more per year than non-loyalty members.

Here are a number of options you could consider for your loyalty program:

  • Create special offers or prizes in exchange for earned reward points.
  • Give special perks for frequent purchases.
  • Create a sense of community by introducing the program as an insider VIP group.
  • Offer free shipping on all orders.
  • Give early access to limited-time deals.
  • Send annual or semi-annual gifts.

Create recurring subscriptions

Instead of only allowing one-time purchases, build out a subscription model for your product or service to encourage more long-term customers. This may not be suitable for every business, but if your product or service provides a regular incentive to buy, it could be a good route to increase your retention.

Offer a discount for customers who sign up for a monthly or annual subscription. Give exclusive deals, content, or other benefits to entice regular customers to subscribe. Allow subscribers to customize their subscriptions to make it more valuable for them (which also provides you with useful customer data). When done right, a subscription model not only creates a steady revenue stream for you, it also enhances the experience for the customer and increases their loyalty to your brand.

Educate your customer

Invest in your customer relationships by creating content that educates and empowers them. Focus as much on teaching your customers as you do on selling to them. Educational content expands the value of your product or service because it instructs your customer on how to get the most out of what you’re offering. It tells them how to choose the right solution for their needs, as well as how to implement it. Providing educational content makes a customer much more likely to purchase from you and recommend you to others.

A knowledge base or self-service portal is a good place to start. A customer can use a tool like this to troubleshoot a problem or get answers to their frequently asked questions without needing to contact support. It’s efficient for both the customer and your support team.

But your educational content doesn’t need to end there. There are a ton of other resources you can create to help your customers get the most of your product and learn about relevant topics in your industry. Below are a few ideas:

  • Send a series of onboarding emails.
  • Host an educational webinar.
  • Offer one-on-one sessions with your customer support or onboarding team.
  • Write a blog post.
  • Put together a case study.
  • Create an informational social media post.
  • Provide a useful checklist.
  • Record a how-to video.
  • Build a handy kit or tool.
  • Develop an academy of online courses.

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